By LARRY VAUGHT
Two of the best players in Kentucky will go against each other in an early season showdown at the Marshall County Hoop Fest when host Marshall plays Pendleton County Dec. 1.
Marshall County sophomore Zion Harmon, a recent transfer, led the state in scoring last year when he averaged 32.7 points per game for Adair County. Harmon helped lead Bowling Green to the 2017 state championship as an eighth-grader.
Pendleton County is led by senior Dontaie Allen, who averaged 31.8 points per game last year — third best in the state. He led the state in overall points scored.
Allen and University Heights senior KyKy Tandy, who will also play in Hoop Fest, are the frontrunners for 2019 Mr. Basketball and Harmon likely will be in 2021 — or in 2020 if he reclassifies as expected.
This will be Pendleton’s first trip to Hoop Fest and coach Keaton Belcher says it is a historic opportunity for his team — and Allen.
“The Allen versus Harmon matchup should be good for ticket sales. Both are exciting players that have bright futures,” Belcher said. “For our kids to be able to experience playing at the Marshall County Hoopfest is something I hope they remember forever.
“Also, the opportunity to play against a well-coached Terry Birdsong team with a high caliber player like Zion Harmon makes our trip to Benton even more desirable.”
Allen got a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt during a recent visit and also has offers from Xavier, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky and others. He also has received interest from both Kentucky and Louisville.
The 5-10 Harmon already has offers from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Creighton and St. Louis, Kansas has shown interest and Harmon has made an unofficial visit there just like he has to Kentucky.
They will not be the only big-name players at Hoop Fest Dec. 1 playing in the prime time games.
Kentucky commit D.J. Jeffries of Olive Branch, Miss., will be back for the second straight year. Olive Branch beat Adair County — and Harmon — in last year’s event.
The 6-7 Jeffries is a consensus top 50 recruit in the 2019 class and picked UK over Kansas, Alabama, Memphis, Florida and Texas A&M. He averaged about 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game as a junior when Olive Branch won the state championship.
The biggest star at Hoop Fest Dec. 1 will be James Wiseman of Memphis East. He’s a consensus top three player in the 2019 recruiting class. His high school coach last year, Penny Hardaway, is now the head coach at Memphis and is considered the main competition for Kentucky in Wiseman’s recruitment.
“Wiseman is that 7-footer with athleticism and enough skill to dominate a game in high school and impact a game in college immediately,” said ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi. “He is a true difference maker. He he not jus potential — he is productivity. No matter when or how he cuts his lists down, we all know who the two favorites in the race will be.”