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Event Recap: Kentucky Play By Play Classic

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight contributor David Hendren recaps some of the top players in attendance at Play By Play Classic, a star-studded event held earlier this month in Louisville, Kentucky:

The Kentucky Play By Play classic was a great opportunity to see local and national talent, with five in-state teams and five national teams This showcase event was a unique opportunity for top Kentucky schools to see how they stack up against programs from around the nation. Below, we recount some event standouts after spending the day live on the scene.

Event Standouts

Justin Edwards

6’7” Forward | 2023 | Imhotep Institute (PA) *Kentucky commit

Playing in front of Big Blue Nation with both John Calipari and Orlando Antigua in attendance, Edwards was on a mission to make an impression of what’s to come for Kentucky next season. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the contest, displaying his entire skill set along the way. He scored in a variety of ways, whether it was knocking down three-point shots, hitting pull-ups from the mid-range, or using his length to finish over smaller defenders inside, Edwards was a handful for North Laurel (KY). As impressive as the offensive flashes were, what stood out most was his defensive activity — Edwards was wreaking havoc with his length and motor, whether it was getting deflections in passing lanes, fronting the post and getting steals, or rotating from the post to defend the rim, blocking shots and altering shots. As long as he continues to play with a high motor defensively, Edwards has the potential and physical traits to be a high-level defender and guard multiple positions at the highest level. Adding weight to his frame will only increase his overall upside on both ends of the floor.

Drae Vasser

6’2” Guard | 2024 | Trinity (KY)

In his first season with the Trinity Shamrocks after transferring from Jeffersontown, Drae Vasser looked impressively comfortable in Trinity’s system and flourished in an overtime victory over Huntington Prep (WV), finishing with 31 points. As a player with mid-major interest thus far, Vasser seemed eager to prove himself on a national scale against elite talent. He rose to the occasion and had a tough matchup in the process, facing off with Del Jones, the #11 ranked junior PG nationally (per 247Sports). The biggest component that differentiates Vasser is his competitiveness. He plays with such an edge and intensity that becomes contagious amongst his teammates and coaching staff. He is very vocal with his teammates and constantly communicates with them on defensive assignments. This is especially important coming from the point guard position, which is Vasser’s primary position. This edge is most translatable on the defensive end, where Vasser seems to hang his hat. He has great lateral quickness and anticipates very well, too. He earns steals both on and off the ball and gets underneath opposing guards to make them uncomfortable. Also, he attacks the glass hard, especially on offense, and can finish through contact on putbacks, which is very impressive considering his size. Offensively, Vasser was scoring from all three levels at Freedom Hall. He excelled in the open floor finishing at the rim, but was also knocking down shots from the perimeter, which has been an area of growth for him. However, he hit shots from the perimeter in variety, whether it was pulling up off of screens, catch-and-shoot opportunities, or creating space off-the-dribble to pull up from deep or in the mid-range. After this performance against Huntington Prep, we project Vasser’s recruitment to heat up.

Reed Sheppard

6’3” Guard | 2023 | North Laurel (KY) *Kentucky commit

The local product representing his home state against national competition was a unique scenario to witness, with Kentucky fans from around the state in attendance. Even though Reed Sheppard wasn’t prolific scoring the ball, he had a great all-around game, putting up 14 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He also had numerous steals and deflections, displaying his court awareness on the defensive end, whether it was getting steals off back-tips or jumping passing lanes. However, Sheppard does have a tendency to gamble for steals, especially when guarding the ball, yet does have the athletic profile to be a decent perimeter defender given his strong base, IQ and adequate lateral quickness. Being more disciplined on the ball defensively will lead to him improving on that end of the floor in the SEC. Offensively, even though Sheppard didn’t score at a high clip, his offensive talent is noticeable. He has a flawless, high release point and great backspin on his ball as a shooter. His ability to stretch the floor with his jumper combined with his high-level passing ability make him a seamless fit in just about any offensive scenario. His court vision was incredibly impressive in the matchup against Imhotep, where he finished with 11 assists. Reed’s live dribble-passing ability is unique, with his ability to throw no-look passes with either hand and find teammates in the half-court or in transition. He also has an advanced ability to throw outlet passes and anticipate where his teammates will be, always delivering the ball on time and on target. His passing acumen is highly noteworthy and will surely be utilized at a higher level as he’s surrounded with better talent next year in Lexington.

