Mega Bemax was thought to be the toughest team Kentucky would face in the Bahamas. In turn, the Cats rose to the challenge and blew them out 100-64. Keldon Johnson said the group knew of the Serbian’s team reputation and came in to their third exhibition game with a purpose.
“I would say, yeah, you take it personally,” Johnson said of Mega Bemax’s reputation. “As a team, we all stood up to the task. We knew it was going to be a better team tonight so we just had to show them that we’re not going to back down. We knew that if we came out lackadaisical, we would get punched in the mouth first. So we came out locked in and got the W.”
“Loved our effort,” Assistant coach Joel Justus raved. “Our energy was tremendous. It was an elite performance by our guys. We talked about it, our guys are young, but they know basketball and they know that that team was a good team, a proud team that plays hard that’s had tremendous success and our young guys respect that. They came out today and gave an extreme effort. Togetherness was at an all-time high since we’ve been down here and obviously, we’re extremely happy.”
Exhibitions are exhibitions, but what does it say about this group that they dominated one of the most renowned European professional teams after two games of playing together — in August?
“They love basketball,” Justus said. “This group really does love basketball. They love to be in the gym, by themselves, with a couple of guys. They love to compete and this was another opportunity for them to go and do it against somebody else. This is something we’re finding out about them and we’re obviously very excited about that.”
Justus, Kentucky’s primary recruiter, said this group’s competitive nature is a testament to the type of players who come to Lexington.
“I think it says that that’s who we are: a team that’s going to come in waves. We’ve got to keep guys healthy, we’ve got to keep pushing them. In practice, guys have to keep making each other better, but I’ll tell you, that’s what they came here. Each one of these guys knew they were going to come to a place where there was going to be daily competition, they were going to be pushed by Coach Cal, the rest of us as a staff and pushed by each other. That’s why guys come here.”
Up comfortably the entire game, this team could have relaxed and let Mega Bemax back in it, but according to Immanuel Quickley, that’s not their style.
“It says a lot about this team and the coaching staff. Throughout the whole game, the coaches were telling us to keep the foot on the gas, keep going, keep pressing, and that’s what we did.”
Justus said that the fact that this team rose to the challenge in August bodes well for their first big game (cough, Duke, cough).
“I think you’re going to have a season of firsts when you’re this young and to get that out of the way and to know that this group is capable of it, I think that’s a good thing for us as a staff and it’s a great thing for those guys in that locker room to know that they’re capable of bringing that type of effort collectively.”
It’s August, but Quickley already feels that this group could be special.
“Feeling really good,” Quickley said. “We’re playing really well together and it’s actually early so we’re only going to get better. We work really hard in practice, so I think this will be a special team.”
Justus agrees, telling reporters that the players were already looking forward to getting back on the court tomorrow afternoon.
“This has been great. We’re three fourths the way done here and I think we’re excited once again to be out there tomorrow afternoon and playing for another chance to compete. They’re already saying that right now. ‘We’re excited to play tomorrow.’ When I say that, I’ll say it again, this group loves to play basketball. They’re excited because they get to play somebody else. You can take a look at our bench, you can show them clips of that. They’re excited. The great teams at Kentucky over the years, it’s been collective guys cheering for each other, whether it’s on the floor or off the floor, there’s energy every second of the game.”