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Vaught’s Views: Sierra Canyon preparing Brandon Boston for all parts of Kentucky

Sierra Canyon preparing Brandon Boston for all parts of Kentucky

Brandon “BJ” Boston moved from Georgia to California to play for Sierra Canyon this season and is learning how to succeed next year on and off the court. (Sierra Canyon Athletics Photo)

By Larry Vaught

There might not be a player better prepared to deal with the whole scope of Kentucky basketball than guard Brandon “BJ” Boston.

He left his Georgia high school this season to play at Sierra Canyon, a high profile prep school in California. He’s on a team loaded with talent, which obviously will help get him accustomed to the stars he will have with him at UK in the nation’s top-ranked 2020 recruiting class.

Boston is a top 10 player in the 2020 recruiting class but UK signees Terrence Clarke and Devin Askew have both seemed to get more attention than him. However recruiting writer Krysten Peek says not to question Boston’s skill level.

“BJ is the diamond in the rough in this recruiting class,” Peek said. “He’s in LA playing with the best team on the west coast and it will be a crazy season but he will be the star of the show.

“He is sneaky good off the bounce. His shot mechanics are amazing. He’s 6-6 with long arms and can defend the 1, 2 or 3. He’s a very quiet kid and has to warm up to you but he’ll be a great teammate.

“He’s locked and loaded on being ready for UK. He is in the gym every day with his dad. He’s a true gym rat who has his eye on the prize at UK.”

A lot of eyes will be on him, too. Peek said NBA scouts are intrigued by Sierra Canyon and the team has games on ESPN this season.

“That’s why moving out there was more of a business thing. Exposure is everything and he’s got everything you want to be a great player. He’ll fit in great at Kentucky and now he’s getting all the off-court things to help get him ready for the spotlight that will be even bigger at UK.”

His team took a 12-day trip to China in September because coach Andre Chevalier felt it would not only expose players to eating different foods and meeting different people but would expose them to the culture in China since one Sierra Canyon player is from China.

“It was a life-changing trip for the kids. China is such a huge market for basketball player and business. It was good for them to experience that, “ Chevalier said. “You never know how many of these kids might end up playing one day in foreign countries so this might help prepare them for that.”

The team will play games in eight different states, something Boston’s former high school team in Georgia could never have done. Chevalier says that helps elite players learn how to cope with travel surprises and “getting their bodies prepared to play no matter the circumstances” on the trip.

“That makes it easier for them to know what to expect at the next level,” the coach said.

Sierra Canyon also had its own Midnight Madness along with a media day that included four weeks of media training for the players before the LA area media got to interview them.

“We want our kids to experience as close to what D1 will be like as possible,” Chevalier said. “We thought Midnight Madness would let our school see how good this team is. The media day helps prepare the kids for what will happen at the next level so they won’t be surprised.

“We had a professional media person come in to tell them about how to interview, words to use or not use, how to use social media. Just small things to help them. On media day they got to practice what they learned in front of cameras and Brandon certainly needs to know how to deal with the media where he’s going.”

Kentucky fans might get a chance to see the elite player perform if they go to Las Vegas to watch the Cats play Utah Dec. 18 and Ohio State Dec. 21 because Sierra Canyon is scheduled to play in the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas the same week.

“That scheduling is definitely just a coincidence,” Chevalier said. “I didn’t even know that until just recently. We will see hopefully if we can watch them (Kentucky) play or if they could come watch us play, or Kentucky fans could, that would be really cool.”

* * *

The last few months on the LPGA Tour were mentally and emotionally difficult at times for Emma Talley of Caldwell County. Not only was she not playing as well as she was accustomed to, she was also worried about her friend, Cullan Brown of Lyon County.

Brown was supposed to be playing his sophomore golf season at the University of Kentucky but was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his left thigh in late July and chemotherapy and other treatment to prepare for surgery forced him to drop out of school.

“Knowing he was at home or in the hospital was hard on me,” said Talley. “He is such a good guy and has such a great spirit about him. He’s facing a long, hard road back but he is fighting so hard. I just hate to see him struggle and I’ve had him on my mind daily because  I knew how hard this would be on him and his family.

“I think about him every single day. Every day I text him or talk to his parents or at least try to. Every night I pray for him. He’s such a good guy and everyone just falls in love with him immediately.”

Talley, a former Kentucky state high school and NCAA champion, has been a role model for Brown. They have often played and practiced together and he relies on her and her family for advice about his career path.

Talley and her boyfriend recently were using social media to talk with Brown during a chemotherapy treatment. They could see he was wearing a Footjoy polo shirt .

“We were giving him a hard time about that shirt and he said, ‘Got to keep it classy no matter what,’” Talley said. “That’s just him. He is such a trooper. I don’t know how he is doing it. It’s amazing to watch his spirt.

“He is living proof of humility and grace and spirit. It’s crazy watching him go through this but he’s so strong and is just taking it all in stride. I just don’t know how he’s doing it.”

Cullan Brown (right) and Emma Talley have been friends for years and she admits knowing all Brown has been going through with cancer treatment weighed on her during her second year on the LPGA Tour. (Emily Brown Photo)

* * *

Kentucky got the highest ranked recruit that coach Matthew Mitchell has ever landed when 6-2 wing Treasure Hunt of Chattanooga — the 10-rated player in the 2020 recruiting class in one recruiting list — signed with the Cats last week. She picked UK over Baylor, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Auburn.

Last year Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard was the consensus national freshman of the year but Hunt is rated higher than her in high school.

Hunt’s mother, Keisha Hunt, is her coach at Hamilton Heights and coached both her daughter and Howard in travel ball.

I wondered how much Howard’s relationship with Hunt helped Kentucky beat out so many national powers to sign her.

“I think with Treasure and Rhyne, I definitely think that them growing up together and playing a lot of basketball together and that bond certainly didn’t hurt us,” Mitchell said. “That made her probably look at us maybe a little bit harder than she would have, but I think it was just our overall atmosphere here.

“She felt really comfortable and she has tremendous, tremendous upside as a player and so we’re excited about her.”

Treasure Hunt told the that she was “excited to play with my old teammate” at Kentucky.

Hunt averaged 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game against a difficult national schedule last year.

Former AAU teammates Rhyne Howard and Treasure Hunt will be playing together at Kentucky for coach Matthew Mitchell next year. (UK Athletics Photo)

* * *

How hard is it for a team to run when opponents are almost certain a running play is coming?

That’s the dilemma that Kentucky’s offense has faced the last five games and likely will again in the final two games against Tennessee-Martin and Louisville.

Yet receiver turned quarterback Lynn Bowden now has four 100-yard rushing games and has led UK to a 3-2 record as a starting quarterback. Kentucky even ran for over 400 yards in last week’s win at Vanderbilt.

Stoops praised his offensive line for creating some “huge plays” against Vanderbilt against a defense prepared to stop the run and the “remarkable” job that offensive line coach John Schlarman has done with his unit led by guard Logan Stenberg.

“John is just amazing, to be honest with you,” Stoops said.

Yes he is. Last week Schlarman had treatment for his cancer and then had to return to his doctor for another “little procedure” according to Stoops.

“He doesn’t want any attention. But he has to drive his own car down (to Nashville) on Friday or have somebody drive him down on Friday after another procedure and he shows up at practice,” Stoops said after UK beat Vanderbilt. 

“We thought he was going to miss it, but sure enough, we got here and he pops in there and got the smile on his face like nothing’s going on and goes about his business. And it’s a really remarkable story what he’s going through and the job that he’s doing.”

Stoops said Schlarman’s actions have to inspire his players considering all he’s going through with his cancer treatment.

“They can’t feel sorry for themselves, that’s for sure. And John’s done a great job and so has the O-line,” Stoops said.

John Schlarman didn’t let extra medical treatment last week keep him away from UK’s game at Vanderbilt. Coach Mark Stoops says what the offensive line coach has done this year has been “incredible” with all he’s had going on. (Vicky Graff Photo)

* * *

It really doesn’t seem like it has been over 20 years ago that Walter McCarty was doing a little bit of everything for the Kentucky basketball team. He played in 103 games from 1993-96 and finished his career with 946 points, 522 rebounds, 181 assists, 108 blocked shots and 91 steals while shooting 51 percent overall from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.

He was a starter on UK’s 1996 national championship team, played a key role in UK’s historic comeback win from a 31-point second-half deficit at LSU in 1994 and went on to play 10 years in the NBA.

After McCarty helped his Evansville players celebrate last week’s 67-64 upset win at UK, he hugged former UK teammate Tony Delk and admitted his players really didn’t know what kind of player he was in college or the NBA.

“There’s times I put them in place. We play some one on one and I have not lost yet ,so I got to put them in their place sometimes. But I don’t talk about myself and career,” McCarty said.

“All I talk about my UK team other than winning the national championship is how connected we were, how much we loved each other –- Ron Mercer, Tony Delk they come to Evansville all the time. They are in our gym so our guys know them. They see how connected with the program is about so that is what we talk about.

“My time is gone so some these kids don’t remember who I am but their parents do, so my ego is not built that way.”

McCarty told his players to enjoy the win and remember the moment because that is what they would be talking about in 10 or 20 years when they are calling each other.

“That is what I love about my UK team,” McCarty said. “We were brothers off the court and that is why we played so well on the court because we got along and we weren’t afraid to show it and that is what we are teaching here.”

* * *

Quote of the Week: “This is at the top. To be able to come back home and play against the No. 1 team in the country and to be able to perform the way we did. I don’t know if anything else matches this other than winning a national championship,” former Wildcat Walter McCarty after he led Evansville to a stunning upset win over No. 1 Kentucky.

Quote of the Week 2: “He is one of most improved players this last summer when he emerged as a blue blood target in June. His game is very old school. Has a great back to the basket game. He is not selfish, is a good passer out of double teams and really runs well,” recruiting writer Krysten Peek on UK signee Lance Ware.

Quote of the Week 3: “If I had a vote, it would probably be for Beau. He has played against some really tough competition and done really well. He has played Covington Catholic, DeSales, Frederick Douglas and Boyle County twice,” Louisville Christian Academy offensive lineman John Young, a UK commit, on why he would vote for Lexington Catholic quarterback Beau Allen, another UK commit, on why Allen is his pick for Mr. Football.

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