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WATCH: The 2019-20 Wildcats are already in the gym

WATCH: The 2019-20 Wildcats are already in the gym

The 2019-20 Kentucky Wildcats (minus Johnny Juzang) only arrived on campus yesterday, but they’re already hard at work.

Thanks to social media, we’ve got an early look at some of the players working out at the Joe Craft Center, a refreshing sip of hoops in the midst of the offseason. From Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey’s Instagram:

Back in the locker room, Mama Maxey sounds determined to make sure the graphics department changes her son’s height from 6’3″ to 6’4″:

Keep grinding and ‘gramming, boys.


LIVE: John Calipari Offseason Press Conference

John Calipari is about to address the media for the first time since the season ended to discuss the upcoming camp schedule, recent roster decisions, the NBA Draft and more. Watch below courtesy of KyWildcatsTV:


The majority of the 2019-20 Kentucky basketball roster is now on campus

The majority of the 2019-20 Kentucky basketball roster is now on campus

We’re still several months away from college basketball season, but the first major step toward that took place today: getting the 2019-20 roster on campus.

Over the last 24 hours or so, just about every player on the upcoming Kentucky basketball team announced on Twitter that they had officially made it to Lexington.

Kentucky sophomore point guard Immanuel Quickley told the world yesterday afternoon that a UK fan talked his head off on his entire flight from Baltimore, Maryland to Lexington.

Rounding out the returnees, Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards both announced they touched down yesterday afternoon.

We haven’t heard from sophomore forward EJ Montgomery on his status quite yet, but it’s likely he’s either back in Lexington or close to it, as well.

As for the 2019 signees, Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, and Keion Brooks Jr. all announced they were on campus.

Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina didn’t send out a tweet of his own, but one of his friends from back home said he was headed to Lexington today.

According to their AAU program’s official Twitter account, small forward signee Dontaie Allen and walk-on forward Brennan Canada both moved in today, as well:

The official Kentucky men’s basketball account posted a video of Hagans, Maxey, and Sestina all moving in to the Wildcat Coal Lodge this evening:

The only player we know for certain isn’t on campus yet is Kentucky shooting guard signee Johnny Juzang, as he still hasn’t graduated from high school. He is expected to be in Lexington later this month.

Welcome home, Wildcats!


How can Immanuel Quickey take a step forward as a sophomore?

How can Immanuel Quickey take a step forward as a sophomore?

When Kentucky signee Tyrese Maxey committed to the school back in May of 2020, many penciled the 6-foot-3 dynamic scorer in as a guaranteed starter for the 2019-20 roster. And then when starting point guard Ashton Hagans made the surprisingly-quick decision to return for his sophomore season in April, he locked himself in as a starter, as well.

With most of the (admittedly-deserved) attention on Maxey and Hagans for the backcourt next season, where does former five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley fit into the equation?

Averaging 5.2 points on 37.2% shooting and 34.5% from three to go with 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest last season, the 6-foot-3 guard’s numbers certainly don’t jump off the page on first glance. In fact, in 15 of his 37 total games the Havre De Grace, MD native finished with three points or less for the Wildcats.

On the flip side, Quickley also managed scoring totals of 15, 12 (four times), 10, 9, and 8 (three times) throughout his freshman season, along with several clutch moments at the end of games at the free throw line and from beyond the arc. Some would even argue that between Hagans and Quickley, the latter was the better all-around player toward the end of the season.

Unless you’re one of the few elite prospects we see year after year (and even sometimes if you are), there are growing pains and inconsistencies for true freshmen at the college level. Quickley fell right in line with that common theme.

Now that we’re on to year two for the former five-star prospect, how can he find his groove consistently this season and shine as the consensus top-25 recruit he came to Lexington as last season?

Keep developing confidence as a shooter

While he certainly hit some big shots from three on occasion last season, Quickley has the potential and ability to be a consistent knockdown shooter in the Kentucky backcourt moving forward.

Next to Tyrese Maxey, who is also expected to be an elite shooter next season, the Wildcats can put out lineups that absolutely torch opposing teams from deep in 2019-20. Quickley would certainly be included in that.

In fact, Calipari can roll out a pure-shooting group of Maxey, Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina, and EJ Montgomery at times, where each participant has the ability to knock down open jumpers at a consistent rate from three. In fact, one could argue every one those individuals has the potential to shoot at least 30% from three next year, with Maxey, Quickley, and Juzang all capable of shooting 38% or higher.

Quickley has already had eight games with two or more 3-pointers on 50% shooting (or higher), but his per-game ceiling is far greater than that. 34.5% certainly keeps defenders honest, but he has the ability to push upwards of 40% at a consistent clip. Confidence is the only thing limiting him from reaching that point.

When he finds his shot, he’s money on open opportunities both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. When that confidence slips, we see poor shooting displays such as Auburn (1-6), Abilene Christian (0-3), LSU (1-4), and at Florida (1-5).

The potential is there, he just needs to keep building his confidence to get to that point.

Look to be a facilitator

Back at the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, SC in 2017, Quickley was easily one of the most impressive prospects in attendance. In fact, his head-to-head matchup with Zion Williamson at the time was one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire weekend, where Quickley’s Team BBC squad defeated Williamson’s SC Supreme 68-64. The Wildcat guard posted 20 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, while Williamson finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.

