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A Handful of Thoughts as Kentucky Reaches the Midway Point of its Bahamas Trip


Sophomore Nick Richards continued to roll, finishing with 10 points.

As hard as it is to believe, we have reached the halfway point of Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas. Man, where does the time go?

(Cue the slow, sad violin music).

In all seriousness though, now two games into this stretch, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say – My goodness does this team look good. Seriously, as good as I thought this team might be, they have been way, WAY better. Whenever a bunch of 18 and 19-year-old college kids can absolutely run train on a group of grown men like the Wildcats did on Thursday night, it makes you wonder what they’ll do against college teams with players their own age.

Still, with the trip now half done, it felt like a good time to reflect and share some thoughts on what we’ve seen so far.

So with that, what have I liked through two games in the Bahamas? Here are a few things.

Tyler Herro

So yeah, I’m going to start with Herro. Of course I am going to start with Herro – like every recap here at KSR the last few days has – you know, since he has been the breakout star of this event so far. On Thursday, not only did Herro drop 22 points, but did so on a highly efficient 7 of 10 shooting from the floor.

So yeah, this guy has been good. REALLY good. And the coolest part is that he isn’t just a shooter, like some hyped him up to be. Instead, what I have really enjoyed watching is him display an all-around game. This is a guy who can score at all three levels, and also has a really good feel for the flow of the game. When he catches the ball, he instinctually knows whether to pull up for a three, take his defender off the dribble, or pass the ball down low to the post.

Beyond just the box score however, what I’ve loved about Herro is his fearlessness and poise. What’s been so incredible to see is that throughout this event it feels like just about everyone on Kentucky has been hesitant or nervous at times, even veterans like Reid Travis, P.J. Washington and Quade Green. Not Herro though. From the first minute of the first game he has come out and said “I don’t care how big this stage is, I’m ready.”

Finally before we move on, one other thought on Herro: The last time I saw this kid play was at the Nike Hoops Summit back in April. For those of you who may remember, Herro played by far the fewest minutes in that game for Team USA, even though several of the team’s other wing players (like Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, Keldon Johnson and Louis King) were out with injury.

Following the game I asked the coach of Team USA whether Herro was injured or if there was a reason he played so little, and the coach’s response was (and I’m not exaggerating), “It wasn’t about everyone getting equal time. We were trying to win the game.”

I wrote about it here, but in case you forgot, the U.S. did not win that game. Call me crazy, but I feel like having Herro on the floor might have helped.

Sophomore Nick Richards is real, and he is fantastic:

Shout out to my buddy Drew Franklin, who at some point decided he was all in on the “Sophomore Nick Richards” hype. I haven’t talked to Drew, so I don’t know why exactly he decided that this was the mountain he was going to climb, but credit to him. I thought he was crazy.

Well boy was I wrong, as Richards has been the single biggest revelation at this event. The simple truth is that while I could have seen a scenario where Tyler Herro blew up in the Bahamas (although I would have never predicted it) Nick Richards developing into a low-post force overnight is something I could have never imagined. At all. Truthfully, my biggest fear with Richards was that he became another statistic in Lexington, a guy that got lost in the shuffle at Kentucky, never found his role and elected to either transfer like Sacha Killeya-Jones or take his chances as a pro like Wenyen Gabriel.

Instead, there he was in the Bahamas on night one dropping a cool 23 points and looking like a terror on the offensive and defensive ends. What I most like about Richards’ performances so far is that – as a lot of others have pointed out – he is playing with more confidence than he has in the past. Last year, it seemed like the second that something went wrong for Richards, he would drop his head, mope and wouldn’t be heard from the rest of the game. Now, to his credit, he isn’t letting one bad play turn into two.

There is something else with Richards that is worth considering here: We need to remember that not all players develop at the same rate. Richards might have a birth certificate that says he’s 20-years-old, but he is still relatively new to the sport. He isn’t a kid who has been playing AAU ball since he was 12-years-old, but literally never played a competitive game until he was 16.

