One of the top prospects in John Calipari’s 2014 recruiting class, center Cliff Alexander of Chicago, will play in Kentucky twice next season.
His Curie Metropolitan High School team will return to the Marshall County Hoopfest in Benton on Dec. 6-7 and will play in the inaugural McCracken County Hoopfest on Jan. 10-11.
The 6-9, 230-pound Alexander played this summer with 6-11 center Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 prospect. Yet he’s still become one of the nation’s top targets because of his size, power and mobility. He’s an aggressive rebounder.
Alexander is being pursued by Michigan State, Duke, Ohio State, Illinois, Louisville, Arizona, Baylor, DePaul, Kansas, Memphis, Arizona and others.
Recently he told media members at an AAU tournament what he liked about Kentucky and Louisville:
On Kentucky: “Coach Cal is a great guy. I love the campus. A great practice facility. I worked out there when I went down there. He’s a great guy. I love the coaching staff.”
On Louisville: “Louisville, same thing with those guys. Me and coach (Rick) Pitino have a great relationship since they started recruiting me. We’ll go there from there.”
Alexander has been working on developing a mid-range game, something he indicated at last year’s Marshall County event that he needed to improve. He has listened to high school coach Mike Oliver’s plea for him to get a 12- to 15-foot shot.
Also scheduled to be at the Marshall event is Dallas Prime Prep and its star point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, another target of both Kentucky and Louisville. Prime Prep also features 6-0, 235-pound junior forward Elijah Thomas, a top-10 player in the 2015 recruiting class.
Huntington Prep and five-star prospect Jalen Lindsey are also scheduled to be back at Marshall and will also play in the McCracken event. Another five-star point guard, Josh Perkins, plays for Huntington Prep and has Kentucky in his final five although the Wildcats have not made him an offer. Perkins plans to commit to a college on Aug. 25.
Ballard and guard Quentin Snider, who just de-committed from Louisville, is also scheduled to be back at the Marshall event.
Teamwork: New Orleans Pelicans rookie Anthony Davis was back at Calipari’s pro camp at Kentucky last week and again emphasized that the 2011-12 national championship team knew it had to play together to win.
“It wasn’t a one-man show. Coach Cal did a great job and all the coaches to make sure we left our egos at the door and made us play together,” Davis said. “We had great veterans on that team in Terrence (Jones), Doron (Lamb), Darius (Miller). We all tried to do it for Darius because he wanted to win a ring before he left. That was, like, one of our goals, to do it for him.
“It was fun. We haven’t grasped the situation yet, as far as winning a championship. Probably a couple years from now, we’ll really start feeling it. But it was great.”
Davis knows expectations are high again for UK’s upcoming season and offered this warning to the freshman.
“A lot of guys are going to try to come after them. They’ve got a great team, very talented, so every time they play a team, even the underdogs, teams that are not that good, they’re going to try to come after them,” Davis said. “So they’ve gotta be prepared for that and just make sure they continue to work hard.”
He says the players just have to trust Calipari and his record for getting players to the NBA.
“He coached in the league before, so it’s like he’s got an upper hand. He runs his practices like NBA practices, so that makes it easier and a smooth transition going into the league,” Davis said.
Randle backers: Former Kentucky standouts DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe both have played pickup games with UK’s incoming players recently, and both were most impressed by one player — forward Julius Randle.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to work out with them all , but I’m impressed with Julius Randle,” Cousins said.
“Been back playing pickup. Like DeMarcus, I’m impressed with Julius and the Harrisons (twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison,” Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe is now teammates with former Wildcat Archie Goodwin in Phoenix. Goodwin was part of Kentucky’s NIT team last season.
“Archie’s only 18. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s still growing as a person, too. Archie’s going to be a pretty good player in the league,” Bledsoe said.
New targets: Kentucky is showing interest in four-star point guard Tyler Ulis of Chicago, based on a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ulis, the No. 34 prospect in the 2014 class in the ESPN.com rankings, has a college list of Michigan State, Purdue, DePaul, Northwestern, Iowa, Florida State and Southern Cal. The Sun-Times’ article says Kentucky still has not offered a scholarship but is showing interest.
The 5-9 Ulis plays AAU for Meanstreets club along with five-star 2015 guard Charles Matthews. Two of Calipari’s former players — Davis and Derrick Rose — are also from Chicago and played for the same AAU team.
Forward Danjel Purifoy is another 2015 prospect who recently got an offer from Kentucky. The 6-6 Purifoy also has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and hometown UAB. Kentucky has been a school that Purifoy has wanted to play at for a long time.
He is known for his ability to slash inside to get shots and rebounding. His major weakness is lack of a consistent outside shot.