While Quickley stuffed the stat sheet in that event and throughout his entire AAU career, the most impressive aspect of his game had nothing to do with his impressive shooting stroke or his ability to finish in the lane. It was the ridiculous court vision and passing ability he possessed that really turned heads. In fact, I would contend that if he had more talent around him on Team BBC, he could have averaged upwards of 12 or 13 assists per contest on the AAU circuit. One of the most frustrating parts of watching the Wildcat guard play was that he would pull off tremendous passes and find his teammates open time and time again, they would just miss the shots.

At Kentucky, Quickley mostly relied on catch-and-shoot opportunities to assert himself in the offense, completely ignoring one of his most impressive attributes. In year two, the UK point guard needs to continue to find his shot, but he can truly be a difference-maker from game one as a facilitator.

With ridiculous depth from top to bottom of the roster, opportunities for assists are there this season. He never finished with more than four assists in a single game last year, but I expect that to change this season.

Continue to get to the line

Quickley was inconsistent at times from a shooting perspective last year, but one thing that never changed was his ridiculous ability to knock down shots at the free throw line at an elite rate.

Shooting 83% from the line last year, Quickley was easily one of the most reliable players on the team, specifically when games went down to the wire. With the 6-foot-3 point guard in the lineup in the closing seconds, you could always rely on him to come through in the clutch in high-pressure moments. In fact, the only reason why his elite ability at the line wasn’t more publicized was because Kentucky just-so-happened to have the greatest free throw shooter in Kentucky history, Tyler Herro, on the roster and in the game down the stretch last year.

In 37 games last year, Quickley only missed 11 total free throws. In his sophomore season, he needs to continue to force the situation and get to the line more often. With Herro off to the NBA, they’ll likely need him on multiple occasions in 2019-20.


UK, UL, and WKU Ready for Huge Seasons

UK, UL, and WKU Ready for Huge Seasons

The state of Kentucky will be the epicenter of college basketball next season as Kentucky, Louisville, and yes, Western Kentucky University are all set for great seasons thanks to some talented players taking their names out of the NBA Draft. What follows is a breakdown for why each team will be successful, and the biggest roadblocks in their way for the 2019-2020 season.

Kentucky

As long as John Calipari is the head coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats will enter each season with a great deal of hype thanks to a great recruiting class. The 2019-2020 season will be no different. Even with losing its top four scorers from a year ago, Kentucky will enter next season as a consensus top-5 team.

This is in most part thanks to the fact that the Wildcats will return Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery. Both considered entering the NBA Draft, but they pulled their names out of the process earlier this week right before the deadline.

The biggest reason why Kentucky will be great once again is that the Wildcats will be two players deep at every position. Hagans and Quickly also return at the point guard spot, and they will be joined by five very talented freshman who help make up the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Add in experienced transfer Nate Sestina from Bucknell and you have one of the deepest teams in the nation. A more precise breakdown looks like this:

PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

SG: Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang

SF: Kahlil Whitney/Dontaie Allen

PF: EJ Montgomery/Keion Brooks

C: Nick Richards/Nate Sestina

Of course, Kentucky’s 2019-2020 roster is not set in stone just yet. Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. is still rumored to be considering a possible transfer to UK where he will be eligible to play immediately. If that happens, be prepared to see the Wildcats as a possible preseason No. 1 in some polls.

Also, Dontaie Allen is still a possibility to redshirt his freshman season. If Blackshear comes and Allen redshirts, I would expect Brooks to slide down as the backup small forward (yes, he is versatile enough to play there) and Blackshear to possibly start at either center or power forward.

As far as roadblocks, I see three possible ones for the Wildcats. First, they really need Blackshear to transfer. There is a lack of high-end talent in the frontcourt right now and he would fix that need. Secondly, can the trio of Maxey/Whitney/Juzang provide UK with at least two players who will be stars in March? Finally (and more importantly), can Hagans take that next step as the lead point guard? As we all know, he didn’t exactly end the season great back in March. If Hagans improves and the other potential problems are fixed, then this might be the team cutting down the nets in 2020.

Louisville

Somebody pinch me. Its starting to feel like a whole lot like 2013 all over again as the Louisville Cardinals are set to have one of college basketball’s best teams this upcoming season. Yes, this is admittedly a team that just lost 14 games and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to *checks notes* Minnesota.

However, never underestimate a team that returns the vast majority of its production from the previous season. The Cardinals are returning three starters, 76% of their scoring, and 80% of their rebounding. Add in the fact that they will also be adding Saint Joe’s transfer Fresh Kimble (15.6 ppg) and a top 10 recruiting class and you got a preseason top-10 (possibly top-5) squad.

Chris Mack has done a truly amazing job getting the Cardinals back on track so quickly after just one year at Louisville. I think he is a legitimate top-15 coach on the college level, and this program is back in business as long as he is there.

