Early Signing Period Profitable For UK Basketball
The Kentucky men’s basketball team has added four of the top signees from the Class of 2014.
UK Coach John Calipari announced on Thursday the reception of National Letters of Intent from Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis.
“I’m really proud of this group as far as where they are academically, what type of people they are and their basketball ability,” Calipari said. “All four of these guys are skilled for their position and they have the ability to score. We’re happy to announce they will be joining us next fall.”
Booker, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Moss Point, Miss., was named Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in 2012-13, averaging 29.7 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. Booker is rated No. 18 in the 2014 ESPN 100, No. 30 in the Rivals 150 and No. 31 according to Scout. The shooting guard was named the Sun Herald Player of the Year and enters his senior year as a member of the Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen, ranking Mississippi’s top high school basketball players.
“Devin is a scoring machine,” Calipari said. “At nearly 6-6, he can play three different positions. He’s got great range, which should help us spread the floor a bit when he’s playing. What I like most about him is his confidence.”
A 6-10 forward from Indianapolis, Ind., Lyles averaged 17.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks en route to being named Indianapolis City Player of the Year for a second consecutive year as a junior at Arsenal Technical High School. Playing for Team Canada in the 2013 U19 World Championships, Lyles averaged 20.3 points per game. The forward is rated No. 7 by ESPN, while Rivals and Scout place him eighth in the class of 2014. Lyles enters his senior season 42 points shy of the Arsenal Technical all-time scoring record.
“At 6-10, Trey can play both inside and outside,” Calipari said. “He has the skills to score in both areas. He’s seen what some of our former guys are doing in the pros right now and has said he wants to follow in their path. My hope is he’s our next beast.”
Towns, a 7-0 forward from St. Joseph’s in Metuchen, N.J., was named the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012-13. Averaging 21.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game, Towns was named First Team All-State and Player of the Year by The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Entering his senior year, Towns has led his St. Joseph’s team to two consecutive state championships in New Jersey. ESPN ranks him as the No. 6 prospect in the 2014 class, while Scout and Rivals rate him the 11th-best prospect in the class. ESPN ranks Towns No. 3 at his position in the class, with Scout ranking him No. 4 at his position. Towns played under Calipari and UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua on the Dominican Republic National Team in the previous two offseasons.
“Karl, at 7 feet tall, brings great versatility,” Calipari said. “He can obviously score it inside, but his ability to shoot and handle it like he’s a guard will spread defenses out. His growth from his first stint with the Dominican team until now has been unbelievable, and I’m looking forward to working with him on the collegiate level.”
Ulis is a 5-8 point guard from Chicago Heights, Ill., who averaged 21.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game as a junior for Marian Catholic. Ulis is ranked 29th nationally by Scout and 33rd by Rivals and ESPN. The latest in a line of highly ranked point guards to sign with Kentucky under Coach Calipari, Ulis ranks as the No. 4 point guard in the country by ESPN and No. 6 at his position according to Scout.
“Tyler is the ultimate competitor,” Calipari said. “His heart and his ability to make people better set him apart from his peers. He can score in bunches, and like every point guard I’ve had, he brings a little something different to the table.”