MIKE NIETO: The recruiting class of 2014 is in a class by itself

2014-04-03T18:00:00Z 2014-04-15T18:33:10Z MIKE NIETO: The recruiting class of 2014 is in a class by itselfMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
April 03, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | You look at the names of those who played in the McDonald's All-American Games, both boys and girls and you see a lot of names who either are in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments or are stars in the NBA.

Since the games began in 1977, 20 McDonald's All-Americans have been named NBA rookie of the year.

No doubt someone from the high school class of 2014 will garner the same honor, maybe more than one since some of these players may not stay all four years.

Kentucky and Duke men's programs seem to have inside track on the golden arches' players as four, including Marian's Tyler Ulis will play for the Wildcats. Three other boys players will head to Durham, N.C. and be Duke Blue Devils.

In addition to Ulis, coach John Calipari has 7-footer Karl-Anthony Towns, 6-6 guard Devin Booker and 6-9 Trey Lyles from Indianapolis. Many, including his recruits, feel Kentucky has the best recruiting class in the nation and four McDonald's All-Americans certainly back that up.

"John Calipari seems to recruit players who have great size," ESPN analyst and former McDonald's All-American and NBA star Jalen Rose said. "He gets a lot of guys who have played in this game."

Duke has the National Player of the Year in Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, guard Tyus Jones and guard Grayson Allen. Both Oakfor and Ulis joked Tuesday over who has the better class. Time will tell, though some of these guys may be in the NBA in a few years.

Yes, they are that good. That Chicago could land the games is a feather in the city's cap and a hat's off to Oak Brook-based McDonald's.

Will Kentucky, which is playing Wisconsin Saturday in one NCAA semifinal, and Duke go at it in the 2018 Final Four?

It is possible. Those two schools may even square off for a national championship. Both are blue bloods of the sport. Kentucky has won eight and only UCLA has won more national basketball titles with 11. Duke has won four.

"We feel we have a great class," Ulis said. "I am really looking forward to playing at Kentucky with these guys. It's been fun here (at McDonald's workouts). We are already pretty tight and we feel we are the top recruiting class."

Booker said it is a good mix.

"Tyler is a great guard, Trey can shoot, rebound," Booker said. "Karl, he is a 7-footer and he can dominate."

That is what they and their future Wildcat teammates hope to do. They may not be as publicized as Michigan's Fab Five of the early 1990s, which Rose was a part of, but this is a solid group.

Duke is the same. They just reload every year. Though both schools have football programs, basketball is the main focus on the respective campuses.

Ulis and his fellow recruits didn't go to Kentucky to settle for just making the tournament.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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