The Kentucky basketball program’s nationally-televised infomercial ran last night and it gave us our first look at John Calipari’s 2017-18 Wildcats.
Get your Monday morning rolling with 10 takeaways from the event, which they call a “Pro Day” but should really be called “Hey, We’re Kentucky And We’re The Gold Standard Of College Basketball… Day.”
1. The SEC Network cut back on talking at Pro Day this year, and that’s good.
With all due respect to ESPN’s college basketball team, I was happy to see them distance themselves from Kentucky’s Pro Day this year. In years past they dominated the broadcast with too much camera time, but this year it seemed they got the message (or the complaints) and let the action carry the show.
Sean Farnham and Seth Greenberg did a good job commentating the basketball and I think it made for a much better show this time around from a viewer standpoint. The network finally learned that Big Blue Nation just wants to watch the Wildcats run without a panel full of talking heads trying to fill time.
2. The 4-on-4 scrimmage showed us how good this team will be defensively.
This year’s Pro Day concluded with a scrimmage, although there weren’t enough scholarship players to make it a full 5-on-5. Still, we got a preview of this team’s length and how they’ll cause all kinds of problems for opposing offenses this upcoming season. Outside of Quade Green, everyone is incredibly long for their position and they appear to be committed to Calipari’s defensive philosophy. I think the defense will go a long way in carrying the team until the offense catches up, whenever that will be. Expect some low scoring contests before Christmas.
3. Hamidou Diallo is not human.
Diallo recorded the second-highest vertical in NBA Combine history earlier this year, and then gave scouts a repeat performance in Lexington:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 8, 2017
There were no official numbers for Diallo’s max vert, but I think the video is enough to prove he can fly.
4. Wenyen Gabriel, you have our attention.
All of the offseason talk about Wenyen Gabriel has been about the muscle he added to his frame, but let’s address his three-point shooting on Sunday when he hit 66 jumpers (many of which were three-pointers) in the five-minute drill. Sure, it’s one drill in an empty arena, but if he can shoot anywhere near that clip when it matters, he’ll provide a tremendous value to what the Cats do offensively. They’ll need all the outside shooting help they can get it.
5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will play… a lot.
With so many McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster, it’s easy to overlook Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, who would be one of the most talked about signees for any other program in America. But at Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander has flown under the radar with guys like Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards and Quade Green dominating the conversations.
That is no longer the case, though; not after Sunday’s Pro Day. Fans finally got to see just how tall and long Gilgeous-Alexander is for a guard and what he’ll do to disrupt opponents on the perimeter and in passing lanes. He and Quade Green should be a good combination at point guard given what each of them do well, which is completely different and beneficial in various scenarios. If I’m Gilgeous-Alexander, I channel my inner-Liggins right now and embrace the lockdown defender role.
6. I’m torn on whose game I love the most right now, but P.J. Washington is in the lead.
If you’re trying to pick a favorite player before the season, Kevin Knox or Hamidou Diallo are probably the easy answer. Or maybe Wenyen Gabriel as the sophomore leader, or even Quade Green since he’s going to run point. But I’ve been leaning P.J. Washington, and Sunday might’ve confirmed it.
Washington didn’t do anything to blow viewers away, but his versatility is already very apparent in the limited glimpse we got at Pro Day. I think he’ll come off the bench to start the year; however, if Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones aren’t doing much inside (which I’m worried about), I think Cal will be quick to play a smaller lineup with Washington manning the middle next to Gabriel and Knox. And when I say he’ll man the middle, I mean he’ll do everything at whatever position he needs to play because he is that “position-less.” Want 15 rebounds? He’ll do that. Want him to step out and help guard a wing? I think he can do that, too. He’s going to be special.
7. There’s still a very long way to go.
As exciting as the Cats seem in the looks test, there is a lot of learning to do before they’re anywhere near what we, the fans, expect them to be. It’s going to be very frustrating in the beginning because they’re so young (and Cal will remind us of that daily), so let’s do our best to temper expectations while they try to crawl before they walk and then walk before they run and then run before they beat Duke by 20 in the Final Four.
Practices will be hard and they’ll rely on their God-given talent and size early in the year to win games. Cal can only hope they bring it in each and every practice; and if they do, February and March (and hopefully April) will be very, very, very fun. There is a lot to figure out between now and then, though.
Like Cal said, “Can you imagine if we went this hard every day in practice? We’d be off the charts. You can’t just do it because they (the scouts) are here.”
8. Drake coming to Big Blue Madness.
Coach Cal let it slip at a charity function back in August that Drake will be attending Big Blue Madness. I didn’t pass that information along because I don’t think he wanted it to leave the room that night, but last night he put it out there for all to hear: Drake will be in the building.
9. Kevin Knox can really move for a 6-foot-9 guy.
Both Calipari and Knox have said he will play guard. It sounds absurd until you see his quickness for his size.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 8, 2017
I also enjoyed Knox saying how hard he’s been pushed through four practices. That part about wanting to win a ring was nice to hear, too.
10. They appear to be a fun-loving, good group of kids, per usual.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 9, 2017
Let’s all say it together now: I like my team.