Quade Green is transferring after a season and a half in Lexington. What should we make of his career as a Wildcat? It’s a complicated question that speaks to the core of one of the biggest issues facing the program right now: what do you do with the five-star recruits that aren’t good enough to be one-and-dones?
Like most recruits, Quade came to Kentucky with high expectations. A five-star prospect, he was considered a top five point guard, described by Evan Daniels as “arguably the most balanced point guard” in the 2017 class. At 6’0″, he didn’t have the size of a typical John Calipari guard, but Tyler Ulis proved that size isn’t an issue right? John Calipari did his best to shoot down that comparison early on.
“I don’t want him compared to Tyler Ulis,” Cal said in October 2017. “Tyler Ulis was a once in a lifetime player.”
A year and a half in, it’s clear just how unfair that comparison was. Tyler was an incredible defender despite his size. Quade is not. Tyler could be counted on to make smart decisions with the ball (assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.6). As the past few games have showcased, Quade cannot (assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5). Quade was hitting more threes than Tyler was at this point in his sophomore year, but Tyler had Jamal Murray by his side. I say all of this not to be mean, but to point out that for a guard of Quade’s size to succeed in Calipari’s system, he has to be really, really good or accept a different role; Quade isn’t the former and he wouldn’t do the latter.
Early on, it looked like Quade’s future at Kentucky was bright. After getting poked in the eye vs. Monmouth, he wore a pair of rockstar protective shades vs. Virginia Tech, coming off the bench to score 17 points and dish five assists. The awesomeness of Quade’s shades wore off after a lackluster performance vs. UCLA. A week later, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a breakout game vs. Louisville, dropping 24 points. Shai continued to shine when Quade had to miss three games with a back injury. By the time Quade returned the lineup, it was clear Shai playing point was the best bet for Kentucky to succeed, which meant Quade had to play the two-guard. It wasn’t an easy transition, but Quade still found ways to contribute, hitting the game-winner in overtime vs. Vanderbilt:
If the buzzer-beater vs. Vandy was Quade’s highlight of the season, the lowlight was the rushed, desperation three he threw up with ten seconds left vs. Kansas State in the Sweet 16. Once the season was over, rumors surfaced he was considering transferring, but he eventually shot them down. When Ashton Hagans reclassified and joined the team, Quade was still prepared to give Kentucky another shot, going to work in the weight room. As Nick Richards hilariously put it, Quade wasn’t “fat” anymore, and seemed poised to flourish as a veteran guard.
With Kentucky’s guard situation in flux for most of the season, Quade’s role has also been in flux. He’s had four games in double figures, but hasn’t started. He’s had promising performances (clutch points vs. VMI), but is still prone to defensive breakdowns and bad decisions. He came off the bench to score 14 points, including four threes, vs. VMI, but for some reason, only got eight minutes the next game vs. UNC Greensboro, and ten vs. Seton Hall. In those same games, Ashton Hagans averaged 29 minutes, Immanuel Quickley 21.5 minutes, and Tyler Herro 30.5 minutes. As has been the case throughout his tenure, Calipari is more willing to let freshmen with higher upside play through their mistakes than he is players with more experience.
Firmly fourth in the rotation with the semester coming to an end, Quade had a decision to make: play second fiddle to the freshmen or cut bait so he could be eligible somewhere else in the spring of 2020. I found Cal’s quote on the decision very telling.
“I met with Quade yesterday and we talked through a lot of different things. The thing that struck me most is what a great kid Quade is. He felt like he was in a position that he couldn’t overcome and he had the maturity to come in and sit down and talk through it with me.”
So long, Quade, and best of luck. We’ll always have Cat City.
— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) May 12, 2018