Basketball Season Coverage
I’m done bragging about Sophomore Nick Richards. I’m just happy I’m no longer all alone in his fan club and that you’ve all finally seen the light.
But I will spread the Sophomore Nick Richards gospel whenever I see it, like last night when John Calipari said NBA scouts are amazed by Richards’ new game.
“The scouts out there, the guy they’re amazed with? Nick,” Calipari said in his postgame comments. “They’re looking at Nick. And he’s seven-foot. If you look at the tape, he’s flying up and down the court.”
Calipari’s wife, Ellen, even sees a different Nick Richards off the court.
“She said to me the other day, he’s not even the same kid,” Coach Cal said. “He doesn’t walk the same, he doesn’t look the same, he doesn’t carry himself the same. So when I met with him, I said, ‘Ellen, tell him what you said.’ And she told him all that and said, ‘I’m really proud of you.’”
Dan Dakich, who called all four games in the Bahamas, thinks Richards can become an NBA lottery pick next summer. Richards will need to continue to play well throughout the season ahead if he is going to get anywhere near that projection, but he’s certainly on the right track in August.
I told you so. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Had to get it in one last time.)
By Drew Franklin on ©August 13th, 2018 @ 1:45pm
I’m sure you saw all four of Kentucky’s dominant wins in the Bahamas, but you may not have seen all of the combined statistics in one convenient and easy to read place.
So, here ya go: the complete four-game stat sheet after the Cats shined at the Atlantis.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 10:05pm
Kentucky finished the Big Blue Bahamas tour unscathed, knocking off four of four opponents in dominating fashion. Each presented a different level and style of competition, but the Cats came out on top each time by a significant margin.
An average margin of victory of 29 points against professional basketball players, to be exact.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to be excited for in the upcoming 2018-19 season.
Here are the top ten things we learned from Kentucky’s Big Blue Bahamas trip.
These Cats like to have fun
The biggest gripe Kentucky fans had last year was just how hard it was to connect with the Wildcats throughout the season. We all wanted to love them and cheer them on, but their personalities just weren’t as vibrant and bright as we’re used to seeing. We just weren’t as emotionally invested.
With this team, we get everything you could possibly ask for. We have the sheer passion for the game and intensity in Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans, bright smiles in Tyler Herro and Immanuel Quickley, mean mugs from PJ Washington, senior maturity and professionalism from Reid Travis, etc. If things are going well, they use that energy for positive momentum. If things aren’t, their killer instincts kick in to kill the cold spell. They’re resilient.
It’s the perfect mix of personalities to make this unit just flat-out likable.
And a lot of it has to do with the following section…
Their chemistry is already high
This trip was meant for team bonding, and it did the trick, and then some. We got to see them work together in the Bahamian community washing the feet of those in need, giving them shoes to wear in the process. We got to see them have fun at the waterpark, racing down waterslides and passing time on the not-so-lazy river. On their day off, they set sail on a catamaran, relaxing and snorkeling with the fish in the ocean. Whatever they wanted to do, the Cats did it as a team and loved every second of it.
On the court, that chemistry is just oozing off of them. John Calipari says they are already ahead in practice, one of the most advanced of any group he has worked with. In games, the passing is impeccable, the defensive reads are stellar, talking is loud and constant, etc. They just work together really well, very reminiscent of the 2014-15 group filled with alley-oop jams and no-look passes.
After games, they started a new-and-improved version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s “Breakfast Club,” where the team hit the practice court and worked until the early hours of the morning. They have one common goal this season, and that’s bringing No. 9 back to Lexington. By the early looks of things, they’re going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans are the heart and soul of the team
As mentioned above, this team is just plain likable, and a lot of it has to do with Johnson and Hagans. Neither are going to be Kentucky’s leading scorers on a consistent basis, but their intensity on the court at all times is contagious and will directly impact the outcome of games this year.
On defense, they pick up all 94 feet of the court. They never give up on plays, never let their guard down, and never allow easy buckets. That killer mentality has allowed others to rise to the occasion and produce at a high level, as well. When their teammates make big plays, they are the first players to run up and congratulate them. Even if they have off nights offensively, and they did in the Bahamas, they will absolutely make up for it in other areas of the game.
We’ve heard the word “dog” in reference to both Johnson and Hagans this offseason, and now we know why.
