UCLA pulled one of the major recruiting coups of the 2017 class so far when they dipped into the city of Indianapolis and landed Kris Wilkes. Traditionally it is very difficult to get top Midwest players to head to the West Coast, but UCLA did that with Wilkes, and the five-star prospect has shown continual improvement so far as a senior.
In North Central’s shocking 24 point drubbing of defending state champion and No. 1 ranked team in Indiana, New Albany, Wilkes was tremendous. Always a big time athlete with a world of potential, Wilkes showed improvement and proved he is more than just potential.
Probably the most impressive moment for Wilkes against New Albany came in transition. Always a good transition player, Wilkes has been more of a straight line driver who used his athleticism to finish above the rim in traffic, but over the weekend he showed a bit of a wrinkle.
Wilkes was dribbling at full speed and used an inside out dribble and went around his back to leave a defender, avoid a charge, and then he was able to finish around the rim. This is important because with so many charges being called in college basketball, any time a player with his athleticism leaves his feet, he is at risk, and the improved handle and body control that Wilkes showed on that play is something that will really play well in college.
Also Wilkes showed that while he is firmly committed to playing on the wing, that he isn’t afraid to take advantage down low and post. Sometimes when Romeo Langford guarded him, Wilkes went to the post and was able to finish, either with a turnaround jumper or with a bit of a half hook.
Beyond that Wilkes’ outside shot continues to show improvement. While there is still room for it to get better, Wilkes is clearly a threat out to the three point line, and he continues to get more consistent with his footwork and his release, his shot will get even more reliable.
Overall Wilkes just had a tremendous game. His near double-double with 32 points and eight rebounds was impressive just from the raw numbers, but it was even better to see considering he answered a lot of the questions about his game going forward.
He is clearly much stronger physically than he was, his handle is improving, his jumper is improving, and maybe most importantly Wilkes showed toughness and leadership qualities he hadn’t shown in the past.
One of the big concerns was how much of a drive did Wilkes have to be elite, at least so far to start his senior year he has proved those concerns are in the past, because Wilkes is as focused and driven as any player in the country.