Tomorrow at 3:15 p.m., Team USA faces Germany in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup. What have we learned about John Calipari, PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and UK’s 2018 targets since training camp began almost three weeks ago? Quite a lot, actually. I’ve narrowed my list of observations down to ten.
1. PJ Washington is going to be a fan favorite for many reasons
Most of the buzz in the freshman class has surrounded Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo, but this summer, PJ Washington has proven that he’s a star in his own right. The 6’8″ forward has been the most “positionless” player on the court, creating mismatches for almost every single team the US has faced. Washington is fifth in the FIBA World Cup in scoring at 16.0 points per game despite playing only 17.5 minutes per game (95th out of 192 players in the tournament). He ranks first in field goal percentage with 67.5%, a good 8% better than Canada’s Danilo Djuricic, the next most efficient scorer.
Washington does a little bit of everything: scoring, rebounding, and creating for others while refusing to back down on defense. As Calipari put it earlier this week, Washington is playing like a “beast” this summer, which should help him get ahead in a loaded crop of forwards this fall. Combine Washington’s on-the-court versatility with his off-the-court charisma and childhood love of the Wildcats and you’ve got an early leader for fan favorite.
2. …But he’s gonna have to work on those free throws
The one glaring hole in Washington’s game right now? His free throw shooting. Washington’s hitting only 42.9% of his shots from the charity stripe, a stat that must improve or teams won’t hesitate to go right at him.
3. Hamidou Diallo will be on SportsCenter‘s Top 10 more than once this season
We knew Diallo was a freak, but he turned in so many ridiculous plays and dunks through four games that FIBA made him his own mixtape:
4. Tai Wynyard’s got potential, but struggles with consistency
Early on, it looked like Wynyard was going to be one of the surprises of the tournament. In New Zealand’s opener vs. Korea, he scored 22 points, 16 in the fourth quarter alone; however, his production has been inconsistent ever since. Wynyard only had three points in New Zealand’s loss to Argentina, but contributed in other ways, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking three shots. Against Germany, he finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, but turned the ball over four times. Wynyard clearly has potential, but to get minutes over Sacha Killeya-Jones and Nick Richards, he’ll have to be more consistent.
5. His Haka is on point though
6. Watching games without commentary is weird
All of the FIBA World Cup games are streamed live on YouTube, which is probably the way of the future and incredibly convenient for us since we can just embed that stream on the website; however, it has been odd watching games without commentary. There are no broadcast announcers, so the only thing you hear during the game is the PA announcer in the gym (who, to his credit, is lively), vuvuzelas (more on those in a minute), and the occasional shriek or stomp from Calipari. As fans in the modern era, we’ve been conditioned to hear game commentary, even if we complain about it and threaten to turn down the sound. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.
7. Vuvuzelas are still popular in Egypt
If you were wondering what happened to vuvuzelas after the 2010 World Cup, well, they’re all at the FIBA World Cup in Egypt now. Vuvuzelas still pop up from time to time (we all have that one friend who brings it to a soccer watch party), but I’ll admit that it took me a second or two to place that annoying, mind-numbing buzz. Let’s keep those over there, okay?
8. PJ Washington’s dad is doing his part to recruit Kentucky’s 2018 prospects
— Immanuel Quickley (@IQ_GodSon) July 6, 2017
Three of Calipari’s primary targets in the 2018 class have been under his wing for the past three weeks, which is inevitably a great thing for Kentucky, right? Yes, although other than a tweet from Immanuel Quickley and a blog post from Romeo Langford, we haven’t heard a ton of feedback. PJ Washington’s dad Paul traveled to Egypt with his wife and son for the FIBA World Cup and told Larry Vaught he’s been doing his best to recruit Quickley, Langford, Cameron Reddish, and Louis King, the latter of which doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky…yet.
“We had dinner the other night with them all,” Washington said from Egypt. “We talk a lot of recruiting. We are the only parents here, so we are together a lot. So you know me. Whatever I need to do for the UK family, I will do it.”
Washington Sr. also got into Kevin Knox Sr.’s ear during the McDonald’s All-American Game a few months back and that seemed to work out pretty well. Shoutout to Paul and his wife, Sherry, for their extra efforts.
9. Calipari’s “casual” coaching look actually costs a lot
Calipari debuted his new, custom fit Blue Delta Jeans at the FIBA World Cup, which cost approximately $500/pair. According to sneakerheads on Twitter, he is also wearing Nike’s new self-lacing HyperAdapt sneakers, which retail for about $800/pair. I’m sure he got that polo shirt for free (if we’re being honest, probably the jeans and shoes too), so all in all, that outfit retails for about $1,300. Image is everything, right?
10. The picture of him on a camel will never get old
The best way to handle yet another NBA rumor if you’re John Calipari? Hop on a camel, pull up in front of the pyramids, and give us a picture we’ll be using until the end of time. Add some text and a little more swagger and you’ve got the perfect GIF to send to your Louisville friends: