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Basketball Recruiting News
By Nick Roush on ©April 01st, 2017 @ 10:30pm
John Calipari already has six players in his 2017 recruiting class, but he is far from finished.
Coach Cal is still pursuing two elite athletes — Kevin Knox and Mo Bamba — while looking elsewhere for shooters to provide depth in the backcourt. Former N.C. State signee Thomas Allen, former Cal signee Jemari Baker and Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith are three underclassmen at the top of Calipari’s list. Another player has not been linked to Calipari, but could end up at Kentucky.
Redshirt sophomore Cameron Johnson will graduate from Pitt and transfer to another school for his final two years of eligibility. Johnson was the Panthers’ third-leading scorer in Kevin Stallings’ first season, averaging 11.9 points per game while shooting 39 percent from behind the three-point line. The 6’8″ shooter is also from Calipari’s hometown of Moon Township, Pa.
Johnson’s rap -heet fits like a glove into what Calipari needs, and he has more than a year to play at Kentucky. However, Calipari has frequently shared a disdain for graduate transfers and their ability to play right away.
“By playing right away, I don’t think it’s good for the kids,” Calipari said last Saturday. “Many of them leave the school, don’t even tell the coach. They text him and say, I’m going. What? How about teaching them to be a man. If you want to sit down with the coach and say I’m thinking about doing this, what do you think? Well, let’s talk through this. You have coaches now that are holding kids back academically so they can’t graduate. Is that what we want? I mean, it’s real simple; it’s awful for mid-major coaches, for programs, and I don’t think it’s good for the kids. I really don’t.”
Calipari has taken a grad transfer before, Julius Mays. He has no regrets.
“He really wanted to come to Kentucky. And I’m happy that we took him because he is one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached, and he gave us a veteran guard.”
Calipari has two problems with grad transfers:
1. He doesn’t like the idea of coaches having a “grad transfer recruiting board.” Recruiting is already nasty enough.
2. He doesn’t like that mid-major programs invest time into developing a player, only to be poached by a power five program before their best year.
The latter gives Calipari a loophole. If Johnson comes to Kentucky for his final two years, Cal will be taking a player from this guy, not a mid-major program.
After an abysmal start to Stallings’ tenure, Calipari can understand why Johnson wants to finish his career elsewhere. A pair of Moon Township natives, I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to spark up a relationship. With just two years of eligibility, it could also benefit Cal, knowing he’ll have an available scholarship in the near future.
It’s a win-win situation for Calipari, even though just a week ago he admonished the practice. Will he be too proud to take in Johnson, or will it be a perfect match?
Johnson netted six threes for a career-high 24 points vs. North Carolina.
By Nick Roush on ©April 01st, 2017 @ 6:35pm
While John Calipari’s four commits spent the week in Chicago trying to recruit Kevin Knox and Mo Bamba to come to Kentucky, Michael Porter Jr. was trying to convince them to visit Missouri. His pitch worked for Knox.
Knox will use his fifth and final official visit to see what Columbia, Missouri has to offer next weekend.
“Great opportunity to visit Missouri and get to know Coach Cuonzo Martin,” the nation’s second-ranked small forward told ZagsBlog. “I’ve talking to Micheal Porter Jr. and we have been discussing the endless possibilities of the 2 top wings playing together…..I have a 5th visit and my family and I decided to take it.”
Knox plans on making his final decision in a little more than three weeks time. If the Tigers could get Knox to commit, they would have the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 small forwards on the same team. It just means more.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 31st, 2017 @ 4:07pm
Throw Thomas Allen’s name onto the list of possible late additions to Kentucky’s 2017 class.
A former NC State signee, Allen was granted his release from the Wolfpack and has re-opened his recruitment. Kentucky is among the list of programs that has expressed interest, according to The News & Observer in Raleigh.
The 6-2, 180-pound guard is out of Brewster Academy, known as somewhat of a basketball factory in New Hampshire. He is currently rated as a three-star prospect, ranked as the No. 31 shooting guard in the class in the 247 Composite Rankings.
Watch his junior year mixtape (it’s the best available) below to see what he can do.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 31st, 2017 @ 2:23pm
Where is Marvin Bagley going?
We’re a long way from knowing that, but we at least know the six schools he is considering, thanks to this fancy video from Bleacher Report:
2018's No. 1 basketball recruit just revealed a new list of colleges he’s considering pic.twitter.com/wfttpPd7kl
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 31, 2017
For those too lazy to watch it, Bagley is considering UCLA, Arizona, Duke, Kansas, USC and, of course, Kentucky.
John Calipari hopes to make Bagley his first No. 1 overall signee since Nerlens Noel in 2012.
By Nick Roush on ©March 30th, 2017 @ 9:45pm
The titled question is a better way to say the question I’ve received approximately 472 times since Monday: “What percent chance does Kentucky have at landing Bamba and Knox?” To answer that question, all you need to know is math. Each player is down to four schools, so there’s a 25 percent chance they’ll come to Kentucky.
Instead of putting an abstract number on something I don’t really know, I’ll tell you what I do know about John Calipari’s top two remaining targets in the class of 2017.
Why He Will Go to Kentucky
Knox seemed to genuinely enjoy the courtship by his four Kentucky McDonald’s All-American teammates. Anytime they were together or discussed he cracked a smile. He wasn’t the only one being recruited. P.J. Washington’s father Paul recruited Knox Sr. throughout the week.
Why He Will Go Elsewhere
“That’s one of the reasons I pushed it back from March to April is to wait to see how people did in the tournament, what people are leaving, what people are staying. That’s definitely going to play a big part in my decision.”
There were two committed Kentucky small forwards on Knox’s team this week. Even though he’s the best shooter and the most perimeter-oriented of the bunch, three is a crowd, not to mention Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.
When He Will Decide
After the Jordan Brand Classic during his Spring Break, the week of April 17-21.
At the beginning of the week, I thought Kentucky was in a great place, but the more I mull it over, the more I believe he’ll go to North Carolina to follow in Justin Jackson’s footsteps.
Why He Will Go to Kentucky
Bamba has deep ties to next year’s Kentucky team. He’s played AAU basketball off and on with Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green since middle school, most recently advancing to the Peach Jam final with Green leading the way. They’ve been recruiting him relentlessly, but know when it’s appropriate to give him space, or mob him on the sideline after a dunk.
A player who will draw comparisons to Anthony Davis, the walls of the Joe Craft Center spoke to Bamba’s family on his visit to Kentucky. Unlike Knox, Bamba isn’t worried about who is staying or going, “I honestly feel like I can play with anyone,” he told KSR. In reality, it doesn’t matter because he’s good, he’s going to play regardless.
Why He Will Go Elsewhere
“With Duke, you get something a little bit different because you’re getting three different brands,” Bamba told KSR Monday. “You’re getting the university, you’re getting the program and you’re getting Coach K. Coach K has his own global brand, which is pretty outstanding.”
If you’ve ever wondered how Coach K can out-recruit Calipari, it’s difficult to argue against Bamba’s description. Sure, there are guys like Marques Bolden that can help poke holes in the argument, but choosing not to play for arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time is not an easy decision to make.
When He Will Decide
He’s still not sure. “I gotta figure out where I’m going to school before I can pick an announcement date,” Bamba said in a joking-manner. He’s not counting his chickens before they hatch.
I have never interviewed a more eloquent, intelligent young man (I never got to interview Karl Towns). His sense of humor is spectacular, almost as great as his ability to impact a game. I reeeeeeeally want Bamba to come to Kentucky, but it’s a toss up between the Cats and the Blue Devils. The personal connections to UK’s future backcourt probably give the Cats a 55-45 advantage. There ya go folks, a 55 percent chance.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 30th, 2017 @ 9:00am
The McDonald’s All-American festivities ended last night with a close game in Chicago’s United Center. So today we will look back on the three-day event with a rundown of everything it taught us.
1. Kentucky really needs Mohamed Bamba.
Last night’s game further proved Mohamed Bamba is one of those elite, must-have high school prospects that only come around so often. He scored 17 points on an efficient 7-of-8 shooting inside the three-point line (he jacked up two unnecessary threes) with five rebounds and four blocks in only 21 minutes. He and Michael Porter Jr. were easily the best two players on the floor and you can go ahead and slot them at No. 1 and 2 in the 2018 NBA draft.
Kentucky needs to lock Bamba down for next season if a championship run is going to be an option.
2. The four UK signees are all over Bamba.
Led by Quade Green, one of Bamba’s best friends, the four future Wildcats put the full-court press on Bamba while by his side almost all hours of the day for three days. Green even went as far to recruit Bamba during a TV interview after he won the Legends & Stars Shootout.
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) March 28, 2017
3. They’re all over Kevin Knox, too.
“They’re in my ear 24/7 talking about how good it is to play with each other and how we’re getting along with each other,” Knox said Monday.
P.J. Washington told KSR, “We’re trying to get them and I feel like we have a really good chance to get both of them.”
Knox plans to announce sometime within the next two to three weeks. He is down to Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.
4. They even made them cookies.
The four Kentucky guys tried their hands at baking during the Tuesday visit to the Ronald McDonald House. They got together and made Kentucky-themed cookies for Bamba and Knox in a further attempt to recruit them to Lexington.
Knox declined because he doesn’t like sweets, but admitted it was a funny tactic.
5. Nick Richards can’t spell BBN.
Bless his heart. He tried.
6. The new guys already know the Louisville rivalry.
“I don’t really like the Cards and I feel like they don’t really like us. It’s a great rivalry and I’m ready to win next year,” P.J. Washington told KSR at Media Day.
7. Michael Porter Jr. is a vegetarian and good at the game of basketball.
The future NBA superstar also has his eyes on a national championship at Missouri. LOL.
Jokes aside, he is really, really good.
8. Alabama is going to be good.
Don’t sleep on what Avery Johnson is doing down in Tuscaloosa with two highly-touted players coming in next year in Collin Sexton and John Petty. Sexton was one of the stars in Chicago, where he won Monday’s slam dunk contest and ran point for the East squad in last night’s game, ahead of Quade Green. He’s a flashy point guard, ranked first at that position and sixth overall in the Top247, and it will be good to have him in the SEC. With Petty, they’ll form one of the best backcourts in the league as true freshmen.
9. Mitchell Robinson will be unstoppable at Western Kentucky.
It’s really not fair that Robinson, a five-star McDonald’s All-American center, is going to be playing in Conference USA. His 14 points in 13 minutes last night might be the lowest point total he has before entering the NBA in 2018. Dude’s the real deal and Stansbury got him, legitimately I’m sure.
10. Kentucky is going to be good again next year.
How many days ’til Big Blue Madness?
By Nick Roush on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 10:45pm
The 40th McDonald’s All-American Game ended with the Cats on the losing end. Kevin Knox and Mo Bamba helped chip away at the late lead to make it a two-point game with 20 seconds to play, but alongside the four UK commits on the East Team, they couldn’t get the final bucket to tie the game at the buzzer.
Statistically, Quade Green had the best performance of the four commits, finishing with 9 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. However, he had a bad shooting game (4-12), missing his first four threes before knocking down one in transition.
“I was going to keep shooting regardless. It doesn’t really matter,” Green said. What mattered is that his team lost after winning the scrimmage earlier in the week. “We lost. I wanted to win the game. I don’t care how many times I shot the ball, I just wanted to win.”
The most efficient Cat was Washington, who had 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in just 15 minutes of action. Washington had a few good dunks, but he was at his best running the break off defensive rebounds.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 30, 2017
The other two Wildcats, Nick Richards and Jarred Vanderbilt, struggled to get into a rhythm. For most of the second half they had four fouls, limiting the two to one combined field goal attempt.
Calipari’s final two targets, Bamba and Knox, played exceptionally well. Knox hit 7-of-11 shots for 15 points and Bamba completely dominated the first half with 11 points and 3 blocks in 12 minutes. More from tonight’s all-star game:
Vanderbilt Ain’t Mad
Even though he was forced to the sideline for most of the second half in foul trouble, he has no regrets. “My team wasn’t getting back, and I don’t like just giving up free points,” Vanderbilt said. “I’d rather give a foul and make hem earn it from the free throw line. That’s my motto.”
Vanderbilt was arguably the best player on the floor during yesterday’s practice, but attempted zero field goals today. Getting shunned in the spotlight would bother most, but not Vanderbilt.
“I knew guys were going to be reaching for points. It’s an all-star game. Everybody’s reaching for MVP. It really wasn’t that important to me. I feel like I did my work throughout the whole week. I just try to let the game come to me, instead of trying to force it.”
Being unselfish is something he will take to Kentucky and will play an important part in next year’s team.
“Especially in a world where everybody’s trying to get buckets, get buckets, get buckets, I like to have a balance. Go and get some buckets, but also distributing and try to get everyone involved to keep everybody happy,” Vanderbilt added. “Keeping everybody involved, that’s very important.”
Mo Bamba was Hilarious
His sense of humor has been my favorite part of the week. The 7-footer’s sarcasm combined with a deadpan delivery creates gold. Tonight he had three hilarious moments in the press room.
1. The reporter’s asked the players if they knew it was going to be a bad shooting night at the United Center. After the others responded, Bamba added, “I missed two threes, and I’m not used to missing threes.”
2. Michael Porter was asked if being a vegetarian helps him on the court. When he was finished speaking, Bamba interjected, “Wasn’t you eating a hotdog yesterday?”
3. A kid reporter had not one but two questions (and surprisingly a journalist didn’t have an aneurism). The second question: “I plan on playing in this game in 2022, do you have any advice?” Bamba: “Keep that confidence.”