Credit to the Kentucky staff for sticking with him and to Richards for sticking with himself. Dan Dakich said it the other night and I agree: If he keeps playing like this, Richards will end up a lottery pick.

Even despite his age, Reid Travis is still a work in progress

So a few months ago when Reid Travis elected to leave Stanford and P.J. Washington was still deciding whether or not to come back to college, I made what I thought was a pretty innocent comment, which ended up causing an uproar in the college basketball media. I said that with all due respect to Travis, if I had to choose between having P.J. Washington back for a second year, or Reid Travis as a grad transfer, I would take Washington.

Now as it turns out, Kentucky got both. But it doesn’t change the fact that most of the media thought I was absolutely insane when I said that. Seriously, look at the mentions in the tweet below. And of course, as usual, I was right.

Look, this is no knock on Reid Travis, or what he did at Stanford. You don’t make back-to-back All Pac-12 teams if you’re not talented. At the same time, I also think we’re seeing that there’s a reason Travis is still in college and not playing in the NBA: He’s not there yet. He’s still a bulky, power low post player, whose game isn’t very refined once he steps more than five feet from the basket. Understand that’s not a knock on him – he’s REALLY good from five feet in. But that’s also the reason he’s still playing college basketball.

Still, that’s also what makes Travis so interesting to me: Even though he’s a fifth-year senior, I really do believe that Travis’ best basketball won’t be played until February or March of this year. I have faith that the Kentucky staff is going to continue to drill him to bring out a more complete game, be it ball-handling, three-point shooting etc.

It’s weird to say that a player so old won’t peak for a few more months. But that’s where I think we are with Travis.

A couple quick thoughts on the point guards

Since these are more short thoughts, I’ll bullet-point all the point guards together.

Quade Green: I loved his bounce back game on Thursday. It was well-reported that after a 1 for 11 performance the first night (in which John Calipari actually came down from the stands to yell at him to shoot more), Green went to the gym late at night, and it showed off in a big way Thursday. He went 4-4 from the field and looked like a completely different player.

As good as Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans are, this team will need Green. And he’ll be up for the challenge.

Immanuel Quickley: To be blunt, I didn’t realize Quickley was as, well, quick, off the dribble as he’s shown in two games.

He and Ashton Hagans are going to be deadly when they are on the floor together.

Speaking of which…

Ashton Hagans: While he’s made some typical freshman mistakes (mostly playing too fast) on the offensive end of the court, my goodness is this guy a terror defensively. The great thing about having Hagans on a roster like this, is because he won’t be asked to play 35 minutes a night (like he might have if he had gone to another school) he can put in 100 percent on the defensive end, make two or three plays over a five-minute stretch, then come out when he’s winded. In those couple minutes on the court though he will absolutely create chaos for the other team.

This is a guy SEC point guards are NOT going to want to see this season.

Finally, seeing half the team shoot attend an informal shootaround at 11:30 p.m. should be a scary sight for the rest of college basketball

Look, I know at times that we can all get a bit hyperbolic, and make something big out of nothing. But when I see half the team showing up at midnight to get more shots up, after blowing out a group of grown men, I can’t help but think: “Wow, this team could be special.”

It’s only August and it’s way too early to make any definitive statements. But when you have a team THIS talented, that also appears ready to work THIS hard, that’s a scary sight for the rest of college basketball.

And it should be a good sign of things to come.

Not just now, but straight March and (maybe) early April.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

27 responses to “A Handful of Thoughts as Kentucky Reaches the Midway Point of its Bahamas Trip”

  1. CombatMedic_98

    Maybe the Team USA coach just meant Herro isn’t that good a player…and that is why they LOST…hope the coach never coach’s again…

    1. J-Dub421

      It was Bill Self so…

    2. J-Dub421

      My bad, wrong team USA. I have no idea who the coach was.

    3. runningunnin.454

      I think the coach was Mike Jones of Dematha H.S.
      Penny Hardaway was the assistant coach; but, he may have pulled out when he took the Memphis job.

