One of the most dynamic players in all high school basketball is expected to be on the Kentucky campus for an official visit this week.
Matas Buzelis, an intriguing talent with playmaker skills and post player size, is expected at Lexington for a trip focused on this week’s UK game, another milestone in a recruiting that has taken off in recent months . After a brilliant performance on the base circuit in the spring and summer, Buzelis was one of the biggest elevators in the recruiting rankings of the junior class, moving from the territory of the four stars to the top of the national list.
In its October update, 247Sports dropped it from 43rd place to 4th place overall.
“He’s a really impressive talent,” 247Sports analyst Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader. âHe’s long, he’s athletic, he’s tenacious. He’s really good, can take shots and has a grip.
Buzelis is listed at 6ft 10in, but don’t confuse that height with someone dominating at the post. He’s actually classified as a small striker, and his ability to pass is one of Buzelis’ defining traits as a prospect. He’s much more comfortable playing a perimeter game – shooting the ball well enough to keep defenses honest and possessing the ability to pass defenders on the dribble. He has the IQ to make his teammates look good and the athleticism to finish around the basket himself.
This size and versatility makes him an intriguing target for college coaches and a player who could potentially play multiple positions to the next level.
“He’s a ‘4’ man who doesn’t fit the ‘4’ who can really face and attack the big guys off the rebound,” said Branham. âThis is where I love him the most. But because he is so good, he is able to play “3” Defensively, it will depend on his physical development. As he becomes strong. He’s a versatile striker – kind of a hybrid. “
Adding strength to his frame will be a key area of ââBuzelis’ development, and that’s something he’s already focused on with two more high school ball seasons ahead of him. 247Sports lists Buzelis at 175 pounds, but he just turned 17 in October and still has plenty of time to gain weight and muscle before entering college. He has shown an ability to block shots and defend in spurts, but Branham said he will need to add more consistency at this end of the pitch, especially when it comes to playing on contact and making against stronger players.
These advances should come over time. For now, there’s no doubt that Buzelis’ basketball skills are unique for his size, and college coaches have clearly been just as impressed as recruiting analysts.
Buzelis has already racked up scholarship offers from Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona and several other schools including Florida State and Wake Forest, the only other programs that hosted him for official visits before this week’s trip to Kentucky.
The UK has yet to extend a scholarship offer, but John Calipari has already watched it play this season in high school, and the Kentucky coach has shown in recent months a tendency to bring in rookies from 2023 on campus for official tours and to extend offers while they’re in town. So it won’t be a surprise if Buzelis wins his later this week.
There is also a connection between the emerging star and the Kentucky program. Buzelis’ summer came while he was playing for the Chicago-based Mac Irvin Fire program that British assistant Chin Coleman coached with before getting his first college job. Coleman still has a strong connection to this program and an excellent reputation as a recruiter in the Chicago area. (Buzelis plays his high school ball for Brewster Academy (NH), the alma mater of the late Terrence Clarke).
Buzelis is a first generation American whose parents were both born in Lithuania before moving to the Chicago area about 20 years ago. His father was a former professional basketball player in Europe and most recently was a staff member for the Lithuanian national team.
Branham said it was too early to know too much about Buzelis recruiting, but there is already some buzz around possible favorites, a list Kentucky could possibly join with an offer this week.
âObviously Duke is involved. They’ve volunteered before, so expect them to be a factor until the end, âBranham said. “Another team I would say you need to keep an eye on is Arizona.”
Although Buzelis was born in the United States, his family clearly has a deep connection to international basketball, and Arizona Coach Tommy Lloyd – previously Gonzaga’s best assistant – has proven to be an accomplished recruiter of foreign players.
âAs everyone knows, Tommy Lloyd is the most connected coach in all of college basketball when it comes to the international landscape,â said Branham. âAnd he’s had an incredible amount of success with those types of players. I would therefore not cross them off the list in any way. I actually think they’ll be serious contenders for Matas at the end of the day.
This story was originally published 20 December 2021 7:00 a.m.