After a dominating performance at the Champions Classic, Tyrese Maxey has emerged as the next big star in college basketball.
The Kentucky Wildcats are absolutely loaded this season, a fact they demonstrated with a gritty win over No. 1 Michigan State on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic. John Calipari had a lot of choices to fill out his starting lineup, and one of his more interesting choices saw highly rated freshman Tyrese Maxey come off the bench in his Wildcats’ debut.
Maxey made sure he won’t be coming off the bench again any time soon with a show-stopping effort against the Spartans. Once Calipari summoned Maxey, the freshman made sure he wouldn’t be coming off the floor by putting the Kentucky offense on his back.
Maxey led all scorers with 26 points, finding plenty of different ways to put the ball in the basket. Michigan State simply had no answer for him from the perimeter, where Maxey knocked down three of his seven 3-point attempts, including a dagger from deep in the final minute of the contest.
The Spartans also couldn’t keep Maxey out of the paint, allowing the freshmen to reach the free throw line ten times, where he knocked down nine foul shots. On the night, Maxey went 7-of-12 from the floor and added five rebounds and an assist for good measure.
The effort was simply dominant from Maxey, who was the best player on the Madison Square Garden floor on Tuesday night, which is truly impressive when you consider Duke and Kansas played right before Kentucky and Michigan State in a showcase of the nation’s top four teams. Scouts galore were in attendance to see all of the future lottery picks show off their stuff, and Maxey came away as the biggest winner with a breathtaking display of athleticism and shotmaking skills.
Maxey’s great performance has given Calipari a good problem to solve, namely how to find him minutes in the backcourt of a very talented Kentucky roster. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley started at the guard positions for Kentucky yesterday, with Kahlil Whitney, Nate Sestina, and E.J. Montgomery filling out the frontcourt.
There are two main options Calipari could explore to keep Maxey in the lineup. One would be going to a smaller lineup, with Maxey joining Quickley and Hagans in the backcourt as part of a three guard deployment that could space the floor for Kentucky’s bigs.
The alternative would be to rotate the three guards to keep everyone fresh over the course of the season, especially since Kentucky has a lot of talented frontcourt players like the three starters from last night and Nick Richards. There is no question, however, Maxey looks like he could be the featured attraction on a Kentucky team that could be cut down the nets in Atlanta at the end of the season.
The Champions Classic is a place where stars are born and Maxey became the latest to shine under the bright lights last night.
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