This afternoon, we heard from Kentucky’s returning players, PJ Washington, Quade Green, Jemarl Baker, and Nick Richards. TJ Walker brought you their comments earlier, but after poring through the quotes and videos, I’ve got some takeaways of my own to add, mostly because reading this stuff makes me really, really excited for next season.
No. 1 lesson from freshman year? Mental toughness
What’s the biggest lesson PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Nick Richards learned from their freshman year? If you’re not mentally tough enough, you will not play.
“Just be mentally tough,” Washington said of his advice for the incoming freshmen. “I feel like if you’re mentally tough you can get through it. I think that’s the biggest thing with Cal: If you’re mentally tough, you play a lot. You play a lot of defense. Basically you go out there and do your thing. Just come in and be mentally tough, listen to what he says and just try to apply it to the court.”
“I wasn’t ready for the mental work, really,” Green said. “My mental wasn’t near all the way, I would say. But now, it’s all together and I’m ready to go for my second season.”
Richards’ confidence issues last season are well-known; today, he insisted he’s moved past the self-doubt and is ready to show off more of the potential we saw in bits and pieces.
“My confidence is real high right now,” Richards said. “I know what to expect in practices and games now. I’ve been in this situation before.”
Quade is ready to lead
Kentucky’s guard situation is still a little in flux as we wait to see if Ashton Hagans reclassifys; that’s not stopping Quade Green from stepping up and taking the reins as the team leader.
“Right now you can see in pickup he’s trying to be that vocal leader to everybody,” Nick Richards said. “He’s trying to tell everybody what to do. He’s trying to get everybody to pick the pace up, don’t get lazy, trying to lead the team.”
Kentucky’s got countless options at guard next year, but if Hagans does join the squad, I like a backcourt of him and Quade with Keldon Johnson on the wing. Hagans will have the ball in his hands due to his ability to get to the rim, but Quade’s experience and leadership is invaluable.
“We’re bonding, really,” Quade said of the squad. “Ever since day one, since we came here, everyone’s been bonding as a team. We’re playing pick-up (games) every day – nothing better than that when you’ve got a new team coming in. They’ve been asking some questions, how things go, and we tell them what the routes are and that’s it.”
Jemarl Baker also likes what he’s seen from the freshmen so far.
“All of them can play,” Baker said. “Whether it’s Keldon getting to the rim finishing, Tyler scoring, Quickly scoring, EJ just playing basketball – he’s a really good player. Everybody is just doing really well.”
Nick Richards is funny
The funniest part of today by far was Nick Richards body-shaming Quade Green.
“He seems the same to me, he’s just not as fat as last year.”
Quade Green says he feels different this year.
Nick Richards says there's really only one difference.
Shots fired! pic.twitter.com/gOl5MsDKLk
— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) June 14, 2018
BURN. Richards has made some sneaky hilarious comments in the past, but this may be my favorite. I’ve got a soft spot for the big man after watching him being ignored by reporters in the locker room during the postseason, so here’s hoping he shows off his personality a little more this year.
Jonny David likes his team
David was not included in today’s media opp, but he did share this tidbit on his Facebook page yesterday:
After being back for over a week and getting to know all the new guys, I’m REALLY looking forward to this year. All…