By LARRY VAUGHT
Despite injuring his ankle in a pool play win over Puerto Rico, Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey certainly made a big impression with his play for Team USA in the FIBA Americas Championship.
Maxey admitted playing with so many talented players was fun and enabled him to expand his game in various ways. However, he said he would have no trouble going back to Texas to play his senior season at South Garland High School.
“It doesn’t make it hard to go back at all. I like playing with my friends on the high school team,” Maxey said. “My senior season is going to be fun and I’m excited about it.”
Maxey averaged 22.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game last season while leading South Garland High School to its first state tournament berth. In his three-year prep career of 75 games, he’s averaged 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
At one time he had talked about reclassifying to the 2018 recruiting class but insists that no longer is his plan even though he could easily pass classes in time to make it happen.
“I don’t think he’ll reclassify. This class coming in (at Kentucky) is pretty guard heavy and it just wouldn’t make sense to have him forgo his senior year and head to Kentucky when there isn’t an immediate need for him on the team,” Rivals.com recruiting writer Krysten Peek said. “I’ve talked to other players as well and the general consensus is he’ll stay and finish his senior year.
“Tyrese is an excellent shooter and I know that was an area where Kentucky was hurting last year. If you had him and Tyler Herro on the court at the same time that would be a huge offensive threat with both players being almost automatic from the 3-point range.”
Herro is one of the freshmen guards already on campus. Another one is Georgia point guard Ashton Hagans, who reclassified from the 2019 class to the 2018 after graduating last week.
“Tyrese is a pure shooting guard. He’s one of those players that can pull up for a 3 in transition and knock it down with confidence. He’s also explosive in the lane and can surprise people with his dunking. If you have Maxey and Hagans on the court at the same time, the defense can’t really help that much on Hagans since they’ll have to stay home on Maxey because he’s a shooter. That’s a great offensive scenario to have if you’re coach Cal.”
That’s a scenario Calipari likely will have in the 2019-20 season unless Hagans goes from high school junior to a one-and-done college player. It could happen, but doesn’t seem likely.
Maxey may have trouble finding challenges during his high school season. Most recruiting analysts believe his game is ready now to play for a major college team.
“When you look at high level guards like Maxey, there isn’t much that needs improvement but I would say he needs to get a little stronger and tighten up his ball handling,” Peek said. “Tyrese has such a quick release in his jump shot, it’s very hard to guard him already.
“Since he’s such a good shooter he can knock down a few 3’s and then get his defender up in the air with a fake and drive right by them the next time down the court. I love his intensity on defense and how quick he pushes the ball up the court after a turnover or in transition.”
Maxey admits his verbal commitment to Kentucky generated a lot of social media interest for him from UK fans.
“It is cool, I enjoy it,” Maxey said. “I don’t pay that much attention to it. I am happy with my decision and commitment.”
What if his team had an opportunity to play in a showcase event in Kentucky next season like the Marshall County Hoop Fest or McCracken County Mustang Madness?
“I don’t feel like it would put any pressure on my team,” Maxey said. “We could just go down and compete and have fun. One thing we do, we like to have fun on our team. I would love for that to happen and for all the Kentucky fans to get a chance to see me play. It would be cool to watch them and for them to watch my team.”
Peek said that attitude is why Kentucky fans are going to like Maxey so much when he does get to Lexington and why he will be the perfect fit for UK on and off the court.
“Tyrese is a great kid. He loves the game of basketball and he puts so much work into his own game. He has a great attitude and is easy to talk to,” Peek said. “I think he’ll be very popular in Kentucky.”