T.J.’s Takes feature the five key thoughts from Basketball Recruiting Analyst T.J. Walker. The first thought will always be instant analysis on the win or loss and the last will be looking ahead to the next game.
1. The Win: That was incredibly impressive. Kentucky completely dominated the best professional team in Argentina (a country that cares deeply about basketball). San Lorenzo de Almagro has won the top division of Argentina basketball three straight years and won a tournament that featured the best teams throughout south and central America. They were missing one, maybe two of their better players, but that wasn’t far off from their actual squad and the Cats made it look easy. Obviously the power outage could have been a distraction for UK, especially playing so many young players, but this team really hasn’t had an awful stretch. Sure, they will take the foot off the gas but it’s less severe than previous John Calipari teams. That was a major issue last season. All around great stuff from the Cats tonight.
2. Tyler Herro: Expectations are going to be bonkers for Herro this season and for good reason. He’s proven himself UK’s best scorer halfway through this Bahamas trip and just a few months ago he was playing high school basketball. I was thrilled to see him make four three-pointers tonight. If he can put it on the floor and score inside the perimeter that’s great, but UK is going to need consistent outside shooters this season. Kentucky only hit two last night and bounced back in a big way with seven tonight. That’s impressive. If the Cats make seven threes in a game they aren’t losing.
3. Unsung Stars: Not too many folks will talk about Keldon Johnson or Immanuel Quickley’s games tonight but both were great. Quickley finished with a balanced six points, seven rebounds and five assists. Johnson quietly poured in 13 points. Quickley will probably hit a few big threes and make some nice passes in some games, Johnson will be no stranger to thunderous dunks, but both are guys that you will notice during the games but you won’t realize how good their stats are until looking at the box score. They most likely won’t score in bunches or be UK’s first options offensively, but they will provide positive contributions in the shadows. I’ve been impressed with both players and think both will play important roles this season.
4. Spacing: I love the spacing from this group. Calipari has said that he’s only worked on offense so far this summer and it shows. I hate the knock that Calipari can’t coach. He took a group of players where only a few had ever played with one another and they just dropped 91 points on the best professional team in South America. It’s all about the spacing. SLA played a style that UK won’t often see in college basketball. They tried to run, they played man-to-man and weren’t completely focused on clogging the paint. But we saw why college teams won’t follow that blueprint. SLA couldn’t guard UK and the Cats scored from everywhere. If that’s UK is doing in August it’s scary to think where they may be come March.
5. Moving Forward: Well, I’ve been wrong two straight nights. I thought both games would be more competitive, especially tonight. I still think UK beat a good team tonight and I’m not 100 percent sure the team they play Saturday will be better, but my guess is seemingly as good as anyone’s when predicting the talent level from these foreign teams. If UK plays like they did on Thursday I can’t image a professional team from Serbia will beat them. If they play like they did on Wednesday (which wasn’t horrible but wasn’t great), who knows. This remains about development and the more comfortable UK looks the better that bodes for November and the actual season. This is going to be a damn good year.