Tyler Herro may be the leading scorer
Arguably the biggest takeaway from this trip was just how freaking good Tyler Herro is offensively.
He ended the Big Blue Bahamas tour leading the team with 69 total points (17.25 PPG) on 24-41 shooting (59 percent), adding 8-18 from three (44 percent) and 15-15 from the free throw line. He scored at all three levels, created his own shot, and did it all on ridiculous efficiency.
When I watched him play in the Jordan Brand Classic and the practices leading up to it, I saw an “it” factor with this kid that made me fall in love with him. Zion Williamson said he was the most underrated recruit in the nation, saying his offensive skills are second-to-none. By game three of the Big Blue Bahamas trip, announcers were saying Herro had the opportunity to be the biggest Lexington fan-favorite of all time.
Not too shabby for a four-star prospect.
The backcourt is interchangeable
One of the biggest arguments Kentucky fans had before this trip had to do with the team’s starting lineup, specifically with the backcourt. With so much talent and different skillsets, how do we know how to juggle starters/minutes?
Luckily for the Big Blue Nation, it doesn’t really matter, because they’ll all get a chance to shine.
Quickley, Hagans, Green, Herro, and Johnson all ran point guard at one point or another this trip. The Kentucky coaching staff put in all different kinds of lineups, and nearly all of them worked just fine. If the Cats had at least one shooter/dominant scorer in the backcourt at all times, things ran fairly smoothly without any real cause for concern. Quickley could be in with Hagans, Green could be in with Herro, and vice versa.
Side note: Quickley turned the ball over just twice this week (both coming this afternoon), just one of the many impressive aspects of the five-star freshman’s game we saw. The narrative going into this was that Quickely was a step behind the rest of the guards, but that was proven false rather quickly (no pun intended). He’ll be a major contributor this season.
There’s a whole lot to work with in this unit.
Kentucky was shorthanded again
Back in 2014, Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein missed out on all Bahamas game action due to injury.
Fast forward four years, and the Wildcats experienced two more injuries that forced the coaching staff’s hand when it came to different lineups during the foreign trip.
EJ Montgomery sat out the final three games of the event, while Jemarl Baker missed all four. They are each expected to be pieces of a likely ten-man rotation this season.
John Calipari will never admit to using a platoon system again, but when Montgomery and Baker come back, don’t be surprised to see some mass substitutions. We saw this week that every player expected to be in the rotation is deserving of major minutes, and the only way to do that may be going five-in and five-out.
Nick Richards, Quade Green, and PJ Washington have all improved
In the past, some players have returned for sophomore seasons at Kentucky, but their jump from year one to year two was minimal, at best.
This season, however, all three of Kentucky’s sophomore returnees showed major improvement during the Big Blue Bahamas tour.
Sophomore Nick Richards exploded on the scene in game one against the Bahamas National Team, and continued to show progress throughout the week. His timing was much better on shot-blocking, he looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, and he rebounded like a grown man. His on-court awareness was night-and-day from last year. He deserves a ton of praise for his quality minutes this week.
We didn’t see as much facilitating from Green, but his offensive production was a major improvement. The sophomore point guard is confident in his shot and with the ball in his hands. He’ll be a solid shot-maker from mid-range and three this year.
As for PJ Washington, have mercy. Sources within the program told me earlier this offseason that the team fully expects him to win SEC Player of the Year, and from what we’ve seen in the Bahamas, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all. He has cut weight, worked on his jumper, and still maintains the strength that made him so valuable in the post last season. Analysts compared him to Draymond Green this week, and I don’t think that’s terribly far off.
And his frontcourt-mate might be just as much of a problem.
Reid Travis will be a monster down low… in time
The fifth-year graduate transfer had the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his first four games in a Kentucky uniform. From the first Bahamas game, Travis dominated on the glass, but he wasn’t able to find his groove offensively. He looked sloppy, dropping passes out of bounds and fumbling the ball into the mitts of the opposition. Travis was able to use his body to create space and find open holes close to the basket, but just couldn’t find a way to put the ball in.
He got better, going for 11 points in game two and eight in game three, but the efficiency still wasn’t there. By the fourth and final game, Travis exploded for 19 points and 15 rebounds, proving to dominate in the post like we saw from his time at Stanford. He needed to get the rust off, and he seemed to really turn the corner this afternoon.
It may take a couple regular-season games before we see what Travis really brings to the table. When it comes, however, the Cats are going to be unstoppable.
There aren’t many weaknesses, if any at all.
After a 2-20 performance from three in their first game, many wondered whether or not this team would struggle from beyond the arc this season. They followed it up by hitting 24 of their last 48 shots from three to finish 38-percent from distance on the week. Check.
When it comes to mid-range scorers, Tyler Herro and Quade Green have that down to a science. Immanuel Quickley will continue to improve from there, while PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson have also proven they are more than capable from that distance. Check.
Down low? Look no further than Washington and Travis for easy buckets and/or free throw attempts. Montgomery and Richards are developing, but they will be extremely reliable as the year progresses, as well.
On defense, you have two lockdown defenders in Johnson and Hagans. Both will put their bodies on the line to make a winning play, something the Cats really didn’t have last year.
Beyond a pure numbers standpoint, their overall killer mentality is night and day from last season. When they built a lead against Mega Bemax last night, they just went after them harder.
Many times Kentucky fans begged the 2017-18 group to just beat the hell out of teams weaker than them. They just wanted to see them keep their foot on the gas pedal and steamroll someone.
But very rarely did they ever let it happen.
I don’t think that’s going to be a worry going forward.
This team is going to be special
So much talent, so little to complain about. So much personality. So much excitement. So much intensity.
When it comes down to it, it’s impossible to not get giddy about this group of kids.
I feel like I’m having déjà vu of the 2014-15 season. They may not be able to pull off the historic 40-0 feat the double-platoon squad came just inches short of, but they’ll dominate college basketball this year.
We’re just a few hours removed from the game, but I’m itching for basketball season already.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 8:45pm
The Kentucky Wildcats took home the four-game sweep in the Bahamas, and now we have highlights (among other video leftovers) from the final victory to show for it.
Check out all of the best from UK’s 32-point blowout win over Team Toronto:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 12, 2018
Led by Reid Travis’ 19-point, 15-rebound performance:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 13, 2018
John Calipari talked to the team after the win, saying each individual holding each other accountable is what is driving this team to early success.
“The way I look at it, we’ve got a good team that’s together,” Calipari said. “A good team that’s challenging each other to.. ‘either I grow, or I’m dying. I gotta get better.’ And every one of you is pushing the other guy, and that’s why we’re looking this way.”
— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) August 12, 2018
They couldn’t leave without thanking the Big Blue Nation for coming out and supporting the team:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 12, 2018
While we’re at it, take a look at Kentucky strength coach Robert Harris and assistant coach Joel Justus mic’d up in the team’s victory over Mega Bemax:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 8:15pm
After three up-and-down performances to open his Kentucky career, Stanford transfer Reid Travis finally had a breakthrough performance in the Bahamas.
He led the team with 19 points and 15 rebounds, showing off a little bit of everything in Kentucky’s 93-60 victory over Team Toronto. Travis knocked down two three-point jumpers, finished several buckets inside with gorgeous footwork, grabbed rebounds like a grown man, and even sent one opponent’s shot flying several feet from the basket.
For Travis, he understands it was a rough start, but his performance in the game-four victory was a step in the right direction.
“Oh, it felt good,” Travis said of his double-double. “It’s definitely nothing I’m sweating too much. I know those are a lot of plays I can make. I just missed some easy ones that I usually put in. It’s expected, especially playing summer basketball, trying to get used to a new team, competition, stuff like that. So it did feel good to cap the trip off, getting some more looks to go in.”
Part of it comes with trying to develop his game beyond pure bully-ball. He wants to show the NBA he can be versatile.
“Individually, I’m trying to change the way I play. Being more athletic, a lot quicker, running up and down the court faster. Subtle changes that seem like quick adjustments for normal fans, but for me, it’s a big transition from how I’ve played my whole career as far as playing a bully-ball system. (I usually) put the ball down, go into peoples’ chests. Now they’re asking me to go up, catch lobs, block shots, and run up and down the court as fast as I can. I’ve only been on campus for a month, so it was great to come down here and see where I was in the process, understanding it’s still really early on,” he said.
Calipari is excited Travis broke through, though he’s going to have to break some old habits if he really wants to find success at the next level.
