It’s only a matter of time before Javonte “J.J.” Taylor picks up an offer from Kentucky.
The five-star small forward from the class of 2023 is regarded as one of the top overall players among his peers, and after KSR watched him play down at the Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas the last few days, it was easy to see why.
Clocking in at 6-foot-8, 185 pounds, Taylor is a guard built into a small forward’s body. He can shoot from anywhere, knows how to get to the rim, and is smooth with the ball in his hands. There are plenty of reasons why he’s ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 7 overall player and the top-ranked prospect out of Illinois.
Let’s start right there, actually: with Illinois.
Get ready to hear more and more of “this player holds an Illinois offer from when Ron ‘Chin’ Coleman was on the Fighting Illini staff” because it’s going to be relevant for the next couple of recruiting classes. Coleman has been on Taylor long before any other college coach. Taylor told KSR down at the Pangos Camp that Coleman was the very first college coach to reach out to him, all the way back when Taylor was in eighth grade–the first year he started playing basketball.
But it goes deeper than just the personal relationship with Coleman. Both he and Taylor are Chicago natives. Taylor plays his AAU ball for the well-known Mac Irvin Fire program, where Coleman initially began his coaching career back in 2005. We knew when Coleman was hired onto the staff that his connections to the Chicago area could potentially pay off down the road and we’re seeing it happen sooner rather than later.
Taylor initially picked up his scholarship offer from Coach Coleman and Illinois last August and the program is still in contact with him, he tells KSR, but he also has his sights set on a coveted offer from the Kentucky Wildcats.
“[I’m] hoping that Kentucky can come out and watch me in the summer league to get some looks at me so I can get that offer,” Taylor told KSR. “I’m looking forward to getting that offer but as of now, they’re just recruiting.”
Currently, Taylor holds offers from Illinois, Texas, and Western Illinois while receiving plenty of interest from high-profile programs across the country. Luckily for Kentucky, they don’t have to start from scratch in its recruitment of Taylor thanks to Coleman. Taylor added that he “definitely” wants to take a visit to see the Lexington campus, although he explained that he would prefer an offer come through first before he makes any trips.
Taylor’s interest in the Wildcats stems from Calipari’s track record coaching big guards. He sees himself as more of a guard than a forward at the next level and his skillset backs that up.
“They love big guards,” Taylor said about Kentucky. “That’s really the top school for people like me to go to. That’s why I like it. They like working with people like me.”
Taylor is a bit slender for his size, but he counters that with a tight handle on the ball and the ability to sneak through defenses. His shooting touch is second-to-none and he’s long enough to shoot over most guards or even undersized forwards. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better pure scorer in high school basketball better than J.J. Taylor.
Which is why he was named the Pangos All-American Camp co-MVP of the Cream of the Crop Top 30 Game, the final “All-Star” event of the camp. Only the top players from the event’s group of 105 were tabbed to the two All-Star teams and Taylor was one of them. But he didn’t just participate, he shined–with the hardware to prove it.
During his first three outings at Pangos, Taylor–who was teammates with another need-to-know prospect in Dereck Lively II–averaged 15.6 points on 70.3 percent overall shooting (19-27) and 50 percent (5-10) from beyond the arc.
Taylor is nowhere near a finished product, either. Remember, he’s only been playing organized basketball for three years. His defense is still a work in process and playmaking isn’t one of his stronger traits, but his athleticism is undeniable and he pours in points left and right. Playing from the class of 2023, Taylor is only a rising high school junior–there is plenty of time to improve in the areas just mentioned.
He understands that, too, which is just as important. Taylor says he takes pride in playing defense “because that’s what wins games” while adding that he’s already been working on elevating his post-game over the last year or so. He constantly has eyes on the players older than him, stealing tidbits of information as he soaks it all in.
Go ahead and familiarize yourself with J.J. Taylor right now. Kentucky is already doing as such. You’ll be hearing a lot more about the budding star as he continues to develop throughout his high school career.