ORLANDO - Dominating the 16u competition thus far in a Final Four run in the AAU Nationals, King James’ 72-29 win over Nashville Flood. Leading the way for the tournament title favorites was Cleveland St. Edward’s forward Kipper Nichols, whose 18 points were a game-high.
Playing in front of Kentucky coach John Calipari for the second time on Friday, Wildcats target Luke Kennard had another impressive showing in limited minutes. While only scoring nine points, Kennard had an all-around showing, ripping down seven rebounds and dishing out three assists. Attracting the attention of various high-major programs, the junior’s stock has exponentially grown since a statement performance at Peach Jam. In the two games Calipari watched on Friday, Kennard posted averages of 13 points and 3.5 assists per game, while flashing incredible athleticism and a polished offensive skill set. Hailing from Franklin, Ohio, notorious for it’s allegiance to Big Blue Nation, Kennard did nothing to hurt his stock with Friday’s showing in Orlando.
Outside of Nichols, Ohio’s top sophomore VJ King had his best performance of the week, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. King raised the eyebrows of coaches and spectators in attendance with his leaping ability on Friday evening, flushing down several athletic slams.
Equally impressive for King James was the second unit. Sixth man Kyle Ahrens had one of his top performances of the AAU Nationals, going off for 14 points and 11 rebounds, reaffirming why many consider Ahrens to be on the rise in the class of 2015.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph big man Derek Pardon had his best performance on the glass in King James’ win, pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds. Pardon has been a workhorse in the paint in Orlando, only adding to the excitement building for VASJ’s pursuit for a second-straight state championship in 2013-’14.
Going into the fourth quarter leading 61-16, King James put together their most dominant performance on Friday night, which should serve as a momentum-builder as the Shooting Stars look to avenge a disappointing finish at Peach Jam.
Kennard, King & Co. hope to advance to the AAU National Championship with a win over Nike Team Florida, Saturday at 9:25 a.m.
- Zach Fleer / @ZachFleerSP