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Jayhawk Invitational takes center stage

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Basketball junkies craving for nonstop hoops are in for a real treat this weekend. Beginning on Friday evening and running though Sunday afternoon, some of the nation's most elite high school basketball prospects will invade Lawrence for the Jayhawk Invitational. Winston Shepard, the 6-foot-6, 180-pound small forward from Findlay Prep in Henderson Nev., is part of a star-studded Dream Vision team that features several five-star prospects.
Shepard, Shabazz Muhammad and Angelo Chol will take the court inside Haskell gymnasium at 6:10 on Friday night.
Playing for a Findlay Prep team absolutely loaded with Division I talent, Shepard, the No. 5 ranked player in the 2012 class, is looking forward to showing Kansas fans what his game is all about.
Slashing to the basket or connecting from the outside, Shepard, a five-star prospect, simply has the ability to do it all on the hardwood.
"Of course I'm looking forward to playing in Kansas this weekend," said Shepard. "Its something I'm really excited about. I know we play on Friday night, so I'm ready to get things started."
When looking at the future, Shepard has no shortage of options to consider. Currently, Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Miami-FL, Mississippi State, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Texas, TCU, Texas A&M, UNLV, Villanova and Wake Forest are involved.
Shepard's mother originally signed a Letter-of-Intent with Kansas, but a death in the family forced her to remain close to home. She ultimately ended up playing for the Texas Longhorns.
Both Kansas and Texas are very much in-the-mix for the elite small forward. In fact, Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend stopped by Findlay Prep High School last week to check in on Shepard.
As good as Shepard is on the hardwood, he isn't the only star lighting up the courts in Las Vegas. Shabazz Muhammad, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound shooting guard from Bishop Gorman High School was, in a word, fantastic during his sophomore season.
In helping the Gales capture the Nevada State Title, the No. 8 ranked player in the class averaged 19 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Bishop Gorman ended the year 30-2 ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today, No. 7 by Prep Nation, and No. 8 by Max Preps.
As a freshman, Muhammad averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds as the sixth man for Bishop Gorman. The Gales finished 28-5 and won the Nevada State Title. Several months later, the five-star prospect made his way to Lawrence and put on a show at KU's elite camp. Shortly thereafter, a scholarship offer was extended.
Much like Shepard, Muhammad has an almost unlimited number of options to consider. Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas UCLA, UNLV, USC, Wake Forest, Washington and others are tracking the Las Vegas shooting guard.
However, due to the close relationship between Kurtis Townsend and Ron Holmes, the father of Shabazz Muhammad, it's believed that the other schools involved have quite a bit of catching up to do.
Angelo Chol, the 6-foot-8, 205-pound center from Hoover High School in San Diego, Calif., anchors the frontcourt for Dream Vision. The No. 19 ranked player in the 2011 class averaged 16.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and 8.4 blocks per game this season.
Despite Chol's 205-pound frame, the native of Sudan is a big-time player. He's a monster on the glass, believes he can block every shot and has developed a nice hook shot. It's easy to see why so many elite college basketball programs are so interested in the No. 3 ranked center in the class.
However, Chol will arrive in Lawrence with just a handful of schools remaining on his list. Kansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Georgetown, and Washington are the five schools left standing for the five-star center from California.
Don't be surprised if Ben McLemore draws the biggest crowd this weekend. A relative unknown for much of his prep career, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound shooting guard from Eskridge High School in St. Louis, Mo., has established himself as one of the most coveted players in the 2011 class.
This season, McLemore averaged 28.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. The four-star shooting guard connected on 62 percent of his field goals, 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc and 65 percent of his free-throws.
Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Missouri State, Nebraska, Providence, Purdue, Southern Illinois, Tennessee and Tennessee-Martin have extended scholarship offers to McLemore.
Despite the increased attention, Bill Self and the Jayhawks have emerged as the overwhelming favorite to land McLemore, who intends to transfer to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., next year.
McLemore's backcourt running mate with the St. Louis Eagles happens to be Bradley Beal, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound shooting guard from Chaminade College Preparatory in St. Louis, Mo. Despite rumors saying otherwise, the No. 7 ranked player in the 2011 class maintains his commitment to Florida is 100 percent solid.
Another player that figures to receive a great deal of attention from Kansas fans this weekend is Josiah Turner, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard from Sacramento (CA) High School. Listed as a floor general, the No. 56 ranked player in the 2011 class certainly has the ability to distribute the basketball, but his game doesn't begin and end with getting his teammates involved.
As a junior, Turner averaged 27.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game. He connected on 53 percent of his field goals, 35 percent of his shots from behind the arc and 75 percent of his free-throws.
Recently, Self traveled to Sacramento (CA) High School to check in on Turner, a four-star prospect. The former Arizona State commit will spend the weekend running with Pump 'N Run Elite.
It should come as no surprise that Perry Ellis will receive a warm reception when he takes the court on Friday night. Playing with the Pray and Play Players, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward from Heights High School in Wichita, Kan., is no stranger to the University of Kansas men's basketball team, or the surrounding community.
Ellis, coming off back-to-back state championships at Heights, and back-to-back Kansas Gatorade Player of The Year Honors, is looking to legitimize himself as one of the top players in the 2012 class. No better place to do that than what many believe will be his home away from home once his time at Heights is complete.
As a sophomore, Ellis averaged 22.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
No doubt Isaiah Austin will be one of the biggest players to participate in the Jayhawk Invitational. The No. 2 ranked player in the 2012 class stands 6-foot-11 and is a shade over 200-pounds. Originally from Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, Austin will spend the weekend playing with the Compton Magic.
During his many stops this month, Self stopped by St. Mark's in Southborough, Mass., to get a closer look at Alex Murphy, the 6-foot-8, 180-pound power forward and Kaleb Tarczewski, the 7-foot-0, 220-pound center.
Alex Murphy is the younger brother of current Florida Gator Erik Murphy. He, along with Tarczewski, will run with the New England Playaz.
Other notable prospects to watch
LeBryan Nash: 6-foot-7, 212-pound small forward from Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas. The No. 5 ranked player in the 2011 class is a member of the Dallas Mustangs AAU organization.
Keaton Miles: 6-foot-7, 180-pound small forward from Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas. The No. 43 ranked player in the 2011 class is a member of the Dallas Mustangs AAU origination.
Jahii Carson: 5-foot-10, 170-pound point guard from Mesa (AZ) High School. The No. 99 ranked player in the 2011 class will spend the weekend running with the Compton Magic.
Michael Chandler: 6-foot-10, 220-pound center from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Ind. The No. 10 ranked player in the 2011 class is running with the Derrick Rose All-Stars.
Branden Dawson: 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward from Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind. The No. 16 ranked player in the 2011 class is running with SYF Players.