  2. gnbkats

    “Run train on a group of grown men”…… um phrasing?

  3. ukisgr8

    And if i remember correctly, zion Williamson said herro was the most underrated player in the class and said he’s a top 5 player

  4. CKTermy23

    40-0

    1. Luether

      Hope you’re right but too early for that now…

  5. Alex90

    The c9ach was black and Herro was the only white kid on the team. Not saying it was racist but if the roles were reversed you would have a national story there questioning his motives

    1. Luether

      Don’t you know that only WHITE people can be racist? If you don’t believe me, just ask any Democ Rat…

    2. 4everUKblue

      Leather you’re a complete idiot. I guess you haven’t figured out the two parties only function is to divide and conquer us all. No politician has our best interest, but you keep living in Disneyland snowflake.

    3. 4everUKblue

      *Luether not Leather

    4. UKfan4TwoDecades

      Sad but true.
      It is long past time that white boys/men are no longer dismissed. No longer tormented. No longer feminized (with all due respect to women). No longer burdened with accusations, etc. that not only are not warranted but that they had nothing to do with. No longer openly attacked. It has been a mathematical fact that the number of white male suicides has drastically increased. That white males regardless of their GPA/Accomplishments are being denied acceptance to colleges. And that their life, their family, their believes don’t matter.
      I life for the day that would fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream for a man to be judged by his character and NOT the color of his skin. This speech was approximately five decades ago and yet somehow we have “allowed” these unrelenting unjustified attacks. It has to stop and I pray it does.

  6. Papaw

    Facebook isn’t full enough of political name calling, now KSR comments are starting it. Can’t you Republicans say anything non-political?

    1. TBW3011

      Stick it up your ass snowflake. How’s that?

    2. John barronIII

      Snowflake a homphobic term generally used by closeted goobers

  7. Get Sh*t Right

    You could definitely have picked a more..umm… professional phrase to use instead of “run train”.

  8. CKTermy23

    This team is going to be almost impossible to guard on the low block and will be impossible to keep them off the glass. Travis is going to avg 15+ rebounds a game. Pj looks different but Nick Richards has grown the f up and is finally playing up to his potential. It’s going to take a veteran team who shoots a lot of 3’s have an “out of your mind” kind of performance to beat this team this team has the potential to possibly run the table but they will more in likely lose a couple possibly to Tennessee or Auburn. This going to be a fun season so everyone enjoy it while it lasts.

  9. JrocsMomsBoyfriend

    Don’t get me started on running trains

    1. KYFAN4LYFE

      Because once you start, you can’t stop?

  10. daddy43040

    This is a scary good team and i’m as excited as anybody but i also know that when the real season begins and theres a foul called every other possesion all this talent we got will mean less.If the season was officiated like these last two games we would destroy a lot of teams.

  11. UKfan4TwoDecades

    I wish this team great success this season.
    For whatever reason(s) this is the first time in years that UK has real shooters. There is a balance to this team and their success won’t necessarily depend on one scorer or dribble drive (I so dislike that term).
    These past years with Coach Cal have been among the greatest sustained recruiting talent I have ever seen and yet UK has only added one National Championship to its legacy and in all due respect I know all the reasons/excuses why they haven’t won more but looking at all of the talent no reasonably educated person could honestly conclude that UK should have won (at least) an additional one to three more NCAA titles.But this is a new team and I don’t care if they lose a few games this year, but I am rooting for them not to, but that they find multiple ways to dominate come NCAA Tournament time.
    Thank you to KSR for all their hard work putting together a great site and thanks to the KSR members/commentators as, at times, you all have made me laugh and often provide great passion and insight/facts I otherwise would not have been exposed to.
    Born and raised in Kentucky and now being 55 years old there were times when UK was ranked #1 preseason and then failed. The game against Georgetown, where Kentucky had the lead at half time but then shot the LOWEST shooting percentage in history, I will never get over. Seeing that Graham kid dunk at will over our twin towers Bowie.and Turpin still sickens me and living in the Washington DC area as I have these last 3 decades provides constant reminders but I proudly wear my UK apparel as it is an extension of being proud of where I am from. My family who still lives there. Some of the best memories of my life. Being exposed to so many unique and kind family members, friends, etc.
    I hope that Coach Cal doesn’t deviate, going forward, from seeking out real shooters. If Golden State hasn’t taught us anything else, other than how in the world did they accumulate that much talent and believe it or not have gotten better if Cousins is healthy, it is that shooters make the game when defense and sustained effort is combined.
    I can’t wait for this season to start and to see how these players develop. We have the best fans and I hope I live long enough to see UK surpass UCLA (even back then we knew there was cheating/player payoffs/etc. which came to light and yet they were still allowed to keep their NCAA Championships) in NCAA National Championships.
    Take care and may God bless you all.

