Prized UK basketball recruits faced off in a private scrimmage. Here’s what happened.

·6 min read

Some of the best young basketball talent in the world gathered in Chicago last week for the Under Armour Next Elite 24 event.

The crowning moment of the showcase came with an All-Star showdown on Friday night that was played on an outdoor court on Northerly Island and broadcast to a national television audience.

While that game gave UK fans a chance to watch six of the top Kentucky men’s basketball recruits in action, there was another, private contest featuring those same players earlier in the week.

On Thursday evening, a closed-door scrimmage in front of invited guests, media members and NBA scouts took place on the 17th floor of a high-rise in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood.

The Herald-Leader was in attendance.

Here’s what stood out about each player Kentucky is recruiting from the scrimmage, which featured referees and observed media timeouts consistent with the college basketball format.

Elliot Cadeau, the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2024, does not have a Kentucky scholarship offer but has been in contact with the Cats.
Elliot Cadeau, the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2024, does not have a Kentucky scholarship offer but has been in contact with the Cats.

Elliot Cadeau

Cadeau is the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2024 in the 247Sports composite, but is coming off an ankle injury that cost him all of his sophomore high school season.

Cadeau, who represents Sweden at the international level, has moved from Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey to the startup Link Academy in Branson, Missouri.

The 6-foot-1 point guard displayed crafty dribbling and finishing skills during the closed-door scrimmage, with a solid pull-up shot.

Among the strongest elements of his game on display in Chicago were his dribbling skills, passing vision and ability to finish through contact while matching the physicality of defenders at the rim.

Cadeau doesn’t currently have a Kentucky offer, but told the Herald-Leader that he’s in contact with new UK assistant coach K.T. Turner.

Justin Edwards

Edwards was the player in Chicago that UK fans are most familiar with, as he committed to the Cats in late July.

He told the Herald-Leader that making his college choice “relieved a lot of stress” and allowed him to play well at Peach Jam right before he announced his pledge to Kentucky.

That strong play by the top-rated small forward in the class of 2023 continued in Chicago, as Edwards was the most athletic guy on the court.

The left-handed Edwards showcased his ability to create for himself and play off the bounce during the scrimmage, surging past defenders and exploding to finish at the rim with his 6-7 frame.

It’s an intimidating task for a defender to simply get in Edwards’ way, let alone try and stop him.

Even if one succeeds in that pursuit, Edwards can hit the three-pointer with consistency (he won a three-point skills challenge on Friday) and also possesses solid hang time on his mid-range jumpers.

Boogie Fland

A two-time gold medalist at the international level with the United States, Fland picked up a Kentucky offer in July and displayed critical and necessary point guard traits last week.

Ranked as the No. 2 point guard in the class of 2024 in the 247Sports composite, the 6-3 Fland is shifty, and keeps defenders off balance before making a deliberate and explosive move to reach the next level of the defense.

He’s a decisive playmaker at one end and a pesky defender at the other, with the ability to generate steals and the easy offense that results from that.

Fland brought an end to Thursday’s scrimmage by driving hard to the basket and flipping a shot off the glass that was counted after a goaltend.

Ian Jackson, the top-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2024, missed some of last week’s action in Chicago with an injury.
Ian Jackson, the top-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2024, missed some of last week’s action in Chicago with an injury.

Ian Jackson

One of the biggest disappointments of the week in Chicago came when Jackson was hurt in the opening minutes of the scrimmage.

Jackson — who is 6-4 and rated as the top shooting guard in the country in the class of 2024 by the 247Sports composite — injured his left leg after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer.

Jackson, who has an offer from UK, was held out for the rest of the scrimmage, but played in Friday’s showcase game where he had the standout dunk of the night.

One of the standout performers from the UA event, Jackson can score with ease and in a variety of ways, making him both a highly entertaining and highly coveted prospect.

Tre Johnson

A 6-5 shooting guard who is ranked No. 2 at that position in the class of 2024 per the 247Sports composite, Johnson picked up a Kentucky offer in June and has strong ties to new UK assistant coach K.T. Turner.

Johnson possesses the all-important basketball skill of creating space where there seemingly isn’t any, and has above-average court vision.

When Johnson doesn’t shake his defender, he can still maneuver his way into a shooting position.

The three-point shot Johnson showed off during the scrimmage has a quality motion and rhythm to it.

Johnson is a smooth player who seems to glide across the court in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing and supremely effective.

Class of 2024 point guard Tahaad Pettiford, who picked up a scholarship offer from UK in July, was one of the standout performers during the Chicago event.
Class of 2024 point guard Tahaad Pettiford, who picked up a scholarship offer from UK in July, was one of the standout performers during the Chicago event.

Tahaad Pettiford

Anybody who didn’t know about Pettiford prior to his visit to Chicago should know his name now, as the class of 2024 point guard raised his stock over a few days in the Windy City.

The left-handed Pettiford is listed at 5-11, but had consecutive possessions go viral from Thursday’s scrimmage.

First, he dunked all over Trentyn Flowers while being fouled. Then on the next possession Pettiford sized Flowers up, put a couple dribble moves on him and nailed a three-pointer in his face, again while being fouled.

The dunk was a standout example of Pettiford’s athleticism, but there’s plenty more to his game that he displayed during the scrimmage.

Pettiford drained deep three-point shots with consistency and has a flow to his game that makes him a magnetic presence. Pettiford’s court vision was also a noticeable trait.

Kentucky offered Pettiford a scholarship in July.

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