Nike Memorial Day Classic features UK targets

The Nike Memorial Day Classic tournament took place this weekend in New Orleans, and some of the top players in the country saw action, including some potential University of Kentucky targets. While the weather outside was hot and rainy, for the most part the play inside was just plain hot.

The MDC tournament featured 3's raining down, although the New Orleans weather finally took its toll and by Monday morning more than 3-point jumpers were falling from the roof of the Alario Center. The staff adjusted, and play was moved from the main court to the three auxiliary courts for the remainder of play.

Although the tournament featured play in three different age groups, only the 17-under group played exclusively at the Alario Center, with the other groups being farmed out at various venues in the New Orleans area. All of the games I saw were at the Alario Center, and involved the oldest age group.

The Kentucky AAU squad featured a possible Kentucky target, 6-foot-9 PF Albert Jackson. Neither Jackson nor the Kentucky team warmed up very well in “the Big Easy,” as the team dropped all of its pool games before finally winning its last game over the 4th place team in another pool, a local New Orleans Select team.

Jackson has a solid physique, and showed a nice touch on the relatively rare occasion when he shot the ball. If he is to contribute in major college basketball, he’ll have to learn to play more aggressively, however, or at least be more active on the court. Since he committed to Georgia and Coach Dennis Felton, and has indicated that Kentucky has also offered a scholarship, those coaches believe he can do just that.

Jackson displayed a baby hook off the glass in the game against a pretty good Howard Pulley team, with a turn-around 10-foot jumper in the lane with his right hand (Jackson is left-handed) in the game against New Orleans. He did not show many ballhandling skills, but did not have much opportunity to do so, either. At his size and physique, one would like to see him be a dominant rebounder and shot-blocker, but in the context of the games at the Alario Center, he played more passively than that.

Byron Faison, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard for the South Carolina Ravens, is also on the UK recruiting radar. Faison’s play was limited in the tournament game I saw, picking up three fouls in the first eight minutes of play, largely ineffective from that part forward. He appeared to play hard, do what the coach asked him to do, drawing praise a number of times, and has nice form on his shot.

Faison was overshadowed on his own team by 6-foot-7 Mike Jones, a combo forward who handled the ball well, was quick for his size, and could post up effectively as well as step out and hit the mid-range shot.

The “top dog” at the tournament was the Murfreesboro Stars’ brightest star, Kentucky target Brandan Wright. Wright, another 6-foot-9 lefty, is regarded by all as a consensus top 5 player who is likely to head to the NBA unless an age limit is agreed upon in the next collective bargaining agreement. Although Wright’s play was limited by an ankle injury in the game I saw (he did not start the game), he still showed why he is so highly regarded. Wright runs the court very well for a big man, and is active on both sides of the court. He is very quick for his size, and a very good leaper, rebounder and shot-blocker. He possesses an array of skills that will translate well in college or the NBA.

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