4-Point Play: Kentucky pledges flash in McDAAG scrimmage

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim04/01/24

It’s no secret the real juice from the McDonald’s All-American Game doesn’t come from the game itself, but rather the practices and scrimmages leading up to the prestigious all-star event. That’s where the high-profile attendees bring the energy and competition, where scouts and analysts separate the best from the rest. Money is made then, not in the Powerade Jam Fest or McDAAG the following evening — those are fan events for entertainment purposes only.

Three Kentucky pledges are in Houston participating this week, Jayden Quaintance and Boogie Fland teaming up on the East Team and Karter Knox holding things down on the West. Practices have been ongoing while the head-to-head scrimmage took place Sunday afternoon, streamed live on ESPN+.

How did the future Cats perform? KSR’s got you covered tonight on 4-Point Play.

Boogie Fland is the ultimate floor general

UNC signee Ian Jackson earned unofficial MVP honors, but Fland wasn’t far behind in terms of all-around impact. My goodness, was the five-star guard terrific, taking command of the offense while staying active and engaged defensively. Feel is the name of the game for him, keeping the ball on a string and slithering through traffic with patience and poise, understanding leverage and when and where to create mismatches. He regularly found isolation looks and beat defenders off the dribble, came off screens for silky-smooth pull-up elbow jumpers or waited for the opposition to collapse before finding the roller for easy dump-offs.

“He has mastered that pull-up jump shot off the high screen,” ESPN’s analyst Paul Biancardi said during the broadcast.

His three-point jump shot wasn’t falling, but every other aspect of Fland’s game was high-level in the scrimmage. He’s got New York flair to his game, but don’t confuse the flash for any shortcomings of substance, his elite basketball IQ allowing him to toy with defenders and make plays as a scorer and facilitator. He had one behind-the-back inside pass to Derik Queen that led to a kick-out for a baseline jumper, threading the needle on another for an easy slam for the Maryland pledge.

And then his biggest dish of the night came in the final seconds, finding Liam McNeeley in the right corner for a game-winning three at the buzzer. He was the event’s best floor general by a wide margin.

“Just giving them encouragement, you know?” Fland said on the broadcast. “The coaches give constructive criticism, but I feel like it’s my job to be a coach on the floor, give them encouragement to keep going and be a leader on the floor.”

Fland is known for being a big-time shooter, but it was everything else he brought to the table that separated the future Wildcat on Sunday.

Jayden Quaintance finds his footing as high-ceiling threat

You have to move the goalposts a bit for a 16-year-old competing in this kind of event — but not by much considering the raw ability Quaintance brings to the table as a 6-10, 225-pound true man-child at the forward position. The Kentucky signee demanded the ball on the baseline, pump faked twice on the initial dump-off before driving and lifting for the punch through two defenders on his very first touch.

Not a bad first impression.

Elsewhere, he put back a missed Cooper Flagg floater and rimmed out a left-corner three, taken with confidence. Defensively, he picked up 94 feet and showed off his versatility by taking on guards out on the perimeter, not only holding his own, but coming up with some impressive stops. He swiped down for a steal on the first defensive possession of the second half, then contested an Ace Bailey step-back three attempt from the right corner.

The flashes were brilliant, showing why he’s a consensus top-10 talent in the class. But he also showed why he’s not a clear No. 1 despite boasting the best physical tools in the country by a country mile. Quaintance was lost at times and found himself stepping on his teammates’ toes, causing some congestion and miscommunication out on the perimeter. Then he front-ended a reverse slam attempt that brought back some not-so-pleasant memories from this past year for Kentucky fans.

It happens when you’re the youngest player to ever participate in the most prestigious all-star event high school basketball has to offer. Quaintance is a surefire future star, but it’ll be a process.

Karter Knox oozes offensive confidence

If there is one thing that jumps off the page with Kevin Knox’s younger brother, it’s his unwavering confidence as a pure scorer. His first touch resulted in a confident side-step fadeaway three at the top of the key that ricocheted off the backboard. From there, Knox took a defender off the dribble on the left wing and turned a half-spin into a turnaround fadeaway from the baseline to convert the and-one.

Standing 6-6, 224 pounds, the top-20 recruit is a bulldozer who moves extremely well for his size. He’s skilled with a knack for drilling pull-ups and catch-and-shoot jumpers, but also has the body to play some small-ball four, when necessary. Knox hung around the corner and put himself in position for dribble hand-offs and slashing opportunities, similar to that of Chris Livingston in Lexington a year ago.

Like his brother, motor and competitive spirit have been the biggest knocks on Knox’s game up to this point. And in a setting like this, it’d be easy to disappear when the offense isn’t run through you for extended periods. Play was unselfish in Houston, but you also have to go get yours in these types of environments, and the future Wildcat did that when the ball came his way. And early feedback is that the five-star pledge has been even better in private practices beyond the televised scrimmage, which is a positive sign.

Travis Perry named a player to watch for the Cats

How about a bit of a surprise? No, the state’s all-time leading scorer was not invited to the McDonald’s All-American Game, but he did earn praise from commentators when breaking down Kentucky’s second-ranked recruiting class during the broadcast.

It wasn’t any of the five-stars or even top-50 recruits that had Biancardi drooling. It was none other than Mr. Basketball himself, Travis Perry.

“Keep an eye on Travis Perry. He’s at the bottom of that list, but he’s in the ESPN100. Down in the City of Palms, he had 70 points in two games,” he said. “He can really fill it up from the outside. And the City of Palms has great competition. That’s one of the places Reed Sheppard made a name for himself.”

He may not be a Burger Boy, but Perry has accomplished just about everything else at the high school level.

The McDonald’s All-American Game will be televised on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN.

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