But what does all this mean for next season? Quite frankly, I still don’t think this roster is as talented as Kentucky’s, but that’s a pretty high bar to meet. On most nights this Louisville team will straight up have the more talented team than anyone else they play. After Virginia, the Cardinals are probably going to finish second in the ACC if they can overcome another talented Duke team.

However, I still have questions about how talented their frontcourt is. While Steven Enoch returning was huge, no other big man stood out last season. Plus, how good will Kimble be? Their depth at point guard seems a bit questionable so it will largely be on his shoulders to lead Louisville far into the postseason. Also, who will step up ad be that true No. 2 option after Jordan Nwora? Will it be Kimble or freshman Samuel Williamson? Who knows.

While a Championship or Final Four run still seems unlikely to me, I think this is absolutely a roster that can (and should) make the Elite Eight in 2020.

Western Kentucky

Surprised by this? You shouldn’t be. Believe it or not, the Hilltoppers will have a genuinely good roster next season that has borderline top-25 talent.

Like Louisville, WKU will be returning just about everything from last season. Not only do the Hilltoppers return four starters who all averaged figures in scoring, but overall WKU will be returning six of its top eight players.

Most importantly, rising sophomore big man Charles Bassey took his name out of the Draft just minutes before the deadline. Make no mistake about this: Bassey is a first round talent. The only reason he fell in the eyes of many scouts is because of his durability. Injuries throughout last season slowed down Bassey and made him look slower and less athletic then he really is. If he can stay healthy and improve upon averaging a double-double and 2.4 blocks per game, then he will be a lock for a top-20 pick.

The hype does not end there for the Hilltoppers. They will also be adding two transfers who both averaged double figures in scoring for their former Division I teams. First is Cameron Justice who last played for IUPUI where he averaged 18.6 ppg. He is considered the favorite to start at point guard. Carson Williams is also now eligible after sitting out last season. Williams last played for Northern Kentucky where he averaged 12 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. In case you didn’t notice, the addition of both of these players means that the Hilltoppers now have three former Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners on one team: Justice, Williams, and Taveion Hollingsworth.

Point Guard Kenny Cooper from Lipscomb also transferred to WKU in the spring. Cooper started the last two years for Lipscomb as he managed to average 9.8 points 4.5 assists, and 2 steals a game last season. As of now, Copper is still applying for a waiver to play this season as he currently has to sit out this season due to transfer rules.

Also, 4-star and top-100 recruit Jordan Rawls is still considering reclassifying to WKU’s 2019 class. The possibility of either Cooper or Rawls (or both) being able to play in the 2019-2020 season would be the cherry on top for the Hilltoppers.

Considering that WKU will have all of this talent in the relatively weak C-USA, this should be a team that wins around 25 games in the regular season. Can coach Rick Stansbury get this team to finally win the C-USA Tournament and win a game in the NCAA Tournament? Well, if its not this team then I don’t think any squad Stansbury puts together will do it. The pressure is on in Bowling Green to finally deliver.

Overall, the biggest reason why this article exists is to showcase the very real chance that all three of these teams could be ranked in the top-25 at some point during the regular season. Yes, this depends on WKU finally meeting expectations under Stansbury. But I think there is a very real chance that by mid-February the Hilltoppers will join both the Wildcats and Cardinals in the top-25.


via @BluegrassBoys19

AJ Stewart joins Bluegrass Boys for “The Basketball Tournament”

via @BluegrassBoys19

The Bluegrass Boys have added another name to their growing roster, and this one is a real blast from the past: AJ Stewart will return to Lexington this summer to compete in The Basketball Tournament.

AJ Stewart, who played under Billy Gillispie from 2007-09, transferred after his sophomore year. The 6-foot-8 forward was a 2007 ESPN Top 100 recruit and was ranked as the No. 18 power forward in the nation in his class. After two years at Kentucky, Stewart was part of the mass overhaul that occurred when Gillispie was fired and Calipari was hired. Stewart, along with Jared Carter, Donald Williams, Matt Pilgrim, Kevin Galloway, Michael Porter and Landon Slone, all left the program when Calipari came on board.

At Kentucky, Stewart averaged seven minutes per game; he saw three career starts and finished his UK career with 104 total points. Stewart first transferred to Texas State before eventually landing at Rogers State in Oklahoma.

Recently, Stewart has been playing professionally in various leagues, including with the Kentucky Thoroughbreds in the North American Premier Basketball League and with the Canadian pro team, the Island Storm.

The news was announced by the “official” Bluegrass Boys Twitter account, and Stewart added a short video announcing his return, saying he “can’t wait to be back in Lexington playing with Big Blue.”

Stewart will join a fun group of former Cats: Derek Willis, Josh Harrellson, Dominique Hawkins, Marcus Lee, Ramon Harris and Kevin Galloway have already committed to the TBT tournament.

TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination basketball tournament that started in 2014. It’s a chance for former players to reunite and compete – the roster can include anyone without a guaranteed NBA contract.

This year, Lexington will serve as the host team for the Lexington Region. Games will take place July 19-21 at Frederick Douglass High School and will air live on the ESPN networks. The winners of each region will meet for the semifinals and $2 million championship game in Chicago August 1-6. The tournament is also doing something cool to honor those fighting ALS:

To secure your tickets for TBT, click here.