Vaught's Views: JJ Traynor's Overall Improvement Has Colleges, Including UK, Paying Close Attention
Bardstown coach James Brewer says senior JJ Traynor has no favorite yet in his college recruitment but believes Traynor has “pro potential.” (Bardstown Basketball Photo)
JJ Traynor has gone from a player who averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for Bardstown, which only had a 15-16 record last year, to a top 100 recruit nationally in a matter of months.
The 6-8 Traynor, the son of 1993 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jason Osborne, is now the highest-rated in-state player in the 2020 recruiting class and Bardstown coach James “Boo” Brewer, a former Louisville player, says he has changed dramatically as a player in recent months to earn that boost in the national rankings.
“He has put the work in. He has been working on his ball handling, decision making, strength, shooting. He has just gotten a lot better overall and is still improving,” Brewer said. “He has such a great bloodline with his dad and mom. He’s a young player. He’s just now turned 17, but his maturity is going and he is starting to realize his full potential.”
Apparently so has Kentucky coach John Calipari because he recently offered Traynor a scholarship. He also has offers from Western Kentucky, Murray, Cincinnati, Evansville, Ball State, Northern Kentucky and Akron. Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Virginia Tech are other schools showing big-time interest.
Brewer says Traynor will take an official visit to Cincinnati this week and was scheduled to make an unofficial visit to Louisville. He plans to be at Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 11. Brewer said Traynor hopes to make visits to Missouri, Michigan and Maryland. He made his first official to Western Kentucky in May.
“He’s not far enough along to have a favorite,” Brewer said. “We are going to set up some more workouts here. We are just taking it one day at a time. So far he is enjoying the recruiting attention. He’s not a kid to do a lot of bragging or get big-headed.
“He’s very grounded and humble. He knows what he has to do and what needs to be done. He’s enjoying the process and talking to all these coaches. It’s really great not to have to worry about him getting a big ego.”
Brewer said Traynor “leans” on him for help with college recruiters but also has a lot of support from family and his AAU coach — Traynor did not play AAU until this summer —who is a former Big 10 player. Traynor has been in the Bardstown school system from day one and basketball is the only sport he plays.
Brewer says Traynor has “pro potential length” with his 7-2 wingspan, 36-inch vertical jump and 91-inch standing reach.
“He’s competitive and hungry but he also does all the intangibles. He blocks shots, runs the floor and is very, very athletic,” Brewer said.
Traynor’s father played two years at Louisville and had 711 points, 389 rebounds, 242 assists, 122 steals and 63 blocks in 67 games. He was also a McDonald’s All-American.
“If they were standing beside each other, you could not tell the difference in them,” Brewer said. “He is more athletic than his dad and that is saying a lot because his dad was a phenomenal player. He does not pass as well as his dad yet but the dribbling is there. His shot is not quite there but it is coming, too.”
Traynor did skill work with Brewer at 6 a.m. and then would drive to Louisville to do strength work in hopes of adding weight for this season.
“He weighed in today at 178 pounds,” Brewer said last week. “Some places have him listed at 195. I wish he was. The goal is to get him to 185 or 190 before the season starts. He’s gained about eight pounds since school started three weeks ago.”
Brewer is encouraging Traynor not to pick a school that others might want for him. He has told him not to get “overwhelmed” by the process.
“My job is to keep his mind focused on the season. He will take care of business and make the decision that is right for him, not what is right for anybody else,” Brewer said. “He's really a good kid and we are going to make sure he enjoys all this and gets time to make the decision that is right for him.”
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When Detroit offensive lineman Deondre Buford made his commitment to Kentucky official last week, he explained that he actually had told the UK coaches about two months ago that he would play for the Wildcats.
He was not trying to garner more attention by making the announcement public. Instead, he was waiting to do it on Aug. 19 — his late father’s 45th birthday. Andre Buford was murdered Nov. 3, 2018, and his son wore a Kentucky basketball jersey to honor his father at his announcement ceremony at King High School.
Buford had 25 scholarship offers but picked Kentucky mainly because of his relationship with UK assistant coach Steve Clinkscale just like previous Michigan 2020 commits Justin Rogers, a lineman, and Earnest Sanders, a receiver, said they did when they picked UK.
Kentucky got Marquan McCall and DeAndre Square out of Michigan before that and both could play significant roles in their second season at UK this year.
“In the state of Michigan the best players seem to be close knit and kind of follow each other,” Cats Pause/247Sports recruiting analyst Josh Edwards said. “Once you get a couple of them, it’s easier to get more. Kentucky is starting to add numbers up and the relationships they are building in that state are allowing them to succeed.”
Edwards believes the message UK coach Mark Stoops and his assistants deliver about what UK can do not only for players on the field but also to develop the player as a person resonates well in recruiting, too — especially when a team is winning like UK has been.