Jasper Johnson

6’4” Guard | 2025 | Woodford County (KY)

The sophomore was in complete control of this game offensively the whole second half, dictating the tempo and acting as the primary creator for his teammates. Woodford County played through him the whole half essentially, and it is understandable due to his guard skills combined with his strong positional size. Jasper Johnson is long, lanky and equipped with deceptive athleticism. He knows how to change speeds and has a very quick crossover, helping him separate from defenders. His ability to separate combined with his length make him hard to contain going downhill. As a shooter, Johnson has a knack for maintaining his balance and rhythm when pulling up from the perimeter. Continuing to progress as a passer and shooter will lead to an untapped amount of potential with Johnson, considering he is only a sophomore. Even as is, his ceiling is very high, considering his speed, size, ball-handling and finishing abilities. He has good touch in the paint and can finish above the rim or get to his lefty floater, where he shows soft touch. Defensively, Johnson is long and leverages that length to contest shots around the rim. Adding weight to his frame will allow him to guard multiple positions, as right now he checks in at about 167 pounds. Johnson already has high-majors checking in early, so expect his recruitment to be a competitive battle amongst multiple high-major schools.

Del Jones

6’2” Guard | 2024 | Huntington Prep (WV)

Jones lived up to his billing as one of the top guards in the 2024 class, displaying his high-level playmaking ability and tenacious defense throughout the day in Louisville. The Huntington Prep junior plays with a sense of command and assertiveness, highly valuable traits for a lead guard. Jones was directing traffic on offense and being vocal on both sides of the ball. The chip and energy he plays with feeds into his teammates, which is what makes him the engine of this Huntington Prep team. He also has a great feel for the game and has a second sense for where his teammates are going to be, whether it’s finding trailers in transition or identifying shooters in the half court. Not only can he find his teammates with ease, but he is quick with the ball in his hands, which allows him to beat individual defenders and draw help to either dump off to bigs for easy baskets or to find shooters on the corners or the wings. Defensively, Jones has quick hands and lateral fluidity. He shuffles his feet well and keeps the ball in front of him, doing a great job of turning ball handlers and containing penetration. His quick hands also allow him to be disruptive on the ball to either get steals or make ball-handlers uncomfortable. Throughout the game, Jones picked up full-court and was a pest defensively. Additionally, Jones received an offer from Mississippi State shortly after this event, a very positive indicator for his growing recruitment.

Ahmad Nowell

6’1” Guard | 2024 | Imhotep Institute (PA)

Every team needs a junkyard dog, and that is the energy and mentality that Ahmad Nowell brings to his teammates. He is willing to play hard-nosed defense and has all the intangibles you can ask for in a point guard. He is physical, can play at any tempo, and is capable of scoring or facilitating. As a playmaker, Nowell is a handful to contain due to his quickness and does a good job of dumping off to his bigs after establishing himself in the paint. When he gets past the first line of defense, he does a great job of playing off two feet and keeping his balance when finishing or distributing. Further, when finishing at the rim, he has no issues going through contact with his physical frame. Nowell also showed some promise as a shooter, knocking down shots from distance, but would like to see him speed up his release so he can create opportunities with his pull-up at a higher volume. Defensively, Nowell is effective as an on-ball defender thanks to his agility and strong frame. He did a good job of making life hard on Reed Sheppard, using his lateral agility to keep him in front. He’s also able to fight over screens and recover. Multiple Power 5 programs are firmly in the mix for Nowell, the SEC in particular, which aligns with his top-50 consensus national ranking (per On3).

