Kentucky Steals the Show at MCDAAG — “Big Blue McMadness”

Last Tuesday, we got our first glimpse at this heralded 2023 Kentucky Basketball recruiting class. Four of the five Wildcat signees participated in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game – Dajuan “DJ” Wagner Jr., Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and Reed Sheppard all participated in the event. 

The lone man out was Rob Dillingham, who was ruled ineligible by the MCDAAG Committee due to the fact that he plays in the Overtime Elite League. Rob will play  with his future teammates in the Iverson Classic. He is also expected to be with them for the other main All-American game, the Jordan Brand Classic. Despite his absence, Rob still showed love and support for his guys via social media.

If you didn’t watch this game, then you need to go back and watch the highlights ASAP! It was more entertaining than any NBA All-Star Game of the past five years. These kids were absolutely hooping their butts off. Earlier in the week, many scouts and recruiting analysts were talking about how this 2023 class overall doesn’t have as much talent as in years past and described them as “underwhelming.” These kids heard that noise and responded by putting on an absolute show. The best part is that it starred all of our Kentucky boys!

DJ Wager Deemed “The Man”

Let’s start off by recapping Mr. DJ Wagner’s night. DJ has been the consensus #1 ranked player in the country since he got to high school, and he’s maintained that title for all four years. He proved on the biggest stage that he is going to absolutely be the man here at UK next year, and the Big Blue Nation cannot wait. He finished the game with 19 points (scoring all of them in the second half). This gave his team the lead off a breakaway dunk assisted from his future teammate, Justin Edwards, sinking the game clinching free throws in the clutch. He also finished with 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He was named MVP of the game – the first Wildcat under Calipari to earn that MCDAAG honor.

AB’s Head Turning Game

Next, our 7-Footer, AB aka Aaron Bradshaw, had a huge game! He finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds, going a smooth 10-13 from the charity stripe as well. AB turned heads all week at the practices and in the game, showing that he is truly a big man that can step out and knock down shots from both behind the arc and the mid-range. He will certainly add an element that we have never really seen before from the five-spot in the Cal-era.

The Most Gifted 3-Level Scorer

Justin Edwards is a guy that many believe can be the #1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, and he showed why all week. He finished the MCDAAG with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. In practice, he put his full bag on display, proving why he is far and beyond the most gifted 3-level scorer of the 2023 class. 

And last, but certainly not least, is the hometown hero Reed Sheppard, who absolutely put on for the state of KY. In the beginning of the second half, Reed took over, getting a steal and slam, steal and assist, then another assist, all back to back to back. Some people tried saying Reed was only invited to the game because he committed to Kentucky, but he proved that he belonged out there with the rest of those guys. We will definitely be seeing WAY more minutes from him next season than might have been originally anticipated.

This incoming class has more hype and expectations than arguably any of Cal’s 14-year tenure here. They may have a grueling summer and fall-camp to get them ready for the collegiate level. Yet, in the McDonald’s All-American game, they proved that they are just as good as advertised. 


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