By LARRY VAUGHT
Memphis East High School bailed out on its commitment to play in the Marshall County Hoopfest tonight for a second straight season because its star player, James Wiseman, signed with Memphis and not Kentucky.
Never mind that Memphis East had known for months that Wiseman could well pick playing for Penny Hardaway, his coach at Memphis East last year, in college at Memphis rather than John Calipari at Kentucky. It will waited until mid-week to bail on Hoopfest after Wiseman’s appearance had been touted for months.
Give Olive Branch (Miss.) coach Eric Rombaugh for having more class and courage. His star player, D.J. Jeffries, was a Kentucky commit when Olive Branch played at Hoopfest in 2017. Olive Branch was invited back before Jeffries de-committed from UK and eventually landed at Memphis.
But Olive Branch came back and played Scott County, Kentucky’s top team, and lost 65-55 in a game that was a lot closer than the 10-point margin shows. Jeffries, despite early foul trouble, had 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“We never considered not coming,” Rombaugh said after the game. “Thiis is a great tournament. We were happy to be invited back. Great environment and we played a really solid team. They are great.
“D.J. didn’t shoot it very good like he usually does but he stayed the course and worked hard. It was a good game and we were happy to be here.”
Jeffries was happy to have a chance to play here again and said despite some playful, sometimes controversial interaction with UK fans on social media that he loves playing in Kentucky.
“I love Kentucky. The fans are crazy and love their basketball. It was a great atmosphere here today. I wish James had came to play, too,” Jeffries said.
“I had fun today. They (Scott County) are a great team. They are really disciplined and have a high basketball IQ. They do the right plays and play good defense. I thought we could have done better, but they really played hard and wouldn’t let us do some things.
“But I had a great time and so did our team. This is really a fun event.”
Marshall County will play Olive Branch Dec. 8 in Memphis at the The World Shootout.