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Behind The Scenes Stories From The Bahamas

Behind The Scenes Stories From The Bahamas

There has been a ton of talk about how well Kentucky played in the Bahamas, so much that it’s beginning to get repetitive. We all saw the same games and we all know the Cats looked awesome across the board. They good, folks. Real good.

But as we slowly close the book on the trip and switch gears to the upcoming football season, I have a few stories you may not have heard. Here’s the behind-the-scenes takeaways (at least the ones I can tell) from the action off the court during our stay.


Stefan Fundic did not understand why I wanted his jersey.

I made it my Saturday night mission to find Fundic (the big guy for Mega Bemax) and buy his jersey. I was so impressed by how he played and how pink the jersey was, that I had to have it for my basketball jersey collection.

When I finally found Fundic, he was confused as to why I wanted it. I offered him a significant dollar amount but he said he couldn’t do it because he only has one and it would be too hard to get another.

He also kept telling me his last name is pronounced Foon-ditch, but I insisted he’s wrong and I will only call him Fun-dick.

Nice guy, though.

Team Toronto was in the Bahamas to party, not play basketball.

They say snitches get stitches, but for the sake of being completely transparent as a hard-hitting journalist on the scene, I can tell you Team Toronto was having fun in the club. When I saw them it was the night before the night before they played Kentucky, and they were ordering bottle service and getting shout outs from the club DJ. Is that why they got killed by the Cats on the court? I have no idea. Maybe they’re able to rally. And who am I to judge? I just know they were enjoying their stay and the Atlantis nightlife as much as anyone.

I met some of the San Lorenzo de Almagro players and they had very nice things to say about UK.

When it gets late into the night and things are slowing down, you hang out with likeminded people. In my case Thursday night, it just so happened to be two of the starters from San Lorenzo de Almagro, the team Kentucky beat by 20+ points only hours earlier.

We chatted about non-basketball things, like the guy throwing up on the floor three feet away from us and how half the people in the casino at that hour are prostitutes, but we also talked a little bit about the game. The big guy with the beard (that played the most minutes) told me Kentucky is crazy good, especially “#3 and #14” (Johnson and Herro — he had never heard of them).

He also told me Reid Travis and Nick Richards are as physical as anyone he’s played against in his almost-decade of professional basketball. He compared it to being in a fight the entire game.

Immanuel Quickley likes to dance.

Mont Dawson from Bluegrass Sports Nation captured one of the many times Quickley danced around the resort.

I do not know why the team was singing YMCA.

John Calipari was absolutely coaching from the stands.

Coach Cal wants you to believe he was hands-off as he watched all four games from the top corner of the stands, but he was definitely in contact with his assistants and players on the bench. You didn’t really think he was sitting up there without coaching his new team in its first games, did you?

RJ Barrett’s cousin told me something RJ Barrett probably didn’t want out.

This is another “snitches get stitches” moment, but I don’t care. I’m spreading the word.

A player on one of the opposing teams, who claimed to be Duke star freshman RJ Barrett’s cousin, told me Barrett texted him after his game to say something along the lines of: “I watched the game. We’re going to kill Kentucky.”

I can’t confirm if this person is indeed Barrett’s cousin or if Barrett for sure sent that text, but that’s how the person told it (not knowing I’m UK media). The player also took credit in pushing Barrett to Duke, saying he doesn’t like how Calipari runs his program and Coach K does it the right way. Again, I have no idea if any of this is true. All I know is he was eager to tell me about it while we were in the casino.


There’s your inside scoop from the week.

CBS Sports ranks Kentucky’s one-and-dones

It’s a question that defines the John Calipari era: Who are the best one-and-dones to come through Kentucky? CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone tackled the topic this afternoon, ranking all 25 Kentucky one-and-dones based on their college production. (That last part is important!)

His top four won’t raise any eyebrows, but from there, it’s up for debate. Here’s Boone’s top ten:

1. Anthony Davis
2. John Wall
3. DeMarcus Cousins
4. Karl-Anthony Towns
5. Brandon Knight
6. Julius Randle
7. Jamal Murray
8. De’Aaron Fox
9. Malik Monk
10. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

It’s not a bad list, and I know this is mostly based on numbers, but it just feels like MKG should be higher than tenth. Davis was undeniably the star of that team, but MKG was the heart and soul.

Check out the entire list at CBS Sports and then let us know your top ten in the comments.

[CBS Sports]

Grading Each Kentucky Player’s Bahamas Performance

Grading Each Kentucky Player’s Bahamas Performance

Well folks, we survived. After four-and-a-half full months without college basketball (oh, the humanity!) we finally got a little hoop over the last week with Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas. And after four games, well, the gauntlet has been thrown down for the 2018-2019 season.