Love for Mo
Bamba had plenty of highlights in the first half, but this might have been the best.
— Overtime (@overtime) March 30, 2017
After one thunderous dunk, ESPN went to a TV timeout. Bamba was immediately embraced by the four Kentucky commits on the sideline, another attempt to convince Bamba to come to Kentucky.
“We’re trying to get Mo so we had to do everything the best we could,” Quade Green said after the game. “We’re trying to get Mo. I don’t care if he fell on the floor, I’m going to run on the court and pick him up.”
Vanderbilt knows how much of an impact Bamba could make next year in Lexington.
“We need that. Bamba was very impressive this weekend, this whole week actually. He’s great. He defends the basket well. He finishes. He’s everything you want in a big man. We’re showing our love and he hears us.”
Washington has No Time to Rest
P.J. Washington only played a few minutes, because he has serious minutes to play tomorrow. He’s flying out of Chicago at 4:00 a.m. to head to the Dick’s Sporting Goods National Basketball Tournament. At 2:00 ET his Findlay Prep team will take on Oak Hill Academy. The game can be streamed on Watch ESPN. Everything Washington said after the game:
Here’s what P.J. Washington said after posting 7 pts. 5 reb. and 3 steals in just 15 minutes. pic.twitter.com/tR7kymwuvp
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 30, 2017
The McDonald’s All-American Game came down to the final possession and all four Kentucky signees were on the bench in the final moments.
The future Wildcats combined for only 20 points in the 109-107 loss to the West squad.
See the box score below and Roush will be by with more from the game here in a little bit.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 7:47pm
One day after extending a scholarship offer to Zion Williamson, Kentucky has added another name to its offer sheet for the Class of 2018.
This one is Quentin Grimes, a five-star guard out of College Park, Texas. John Calipari and Kenny Payne paid Grimes a visit Wednesday night on their way to the Final Four in Phoenix and they ended up giving him a scholarship offer in the process, per his coach.
Grimes is ranked as the No. 1 point guard and No. 8 overall player in the Top247. He already holds offers from Kansas, Arizona and Texas A&M, with plenty more to come.
Watch him do his thing:
By Nick Roush on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 5:30pm
It’s been a treat watching Kentucky’s four McDonald’s All-Americans develop since I first watched them play a year ago. When you watch guys once, you get a good feel for their strengths and their weaknesses. Over time, questions are answered. It was a joy to see how much they’ve improved over a year and what is possible in the future.
I first saw Vanderbilt play in a Grind Session event at Pulaski County High School before Sacha Killeya-Jones took the floor. It only takes a quarter of basketball to draw Michael-Kidd Gilchrist comparisons. Vanderbilt has similar measurables, he’s an inch taller with a wider wingspan, but his style of play is what draws you to the former National Champion and No. 2 pick in the draft.
Vanderbilt isn’t a guy that plays hero ball; he gets his teammates involved. Whether he’s running the break, playing off a pick-and-roll or defending the other team’s best player, he is the the gear that makes the clock tick. Passing isn’t something you see in highlight reels, but it’s what he does best, using his length to get around multiple defenders to find the open man. Defensively, he can guard anybody at any spot on the floor, using his long arms to force deep, contested shots.
The biggest question mark for Vanderbilt was his shot. Lefties never look bad when they shoot it, but like Tayshaun Prince, a lefty with long-arms always has a weird-looking form. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it doesn’t like right, especially when you see how little elevation Vanderbilt has when he shoots.
At the two open practices, Vanderbilt was lights out.
From 15-18 feet, he was consistent. Off the dribble in pick-and-roll action or with a little catch-and-shoot, Vanderbilt was money. It was not forced, he simply took what the defense gave him. Guarded by Kevin Knox, nothing came easy, but he was so smooth he made it look easy. Vanderbilt has spent many extra hours working on his shot and it’s paid off.
“Before school, after school, even late nights. I’ve been sacrificing a lot to get that right. It seems like it’s been paying off so far,” Vanderbilt said yesterday. “It’s just great seeing all that hard work pay off. All the work I put into my shot, it’s finally coming along.”
Vanderbilt needed to play hero ball for his prep school, but when surrounded by talent, he excels, taking what the defense gives him and making them pay. Nobody has been more impressive in Chicago.
It’s hard to pin down Richards. During games, he’s either feast or famine, struggling with foul trouble or earning a scrappy double-double.
