Pendleton County's Dontaie Allen will be one of the leading candidates for 2019 Mr. Basketball honors based on what he's already done.

    The 6-7 Allen scored more points — 1,019 — than any other player in 
the state last season while averaging 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds 
per game. He shot 59.1 percent from the field, including 39.6 percent 
from 3-point range. He was one of three juniors to earn first-team 
all-state honors in 2018.
    To help showcase that talent, Pendleton coach Keaton Belcher is 
upgrading his team's schedule. For the first time, Pendleton will 
play in the prestigious Marshall County Hoop Fest.
    "That is huge for us. Not many people here in Pendleton County have 
been to Marshall County, so going to Hoop Fest is a significant deal 
for us. Obviously, the big reason we got invited is Dontaie," Belcher 
said. "Our fans travel well. It's about a 5 1/2-hour drive for our 
crowd but I think we'll play on Saturday, December 1, and I think we 
will have a lot of fans make the trip."
Pendleton will also play in the Zip Zone Classic at Sheldon Clark — 
"a lot of the state's better teams and players are invited," Belcher 
said — as well as the Ashland Invitational Tournament, the state's 
oldest Christmas tournament.
    "All that not only challenges our team but lets our kids see 
different parts of the state and play against good competition," 
Belcher, who had his team at Western Kentucky University for camp 
last week, said. "For a rural school to get to travel all over 
Kentucky is just special.
    "In Dontaie's career, he will have played against or in every single 
region in Kentucky. We want to let our kids see every part of the 
state. Still, a lot of this is also constructed for Mr. Basketball 
votes for Dontaie.
    "We want people that might not normally get to see him play have a 
chance to see him. He's not the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball, but I 
really think he has a chance to be Mr. Basketball."
    He also has a chance to earn a scholarship offer from Kentucky. He 
took an unofficial visit to UK— his dream school—Sunday.
    Allen already has offers from Purdue, Virginia Tech, Western 
Kentucky, Xavier, Dayton, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead, IUPUI, Nevada, 
Northern Kentucky, West Virginia and Winthrop with interest from 
Louisville, Cincinnati, Providence and Tennessee along with Kentucky.
    "He is phenomenal socially, academically and athletically," Belcher 
said. "He's the total package. I have never heard him say a bad word 
about anybody. It's never myself or I with him. It's always us or we. 
He is very humble and is just a great teammate.
    "He's just a really good kid and I've been blessed to coach him. 
He's so versatile on the court and can do so many things. College 
coaches see his potential and know he's just going to get better and 
better."
    Kentucky commit D.J. Jeffries will be back at Hoop Fest and so will 
Zion Harmon, one of the top players in the 2021 recruiting class, now 
that he has transferred to Marshall County. It's also likely that 
Memphis East star James Wiseman, one of the top three players in the 
2019 recruiting class, will also be back at Hoop Fest.
Key late recruits in SEC
    After several  returning SEC players withdrew their name from the 
NBA draft and both Tennessee and LSU got some key late recruits, Blue 
Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor Chis Dortch says he'll have 
five or six teams in Blue Ribbon's top 25.
    He believes Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State 
will be in Blue Ribbon's top 25 with Florida a strong possibility. 
The SEC has already announced that UK will have home-and-home games 
with both Auburn and Mississippi State next season. Florida and 
Tennessee remain two of UK's three annual home-and-home series along 
with Vanderbilt.
    "The league's on an upward trend now, and I don't think that's going 
to end anytime soon," said Dortch. "The SEC Network has been a huge 
recruiting tool. I think the hiring of Dan Liebovitz as associate 
commissioner in charge of men's basketball was a huge move.
    "Every school has a good coach, and the facilities that are needed 
to keep pace with other power conferences. And of course, the SEC 
region is loaded with players, and SEC schools are starting to keep 
them at home."
Washington wants to compete for national championship
    While there was speculation that P.J. Washington was determined on 
going to the NBA no matter what the player or his father said, the UK 
freshman would have been drafted in the second round and given a 
contact most of us would have like to have if he had stayed in the 
draft.
    "It definitely was not a situation where he would not have got 
drafted," Paul Washington said. "We know 100 percent he would get 
drafted. But he's not just the kind of guy to go to the draft because 
other guys are. He knows his worth and wants to compete now for a 
national championship. He wants to prove he can win a national 
