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  • Killeya-Jones' growth, improvement led him to Kentucky

    By: LARRY VAUGHT



    For the last two years, ESPN national recruiting director Paul Biancardi has watched 6-11 Sacha Killeya-Jones play — and improve.

    “He is a 6-11 forward who has got excellent athletic ability,” said Biancardi, who is also an analyst on ESPN Recruiting Nation on ESPNU. “His versatility in relationship to the skill level he has is really advanced. When you combine the size, athleticism and skill level, you have a pretty unusual prospect.”

    KIlleya-Jones, a former Virginia commit, announced Wednesday that he had committed to Kentucky and coach John Calipari.

    “He’s not strong enough yet to play through contact and strong enough to finish and hold his position at the collegiate level,” Biancardi said. “That will be a major improvement he will need to make. But he came into high school 6-feet tall and now he is 6-11.”

    Biancardi says Killeya-Jones’ high school growth remind him of what Anthony Davis and Willie Cauley-Stein both did before becoming stars at Kentucky.

    He also had offers from Florida, Georgetown, North Carolina, Connecticut, Wake Forest, California and Georgetown. Killeya-Jones was among the standouts at Under Armour's All-America camp in July, averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.

    “He likes to play the game inside-out,” Biancardi said. “He will start in the paint and then work his way to the high post and face up. He will not take a lot of 3’s, but the ones he takes are pretty dependable. He is a paint scorer more than anything. He is a random 3-point shooter, but a good one.

    “He is more inside-oriented than (Kentucky freshman) Skal (Labissiere). Skal is not great shooter but is a comfortable shooter and has a nice hook inside. They have similar versatility, skill set and size but Jones is a guy who makes playing inside more of a priority.”

    Killeya-Jones, a North Carolina native who plays for Virginia Episcopal School, had a terrific summer and spring that Biancardi says easily makes him one of the five players who raised their stock most during that time.

    After Killeya-Jones de-committed from Virginia, Kentucky was one of several schools to get involved with him even if it did not attract the attention like it does when Calipari goes after a top-10 prospect. ESPN ranks him 56th currently in the 2016 recruiting class.

    “When Kentucky is involved with a top kid, they show up at games and everybody knows,” Biancardi said. “But every now and then they find guys they really like and scout those guys and evaluate them. Once they evaluate, they zero in and they really liked Jones.

    “People think John just selects talent. He does not. He recruits. He goes against the best and battles hard with the best. But I think he is also a great evaluator and knows what he wants. Look back at when he was at UMass. He had a talented team and a lot of under the radar guys that were great players. He built a team that got to No. 1 and went to the Final Four with that team.”

    Biancardi says he never surprised when a player like Killeya-Jones or anyone else picks UK.

    “It’s just a hard situation to turn down,” Biancardi said. “It is the best of so many worlds. A Hall of Fame coach that is successful winning championships and developing talent for the pros and then he helps so many people off the court. Then you have the campus and fans and Rupp Arena. That’s just hard for any player to turn down.”
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Carolinawildcats's Avatar
      Carolinawildcats -
      Hmmm....very interesting comparison to Skal. Has me very interesting in Skal's game this year! Sounds like a great pick up!

      Peace

      Richard (CW)
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