“I like the fact that Reid [Travis] kind of busted through today because he struggled, but he’s still — he and I just talked and I said, your habit right now is to gather yourself. It isn’t going to work anymore. Not only here but if you want to be professional, that will not work. And he knows it. He says, ‘you read my mind.’ I said, anytime there’s any kind of pressure, you’re going to revert to what you know best. And that’s what he knows best right now because we haven’t coached him. So I said, we’re going to get you to where you’re getting balls to the rim quicker, you’re shooting some runners and then go rebound your miss and you’re not going to gather yourself down and bust your way through. There are games he can do that, but not against the good teams.”
As far as what he likes from Travis as a player, Calipari says the Wildcats got a physical freak of nature, but he needs to work on his athleticism.
“He’s the man… This kid’s a grown man. He’s not 18, 19. He’s a grown man. He’s lost about 20 lbs. Probably needs to lose another four or five. Defends, bouncy. How about he blocked a shot? I’m telling you, I watched all of his games. I don’t think he had a blocked shot last year. You’ve got to go show it. You’ve got to show your quickness, your athleticism. He has it but he’s never used it. It’s been more bully-ball.”
It was a step in the right direction, but Travis knows there’s still work to do. When he can work those kinks out, watch out.
“It’s going to be night and day when I get it to click,” Travis said.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 7:48pm
On if he still wants fans to pump the brakes on expectations after today’s win:
“Yeah, I do. What I liked is we started the game and couldn’t make a shot, and they come back and get it to four and there’s some adversity. You need some adversity. It’s the only way you can really learn. I like the fact that Reid [Travis] kind of busted through today because he struggled, but he’s still — he and I just talked and I said, your habit right now is to gather yourself. It isn’t going to work anymore. Not only here but if you want to be professional, that will not work. And he knows it. He says, you read my mind. I said, anytime there’s any kind of pressure, you’re going to revert to what you know best. And that’s what he knows best right now because we haven’t coached him. So I said, we’re going to get you to where you’re getting balls to the rim quicker, you’re shooting some runners and then go rebound your miss and you’re not going to gather yourself down and bust your way through. There are games he can do that, but not against the good teams.
I told the guys, I’m not intoxicated by this. I just told them, I’m not. At the end of the day, we should be a monster defensive team, we should be a great rebounding team, we should be a team that can fly up and down the court and take pressure on you, both sides of the ball. And we should be a team that shares because we’ve got a lot of guys that are skilled enough to play that way. It seems to me we’ve got some dogs. We’ve got a couple dogs and I like to have a couple dogs on the team that will not back away.
On not having to push guys like in years past:
What happens is, it’s contagious. If you remember, Brandon Knight came to Kentucky and kind of changed our culture and helped push us to where we were trying to go. This group of freshmen, I just told them, you guys are getting guys, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did — you either get in there and become more skilled or you go by the wayside. And it’s forced all the guys — the same thing for the motor. If you play with a high motor, there’s a guy or two out there that aren’t and it’s obvious that you all see it. Like, why isn’t he playing as hard as those guys? We haven’t had that. This is a group that is driving each other. I told them, our practices were so competitive for ten days and they said, you’re right. That these became, let’s play somebody else. It became a little easier for them because they were going at each other the way you’re seeing them go at these other teams.
On the high basketball IQ of this freshmen class:
We’re keeping it simple. We literally did not bog them down with defensive stuff. What I did probably the last three practice days, maybe the last four, was spend time showing them rotations defensively, switching defensively, back line switching, in other words, away from the basketball. We showed them that and had to really walk through it, but they picked it up and then they were doing it here which is making me say, wow because most of this stuff is higher level than us. It was, this is the next step of what you’re doing. Offensively, you’re trying to get them in a groove of how they have to play, not verses how someone else is playing. Quade right now, away from the ball, he’s unbelievable. He can score it, he figures out spots to go, he doesn’t have to pull the ball out. I want him off the ball. I just told him, you’re on a team with Keldon in the NBA, Keldon’s a point guard. You ain’t playing point guard! So be this guy and let them all know this kid can really play basketball. He can score the ball, he’s skilled, his decision making. ‘You know what? I want him on my team.’ And so, he’s doing it and he looks good doing it.
Ashton [Hagans], Immanuel [Quickley], two different things we have to work on. Tyler is playing well. I just told him, it’s good to play well like you did, but now, that’s a standard to grow from. Now you’re going to have to go from where you are to grow. That’s the downside of it.
