The Marshall County Hoop Fest can boast that two members of the gold-medal winning United States men’s basketball team — Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony — participated in its event. It has also had current NBA star Derrick Rose, who would have been on the Olympic team if not for a knee injury.
Now this year’s event Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in western Kentucky could have its next future star — Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins is a huge Kentucky recruiting target. He’s currently in the 2014 class, but the 6-8 forward is considering reclassifying to 2013. Either way, he’s the nation’s top-ranked high school player.
However, he won’t be the only big-time talent in the field.
Memphis (Tenn.) Briarcrest Christian has 6-8 forward Austin Nichols, who has offers from Duke, Tennessee, Auburn, Butler, Cincinnati, Clemson, Kansas, Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina, Ohio State, Texas and Vanderbilt. He runs the floor well for a big man and is a solid rebounder.
Memphis Southwind will be bringing 6-8 Jonathan Williams, another big-time prospect, and 6-4 guard Jajuan Johnson, who is being pursued by Miami, Alabama and Texas and has also received interest from Louisville.
Wiggins’ teammate, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, has scholarship offers from Kentucky and numerous other schools.
Bullitt East will bring 6-9 Derek Willis, a UK¿commit, to the tourney. Oak Hill (Va.)¿Academy, annually one of the nation’s top prep teams, will play both days in the event.
Other Kentucky teams scheduled to play include Madison Central, Ballard, Hopkinsville, Warren Central, Calloway County and host Marshall.
But the biggest draw for the Hoop Fest could be the team from Richmond, Texas, that features two of the nation’s best players — twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Both are rated as top-10 players, and both have Kentucky¿on their list of four schools that they will choose from to make a decision in late October.
“The plan is for us to play two games,” Travis High School coach Craig Brownson said. “We have to get the paperwork finalized, but that’s the plan.
“It’s a great opportunity. Andrew and Aaron will be playing in front of big crowds in college, and most likely the NBA. This won’t be unfamiliar for them, but for our other kids to experience this is one big reason we want to do things like this. Last year we played in front of 13,000 or 14,000 in the state tourney. Playing in front of big crowds could be valuable when we get in a big playoff game. They won’t be as nervous. They will have been there and done that.”
If the Harrisons commit to Kentucky, as most recruiting analysts seem to think, Kentucky fans will swarm to Marshall County, even though the Wildcats¿play at Notre Dame on Nov. 29 and host Baylor on Dec. 1. Fans who can’t get to those games will find a way to Benton to see the Harrisons, Wiggins and the other stars. And why not? It’s great basketball in a facility that has been deemed one of the 10 best venues nationally for high school basketball.
And don’t be stunned if the Hoop Fest adds Chicago center Cliff Alexander, one of the top players in the 2014 recruiting class and another big-time UK¿target.
It has all the makings of one of the nation’s premier in-season high school basketball events and one that Kentucky fans likely will not want to miss.