Jay Bilas previews Kentucky’s NBA Draft prospects


Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson (23) dunks the ball during the UK vs. University of South Carolina men’s basketball game on Saturday, March 6, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 92-64. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

It’s that time of the year again for John Calipari’s favorite day of the year.

The 2021 NBA Draft is set to take place on July 29. ‘Graduation day’, as Calipari calls it, features two sure-fire draft picks in Isaiah Jackson and Brandon Boston Jr. while Olivier Sarr, who isn’t guaranteed to hear his name called by Adam Silver this week.

“Isaiah Jackson is an underrated talent in the draft,” College basketball analyst and commentator Jay Bilas said. “… He can block shots, he can rebound and get stick-backs. He’s just an elite athlete that can run the floor and impact the game with his athleticism.”

Bilas points out Jackson’s athleticism, energy level, his rim protection, versatility and defense as positives in his game that allow him to stand out. 

“[Jackson] had seven or eight blocks in a game earlier this year,” Bilas said. “You don’t get that by accident. His motor is really good and I think if Kentucky had a better year, he’d be a little bit more on the average fans radar about how good he is and can be.”

While he’s not yet an offensive threat, Bilas believes that’ll come at the next level. Jackson averages 8.6 points per game and 0.7 assists on 54 percent shooting in his lone season in Lexington.

For Boston Jr., he came into the season as a top-five recruit and a lottery pick on nearly every expert’s big board before having a not so impressive season as a Wildcat. 

“If [Boston Jr.] had not played at all last year, I think he’d be higher regarded,” Bilas said. Bilas compared Boston Jr. to Duke’s Jalen Johnson, who was also a top recruit that fell out of favor with scouts with the less-than stellar season from both Blue Blood programs. 

“[Boston Jr.] is talented and can make plays. His size and length certainly fit the NBA,” he said. “I think he can certainly get stronger, but he had disappointing numbers last year.”

The six-foot-seven guard/forward didn’t hit the mark particularly well, shooting from the field and beyond-the-arc in the 30’s while averaging 11.5 ppg, 1.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds. “But he’s better than that,” Bilas said. “I think he’s a better passer than he showed and he’s got a higher basketball I.Q. then he showed, but he’s going to have to overcome going into the draft and not having a great year.”

“The thing I like most about [Boston Jr.] is his attitude remained really good. I think he answered every question that was asked of him, he didn’t make any excuses, he just didn’t play as well as he’s capable of playing and he’s not the first player that that’s happened to.”

Jackson and Boston are expected to be the 42nd and 43rd draft picks under John Calipari since 2009 when he joined Kentucky as head coach.