With the holiday season now upon us, it’s time for showcase high school basketball matchups to take center stage, and that includes several upcoming contests featuring players connected to Kentucky men’s basketball.
Whether its players who have already signed with the Wildcats and will join John Calipari’s team for the 2023-24 season, or future prospects in the class of 2024 and beyond, it’s always worth seeing how potential future UK players perform when the lights are brightest.
Here’s a look — organized alphabetically and by class — at the showcase high school basketball events set for December that will feature players with Kentucky interest.
Class of 2023 UK signees
Aaron Bradshaw (Camden High School — New Jersey):
Bradshaw is part of a package duo, along with DJ Wagner, from both Camden and the New Jersey Scholars travel ball program that will soon be Wildcats.
Several games with national interest for Camden High School will arrive next month when the Panthers compete in the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic, an annual basketball showcase in Springfield, Massachusetts.
But until then, there’s still a couple games on the Camden schedule to monitor this month, including an afternoon contest on Dec. 17, between Camden and The Patrick School, which has continued the legacy of the former St. Patrick High School, which Michael Kidd-Gilchrist attended.
Robert Dillingham (Overtime Elite — Atlanta):
Dillingham has the most distinct high school setup of any UK signee or player with a Kentucky scholarship offer.
He was originally set to spend another season at Donda Academy in California, but he was left looking for a new place to play following the recent shutdown of the school, which was founded by Ye (the music artist formerly known as Kanye West).
The answer for Dillingham was Overtime Elite, a relatively new basketball organization that offers a prep school-type environment for high school players.
Dillingham is on the Cold Hearts team and has three more games scheduled in December.
Justin Edwards (Imhotep Institute — Philadelphia):
The No. 2 player in the class of 2023 according to the 247Sports Composite, Edwards and his Philadelphia-based Imhotep Institute team are set to play a daunting schedule this season, and that includes one game of massive interest in the commonwealth.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, Edwards will face fellow Kentucky men’s basketball signee Reed Sheppard and North Laurel as the nightcap of the Scholastic Play by Play Classic, which will be held at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
Sheppard took on the role of recruiter after becoming the first class of 2023 commit to pledge to join the Wildcats, and Edwards told the Herald-Leader last summer that he tried to take on a similar role after making his commitment.
Reed Sheppard (North Laurel High School — Kentucky):
The prized in-state combo guard was the first member of Kentucky’s 2023 recruiting class to verbally pledge to join the Wildcats, and followed through during last month’s early signing period.
While Sheppard already plays the vast majority of his high school games in the state of Kentucky as a star player at North Laurel High School in London, Wildcat fans should be particularly interested in a couple of his December games.
Not only will that Sunday night matchup in Louisville against Edwards and Imhotep Institute attract plenty of attention, but so will North Laurel’s trip to City of the Palms Classic.
The Jaguars’ first game will be Dec. 16 in Fort Myers, Florida, against Charlotte High School of Punta Gorda, Florida.
DJ Wagner (Camden High School — New Jersey):
Just like Bradshaw, the bulk of the games with national interest for Camden High School will come in January when the Panthers compete in the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic, an annual basketball showcase in Springfield, Massachusetts.
UK fans already had a chance to get an up-close look at Bradshaw and Wagner last spring when they played in Louisville on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Class of 2024 UK scholarship offers
Amier Ali (IMG Academy — Florida):
IMG Academy always boasts a prestigious list of opponents on its annual schedule, and there’s one matchup in December that will be of interest to UK fans keeping tabs on Amier Ali, a top-30 player in the class of 2024 who got a lot of attention from the Cats over the summer.
On Dec. 13, IMG will travel to play Tampa Catholic in a game that will feature both Ali and UK legacy recruit Karter Knox.
Airious Bailey (McEachern High School — Georgia):
An intriguing class of 2024 small forward from Georgia, Airious “Air” Bailey has made some big moves recently up the recruiting rankings, all the way up to being ranked the No. 6 player overall in the class according to the 247Sports Composite.
Bailey visited Kentucky for Big Blue Madness in October, and has since had a couple standout games with McEachern High School, including a stat line of 34 points (5-for-7 on three-pointers), eight rebounds and five blocks in a road win.
McEachern has already faced former UK recruit and current Texas signee Ron Holland this season, and December will bring more top competition for McEachern from Dec. 27 through Dec. 29 at the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Arkansas,.
McEachern will begin tournament play on Dec. 27 with an afternoon matchup against Bishop O’Connell (Virginia).
Flory Bidunga (Kokomo High School — Indiana):
One of the most recent players to pick up a Kentucky scholarship offer, the dominant center will be staying home and playing all his games in Indiana for the duration of December.
There won’t be a ton of marquee matchups for Bidunga — the No. 4 player in the class of 2024 according to the 247Sports Composite — but one that does peak interest is a Dec. 17 showdown with Carmel, a perennial power in Indiana boys’ basketball.
Boogie Fland (Archbishop Stepinac High School — New York City):
One of several New York City-based players being courted by Kentucky is Boogie Fland, a combo guard ranked as the No. 11 player in the class of 2024 according to the 247Sports Composite.
Fland and his Archbishop Stepinac team will have an extended stay at the City of the Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, with the following games already scheduled.
