Ranked among the nation's top 20 prospects in the 2015 recruiting class, Antonio Blakeney has seen the attention from college coaches sky rocket this summer. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound five-star prospect from Orlando, Fla., has become a priority for dozens of programs across the country and his games during the July evaluation periods have had some of the game's best coaches following his every.
That has continued at the AAU Showcase being held in Louisville at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center this week. Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, Mike Anderson, Danny Manning and a host of others, including dozens of assistants were packed courtside for all of Blakeney's three games on Thursday.Rick Pitino's presence was easily noticeable. He was sitting midcourt for his opening game and was the first coach present at his second game.
“It's real cool, but I really don't pay attention to the coaches, I just try to play hard and win the game,” Blakeney said of the attention. “I'll do whatever to get a win for my team.”
Those watching on Thursday, including Pitino at midcourt, witnessed why he is considered one of the best guards in his class. He began his day at 8:00 a.m. with a near triple-double, pouring in 27 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. By the end of the three games, Blakeney totaled 67 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists.
His ability to create his own shot and drive to succeed were evident throughout the day. With his team being pushed during the second game, Blakeney had multiple key plays in the victory. A three-pointer one moment, followed by a steal and assist minutes later. He is a difference maker and the coaches have expressed that.
“My competitiveness and the way I score are the two main things,” he said of what coaches like about his style of play.
College coaches haven't been the only ones following Blakeney's steps at the AAU Showcase. Fans representing numerous schools and media surrounded him at every moment. The amount of interest caught the elite prospect by surprise.
“I thought I would get some attention, but not this much,” he said.
His list of scholarship offers is lengthy. On Thursday, Blakeney named an impressive list of schools that are among those expressing high interest in him. Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Missouri, North Carolina and Oregon were among those he mentioned.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and his staff made Blakeney a priority months ago. Last January he made an unofficial visit with U of L and attended a Cardinals basketball game. On Thursday, Pitino's presence and interest was notable. He was present at each of his games, including being the first coach present for Blakeney's second game of the day.
“I like the school a lot,” he said. “The history, they always have a great team, Coach Pitino is a great coach and as I'm seeing, there is a lot of love in the city.”
More recently, he collected an offer from Kentucky and his reasoning for considering the Wildcats appears more one dimensional.
“It's players,” Blakeney said of what is intriguing to him about John Calipari's program. “He gets his players to the NBA and that's my main goal.”
“Obviously Louisville has been recruiting me longer, but right now, both of them are recruiting me pretty hard.”
As the interest continues to spike for Blakeney's service, the player is remaining focused on the game and will wait until summer competition is over before trimming his list of schools.
“After all the things I do in the summer, like Elite 24, Big Street and stuff like that, then I'm going to cut my list,” he explained.
When that time does come, Blakeney a few factors will be key in securing his pledge and eventual signature.
“My relationship with the coaches, going into a good situation and the history of the school,” he said, further adding, “I really try not to think about it to much. I just try to play hard and let everything take care of itself.”