What would have to happen on this trip to make him “intoxicated” with his team:
Here? It’s August. I’ve been doing this too long. EJ [Montgomery] didn’t even play. Let me say this: I’m happy. And I’m happy with the guys. I really like this team. They like each other, and I’ll say it again, when you’re comfortable in your own skin because you’re not trying to trick somebody, you’re not trying cut into anyone, you’re not the last guy in the gym, if you’re that guy, you want to drag people down to your level. Play games, mind games, but when everybody’s putting in the time and work and you’re comfortable in your own skin, you drag each other. Be happy with me, so I’ll be happy with you. And I’m happy with your success. It doesn’t infringe on my thing. But if you’re not that way and you’re trying to trick somebody, normally you’re the guy that wants to bring people down. Not this team.
On this team having a “Midnight Club” ala the “Breakfast Club” in 2011-12:
What would you call it? The Midnight Club? These dudes are in here at midnight, 1 a.m. I was happy with Quade. He missed every shot the first game, every single one and at midnight was in this room. And then came out and made his first three shots. Is it something I said? Is it something that I did? No.
Nick, I just told him, I had my wife come in and say something to him. She said to me the other day, he’s not even the same kid. He doesn’t walk the same, he doesn’t look the same, he doesn’t carry himself the same. So when I met with him, I said, Ellen, tell him what you said. And she told him all that and said, ‘I’m really proud of you.’ It’s a year. Wouldn’t I like to have guys for four years? That’s one year with him. The scouts out there, the guy they’re amazed with? Nick? Oh, they love Keldon, they love Tyler [Herro], they think PJ [Washington] is way better than he was, but they’re looking at Nick. And he’s seven-foot. If you look at the tape, he’s flying up and down the court.
On asking Reid Travis to change his game and break old habits:
It’s hard. Here’s what I do, I don’t really tell a guy to break habits because you spent 12 years playing that way. We’ve got to create new habits. That’s what I just told him. You’ve got to get quicker to the basket, runners, some little seven-foot shots — not jump shots, just get it to the rim quickly. It’s thrown to you, the first thought is to get it to the backboard. And we’ve got to work with him. We have not worked with him. We’ve done nothing with him. But we will when we get back.
On his old habits coming back:
It’ll pop out. When things get really hairy, he’ll revert, and then we’ll have to go back in the gym. Let’s go. We’ve got to have these new habits. And he said, sometimes it’s mental. He’ll catch it and the first thing is he’ll [gather]. And you just can’t do it. That’s why he came here. That’s why he wanted to be here. You see him on the perimeter shooting and see him making free throws, but how about this: a veteran player, first team all conference, came here and literally, it’s like relearning and he started and he had the jitters. Think about, he has jitters at his age, what about these 18-year-olds, in front of that crowd on national television.
On Reid Travis:
He’s the man. He’s a man. I had a kid at Memphis, Chris Massie, a man. We ended games and I heard guys on the other team, ‘We had to play against a grown man. He’s a grown man.’ This kid’s a grown man. He’s not 18, 19. He’s a grown man. He’s lost about 20 lbs. Probably needs to lose another four or five. Defends, bouncy. How about he blocked a shot? I’m telling you, I watched all of his games. I don’t think he had a blocked shot last year. You’ve got to go show it. You’ve got to show your quickness, your athleticism. He has it but he’s never used it. It’s been more bully ball.
On EJ Montgomery:
He’s probably our most skilled big guy. Shooting the ball, passing the ball, dribbling the ball. Physically, mentally, that toughness that you need, he’s probably behind these other guys, but they’re veterans. They’ve been through the wars.
On Ashton Hagans’ defense:
Yesterday, when we beat the Serbian team, I said to the team, we had six guys in double figures. But you had three points, Ashton, and had as much of an impact on the game as anybody. Maybe more. Then you watch this, his pressure on the ball, he just stole one at halfcourt. Well, get two of those a game. Get your hands on like five balls. He had a cross court pass if you remember that he got a hand on it. I grabbed him in there and said, I am really happy. He’s got to shoot more. He pulled up and made one. He’s a good shooter, I don’t know why — again, what’s his habit? Head down and drive. That’s his habit. And now we’ve been really working on a consistent follow through which gives you a consistent shot. But he doesn’t do it all the time. But he’s a good foul shooter, he’s a good pull-up shooter. He can shoot threes. He’s not great.