That’s because after a four-game run in which Kentucky absolutely bludgeoned four professional teams from across the globe, there is no doubt: Kentucky – a team which most believed was the preseason favorite coming into the 2018-2019 year – somehow looked better than even the most optimistic fans could have possibly imagined. A trip which was supposed to expose this team’s holes and weaknesses and give them plenty to work on in the coming months, instead did the opposite: It showed that Kentucky has no major holes and that this is one of the deepest, most skilled teams of the Calipari era in Lexington. It also showed that there is no single reason (short of a team-wide outbreak of typhoid fever) that they shouldn’t be in Minneapolis on the final weekend of the season competing for a national championship.

Yes, that’s right, for all the excitement of the off-season, the Bahamas trip showed that maybe we didn’t give this team enough hype entering the season.

Anyway, now a few days removed from the trip, I decided to go ahead and hand out some “grades” for the Wildcats players, while also explaining what I saw, what I liked, and what needs work.

Just know one thing: You’re going to see a lot of high grades. After four-straight games of double-digit wins, there frankly isn’t that much to pick apart.

Tyler Herro (A+++++++)

Yes, as a teacher, my typical grading scale is “A+” to “F” but after Herro’s performance in the Bahamas I couldn’t help but make an exception. He wasn’t just an “A+” player but something well beyond that. Frankly, the only reason I stopped at seven “pluses” is because the key got stuck on my computer.

Yes, Herro was that good.

The simple truth is that Herro was the revelation of the trip, a player who came in with plenty of hype and – like so many of his teammates – exceeded that. In the matter of one week he went from a guy that most UK fans hoped would get a couple buckets off the bench to one that is now being compared with Rex Chapman, Malik Monk and Devin Booker as one of the best wings to ever come through the school.

And if we’re being honest, Herro has earned that praised. Hyped throughout his career as a “shooter” who would add three-point range to this squad, Herro showed that he might already be one of the best all-around scorers college basketball – and no, that isn’t hyperbole. How many guys in college basketball could have done what Herro did against four teams stocked with the best professionals across the globe? Especially considering that he did it on relatively few shots.

As a matter of fact, that was the most impressive thing for Herro in the Bahamas: Despite leading the team in scoring at over 17 points per game, he let the game come to him. He finished the trip shooting 57 percent from the field (23 of 40), a staggering number for a player who does most of his work from 15-feet or beyond. In the process he showed that he isn’t just a “shooter” but an athletic scorer, with the ability to get buckets from pretty much anywhere on the court. There wasn’t one thing you would have wanted to see from Herro that wasn’t on display this weekend.

Point being, there is SO much to like about Herro’s game. And there’s a reason he’s already being compared to Chapman, Booker and so many others.

P.J. Washington (A+) 

When it comes to the NBA Draft process, I rarely get too into what a player “should” do. When it comes to making an NBA Draft decision there are simply too many factors at play, be it a player’s family situation, their age, or simply whether they like school or not. But with Washington though, I felt different. Yes, he was projected as a potential second round pick in this past June’s draft. But it really did feel like if he could just improve a few small things (specifically ball-handling and three-point shooting) he could move his way well up draft boards and easily into the first round.

Well apparently, Washington listened to me (OK, probably not) because every single thing an NBA scout would have wanted to see from Washington, he displayed over the course of four games in the Bahamas. The 6’8 sophomore finished as Kentucky’s second-leading scorer (14 points per game) and averaged a cool 7.5 rebounds – a number which probably would’ve been higher if not for Reid Travis. More impressively though he proved to be a much more complete player than he was last season, hitting 3 of 7 shots from behind the arc and initiating the offense on the fast-break at times as well.

But you know what I loved most about Washington’s play in the Bahamas: He became (along with the next guy on this list) the unquestioned emotional leader of this team. He set the tone early with physicality and toughness, slapped away opposing player’s shots after the whistle blew and always seemed to have his teammate’s back when a scuffle broke out.

Understand, it’s one thing for a team to have as much skill as Kentucky does. But when they have the toughness to go with it, that’s a lethal combination. And it’s a toughness created by P.J. Washington.

Well, P.J. Washington and…

Keldon Johnson (A+) 

Quick question: Is it too late to name myself the President of the Keldon Johnson fan-club? If not, let me know. I’m already getting t-shirts printed up and buttons made. I also booked the reception hall down the street for our first meeting next Tuesday. It’s a pot luck kind of deal, so feel free to bring a small dessert or something.

In all seriousness, I don’t think there are very many words I can use to describe just how much I enjoyed watching Johnson play this weekend. A player who was already hyped as a Top 15 prospect and maybe Kentucky’s best long-term NBA prospect somehow surpassed realistic expectations, as a tornado on the court, a guy who got after it on the defensive end, while providing the ability to score from all three levels on the offensive end. He also threw down a couple dunks that were so violent, small children shouldn’t be allowed to see the replays because they might have nightmares.