  12. trumpetguy

    Come on everybody. This is 2018 for crying out loud! Can’t we finally leave ethnic issue out of any conversation regarding our UK teams, regardless of the sport. If they wear blue/white and it says KENTUCKY across the front, that is good enough for me and we should root for them, end of story!

    1. HackRichards

      Yes I agree. Appears we have some arses who need to grow up.

  13. ncs23

    “And of course, as usual, I was right.” – Aaron. And of course, I’m highly opinionated is more like it. We have been blessed with two games so far in August which is awesome for us Kentucky basketball junkies but at the same time let’s stay within reality. This team has a huge cieling and I am all for the hype and optimism. I want to more specifically say let’s tone it down when it comes to acting as if Reid Travis is one of our work in progress guys and like somehow he is not currently one of the most dominant players on our roster. First, he should be starting and hopefully by the actual season cal will do that. I don’t care if Richards ceiling is higher all the sudden (let’s see that last by the way), you don’t bring a pre season player of the year candidate with 4 years of dominant experience and leadership in a power 5 conference (2 time first team all pac 12) over as a graduate transfer for his final year, something extremely rare, and have him come off the bench especially when he is the only senior and most experienced player you have by far. But as Cal said, he isn’t just experience, he’s high level talent. He’s both. The reason Reid, possibly to some, looks like he is a work in progress is because they are making him play a completely different way. I understand the “league” has changed and blah blah only stretch undersized power forwards will make it, that’s fine and all NBA talk, but this is college and we are trying to win a championship. You don’t take a player like Reid and try to take him away from where he is already PROVEN to be most valuable and dominant. Yeah let him shoot some more shots, work drills with him in practice and give him things to add to his skill set, but at this level of basketball, he should be put in a position to do what he does so well at least 70 percent of the time. If you want to run him with some different line ups and make him run around the perimeter the way Patrick Patterson did his final year, that’s fine, just don’t do it all the time. This team doesn’t have the dominant inside force of Boogie, it does have Reid Travis though, and I think this kid is ready to step in and crush it immediately, not by February when it was suggested he will suddenly blossom or something, I mean right now. He just needs to be allowed to do what he does and put in the right situations on the floor. Just think about Skal if you need a refresher on what happens when you aren’t put in the positions that support your current strengths. Cal himself admitted this regarding Skal. Reid’s leadership and experience is far and away more valuable than PJ being back for a second year to prepare for the nba. I love PJ and think he has the highest nba ceiling, but again, we are talking about college ball, winning championships, and right now. Not June. I could not care less about June. I’m just so excited we have a Darius Miller type of experienced guy out there who clearly loves the game of COLLEGE basketball just as much as the rest of the true and faithful big blue nation. I am certainly not always right so I won’t say that, just giving my thoughts and opinions.

  14. runningunnin.454

    “OF COURSE, and AS USUAL, I was right”. Hee Haw, let’s not break our arms patting ourselves on the back.
    I was very happy Washington returned to UK; but, when the guards stop delivering the ball to Travis in untenable situations, he will be a monster.

  15. michaelb

    I was saying nick r would ball before anyone . I also think on the seasons that we have the Atlantis trip that we should move big blue madness up to the starting date of the first practice for it .