Vaught's Views: Versatile Tennessee Guard Could Be Real 'Treasure' For Kentucky
Kentucky signee Treasure Hunt said it meant a lot to her that UK coach Matthew Mitchell came to Chattanooga to see her receive her McDonald's All-American jersey earlier this month.
She’s a top 10 national recruit and has participated in USA Basketball events. However, Kentucky signee Treasure Hunt always had one other dream.
“My whole life I dreamed of making the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic,” she said. “Now that I have done it, it’s a bit unreal. I guess when I get to Chicago (for Jordan Brand) and then Houston (for McDonald’s) it will really get to me.”
Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had a 22-1 record going into play this week. One of Hunt’s teammates is 6-7 Syracuse signee Kamilla Cardoso of Brazil, who will also play in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
“We have a good team and the players are all easy to play with,” Hunt said. “We don’t just have to rely on one person to win.”
The 6-2 Hunt is a versatile player who can make jump shots, finish in traffic, disrupt passing lanes with her length and runs the court well. She believes her shooting and ability to get to the basket are her best traits.
“I am a big guard and it is easier for me to play defense and get blocks and steals now. It’s easier for me to score because I am bigger than most players guarding me and can use my body against them,” Hunt said.
Is her defense ready for the demands UK coach Matthew Mitchell places on that end of the court?
“I am not going to lie. Toward the beginning of last season my defense was not as good as it is now. I keep working on it to get better. I stand up too much on defense. I’ve been working on getting low like coach Mitchell wants,” Hunt said.
Hunt would like to be part of a dynamic duo at UK with former AAU teammate Rhyne Howard, the consensus national freshman of the year for the 2018-19 season and a likely All-American this year. As good as Howard has been — she got to 1,000 points quicker than any UK player except Valerie Still — remember that Hunt is rated higher.
“Rhyne was a huge impact on me because me and her were always together when we were little. It’s going to be really fun to play with her again,” Hunt said. “She’s a big guard, too, a really strong guard who knows how to use her body to go through contact. Our chemistry has always been great. We knew how each other players and what we were both best at and tried our best to help put each other in the right spots.”
Mitchell understood the role Howard played in getting Hunt to sign with the Wildcats over a host of other big-time offers that included South Carolina, Louisville, Baylor, Mississippi State, Tennessee, UCLA, North Carolina State and Auburn.
“I definitely think that them growing up together and playing a lot of basketball together, that bond certainly didn’t hurt us,” Mitchell said. “That made her probably look at us maybe a little bit harder than she would have, but I think it was just our overall atmosphere here. She felt really comfortable and she has tremendous, tremendous upside as a player and so we’re excited about her.”
Kentucky was Hunt’s last visit and she said it “just felt totally different” on the UK campus than other places she visited. She even texted her mom — who coached her and Howard in AAU — that she was ready to commit. Her mother told her not to say anything until she got home to make sure she didn't change her mind.
“I sat in with the team and coaches and it just really clicked and that’s why I love Kentucky,” Hunt said.
The love affair didn’t end after she signed. Mitchell came to Chattanooga to see her get presented her McDonald’s All-American jersey on Senior Nigh for the boys team (the girls play a national schedule and did not have a senior night game).
“That meant a lot to me that he took the time to come,” Hunt said. “He came just to watch me walk and get that McDonald’s jersey and then left without even staying for the boys game. He was just there for me.”
Her name, obviously, is a bit different but one she has embraced. She said her sister had a best friend named Treasure and people would call them “Treasure Hunt” when they were together.
“My mom said if she had another girl she would name her Treasure,” Hunt said. “So I just enjoy it but I get asked about it a lot.”
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Rivals.com and Yahoo.com recruiting writer Krysten Peek believes guard BJ Boston is the best player in Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting class even though he is not ranked quite as high as signee Terrence Clarke, another guard. Boston has made a significant climb in the recruiting rankings to where he is also a top 10 recruit now like Clarke.
“I have seen a lot of Boston this year. He has even grown a little from the summer,” she said. “He has a tight handle and his shot release is so high. He’s confident from shooting 2-3-4 steps behind the (3-point) arc. He also likes to get to the rim and has a swagger about him. Confidence is not an issue for this kid.”
Point guard Devin Askew — who had 43 points in a recent playoff game — is also part of the 2020 Kentucky recruiting class. Three of UK’s top players this year — freshman Tyrese Maxey, sophomore Immanuel Quickley and sophomore Ashton Hagans — are all guards. Maxey is listed as a lottery pick in NBA mock drafts but what if Hagans and Quickley both stay at UK. Could they co-exist with Boston, Clarke and Askew?
“Maybe they could. I’m not sure,” Peek said. “Ashton would stay at the one and Devin would fall in line behind him. With Immanuel and BJ, it would be a battle for playing time.”
Peek knows Quickley is playing as well as he has in his two years at UK and thinks he might opt for the draft. He had a career-high 26 points against Florida last week, including 22 in the second half, and had scored 20 or more points five times in nine games after the Florida win.
