When Kentucky received a verbal commitment last year from Michael Avery, a California basketball player who had just completed his eighth-grade season, it raised eyebrows and sparked media attention from across the country.
While that news drew mixed reaction from the Big Blue Nation, it only underscored the reality that players are developing at a faster pace than ever and being recognized as major college prospects often before they play their first varsity game.
Next weekend, the University of Kentucky campus will serve as a backdrop to some of the nation's top young players as the Freshman All-American Camp comes to Lexington on June 25-28. The camp will be held at UK's Craft Center and Memorial Coliseum with 150 players in the Class of 2013 participating.
"Kentucky was a natural fit," said camp founder Clay Dade. "Everyone knows Kentucky is a perennial power in college basketball. It's probably the best-known program in the country, along with Duke and North Carolina. There's just not too many places like it. They have great facilities, and it's an ideal location geographically. It's within a day's drive for two-thirds of the U.S."
Dade said North Carolina and Kentucky were the primary targets to host the camp. A scheduling conflict at UNC helped UK secure the camp this season.
"I know Roy Williams wants it back there next year," Dade said with a laugh, "so it could be an interesting battle between Kentucky and North Carolina next year if things go well in Lexington."
During their four days in Lexington, campers will play league games, attend personal development seminars and receive SAT preparation strategies and practice tests. At the end of the camp, two all-star games will be held featuring the top 40 performers and representatives from the elite invitation-only high school camps will be on hand to evaluate potential invitees to their showcases, including the important events in the July recruiting period.
One of UK's top targets in the Class of 2011, five-star New Jersey forward Mike Gilchrist, attended the camp two years ago. Local standout Jaylen Beckham of Lexington Catholic also was a "Fab Frosh" Camp attendee last year.
Dade noted that nine of the 20 players recently invited by USA Basketball to the Under-16 National Team Trials in Colorado attended the Freshman All-American Camp or its sister camp, the Junior All-American Camp.
"The class of 2013 is loaded with impressive talent. Every year the camp has produced some exciting surprises, where kids who were unknown coming in, by the last day they were regarded among the best in their class."
Although it is being held on the Kentucky campus, the camp is not affiliated with the UK program, nor can its coaches or players be on hand. It is, however, open to the public. Fans can by a day pass for $10 (adult) or $5 (kids under 18). A weekend pass covering all four days will also be available for $30.
Players will take part in three games daily. All-star games will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. ET with camp awards being issued at the conclusion.
Some of the players to watch include:
Austin Colbert, 6-8, Chesapeake, Va.
Alex Foster, 6-7, Plainfield, Ill.
Tommy Hamilton, 6-8, Chicago, Ill.
Collin Hartman, 6-5, Indianapolis, Ind.
Darryl Hicks, 6-3, Louisville, Ky.
Kasey Hill, 6-1, Eustis, Fla.
Rodney Purvis, 6-3, Raleigh, N.C.
Julius Randle, 6-7, Dallas, Tex.
Tyree Robinson, 6-3, San Diego, Calif.
Jordan Swopshire, 6-4, St Louis, Mo.
Ishmael Wainwright, 6-4, Kansas City, Mo.
Johnathan Williams, 6-8, Memphis, Tenn.
Nigel Williams-Goss, 6-2, Henderson, Nev.