UK aims to play in February in Mercer County
Published on Saturday, January 14th, 2023 at 6:12 am
By Larry Waugh
Contributing as an essayist
Why would Cardinal Hayes coach Joe Ladd bring the team from New York to Harrodsburg to play a high school game in early February?
“Our best player (Ian Jackson) is being recruited by coach (John) Calipari. They were playing that night (against Florida) so we thought it was an opportunity to play one game and then watch the (Kentucky) game,” Ladds said.
“Kids love to travel. Adults don’t like to travel but we went to Texas, Arizona and Massachusetts to play. Now we come to Kentucky. What can I do when your best players want to travel?
Cardinal Hayes was part of the Grind Session Thoroughbred Classic at Mercer County High School in Harrodsburg Feb. 3-5. Cardinal Hayes will play Louisville Moore on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m.
Jackson is the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2024 according to the 247Sports Composite. 2 overall player and has scholarship offers from Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon, Arkansas, Connecticut, UCLA, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, LSU Kansas State. , Nebraska, Oklahoma State and others.
He was in UK’s Big Blue Madness in October and also took official visits to Oregon, LSU and North Carolina. He watched Kentucky play UCLA at Madison Square Garden in New York, and Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua saw him play the next day.
“He’s a very ranked off guard. He shoots the ball well. He’s very athletic. He can dunk and finish around the rim,” Ladds said. “He’s just a fantastic player, fans should enjoy watching. He would be a really nice addition to Kentucky if they get him. He’s a really good player and a good kid. “
Jackson saw how good Lads was when he was in eighth grade. He says it’s clear he’s “the real deal” and that it comes down to how hard he’s pushed himself.
“He scores when he wants to. He’s really elusive going to the basket,” Ladds said. “He gets into small spaces and uses his body well. He can contract his body and complete it in different ways. He can raise it with his left hand and dunk with his right. I’m already looking forward to guys pushing him at the college level.
Jackson, who won a gold medal with USA Basketball while playing with UK signee DJ Wagner, is being pulled in many “different directions” by his nationwide recruitment, according to Laubs. Speculation continues that he could also reclassify to the 2023 recruiting class.
“I think he’s sick of it (recruiting),” Laubs said. “I don’t think he’s going to last long. Kids need offers. I tell them they need the right offer. You don’t have to have 20 schools to get the right offer.
Laubs said the Kentucky coaches are “excited” about Jackson and his teammates coming to Mercer County to play. “We’ll talk to (assistant) coach (Orlando) Antigua,” Ladd said about coming to the Bluegrass.
The Lads know that many of the fans who come to the Grind Session Thoroughbred Classic want a chance to interact with Jackson in hopes of choosing Kentucky.
“He loves interacting with people. If we have a 3 o’clock game he’ll sit there, sign autographs, take pictures and talk to the kids all night if we let him,” the coach said. But he was such a kid. He’s as good a kid as you can find and the fans really enjoy him. “
A NIL deal?
Creativity can now pay off big for college athletes through name, image and likeness, but that never happened when Taylor County junior offensive lineman Hayes Johnson called Kentucky Sports Radio recently.
Johnson is a 6-5, 295-pound three-star prospect with eight scholarship offers, including Kentucky, Tennessee and Baylor. He is also an avid outdoorsman.
Recently when he was scouting geese a friend called the local radio station’s swap shop and suggested that they advertise that geese are now in season and ready to shoot – for anyone who needs help.
“Then my friend said, ‘You don’t call KSR,'” Johnson said.
He chose not to use his first name, so the conversation wouldn’t turn to football recruiting. However, Kentucky Sports Radio co-host Ryan Lemond recognized it was him, and they talked about football recruiting before Johnson relayed his cell phone number, in case anyone listening needed someone to go goose hunting on their property.
“I did a little (goose) business from Cal. It was just a joke but it worked and some people let me hunt. But I was really trying to hide my identity,” he said. “I even got a few calls from people telling me where to go to school. I gave it to everyone so I knew eventually I would have to change it (his cell phone number).
He said he never thought that his call could eventually lead to a NIL contract at the college. A company called Hayes Calls, which owns waterfowl, deer and turkey calls in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, looks like a perfect opportunity.
“I wanted to do something like that with NIL, but it all happened by accident,” Johnson Shelp “I am not looking for a NIL deal. A lot of schools pitch after you open that can of worms and I don’t want to hear it. I want to hear what schools offer me and not what donors offer financially. I like football. Hence about my recruitment, nNIL.”