“They are talking about the development as a person that sets you up for the rest of your life outside of football,” Edwards said. “When you can take the on-field production of guys like Josh Allen, Benny Snell, Mike Edwards or Lonnie Johnson and combine that with the family feel they have in Lexington, then you can recruit a lot of top tier guys.”
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Kentucky volleyball coach Craig Skinner understands the passion juniors Gabby Curry and Madison Lilley, both all-Southeastern Conference players last year, have for volleyball but he also understands he has to be careful that both players don’t burn out this season.
They went to Brazil with UK for exhibition matches but when the team returned the two headed to California to train with USA Volleyball before eventually going to Peru to play in the Pan-American Games. They did not get back to Lexington until mid-August.
“When you play at the level they were playing at — and not just in the tournaments but the people they were training with and against — you learn little nuances of the game that are really hard to manufacture in competition,” said Skinner. “The speed of the game is fast, the business like mentality the players go through is something they are going to take not only know but rest of their careers. The game is starting to slow down even more for them now.
“It’s been a long summer but the two of them love the game of volleyball and compete in athletics and manage their bodies the right way. Those two have a lot of confidence in being good to go but it is something you definitely have to manage.”
Curry, the libero, said the summer was “very, very long and very, very fun” for both UK players as they got to train and play against professional players at times. That taught them both about how to see volleyball in a “more professional manner” than they had before.
“I took personal responsibility every day to get better. I think that grind they talk about grew on me and it’s really fun coming back here and seeing how much love and passion there is in college volleyball that sometimes the professional league lacks,” Curry said. “I got the best of both worlds being able to go and work hard and now I get to have fun and show what we can do.”
Lilley, one of the nation's best setters, said she got better in multiple areas “across the board” playing with USA Volleyball and learned things she can share with the team to make everyone better.
“I am happy to be back with our girls but competing against other people (teams) is where we thrive. We know what we have to work on and get better on and what we can improve,” Lilley said. “It was a long summer for sure but nothing makes me more pumped up to get back in the gym than being back here, back with my girls, back playing for Craig.
“As tired as I might be, I am more excited to get back in the gym every single day and work with my teammates and train under Craig. The motivation has not dropped off at all.”
Kentucky opens the season Friday with three games in Salt Lake City before having three more games in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the second weekend of the season. Last year UK started the season 0-3, something the Cats — who are No. 7 in the preseason poll and picked to win a third straight SEC title — don’t want to happen again.
“We want to go 3-0 to start and not have the week we did last year (to open the season),” Lilley said.
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Louisville Christian Academy junior offensive tackle John Young has had a few schools continue to recruit him hard but he insists his recruitment is a “done deal” for Kentucky just as he said when he verbally committed in April.
“I still talk to the UK coaches. They all texted me before our (first) game wishing me luck and then congratulations after we won.”
He said he talked to head coach Mark Stoops, recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow and offensive line coach John Schlarman weekly.
“I think that is one good reason they do so well in recruiting. They are not calling you just to check off a box. They genuinely care about guys they recruit and that’s why they are in such good shape with so many players,” Young said.
That includes Detroit five-star offensive lineman Justin Rogers, a UK commit many thought would flip to Alabama or another school after he made his commitment. Rogers, though, recently made an unofficial visit to UK and stayed with Lexington Catholic quarterback Beau Allen, another UK commit.
“I talk with Justin almost daily and he’s part of a big group text we have with all the commits,” Young said. “I think he is just as solid with Kentucky as he was on day one. I have 100 percent faith that he is all-in with Kentucky.”
Young said he does have one definite in-state target to add to UK’s recruiting class — Bowling Green safety Vito Tisdale.
“He’s a great player that we really want,” Young said. “A lot of us are working really hard to make sure we get him, too.”
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Quote of the Week: “He is getting a lot of respect from recruits to where I think Kentucky is really going to be able to continue recruiting at a high level on the defensive front,” CatsPause/247 Sports recruiting analyst Josh Edwards on UK defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc.
Quote of the Week 2: “Where I am from, you play football. Or you at least try football. If it does not work, then you go do basketball or some type of other sport. Everybody there has a background in sports but it starts with football,” Kentucky freshman cornerback M.J. Devonshire on his hometown of Aliquippa, Pa., where NFL Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Ty Law all played high school football.
Quote of the Week 3: “I had always enjoyed watching her play basketball for UK. I had not met her until this past March after her final home game and then she participated in Ohio's annual UK Convention. I fully realized she not only can star on the basketball court, she can 'melt your heart.' We've never had a more courteous and gracious speaker/participant than # 4. She not only signed autographs and had her picture taken with adults, she was a hit with our younger attendees,” Ohio UK Convention director Jim Porter on Maci Morris.