JOHN: Big Time Tourney kicks off in Vegas

A couple of UK targets saw some early action on Saturday in the Reebok Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. J.J. Hickson, 6-foot-8 power forward from Georgia, saw just 15 minutes of play and was on the bench in crunch time as his Worldwide Renegades team fell by two to the Illinois Wolves.

A couple of UK targets saw some early action on Saturday in the Reebok Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas.

J.J. Hickson, 6-foot-8 power forward from Georgia, saw just 15 minutes of play and was on the bench in crunch time as his Worldwide Renegades team fell by two to the Illinois Wolves. Evan Turner, a 6-foot-6 soon-to-be Ohio Buckeye, led the Wolves with 17 points. Sam Maniscalco, a 6-foot-0 point guard headed to Bradley, went 4-7 from three point range to keep the Renegades at bay toward the end.

At the media table more than one onlooker pointed out that Hickson has not played up to expectations of late and his playing time had slipped. He did score 10 points on 5-6 shooting but those points nearly all came within the first couple of minutes of each half.

And the news on Hickson's recruitment is, there is no new news. Hickson, who appears to be wary of the media, was sheltered from reporters after the early game on Saturday. In a very brief comment in passing, Hickson reiterated that he had really not finalized any list of schools as yet.

Certainly the talent is there with Hickson. He had one ferocious dunk that rattled the backboard, and he followed that with a sweet high-arching baby hook shot that Kareem Jabbar himself would have admired. But he often seemed a little disinterested on defense and was beaten down the floor several times by his opponent.

One of the reasons that Renegades coach Chris Johnson could afford to allow Hickson to cool his heels on the bench is the recent addition to his team of Julian Gamble, a 6-foot-8, 215 lb. power forward, who had been lightly regarded in rankings heading into this year, but has blown up in recent weeks.

The Southern High School prospect from Durham, N.C. was "wowing" the crowd with his boardwork, hustle, strong defense and all-around tough play. Gamble, whose appearance and style of game will inevitably draw Renaldo Balkman comparisons, has begun to draw a great deal of interest from a number of top level programs, including Kentucky.

"The schools that have been calling me the most lately are Florida, Miami, Kentucky, Georgetown, Tennessee and St. Johns," Gamble said, "I have been doing really well lately. It's been really flattering getting all this attention lately."

Gamble, a left-hander who scored eleven points and pulled down seven rebounds in 18 minutes, compliments a solid inside game with and ability to step out and hit a soft, eighteen foot jump shot, which he did today on two occasions.

Expect to see Gamble rise through the rankings as his play will most assuredly continue to impress. Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith and "friend" (more on the guest later) were on hand to see Hickson and Gamble play. Also on hand were a number of other big names in basketball such as Bruce Weber, Matt Doherty, Tommy Amaker, Bruce Pearl, Lorenzo Romar and Rick Pitino.

NOTE: Former UK Assistant coach Shawn Finney was with Tubby Smith for much of the morning, fueling speculation that the coach who most recently served a 5-year stint as the coach of the Tulane Green Wave, would join the Kentucky staff. Finney, compiled a 60-86 record at Tulane, was not registered as a coach for the tournament, but that did not stop a number of people from asking him if he was officially on board at Kentucky yet. Finney made no comment.

Is UK truly "out" with DeAndre Jordan?

Maybe. Probably. But then again….

There was little noteable about DeAndre Jordan's early game on Saturday other than Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was a visible spectator. Jordan scored only five points and nabbed six boards in a rather uneventful win over the Magnolia Stars. What made Tubby's apearance unusual is that when Jordan trimmed his list to just six schools back on June 28, Kentucky's name was conspicuous by its absence.

After the game the nation's #2 center prospect according to reiterated that Florida, Texas, Florida State, LSU, Indiana and Texas A&M comprised his list, but when asked, admitted that the Wildcats have continued to call and that the calls captured his attention.

"They have been calling me again lately. It's really flattering," said Jordan, "but I have not decided whether I want to open that up again. But I have not ruled it out yet."

Another UK target, Anthony Randolph, got his tournament off to a less than stellar start. In just 12 minutes of play, Randolph went 3-12 from the field and pulled down just three rebounds, committing two turnovers as his Dallas Mustangs team ran away with an easy win over the West Valley Elite.

Charles Buckner? Who is that? If you know the name, you follow recruiting more closely than I. It was the first time I had seen this power forward in action. The big forward from Bossier City, Louisiana, scored 17 points, pulled down five rebounds and blocked five shots, outplaying his famous teammate DeAndre Jordan. Coach Tubby Smith was standing in front of him the whole time. Hopefully, he took notes. If Buckner continues to rack up games like that, he is going to hit the radar of a few teams.

Another one of DeAndre Jordan's more lightly regarded teammates blew it up on Saturday. Tremaine Johnson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Debol, Texas, dropped in 25 points to lead his Houston Swoosh team to victory.

Tyrone Nash, a 6-foot-7 power forward recently offered by Kentucky, did not join his Long Island Lightning teammates on Saturday. The reason is not known. Tyrone Shelley, another name mentioned off and on with UK, did not join his H-Squad team in Vegas.

Another very impressive big man on the floor today was 6-foot-9 center Clint Chapman, from Canby, Oregon. The big fella had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead his Portland Panthers team to a tight win over Brandon Wood and the Cap All Stars. Andy Poling, another outstanding Oregon power forward, added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Panthers.

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