▪ Dec. 16 against Vashon High School (Missouri)
▪ Dec. 18 against either Justin Edwards’ Imhotep Institute (Philadelphia) or Isidore Newman (Louisiana)
Isaiah Elohim (Sierra Canyon High School — California):
There is never a shortage of intrigue when Elohim and his Sierra Canyon team (which also features Bronny James and Justin Pippen) step onto the court.
The reasons for this are multiple: Sierra Canyon boasts high-profile players who happen to be really good, in addition to playing a loaded schedule.
December is no different as Sierra Canyon will play St. Vincent-St. Mary (LeBron James’ high school) on Dec. 17 as part of Ohio’s edition of the Scholastic Play by Play Classic at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Additionally, the December slate for Sierra Canyon includes a trip to Oregon for the 2022 Les Schwab Invitational. Running from Dec. 26-30, the stacked field for the tournament also includes Bishop Gorman (Nevada), Duncanville (Texas), and Brophy Prep (Arizona), among other schools.
Ian Jackson (Cardinal Hayes High School — New York City):
Jackson is one of Kentucky’s top targets in the class, and the interest has appeared mutual so far in the recruitment process.
Jump-out-of-the gym athleticism and explosiveness at the rim are some of the calling cards of Jackson’s game that are on display as Cardinal Hayes participates in its December tournament of choice.
Cardinal Hayes is in Arizona for the Hoophall West tournament where the Cardinals faced Duncanville High School of Texas (led by former UK recruit and eventual Texas signee Ron Holland) on Thursday night.
Duncanville won the game, 69-58, but Jackson finished with 23 points.
Cardinal Hayes was to play Perry High School (Arizona) on Friday night.
Tre Johnson (Lake Highlands High School — Dallas):
Johnson is the No. 1 player in the class of 2024, according to both 247Sports and the 247Sports Composite. Like other elite players in this class, Johnson will be testing himself come late December in Fort Myers, Florida, as part of the City of Palms Classic.
Lake Highlands opens the event at 4:15 p.m. on Dec. 16 against Newton High School (Georgia).
Once Johnson and his teammates are done in Florida, they’ll return back to North Texas for another tournament before the year ends. The field for this tournament is expected to comprise of top teams from around Texas, and was unveiled this week.
Karter Knox (Tampa Catholic High School — Florida):
The UK legacy recruit — who attended Big Blue Madness in October — will have plenty of chances to show why he’s currently rated as the No. 5 player in his class according to the 247Sports Composite.
Knox and Tampa Catholic will face off against IMG Academy (and UK recruit Amier Ali) on Dec. 13, before participating in the City of Palms Classic starting on Dec. 16 with a late-night game against Wheeler High School (Georgia).
Travis Perry (Lyon County High School — Kentucky):
The newly minted highest scoring player in Lyon County history, Perry and his Lyon County team will be taking part in the annual White, Greer and Maggard Orthodontics Holiday Tournament, hosted by Lexington Catholic High School.
The first game for the Lyons will be Dec. 27 against Covington Holy Cross.
The Lyons are also scheduled to take part in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament Dec. 16-22 in Louisville prior to this, with an opening game against Harlan County.
Tahaad Pettiford (Hudson Catholic Regional High School — New Jersey):
Pettiford and his Hudson Catholic team will participate in one of the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments in the country at the tail end of December: The Jumpman Holiday Classic in New York City, which is held at The Gaucho Gym in the South Bronx.
Justin Edwards and Imhotep Institute are among the other programs expected to participate in the event.
Hudson Catholic plays in the Jumpman Holiday Classic at 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 27 against Gonzaga High School (Washington D.C.)
Other players with UK interest
Jasper Johnson (Woodford County High School — Kentucky):
Johnson is the son of Dennis Johnson, the former star UK football player who is currently the head football coach and athletics director at Woodford County High School.
While the younger Johnson (a class of 2025 recruit) plays both basketball and football at Woodford County, he’s already established himself as a standout player on the hardwood.
As a freshman last season, the left-handed Johnson averaged nearly 14 points per game and shot better than 50 percent from the field. On Wednesday he visited Indiana for the Hoosiers’ big home win over Nebraska.
Johnson and the Yellow Jackets have a stacked December ahead of them.
Woodford County will play in the second game of the Scholastic Play by Play Classic against Buchtel (Ohio) on Sunday (Dec. 11) at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
Woodford County is then scheduled to play Louisville’s DuPont Manual High School on Dec. 16, as part of the King of the Bluegrass tournament in Louisville.
Capping the month will be Woodford County’s participation in LexCath’s White, Greer and Maggard Orthodontics Holiday Tournament, as Woodford County is scheduled to play Louisville’s Ballad High School at 11 a.m. on Dec. 27 at LexCath.
Darryn Peterson (Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy — Ohio):
Peterson is the only underclassman (class of 2025 player or beyond) to have a publicly reported scholarship offer from Kentucky.
Among a slew of games that Peterson’s Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) team will play in December is a standout contest as part of Ohio’s edition of the Scholastic Play by Play Classic.
CVCA will face Lutheran East (Ohio) at 4:15 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Jayden Johnson (Trinity High School — Louisville):
It was reported in September that Kentucky had plans to visit Johnson, a class of 2026 prospect.
If the Wildcats haven’t found their way to the in-state shooting guard yet, they’ll have a prime opportunity to get eyes on him this month.
Trinity is also participating in the King of the Bluegrass tournament, with a scheduled game against North Oldham High School at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 16.