Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Quartet of New York Prospects Visiting Kentucky; Others Hitting Kansas, Providence & The ‘Ville
When Midnight Madness tips off around the nation Friday night, many of the top New York-area prospects won’t be in the Big Apple.
They’ll be taking in the show at Kentucky.
“I’m excited, it should be good,” said Dix Hills (N.Y.) Half Hollow Hills West forward Tobias Harris, who leaves Friday for Kentucky’s “Big Blue Madness.”
“I heard it’s a really great atmosphere at the Midnight Madness so it should be fun.”
Some 24,000 Kentucky fans are expected at the event and tickets were reportedly selling Thursday for an average of $177.59 on eBay.
Led by first-year coach John Calipari, Kentucky is loaded with talent and could make a Final Four run.
The 6-foot-8 Harris will be joined on the Kentucky trip by fellow senior Kyrie Irving, a point guard at Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick; Michael Gilchrist, a 6-7 junior wing from St. Pat’s considered the top high school player in the nation; and Achraf Yacoubou, a top junior recruit and Harris’ former teammate at Long Island Lutheran.
“Those are cool guys so it should be good,” Harris said.
“I played with Ach and I played with Kyrie and Mike at the LeBron James Camp. Mike was on my team at LeBron. We’ve got a lot of talent in the metropolitan area and all of us down there should be fun.”
The non-New York contingent headed to Kentucky includes junior forward Quincy Miller of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Kentucky-bound senior Stacey Poole, Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla. Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God forward C.J. Leslie wasn’t able to make it.
“Once you see Madness, you see what Kentucky has to offer,” Kentucky center Patrick Pattersontold the Herald-Leader. “You commit right off the bat.”
While the New York/New Jersey flavor will be strong at Kentucky, Kansas will host an elite group that includes Queens, N.Y. native Doron Lamb, a senior shooting guard at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy pictured at left.
The 6-4 Lamb has visited Oklahoma and plans to visit Kentucky or UConn next weekend.
“It’s a three-way tie out of Kentucky, Kansas and Oklahoma,” he told me earlier this week.
Also headed to Kansas for “Late Night in the Phog” are senior guards Harrison Barnesand Josh Selby and junior guards Bradley Beal and Josiah Turner.
Other New York-area players on the road this weekend include Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony senior forward Devon Collier, who is currently on an official to Providence, and Long Island native J.J. Moore of South Kent (Conn.), who is slated to visit Louisville.
The 6-8 Collier visited Oregon State last weekend and plans to hit St. John’s next weekend and Seton Hall Oct. 30.
The 6-5 Moore will visit Florida Oct. 23 and is also considering St. John’s and Pitt.
As for those visiting Kentucky, Irving was quoted as saying he’s “leaning” toward Duke, but also visited Texas A&M and still plans to visit Georgia Tech and Seton Hall. Meantime, Wildcats assistant Rod Strickland is Irving’s Godfather.
“You can’t discount Kentucky because I do have a relationship with coach Strickland,” Drederick Irving, Kyrie’s dad, told me last month. “I’ve known him since I was 7 and we played in the same backcourt with the Gauchos until we were 18. He’s like a brother to me. We have a profound relationship that cannot be discounted. He is Kyrie’s Godfather.”
As for Harris, he has visited Syracuse and Tennessee and still plans to visit Louisville, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Maryland.
“This is one of the hardest decisions,” Harris said. “Each visit you go to they’ve been really good so it’s hard telling one school form the other, which one is the best fit for me.”
The 6-7 Gilchrist, considered the top high school prospect regardless of class, favors Kentucky and Villanova, according to his mother, Cindy Richardson.
Yet he has visited Michigan, Rutgers and Villanova in recent weeks and his mother says he is open to being recruited by anybody.
“I’m just having fun with my selection of colleges,” he told the Philly Inquirer. “But it’s early. I’m just starting my process.”
Yacoubou (left) is a 6-3 shooting guard who favors Kentucky, Villanova and UConn. He plans to visit Villanova next weekend for its “Hoops Mania.”
But now he’s looking forward to “Big Blue Madness.”
“I’m excited. I’m anxious to see how the team is looking and how the atmosphere is going to be, the events are going to be and curious to see how the school looks,” he said.
Yacoubou played for one year at American Christian (Pa.) with Tyreke Evans, the current NBA guard who was coached last year by Calipari at Memphis.
“I know Calipari makes pros,” Yacoubou said. “He’s won a lot of games.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.