Coach Jason Delaney says one thing helps separate 6-10, 245-pound forward Trey Lyles from many other athletically gifted players.
“He is really a good kid, good character, very good student — around a 3.8 GPA,” said Delaney, the coach at Indianapolis Arsenal Tech. “His basketball IQ is what separates him from a lot of guys. Some guys are more athletic, but he’s got guard skills in a big man body. He has good post moves as well. He has a phenomenal work ethic. The kid stays an hour after practice or will go home and go to the gym. He’s really worked on adding muscle and he’s more aggressive this year. He can take contact and finish.”
Lyles is ranked among the top five players in the 2014 recruiting class and is regarded as the No. 1 power forward — UK commit Karl Towns Jr. is a top five player also but is considered a center even though he has plenty of perimeter skills. He had 24 points and 14 rebounds in a 73-51 win over Curie (Chicago) last week when Curie center Cliff Alexander, another top five player and UK 2014 target, had 18 points.
Delaney says Lyles’ father always worked on the “little details” of basketball with him.
“Not just shooting, but footwork and things like that,” Delaney said. “He is well rounded. He can shoot the ball, but he can do a lot more. He leads our team in scoring, assists, rebounds and blocked shots. Last year he led us in rebounds, scoring and blocked shots and was second in assists. I’ve never had a kid that can do quite all the things he can. He’s so unselfish. He does not take all the shots. He’s constantly looking for teammates.”
Lyles committed to Indiana before he played his first high school game, but decommitted in the fall. Kentucky is one of the schools on his new list and he attended Big Blue Madness in October with his father and Delaney.
“He is a strong willed kid. At first all the recruiting stuff affected him. All those folks that loved you (when he was committed to Indiana) and now they cannot stand you,” Delaney said. “He’s done a great job not focusing on recruiting but on this season. We lost a heartbreaker on a last-second shot in the state tournament last year and these kids were in the gym the next day and have been there since then.
“All our guys, including Trey, are focused on this season. They are not allowing recruiting to get in the way. They all really like each other and enjoy playing together.”
Delaney said Lyles has even helped teammates with recruiting since he had committed to Indiana earlier and understood more about the recruiting process.
“He can give them advice. They voted him team captain and look up to him a lot,” Delaney said.
Lyles has seemed to have his choices down to Kentucky and North Carolina and there has been speculation he might verbally commit soon, a story his father recently denied by saying his son would not make a college choice until next year. Lyles has been scheduled to be at the Kentucky game at Louisville Dec. 29 as well as UK-Texas A&M game in Rupp Arena Jan. 12.
“I think his focus will get back on recruiting after the season. He’ll take his visits and do things then,” Delaney said. “He really wants to have team success and his father has done a good job not letting him get caught up in the recruiting process.”
Delaney said Kentucky “has been really great” and that coach John Calipari and his staff have always had “encouraging words” for him.
“When they come in as the coaches at Kentucky, you listen to what they say,” Delaney said. “Recently we came off a hard loss (60-59 to Brebeuf Jesuit Prep) and Calipari’s message was control what we can control and then we went out and beat a really good team (Indianapolis Cathedral).
“You can learn a lot from coach Cal. I appreciated what he did. He did not have to come in and say anything to us about the loss. Kentucky is one of the big players in his recruiting. As a coach and recruit, you’ve got to look at the success they have had getting guys ready for the NBA. It’s hard to not be impressed by what Kentucky and Calipari have done.”