De'Aaron Fox, the highest rated prospect in Kentucky’s stellar 2016 class, validated his ranking as the top point guard prospect in the country when Scout evaluated him at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest early in the high school season.
In the game, Fox matched up with five-star Texas pledge Andrew Jones. The two battled and each showed their strengths, but when the game was on the line, it was Fox who ramped up his play, particularly on the defensive end.
That type of late game effort is something we’ve come to expect out of Fox, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Katy (Tex.) Cy Lakes. Fox is a very good athlete with impressive lateral quickness, length and size for the point guard position. He’s also tough, scrappy and despite a thin frame doens't mind physical play. Defensively, Fox is elite and one of the best on the ball defenders in the 2016 class.
On the other end of the floor Fox has made significant advancements to his game over the past year. Heck this time last year, we weren’t sold that Fox was a point guard. He clearly is now, though. Credit him for the developing his game. He’s become a better passer, learned how to run a team and improved in pick and roll situations. Fox is a good ball handler and he possesses tremendous quickness, which is a major reason he gets so many paint touches.
Another area he’s shown improvement is with his long distance shooting. He’s comfortable shooting the ball from deep and the lefty has gotten more consistent. Now he didn’t shoot the ball great in our viewing, as he took some tough, contested shots, so he’ll need to sure up his shot selection, but overall, he projects as a good shooter in time.
Perhaps the player in Kentucky’s class that has surprised us the most during the high school season was 6-foot-9, pushing 6-10, forward Wenyen Gabriel. But when you consider his rapid rise to five-star status over the summer, seeing him progress further shouldn’t be all that startling.
Over the summer we evaluated Gabriel as a face up forward that had impressive skills for the position. Colleague Josh Gershon noted at adidas Nations that he may be making the move to the wing full time and it turns out he was right. At the National Prep Showcase early in the season and then again at the Hoop Hall Classic, Gabriel showed he could defend wings and play the position offensively. This is key and raised his profile as a prospect. Not only does he have very good size for a perimeter player, he's also versatile enough to slide to the four at times and play a face up four role.
Gabriel moves fluidly, both laterally and up and down the court. He’s a very good athlete that bounces off the ground quickly and has impressive instincts. He handles the ball well for a player of his size. He has good shot mechanics and will be a good shooter from three-point range in time. He’s also comfortable pulling up in space and knocking down jumpers. Defensively, his length is a strength, but as his athleticism and ability to react, helps him record his fair share of blocks and boards.
At the Hoop Hall Classic, Gabriel filled the stat sheet with a line of 18 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks. This take is certainly different than most, but Gabriel very well may be the best long-term prospect in Kentucky’s 2016 recruiting class.
Arkansas native and athletic guard prospect Malik Monk is regarded as a five-star prospect and for good reason. Scout had the opportunity to evaluate Monk multiple times this season, including at the Max Preps Holiday Classic and at the Hoop Hall Classic.
Monk didn’t particularly match his level of play from the summer in either of our in-season viewings, but all the tools are still in his arsenal and we fully expect him to be a standout early in his playing career at Kentucky.
Monk, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, is an elite athlete. He’s a terrific leaper that gets off his feet quickly and he also moves quite well laterally. Combine that with good length for the position and Monk has a chance to be a very good defender at the next level. Monk also excels in transition and he certainly showed that at times during our viewings. He does a good job of attacking the rim in space and is capable of highlight reel, acrobatic dunks once he’s at the rim.
Over the summer it was evident Monk had improved as a shooter. His shot mechanics and form are good. He didn’t shoot the ball with efficiency in our viewings this season and he can be a tad streaky, but he did shoot nearly 35-percent from three in the EYBL and with time and effort, his shot consistency will improve. He also showed a floater/runner in the lane that he used at the Hoop Hall, where he tossed the ball in on the run from 15-feet.
Areas of improvement going forward are playing with consistent effort on both ends, as well as ball handling, especially if he has the desire to develop into a lead guard down the road.
Edrice "Bam" Adebayo is one of the most physically imposing prospects in the 2016 recruiting class and he showed that in our evaluations at the always-loaded City of Palms.
At 6-foot-9, 230-pounds, Adebayo is strong, tough and a tremendous athlete. At this stage, Adebayo is able to out muscle and bully the competition around the basket. But he doesn’t just get by on his strength; his athleticism allows him to play above the rim . One area he particularly does a good job at is running the floor. He races end-to-end and is able to get easy buckets in transition.
Defensively, Adebayo is pretty good and mainly because of his physical gifts and his overall energy. He’s active and plays hard on both ends. He’s a very good area rebounder, as he pursues the ball with tenacity. Because of his athleticism and quick instincts he’s also able to protect the rim and alter shots.
At City of Palms, Adebayo was more effective from the high-post than we’ve seen in the past. He looked to take defenders off the bounce and attack. In doing so, he showed a better handle than expected and while he’s not a consistent mid-range shooter yet, his shot certainly has potential.
With all that said, there are still areas for improvement with Adebayo and it starts with his back to the basket game. He needs to add to his repertoire and spruce up his skill package in the post.
Over the summer Sacha Killeya-Jones showed improvements to his game. In turn that led to a Kentucky offer and the Wildcats quickly wrapped him up in mid-August. Killeya-Jones’ advancements didn’t stop there. The 6-foot-10 power forward has had a strong senior campaign and was extremely impressive in two viewings during his senior season.
At his size, Killeya-Jones moves particularly well and is a solid all around athlete. He runs the floor with purpose and slides his feet adequately.
Offensively, he’s equipped with an impressive set of hands and has very good touch around the basket. Although he lacks strength, he has a good feel on the block and is capable of dropping in jump hooks. He finishes with either hand at the rim, as well.
Perhaps an area he’s improved is his jump shot. Killeya-Jones is a good shooter from short and mid-range, and we noticed that range is starting to extend out to the three-point stripe.
Killeya-Jones has to be careful to not let his improving jumper take him away from his strengths as a scorer from close range and on the block. He faded to the perimeter a tad too much in our viewings, which led to travels and wild drives. There’s been talk of him possibly playing on the perimeter and while he’s skilled, he’s much better suited as a versatile face up forward that can also post up, than as a wing player.
Overall, Killeya-Jones, who was selected for the McDonald's All-American game, is a very intriguing prospect with impressive upside. His best basketball days are ahead of him.