“If he waits a year, that next draft class is so talented and so good,” Peek said. “Players have to take that into consideration. I think Immanuel now is a second rounder and it might be time for him to make the move.”
Blue Ribbon College Basketball publisher Chris Dortch, who also writes for NBA.com, says a player believing he’s ready for the NBA and actually being ready are two different things as shown by over 80 underclassmen declaring for the draft last year when only 60 draft spots were available.
“Maxey is undoubtedly in the best position in terms of overall draft stock because he’s forecast as a high lottery pick by many,” Dortch said. “I wonder if Quickley and Hagans might be like (Nick) Richards and still think they have more to learn. But you just never know what might drive guys.”
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Losing Kahlil Whitney unexpectedly early in the SEC season has not really had an impact on UK as the Wildcats are 8-1 (IF BEAT FLORIDA) since he bailed out in late January.
The former McDonald’s All-American seems set on testing his NBA draft stock rather than transferring to another program.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said at the time he was sad to see Whitney leave just like he said a year before when Quade Green transferred at midseason to Washington.
On his radio show, Calipari still is saying nothing but good things about Whitney.
“I miss Kahlil. I loved him,” Calipari said. “The one thing at the end of the day I felt that he was the guy that we needed in case we play somebody with size and athleticism so he could some in and help us.”
Whitney came to UK projected as a likely one and done player by some despited his limited offensive skills because of his enormous athleticism. Calipari even admits he might have been expecting too much too soon.
Whitney left because things “had not gone as he had hoped,” he wrote in his letter to Big Blue Nation, but Calipari said he saw early on that Whitney might be one that would need a little more time.
“After he was here, I thought,this may take a little time like it did with Ashton (Hagans) and PJ (Washington) and Immanuel (Quickley), probably not as much time as Nick (Richards), but I thought it was going to take time,” Calipari said.
Apparently Whitney never felt the same way.
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For as long as Rupp Arena has been open, there’s been a debate on much Kentucky should practice there to make players feel more comfortable shooting in games there.
Former UK coach Joe Hall liked to practice there all he could. Current coach John Calipari doesn’t worry about it at all.
“I don’t think it matters. You look at Cal’s win-loss record over the course of 10 years, hard to argue about the success in that arena,” Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said. “The rims are 10 feet, the court is the same length, the basketball has the same amount of air in it. You’ve gotta –- no matter the background -– you’ve gotta to be able to get results.”
Barbee was known as a solid college shooter and says shooters have to adjust to a variety of factors every game.
“Everywhere we play, somebody’s got a different ball. There is a Nike ball here or it is an Under Armour ball here or it is an Adidas ball here. It’s a Wilson ball there,” he said. “The nets might be different, tighter, looser. The rims are different color orange.
“You can either shoot the ball or you can’t. It doesn’t matter the background.”
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Maybe Kentucky needs to find a way to have former All-American guard John Wall attend more games.
He was in Madison Square Garden when UK opened the season with a win over Michigan State and freshman guard Tyrese Maxey scored 26 points. Last Saturday when UK hosted Florida he was in Rupp Arena and sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley had a career-high 26 points, including 22 in the second half, in the win.
Wall had an amazing 2009-10 season at UK when he won the Adolph Rupp Trophy and a consensus All-American when he averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 assists per game (he set a then school record with 241 assists) to help UK reach No. 1 before the Cats lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight.
Wall was the top pick in the 2010 NBA draft and signed a four-year contract worth $170 million with Washington three years ago but has not played since tearing his Achilles tendon in February of 2019.
Both Maxey and Quickley admitted Wall’s career had an impact on them picking UK.
“It don’t get better than John Wall coming back, showing love,” Quickley said. “He basically started all of this stuff. All the quote-unquote one-and-done stuff. All the best point guards and stuff like that. John Wall is John Wall — you don’t gotta say too much about that.”
Quickley was thrilled he got to talk briefly after the game with Wall, who received a huge ovation when he did the “Y” at midcourt during the game. Wall told him the Cats would go as far in March as center Nick Richards and the guards take the team.
“Just taking that to heart. We want to get back to work and keep working harder and stuff like that and it means a lot hearing something like that from him,” Quickley said.
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Quote of the Week: “I’ve been playing against and with him since, like, eighth grade. I knew that he was going to do this. A lot of people didn’t know he could shoot. But he didn’t have to show that at Kentucky. Now he does,” Malik Monk to HoopsHype on Charlotte Hornet teammate P.J. Washington's rookie season
Quote of the Week 2: “He is the kind of guy Kentucky has not had in while. He’s a pogo stick shot blocker — probably the best UK has signed since Nick Richards — and is an elite rim protector. His offensive game is also a little more skilled than he gets credit for,” CatsPause/247Sports recruiting writer Chris Fisher on UK signee Isaiah Jackson.
Quote of the Week 3: “I don't care who I'm recruiting against, it could be my brother, the message is that we are going to keep our foot in Ohio. We are going to win there. I think it's probably a little bit more intense now because of the way this things played out, but to me, it's going to be a thing where we have to really, really recruit Ohio hard,” Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow on having to recruit against his friend, new Michigan State coach Mel Tucker.