Kentucky's Sweet 16 Opening Round Recap

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Sweet 16 began this week and Scout.com spent the past two days wataching the opening round of the historic tournament.

There aren't many atmospheres better than Kentucky's state tournament. 16 of the best teams in the state, divided by region, got together on Wednesday and Thursday for the opening round of the event and Thursday evening they reeled in a crowd of over 21,000.

Chris Dowe, SG, Eastern – The Eagles needed a big effort from Dowe and that's exactly what they received. In the opening round, Dowe, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard, went for 27 points and scored inside and out. He attacked the rim, used his athleticism to score once he got there and even buried a handful of three-pointers. At this point he hasn't received a ton of college interest, but he's certainly a Division-I prospect.

Vee Sanford, SG, Lexington Catholic – Last year Sanford spent majority of the year coming off the bench, now he's the Knights go-to guy. The 6-foot-3 guard has built a strong reputation this year and has a number of scholarship offers to show for it.

On Thursday, after a so-so first half against Bowling Green, Sanford cranked it up a notch. With a minute to go and Lexington Catholic trailing by four, Sanford drained a step back three-pointer, then forced overtime on a running floater. Once overtime hit, Sanford took over and the Knights pulled away. He finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

Elisha Justice, PG, Shelby Valley – He may be small, but the 5-foot-10 Justice, is tough to contain off the dribble. A speedy lead guard, Justice played a huge role in Shelby Valley's win over Mason County. Built with a strong frame, Justice drove his way into the heart of the defense looking to dish it off to teammates or to get a look at the basket. Justice has a strong handle, which played a big role in defeating Mason County's press. He scored 22 points in the 51-44 win.

Ricardo Johnson, SG/PG, Holmes – Every time we see this 6-foot-4 guard we become more intrigued. Johnson, who spends majority of his time on the ball for Holmes, ran the show and he did a pretty good job of it. Johnson has solid court vision and has become a talented passer. When he attacks the rim he usually finishes, as he's a high level athlete that knows how to use his frame to shield off defenders. Although he rarely shoots jumpers, he did hit an impressive step-in 16-footer on his way to a team-high 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Jeremiah Johnson, SG, Holmes – When it wasn't Ricardo scoring, majority of the time it was his brother. Jeremiah, who is two inches shorter than his brother at 6-foot-2, attacked the rim, especially in transition, where he used floaters and strength to score once he got there. There's more buzz about Ricardo, but Jeremiah can hoop too!

Elijah Pittman, PF, Holmes – Foul trouble sent Pittman to the bench for majority of the first and second quarter and when he finally played some minutes in the third he was a non-factor. In the fourth quarter, though, he showed why many think he's a solid looking prospect. The 6-foot-7 athletic big man ran the court looking for buckets in transition, hit a pair of floaters after attacking off the bounce and was active on the defensive end. Pittman finished with nine points and four blocks.

Anthony Hickey, PG, Christian County – Although he came off the bench, Hickey's presence was felt throughout Christian County's loss to Holmes. At 5-foot-11, Hickey is fast and has a stock build. He's quick with the ball in his hands and was active the entire game. Hickey gave Holmes fits off the dribble, as they couldn't keep him out of the lane. He finished just under double-digits with nine points, but he made his impact by taking charge of his team and doing what talented lead guards do.

Remy Abell, SG, Eastern – This was Dowe's day, but Abell, a 6-foot-2 guard, still played a role. Just a sophomore, he scored 10 points and proved that he's capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers. He drained a trio from 12-18 feet and played a composed, smart brand of ball. Down the road this will be one to watch, as he's already well known in his area.

Jaylen Beckham, PG, Lexington Catholic – College coaches had trouble believing Beckham is just a freshman. Throughout the season, Sanford has had a large crowd on hand to see him, and Beckham has benefited from it. In their first round game against Bowling Green, Beckham was extremely active. He handled the pressure, attacked the rim and made the appropriate passes. At times, Beckham can get a little wild and careless with the ball, but he's an impressive talent with above average athleticism and quickness.

Vee Sanford drew a pretty big crowd of coaches. Head coaches from Marshall, George Mason, Kentucky, Fairfield and South Florida watched the combo guard and assistants from Loyola-Chicago, Wright State, Miami, South Carolina and Murray State took a peak. Indiana was also in attendance checking out the Holmes prospects.

Lexington Catholic's Tanner Peurach, a 6-foot-7 junior, was a presence inside for the Knights. He scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and swatted four shots. The lefty is a Division-I prospect with grades. Treg Setty, of Mason County, didn't do much in their contest, as Russ Middleton, a Georgetown College commit, was on point from three and hit seven of them. Setty is, however, a good-looking long-term prospect, as he's a 6-foot-6 wing that can shoot it. Jamel Riley went for 13 for Holmes on Thursday. The 5-foot-11 senior guard ran the point effectively and was active on both ends of the court.

SCOREBOARD

  • Central 53, Graves County 51
  • Eastern 75, Corbin 61
  • Grayson County 45, Adair County 33
  • West Jessamine 51, Hazard 40
  • Holmes 72, Christian County 61
  • Lexington Catholic 70, Bowling Green 62
  • Shelby Valley 51, Mason County 44
  • Elliott County 74, Anderson County 61

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