championship and carry a team.
    "If there was something from the NBA (financially) he just could not 
have turned down, he would have taken it. But this was something he 
could turn down and he was putting trying to win a national 
championship above making a couple of million dollars. That's a huge 
decision. He could have made $1.5 million now but coming back to 
Kentucky to win a national championship is certainly not a bad option 
and that's the one he chose just like he said he would."
    He recently had surgery on his pinky finger that was broken in 
January but is expected to be back at full speed for UK's exhibition 
trip to the Bahamas.
Why Smoke wasn't rated higher
    Duane Rankin, columnist/videographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) 
Advertiser, says recruiting services are not an "exact science" but 
also has another thought on why running back Kavosiey Smoke was not 
rated higher.
    "You usually build your stars up at camps and then enhance them 
during the season. He played with a pretty dynamic quarterback in 
J.D. Martin, who ran for 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. So you can 
make an argument Smoke was undervalued, but he can play," said Rankin.
    Smoke helped Wetumpka High School advance to the 6A Alabama state 
championship game for the first time in the school's 115-year history 
and ran for 1,508 yards and 27 scores as a senior.
    "He runs physical and downhill," Rankin said. "Has an initial burst, 
some breakaway speed and finishes runs."
    Rankin said despite the competition UK faced, it did not surprise 
him that Smoke signed with the Wildcats.
    "He wants to play early. Wants to play in the SEC. Kentucky fits 
both ideals," Rankin said.
    Is he physically ready to play in 2018 to give UK more depth in the 
backfield behind Benny Snell?
    "I think that remains to be seen, but the big thing is to really 
dedicate himself this summer to get there. As far what he's listed, 
Smoke looks like an SEC player, but being strong enough to handle the 
college football grind, period, let alone play in the SEC at that 
position, is tough," Rankin said.
    "He's going to run into some guys at UK who are going to introduce 
him to college football. Smoke has to prove himself there first 
before beginning to talk about whether he's physically ready for the 
SEC."
    Kentucky may have also got another three-star gem out of Alabama in 
receiver Allen Dailey.
    The 6-3, 195-pound Dailey caught 80 passes for 1,441 yards and 23 
touchdowns as a senior to help Pinson High School finish 15-0, 
including a win over Smoke's team in the 6A state championship game. 
His 23 touchdowns tied for second most in Alabama single-season 
history. Allen, who was also a star basketball player, picked UK over 
Louisville and several other schools.
    "It's crazy, but it creates a situation where they could be the two 
players who can take UK to the next level," Rankin said. "They can 
relate to each other, vibe off each other and push each other. If 
they have early success, others from the state of Alabama could follow."
Peyton enjoys autograph sessions
    Mallory Peyton didn't have to be asked twice to be part of the 
postgame autograph sessions that the Kentucky softball did all season.
    "I really enjoy it because I was like this little girl once who did 
that," Peyton, who is from Madisonville, said. "I am from Kentucky. I 
came to all the games and camps and things.
    "I used to go through those (autograph) lines, so it really means a 
lot to me to get those little girls what they came here for and see 
all the players from the field and big screen there so they can get 
the autographs."
    Peyton says she did not have one special autograph she obtained at 
the Kentucky games.
    "I have a couple of 2011, 2012, 2013 posters (of the UK softball 
team) still hanging up in my room at home. Those are probably the 
biggest memories I have of UK softball," Peyton said.
 
    Quote of the Week: "I have so many favorite memories at UK. Just 
being with my guys, Joker Phillips and Cornell Burbage. Just being 
able to grow up with those guys, the bowl games we got to play in. I 
can sit here, remember back and it puts a smile on my face. If I had 
to do it all over again, I would love to do it the same way," former 
UK running back George Adams on his memories of college career.
    Quote of the Week 2: "My guess is that he is better. He looks more 
confident now than when I saw him a year ago as a person. We need him 
to be better," Kentucky coach John Calipari on sophomore center Nick 
Richards.
    Quote of the Week 3: "Who wouldn't like him? Just as nice a guy as 
you will ever come across. The kids really like him. He cares about 
the kids and the game of basketball. He is top notch in everything he 
does," Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne on Alabama men's 

assistant basketball coach John Pelphrey, a former UK star.

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