Additional Eye-Catchers

Tyshawn Archie

6’1” Guard | 2023 | Spire Academy (OH) *James Madison commit

The James Madison commit is an absolute blur with the ball in his hands. The “one-man fast break” moniker fits Tyshawn Archie to a tee, as he pushes the tempo with great acceleration while staying under control. He is dynamic in transition with his abilities as an acrobatic finisher combined with his flashy playmaking ability. Learning how to play with pace and control in different settings will add even more depth to Archie’s layered game. He dribbles himself into trouble at times, but the electricity and explosiveness he plays with while generating offense definitely outweighs some of the turnovers. His speed and endurance allow him to make things happen on the defensive end as well, where he harrasses ball-handlers with his active hands while guarding on and off the ball. Offensively, Archie not only thrives in open-floor scenarios, but is effective in the half-court as well with his creativity as both a ball-handler and passer. He did a great job of improvising against North Oldham’s zone defense, where he would use no-looks to find bigs at the high-post or underneath the basket, while also getting into gaps in the zone to create scoring opportunities. His blend of speed and creativity as a passer makes him an entertaining point guard prospect to say the least. As Archie continues to grow physically and as a shooter, James Madison looks to have a steal on their hands.

Will Gibson

6’6” Forward | 2024 | DeSales (KY) *Liberty commit

The local product showed his offensive versatility against Moravian Prep (NC), displaying his skill set both as a scorer and facilitator. When scoring the basketball, Gibson is at his best on the block, scoring over his right shoulder. Developing his right-hand and counters in the post will make him even better scoring around the rim, especially with his inherent great touch. Gibson showed some ability as a face-up driver, scoring with spins to his strong (left) hand and he has the frame to finish through contact, as well. Gibson has a respectable three-point shot, which allows him to stretch the floor and create space for teammates to operate, which is his best skill set offensively. Gibson is a great passer in a multitude of scenarios, whether he’s finding cutters or shooters from the post, throwing outlet passes to start a transition break, or as a high-low passer. Continuing to develop his jumper and his defensive skill set will help him contribute at Liberty, where they have found recent success tapping into the Kentucky area, recently signing Colin Porter this past season.

Cam McClain

6’3” Guard | 2023 | Trinity (KY)

Throughout the whole contest against Huntington Prep, McClain provided a stable source of offense for the Rocks to rely upon. He finished with 16 points and was efficient in doing so. He didn’t force the issue and capitalized upon whichever defense coverages were thrown at him. McClain doesn’t score with flash, but he is a good three-point shooter who can also exploit poor closeouts and hit pull-ups from mid-range. He has sound mechanics and a compact release, allowing him to get his shot off with ease. As a senior on this team, McClain also serves as the vocal leader, which Trinity needs with two newcomers within their starting five. Defensively, McClain is a sound, savvy team defender thanks to years of experience in the system. He knows what is expected from him on that end and is vocal with his teammates to help them with their own assignments. Lastly, McClain is a player who is mature and will adjust to his role within different infrastructures. Last year, McClain was the go-to option, but understands the new scenario with two high-level transfers in the fold with Jayden Johnson and Drae Vasser, and has done a phenomenal job of playing within himself and maximizing his ability as a secondary creator and spot-up shooter. Every team needs players like McClain who are mature and can seamlessly adjust on the fly, no matter the scenario.

Jordan McCullum

6’8” Forward | 2024 | Huntington Prep (WV)

The long and lanky forward out of Huntington Prep fits basketball’s modern-era with his mobility and ability to stretch the floor at the power forward position. He has fluid mobility at 6’8”, which allows him to be versatile defensively, as Huntington Prep even matched him up on Trinity’s guards during points of the game. However, McCullum will need to add weight to his frame if he wants to bring more positional versatility, especially if his future is to include much time as a small-ball 5. McCullum is an intriguing prospect to watch moving forward thanks to his shooting touch from the perimeter and his mobility at his size. Look for his recruitment to continue to garner attention, as he has recently visited Tennessee and Missouri.


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