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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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Saturday / April 13.
  • 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.

    By JACOB POLACHECK

    Walker Kessler, the 6-foot-10 center from Woodward Academy (GA), broke down his recruitment for ZAGSBLOG Sunday. Kessler, who has taken official visits to Vanderbilt (Sept. 21) and Michigan (Nov. 2), broke down each school:

    Vanderbilt: “I loved my visit. It’s a great school in a great area (Nashville). They have a great coaching staff. Simi [Shittu] and Darius Garland were both McDonald’s All-Americans and are great kids. So I liked it a lot.”

    “They just said pretty much, ‘Hey if you come here, you’re going to be our guy. We’re going to run our offense around you.’ Similar to how they did with Luke Kornet.

    Michigan: “Pretty much the same as Vanderbilt. It’s a great school with a great atmosphere. The coaching staff is great. They had the same pitch, but this time with Mo Wagner. That’s who they said I would play like and who they would run their offense through.”

    Kessler will take his third official visit to Virginia next month (Jan. 5). He broke down his thoughts on Virginia.

    “Obviously, they’re probably going to be a final four team this year,” said Kessler. “They are a great defensive team with a great coach, [Tony] Bennett. They have great facilities and are a great school overall. I just like the area also.”

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