I was happy Immanuel missed his first three or four shots. I told him. Now, here’s some adversity. How are you going to play? He comes back and makes a shot. This is a good group. I’ll say it again, every guy here is comfortable in their own skin. And if you’ve got a guy here that’s a little uncomfortable, you know, hoping I’m going to play — they’re a little uncomfortable, and they should be. But they also know that, ‘I’m playing on a team that’s for me, so I’ve got to be responsible for what I’m supposed to do, and these guys are going to help me.
On Final Four talk amongst fans:
I don’t — I’m just happy this is over. This has been a long eight days. Believe me, I’m not worried about anything except, when does the plane leave?
On being comfortable in your own skin and sacrificing minutes:
The max minutes you want to play if you’re smart is 27 minutes, maybe 28. You don’t want to play 34. Too many ugly things pop up. You want to play 27 if you’re worried about you. The team may need you to play more, but you want to play 27 or 28. I think we’ll have a lot of guys do that.
But here’s another one: how about Tyler Herro’s — I’ll use the term “swagger.” I grabbed him and said, that’s what I want from you. I said, I want you to expect every shot to go in and the other thing I told him was, you can’t hold the ball because you’re going to be shooting balls. You can’t then shoot balls and hold the ball. Either let it go or get rid of it to somebody. You’re not going to mess with it because that’s not fair to these guys. He said, I gotcha.
On Keldon Johnson:
I asked him, I said, I knew you were going to be good. We recruited him, and it took me a minute to say, you know what? Let’s do this. We were probably the last school recruiting him. I said, but you knew before I knew. How? He said, ‘Because I knew. I knew I was good enough and I knew what I would do here.’ And said, well, you’re doing it. I said, defensively, you’re going have to give space because you’re going to foul and then he won’t be playing and your length lets you be able to do that. But your motor and your enthusiasm is going to drive us. It is.
When you talk about good players, these guys are evaluating, if there’s five better players than him in the country, you’ve gotta tell me who they are. I don’t care what you read anywhere, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know who’s who. And if there are five better than him, tell me who they are. This kid is legitimate 6’5″, he can play point guard, two, three, and four, shoots it good enough, tough, will fight you, in the gym at midnight, loves the game, high motor, high energy — what! No coolness. Nah. Doesn’t matter where I go, I just want to have fun. Well, that ain’t this kid. This kid is like, okay. Proud of him. I really am.
On what stats stand out on the box scores from this trip:
I think rebounding and you should look at turnovers and say — they averaged like 10, 11 turnovers after ten practices and a brand new team. Wait a minute. That means you have a skilled team that’s unselfish. That’s what you have. Second thing, we’re not going to average 100 points a game. It’s not. I think we’ll probably average more than maybe any team I’ve coached, so my guess would be — I don’t know, what’s the most my teams have scored? It’s probably near 80. And I would say that’s what this team would probably average. That would be my guess. And that’s a lot for us because teams are not going to let us run. They’re going to try to shorten a game like some of my good teams if you played against us. We can’t play in the 90s, they’re going to kill us. This game has gotta be in the 60s. We’re trying to push it. Good. You get 60, we’ll get 80 and we’ll both be happy.
So, that’s what I see. But I haven’t done anything defensively, and I told them, when we get back, my focus is going to be making us the best defensive team because it starts with your point guards. And these guys can guard the ball. That’s the biggest thing. It means, do you have a shot blocker behind those guys? We do. Do you have toughness? We do. How do your wings guard? Okay. Need to be better, but they’re okay.
By Nick Roush on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 7:05pm
After a sluggish start, the Cats cruised to a 93-60 victory over Team Toronto. See the best of the best from Kentucky’s fourth and final win in the Bahamas.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 6:37pm
The Kentucky Wildcats pulled off the four-game sweep on the Big Blue Bahamas tour, defeating Team Toronto 93-60 in their final game of the week.
It started off slow, with Toronto pulling within five at 20-15, but the Cats were able to extend the lead and never look back.
Fifth-year transfer Reid Travis led the way with a ridiculous 19-point, 15-rebound performance. He also added three assists and one block. It was the first time this week Travis looked extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands, even launching two gorgeous three-point attempts, an aspect of his game NBA scouts begged him to work on in his final year of school.
6-foot-4 freshman Tyler Herro wasn’t too far behind in the scoring column, finishing with 15 points on 6-13 shooting, four rebounds, and two assists. He ended the Big Blue Bahamas tour leading the team with 69 total points (17.25 PPG) on 24-41 shooting (59 percent). Herro also added 8-18 from three (44 percent) and 15-15 from the free throw line.
