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Kentucky, UNC, G League battle for top recruit Matas Buzelis

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Matas Buzelis is likely one of the largest stars at the Nike EYBL circuit and a top-10 recruit within the magnificence of 2023.

mclubb@herald-leader.com

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UK basketball recruiting updates

Ben Roberts and Cameron Drummond of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com are generating a number of tales and movies examining closing weekend’s Nike EYBL basketball recruiting exhibit in Louisville. Click underneath to get entry to all in their protection this week.

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What’s one surefire signal {that a} highschool basketball prospect is price recruiting?

His maximum gifted friends hope to play along him.

Five-star possibilities ceaselessly wish to know that they may be able to pass to a faculty and get their pictures, get their mins, and feature an opportunity to get out briefly order, transferring directly to the NBA in a season or two. And different five-star possibilities can ceaselessly get in the way in which of such plans.

So, when the similar identify helps to keep doping up — in a great way — right through conversations with peak recruits, it’s worthy of consideration.

In this emerging senior magnificence of 2023, one such participant is Matas Buzelis, and only a few mins of gazing him paintings at the basketball court docket is sufficient to perceive why.

Buzelis — a 6-foot-9 wing from Chicago — is the No. 7 total prospect within the 2023 magnificence, and he ceaselessly controls the ball for his crew. But the video games aren’t all about him.

A real perimeter participant, Buzelis is an artistic, unselfish playmaker. And in a brand new basketball generation that includes a lot of 6-9ish guys excelling clear of the basket, Buzelis could be some of the subsequent giant names to exhibit such talents on the perfect degree.

Over the weekend, Buzelis was once competing along with his Expressions Elite crew at the Nike EYBL circuit in Louisville.

“He showcased a lot of talent,” 247Sports analyst Travis Branham instructed the Herald-Leader. “He was really aggressive. He was taking the ball the length of the court, creating off the dribble. We hear so much about his ball skills, and he was weaving through traffic and getting to the rim. …

“He showed his shot-making ability. And, obviously, for a guy (of his size) to have those ball skills and his athleticism — he’s a bit of a mismatch on the offensive end of the floor right now.”

On the Nike circuit this spring, Buzelis is averaging 13.0 issues, 4.9 rebounds and a couple of.5 assists according to sport, however the stats don’t inform the entire tale. Offensively, he’s now not a chucker. Despite being the highest-ranked participant on his crew, Buzelis is averaging fewer than 9 shot makes an attempt according to sport. Despite enjoying at the perimeter and drawing a ton of defensive consideration, he’s taking pictures 52.8 % from the ground.

For a participant along with his measurement and period, Buzelis’ ball-handling and passing skill stand out. While his help numbers don’t leap off the web page, he’s the kind of participant that may get his teammates in the suitable spots and the ball transferring in the suitable route. If the “hockey assist” — as John Calipari ceaselessly calls it — have been a basketball statistic, Buzelis’ numbers could be a lot higher.

Fellow top-50 recruit Taylor Bol Bowen — a teammate of Buzelis’ at Brewster Academy (N.H.) and at the Nike circuit — described him as a high-IQ participant who merely likes to play the sport and get others concerned.

“He’s super unselfish and a good facilitator. Great player to play with,” Bowen instructed the Herald-Leader. “He’s just the complete package. Every coach would be lucky to get him, and anybody would be lucky to coach him. He’s just a great player.”

The ability is there, and the upside is immense. He’s nonetheless within the technique of hanging all of it in combination.

Branham sees a prospect who must get more potent — Buzelis may also be bullied by way of extra bodily warring parties — and support his decision-making to enrich that fantastic doable as a passer and playmaker. He may also be liable to turnovers, particularly when defenders attempt to muscle him up clear of the basket and on drives into the paint.

“A lot of talent,” Branham concluded. “And his best basketball is still ahead of him.”

Recruiting Matas Buzelis

Some of the most important names in school basketball are hoping to in the long run land Buzelis’ dedication.

The listing of scholarship provides is lengthy, with Kentucky becoming a member of the crowd again in December, when the Wildcats hosted Buzelis for an legit seek advice from. He’s additionally been on legit visits to Florida State and Wake Forest, whilst Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA have all prolonged provides.

“It’s going good,” he mentioned of his recruitment. “I’m taking in everything — just having fun with it.”

On Thursday afternoon, Buzelis narrowed his recruitment to 5 choices: UK, Florida State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and the G League.

Buzelis mentioned he didn’t have any further campus visits deliberate, as of now, however it feels like a minimum of another may well be within the works. The 17-year-old in particular discussed North Carolina as imaginable travel for later this summer season.

His friends within the 2023 magnificence are already seeking to crew up with him.

UNC’s recruiting magnificence has been particularly energetic in its wooing of Buzelis, who mentioned that Tar Heels dedication GG Jackson — the brand new No. 1 participant within the 2023 scores — talks to him about two times per week on FaceTime.

Kentucky’s lone dedication within the 2023 magnificence, Reed Sheppard, often sends Buzelis direct messages on Instagram. “He’s just telling me, ‘You’d fit perfectly in the system,’” Buzelis mentioned of that touch. He consents, even calling Calipari “one of the greatest” whilst recapping his iciness seek advice from to Lexington.

“They play really fast,” he mentioned. “They share the ball. And they play having fun, so I think I’d fit in perfect.”

He additionally doesn’t wish to be “the guy” on the subsequent degree, sounding very happy to crew up with different big name avid gamers for what would most probably be only one season of faculty basketball.

“I think that the way I play — I could do everything. … I think I’d fit anywhere,” Buzelis mentioned. “Just whichever place would be family to me. That’s where I’d go.”

During the highschool season, Florida State was once getting some buzz as a imaginable favourite. That hypothesis has died down significantly over the last couple of months, then again, although Buzelis’ recruitment has additionally been some of the hardest to get a deal with on a few of the avid gamers on the peak of the 2023 scores.

To supplement closing week’s 247Sports scores replace, Branham was once tasked with creating a “too early prediction” for each and every uncommitted participant on the peak of the 2023 magnificence. His pick out for Buzelis was once Kentucky, although he stated that it got here with a low stage of self belief.

“Obviously, I was not confident enough to put in a Crystal Ball pick along with that article,” Branham instructed the Herald-Leader on Tuesday. “Heading into the weekend, it was sounding to be a Kentucky and North Carolina and G League race. … But, at the same time, I think the G League might be becoming the option to beat.”

Buzelis mentioned Saturday that — whilst the pro path was once an choice — he concept school could be a greater have compatibility for him. Behind the scenes, the other narrative is forming. And all of the ones school coaches who’ve been in scorching pursuit may in the long run be left within the chilly.

Branham mentioned ahead of Buzelis narrowed his recruitment Thursday that UK and UNC have been nonetheless most certainly on the peak of his school listing. And then there’s the looming professional choice.

“Kentucky is still in the mix, but I’m starting to believe — especially after information we received this weekend — that the G League might be the one to beat.”

This tale was once at first revealed June 2, 2022 7:00 AM.

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, soccer, horse racing and different sports activities for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialised in UK basketball recruiting for the previous a number of years. He additionally maintains the Next Cats recruiting weblog, which options the newest information at the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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