By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s been heavily pursued by some of the nation’s best college basketball coaches, including John Calipari, but Texas junior guard Tyrese Maxey was thrilled to make the USA under 18 team that is playing in the FIBA Americas Championship this week.
“It is a great accomplishment to represent my country and spend time with all these great athletes. I just went into it with a positive attitude, played my game and did what the coach wanted,” said Maxey, who has given his verbal commitment to UK over Texas, Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma State. “It’s great to just go out and play basketball with so many great players and not worry about anything else.”
He was so impressive during the team tryouts that some recruiting analysts felt he was the best player among the 33 that tried out for the team. Maxey averaged 22.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game last season while leading South Garland High School to its first state tournament berth. In his three-year prep career of 75 games, he’s averaged 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
He likes being on a team this talented because of how it allows him to change his game.
“I don’t have to do as much. I can expand my game,” Maxey said. “I just get a feel of what playing in college will be like because there are more athletes on the court with me. It lets me prepare for the future.”
Many Kentucky fans compare his game to former Wildcat Brandon Knight, who got UK to the 2011 Final Four and has had a successful NBA career. Maxey understands the comparison.
“I look at his game. He’s fast, knocks down shots, plays pretty good defense,” Maxey said. “It is good to be compared to someone in the league. I like that comparison.”
Knight also had a contagious personality and terrific work ethic and desire to win, all traits that Maxey also seems to have.
“I like to have fun,” Maxey said. “Playing basketball is fun. That’s one thing I like to do and I can do that and still play hard. My dad always made me play hard. He preached that. He always told me you didn’t have to have talent to give effort. He pushed me to give that extra effort and it just became natural.”
He’s been working “on being a good leader” and knows Calipari will count on him for leadership once he gets to Kentucky. He says everyone on the under 18 team is trying to “feed off each other” but he knows leadership, especially for a point guard, becomes much more important in college.
Recruiting analysts like the way the five-star guard can score frequently and in a variety of ways. He had 46 points in a state tournament semifinal loss.
“Tyrese has such a quick release in his jump shot. It’s very hard to guard,” said Rivals.com recruiting writer Krysten Peek. “Since he’s such a good shooter he can knock down a few 3’s and then get his defender up in the air with a fake and drive right by them the next time down the court.
“I love his intensity on defense and how quick he pushes the ball up the court in a turnovers or transition. He’s really a special player.”