Hello and good afternoon from lovely Paradise Island, where your University of Kentucky Wildcats just wrapped up their open practice before a four-exhibition gauntlet in the Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis. I was in attendance to witness the fans’ first look at John Calipari’s new team, so allow me to share a few observations with you, if you will.
Pick-and-roll defense was the major point of emphasis.
There was one major theme from the practice and it was the pick-and-roll. It’s clear Calipari expects Kentucky’s opponents to pick-and-roll this team to death this week, so he is doing all he can to get them ready (an impossible task this early in the process) for what’s ahead. I wasn’t able to see the beginning of the practice due to our Hey Kentucky taping, but I can tell you the back half of practice was mostly about defending. It’s not something Calipari ever does this early in the year, but he doesn’t normally have four games against professional teams this early in the year either. He was really driving it home and trying to get in as much instruction as he can.
E.J. Montgomery is a little behind in the aforementioned pick-and-roll defense.
E.J. Montgomery is awesome. He is much bigger than I realized, he is athletic, and he is very talented offensively. He’s going to be a star and you’re going to love him. That being said, he was struggling to grasp what he is supposed to do and where he is supposed to be in defending the pick-and-roll. At one point Cal told him, “If you don’t pick this up, we can’t play you down here.” There’s a storyline to watch in the games ahead.
It was a real practice.
Unlike the open practices in the NCAA tournament, this was a real deal practice. Usually Coach Cal only trots his team out to go through the motions and put on a show for the fans, but not this one. It was no different than what they do in the privacy of their own Joe Craft Center. No fun and games for the guests today.
Reid Travis is enormous.
I thought I knew what Reid Travis looks like. I was wrong. He is much bigger than I thought. It’s also very clear that he is the old veteran of the bunch. He’s very mature and was strictly business the whole time he was on the court. I think he is going to be even more valuable than anyone expected due to that maturity and leadership.
I don’t know what to expect from the guards.
This was my first time seeing the team in action, and if you want me to give some insight as to how the backcourt minutes will be dispersed, I don’t know what to tell you. In the very small sample size I saw today, the two guard spots could go to anyone in the Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Quade Green and Tyler Herro group. Your guess is as good as mine.
Nobody here knows the new guys.
When I wasn’t taping Hey Kentucky, I was going around the gym telling fans who is who. I had at least four different people stop me and ask to point out all the new guys, and I’m sure many of you at home could use the help too. I expect there is a lot of learning to be done around the fan base once they take the floor tomorrow night.
Short shorts are back.
UK Basketball fashion has come a long way since John Wall and Eric Bledsoe’s shorts were dragging across the court. This team has gone the opposite direction with their length, so get ready for a lot of thigh. A LOT of thigh.
The setting for these games is really cool.
Check this out…
That’s Brad you see out there all by himself getting shots up an hour before practice.
BASKETBALL STARTS TOMORROW NIGHT LETS GO!