Like this one, for example. Parents, hide the kids.

Most of all though, you know what I loved about him? He played with an intensity that is rarely seen from a basketball player anywhere, let alone a college freshman. He was all over the court, yelling and screaming and getting in the opposing player’s faces, screaming after big dunks, clapping his hands after big defensive stops and slapping the ball in disgust when he’d get fouled going in for a layup, clearly mad that he didn’t finish a play that was impossible to finish.

Ultimately, it’s easy to see why Johnson has been described as a “dog” by so many of teammates, and it really does feel like the intensity that he and Washington brought every night was infectious with his teammates. It’s something you can’t put a price tag on once the season begins, as Johnson will be the guy that finds a way to fire up everyone on the roster, even on nights when the natural emotion and intensity isn’t there.

Let’s just say, there really isn’t anything not to like about Keldon Johnson – and yes, I apologize for using a double-negative, but I’m just that fired up!

I want to be Keldon Johnson when I grow up.

NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster: “Kentucky has it all”

We’ve given you our thoughts on Kentucky’s run in the Bahamas; now, the national media is weighing in. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster shared his five takeaways on the Cats, who he ranked third in his preseason poll behind Kansas and Gonzaga back in June. After watching Kentucky roll in four exhibition games, Dauster said any of those three teams could be number one, along with Duke.

“And after watching 160 minutes of Wildcat basketball this weekend, that ranking is more than justified. Kentucky has it all. They have size. They have depth. They have perimeter scoring. They have guards that can really, really pressure the ball. They are going to be able to get on the glass. Their sophomores look terrific. Their freshmen look ready, and have the luxury of not being asked to carry the load from the get go.

Perhaps most importantly, there is lineup versatility. They can play big; or small; or roll out a lineup that can press and force turnovers; or play a team that is going to be able to put up points in a hurry.”

All that being said, Dauster voiced some familiar concerns, specifically whether or not all those stars will accept their roles and be cool sharing minutes. That’s never been a problem in the Calipari era, but he does make a good point: if Quade Green continues to buy into his new role off the ball, he could be a huge piece of the puzzle, ala Quinn Cook for Duke back in 2015. Like all of us, he was also floored by Sophomore Nick Richards and Tyler Herro.

“For a team that has questions about where they are going to get offense in the halfcourt and whether or not they can space the floor, Herro is a guy that is going to force Cal to play him a lot of minutes,” Dauster wrote.

For more, head on over to NBC Sports. I have a hard time agreeing with Dauster that Kansas and Gonzaga are as good or better than Kentucky, but the rest of his takes are spot on.

[NBC Sports]

NBA scout on Keldon Johnson: “Kid is big time”

Over four games in the Bahamas, Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. He shot an efficient 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from three, and his intensity on the defensive end of the floor was sensational.

To no one’s surprise, NBA scouts are falling in love with Johnson’s game.

“Love Keldon Johnson as a pro,” one NBA scout sitting courtside told Adam Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG. “Kid is big time.”

Johnson, a five-star small forward out of Virginia, was selected to the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic as a senior in high school. In both events, those in attendance for practice and the games raved about his relentless passion for the game. In fact, Johnson sat out the actual JBC game with an ankle injury, but scouts in attendance were fascinated by the Wildcat forward’s dedication to getting healthy enough to compete. He worked out his ankle all week in practice, running up and down the court, shooting jumpers, and getting it stretched out.

There wasn’t much at stake in the game, but Johnson still did whatever he could to prepare for the slight chance he would be healthy enough to play. He’s a competitor, and NBA scouts (including New York Knicks president Steve Mills) were extremely impressed.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari said Johnson deserves to be in the competition for one of the top players in all of college basketball.

“If there are five better players than him in the country, you gotta tell me who they are. I’ve done this a long time and I know who’s who,” he told the media at the Atlantis last night.

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg, who served as one of the lead analysts during the SEC Network’s coverage of the Big Blue Bahamas tour, said Johnson’s all-around game separates him from the pack.

“He can run, he gets out in transition, he can finish, he’s an alert defender, he’s a physical defender and he can help rebound,” Greenberg said. “He can do a lot of things, and he has the ability to make some shots.”

If things go as planned, Johnson could find himself in the top ten of next June’s NBA Draft.

VOTE: Who is your favorite player from the Bahamas?

The way Kentucky looked in the Bahamas completely changed the way many fans feel about the makeup of the team entering the 2018-19 season. Many of the guys — both old and new — played better than anyone expected. New fan favorites emerged as everyone on the team shined in their first real action of the season.

So now that we’ve actually seen the team, I’ll ask you: Who is your favorite player going into the year?

Tell us below:

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