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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.
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Monday / March 25.
  • Kentucky watches Jaden McDaniels outduel Louisville commit Aidan Igiehon

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEW YORK — In a wildly entertaining battle between future pro big men, Kentucky head coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne watched uncommitted forward Jaden McDaniels outduel Louisville signee Aidan Igiehon Sunday night at Barclays Center.

    The 6-foot-10 McDaniels finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists to lead his Federal Way (WA) team to a 91-49 blowout of the 6-10 Igiehon and Lawrence Woodmere Academy in the Battle in the Apple Basketball Showcase. Nicknamed the “Irish Hulk,” Igiehon finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

    Both players showed out for the fans with a variety of dunks, and each showed an ability to shoot the long-range jumper.

    McDaniels averaged 18.6 points and 9.1 rebounds and drained 25 3-pointers on the Nike EYBL circuit this past summer. ESPN.com has him as the projected No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

    “It’s just nice to see [Calipari] come and support me because they’re recruiting me,” McDaniels said. “It’s a real big program, so having him there is something big to me. I have a good relationship with Kenny Payne, he’s a real good dude. I just talk to him on the regular. They always check in with me and see how I’m doing and stuff like that.”

    McDaniels has cut his list to Kentucky, Texas, UCLA, San Diego State and Washington. but said he wasn’t focused on the Kentucky coaches being in attendance one day after they lost to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden

    Texas will be at McDaniels high school game on Tuesday, said Cartiea French-Toney, McDaniels’ trainer.

    With James Wiseman (Memphis) and Vern Carey (Duke) already off the board, Kentucky is in need of bigs in the Class of 2019. Calipari has already visited McDaniels twice in Washington and now saw him a third time.

    “It shows that he’s a priority that they’re here to watch hm play,” said French-Toney.

    Still, nothing will be decided until after the season, and after the all-star game circuit. McDaniels hopes to make the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games, and play in the Geico High School Nationals.

    “We look forward to finishing his recruitment and figuring out where he’s going once the season’s over,” French-Toney said. “No more visits. He’s taken all five official visit so that’s out the way.”

    McDaniels calls to mind a young Kevin Durant, but said he’s also watched “a lot” of Kawhi Leonard.

    As for the comparisons to Durant, he said, “It’s cool, but it’s whatever. Just being compared to an NBA player, not everybody has that opportunity.”

    Asked if it’s a fair comparison, he said, “I kind of think it is just because of how I am and how long he is, and we’re both versatile players.”

    “It’s unfair to compare him,” French-Toney said. “He’s not Kevin Durant, he’s Jaden McDaniels, and he can only be the best version of himself.”

    As far as what he needs to work on, McDaniels said he wants to “get stronger,” master my craft,” “work on my handle and just get better every day.”

    As for the experience of coming to New York, McDaniels enjoyed it.

    “It was nice to compete, everybody did good,” he said. “That’s how we want to come out, just come out and blow everybody out, so that’s what we did.”

    “This is a great experience for him. This is something that you dream about your whole life, is to play on an NBA court on a big stage like this in the mecca of basketball,” French-Toney said.

     

    Photo: ASeaofBlue.com

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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.