Sophomore point guard Quade Green caught fire once again against Toronto, adding 14 points on 6-9 shooting and 2-3 from three off the bench. He didn’t add any assists, rebounds, or steals, but after a 1-11 shooting finish in game one, it’s great to see the smooth-operating “veteran” get back to his scoring roots.
Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington also added 13 points each, combining for 16 total rebounds. Like Travis, Washington drilled two three-pointers, showing off the range he has been focused on extending this summer.
As a whole, the entire team impressed in the shooting department, pretty much every day since their rough 2-20 event-opener. Kentucky hit 24 of their last 48 shots from beyond the arc to finish 38-percent from distance on the week.
Though it didn’t necessarily show in the stat sheet, Ashton Hagans had yet another impressive all-around game. He finished with seven points (3-5 shooting), six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and just one turnover. He made the opposing guards uncomfortable all day long, picking up on defense all 94-feet on most occasions. Hagans may not be a mastermind on offense, but he’ll absolutely win games for Kentucky on the defensive end this year. Championship-level effort, nonstop. Hagans will be a fan-favorite.
As for his backcourt partner Immanuel Quickley, he struggled a bit finding his groove from the field. He finished 2-8 shooting for six points, with several shots missing by just a hair. He was able to get open and created his own shot, so it’s certainly not a cause for concern going forward. He facilitated for his teammates, as well, adding four assists and three rebounds, to go with just his first two turnovers of the week.
Here’s the final boxscore:
We’ll have more throughout the night on Kentucky’s big week.
By Nick Roush on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 6:12pm
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By TJ Walker on ©August 12th, 2018 @ 5:56pm
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: Wow. Another dominant performance from Kentucky and that was far from the Cats’ A game. UK looked a little lethargic at times but the Cats were at their best the few times Toronto made runs. I love that out of a team. Anytime the opponent had momentum this week UK answered in a major way. That’s a trait of a quality team. Toronto played a more “college style” of basketball so it was fun to see UK cruise against a more muddied up game and a team parking it inside. Another great win for the Cats closing out a phenomenal week.
2. Herro: I wasn’t able to watch much (any?) of Herro live in high school/AAU but I did watch tapes and all the same highlights you watched. I’ve never seen him more confident and he’s as confident as any other John Calipari freshmen. He doesn’t overthink things and I’m impressed with IQ offensively. Those pump-fakes have been severely polished and it’s fun thinking where he could be in three months but more importantly come March. He will get better defensively, I don’t think he’s a liability but he has room to improve. Despite his shortcomings defensively it seems like he will need to be on the court for UK when push comes to shove. I can’t wait to watch his development.
3. Travis: Offensively he’s going to be frustrated with his week but I really liked what I saw from him. He’ll be a bit more polished when the Duke game rolls around but I absolutely loved seeing him not get down on a few missed layups. Today he took advantage of Toronto packing things inside and hit a few outside shots, finished with a team-high 19 points. He can do that and in games where teams don’t strictly play man-to-man, that’s going to be available. This guy is going to be so important from a leadership and consistency standpoint that he will have to be on the court late in games for the Cats.
4. Johnson/PJ: Folks, these two players not only look similar, but they play similar. Both play with so much heart and emotion, but are bulldogs when attacking. Washington has already improved so much in three months, and even missed a few weeks because of his finger. He will only get better. I loved his outside game today. Johnson has only been on a college campus for a couple months and he’s already looking confident and trying to attack on every possession. I love Johnson in transition. He’s a different type of player than MKG, but they impact the game in a similar way. Both are everywhere on the floor, both talk and both never take a play off.
5. Moving Forward: Bring. On. Duke. I was confident of UK’s chances in the season opener but now I know the Cats will be a handful for the Blue Devils. Kentucky showcased everything we needed to see this week. They will be good defensively. They can score outside, attack the rim and feed the bigs. They answer runs. They are a nightmare in transition and seem to all play well together. Remember, despite the success this week Calipari has hardly coached defense. That will be a point of emphasis when they start practice and that’s why these trips are so beneficial- UK will be a month or two ahead when the season starts.
I wish the Cats were in Indy tomorrow taking on Duke. It’s going to be a long three months. Folks, follow this team this season. It’s going to be one to remember.