During individual drills, Richards’ midrange game surprised, consistently knocking down jumpers from from 10-15 feet. Once they got into a team setting, you never knew what you were gonna get. On Monday, he looked overwhelmed at times by Mohamed Bamba and Mitchell Robinson. Lacking a consistent post move, the physicality disrupted his game. On Tuesday, it was a different story. He was a patient, using the extra time to find the defensive weakness and exploit it for an easy two.
Leftover from yesterday, the No. 2 Center (Richards) doing work vs. the No. 1 Center (Mitchell Robinson) pic.twitter.com/yiscusDmsa
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 29, 2017
Why can’t Richards find an easy medium and play consistent? “I’m not really trying to make excuses, but I’ve only played three years of basketball,” Richards said yesterday.
Born in Jamaica, the 7-footer’s gained experience by playing on the EYBL and at The Patrick School, the alma mater of MKG and Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s turned him into the second-best center in the 2017 class, but he has a lot of room to grow. He’s happy to have Kenny Payne and John Calipari next year to help make a transformation similar to Bam Adebayo and Karl Anthony-Towns.
Richards’ left-handed grab from Green on the fast break was the best highlight from the two practices.
Quade ➡️Richards 💥 pic.twitter.com/fhQZzCdRcw
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 28, 2017
Washington is unlike any other player Calipari has ever recruited to Kentucky. His best asset is rebounding, comparable to Julius Randle, but his offensive game is unlike Randle’s. He’s at his best facing the basket, stretching the floor and knocking down threes or attacking the rim off the dribble. His ball-handling and passing ability is also exceptional for his size (6’8″ 200 pounds). He often ran the point guard for Findley Prep, one of the top ten programs in the nation.
Trying to compare him to another UK player is perplexing, but his game complements Vanderbilt’s well. Much more physical, it will be shocking if he doesn’t get at least eight rebounds a game next year. He does not pull-up quite like Vanderbilt, but he can spot up from deep, and he’s much more likely to bang with the bigs inside. If you want a comparison, Draymond Green is as close as you’ll get.
This post is meant to describe each players’ physical skill set, but his intangibles are much more important. Quade’s step-back is phenomenal. In the final minutes of preliminary Peach Jam games, he used the move to carry his team to victory multiple times, eventually reaching the championship. His ability to create space makes his size (6’1″) insignificant. He also has an exceptional three-point shot, starting his shot from almost behind his head to keep it away from defenders.
Vanderbilt to Richards to Green pic.twitter.com/M7D2Hevpuz
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 28, 2017
His ball skills are exceptional, but it’s not what makes him great.
Green is a fearless leader with the ball in his hands. He does not hesitate when the game is close. He makes the difficult pass, and he makes it look easy. Players gravitate to him because they know he will get them the ball. Matt is not overselling his significance in this recruiting class; players want to play with Quade because he commands the floor and draws attention to get the ball to others.
Being an above-average shooter and a great passer will get you far, but his attitude is what will make him another elite point guard in Calipari’s lineage of NBA talent. This statement says it all:
“I’m trying to be better than Tyler (Ulis). I’m going in with a different mindset: be the best player I can be and be better than all the point guards that ever came through there.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 29th, 2017 @ 5:10pm
We knew when Michael Porter Jr. left Washington for Missouri, the Tigers would be a lot better next season. Porter is feeling so good about his new squad, which will be coached by Cuonzo Martin, that he just predicted the Tigers would beat Kentucky by 7-8 points next year, AND that he would drop 40 points in the game. Thankfully, Kentucky signees PJ Washington and Quade Green were there to shoot him down.
Michael Porter, Jr.: “Who’s winning the game, Mizzou vs. Kentucky? We might as well just get this on camera. Mark my words, we’re winning the game, probably by 7-8 points. I’m gonna drop 40.”
PJ Washington: “You’re delusional.”
Quade Green: “Nah, nah, he’s not getting 40. No. No. He’s not getting 40. You all are going to lose by 40.”
Here’s a quick clip of the moment, which includes Porter and Washington’s comments:
— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) March 29, 2017
And a longer video, which includes Quade piping in at the very end:
This year’s Kentucky team was a carefully-crafted puzzle. Each piece complemented the other’s game, fitting into clear roles. Next year’s Kentucky Wildcats will not have clearly defined roles, or even clearly defined positions. Calipari’s position-less recruiting approach works well for the skills of this year’s class.
“I am position-less. Wherever Cal needs me, where everybody needs me, one through five, I’m there,” Jarred Vanderbilt said yesterday. “I can do it all. I’m versatile. Whatever position I need to be at to help my team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Vanderbilt is not alone. P.J. Washington is a more physical small forward, who can also extend the floor with three-point range. Nick Richards is an athletic center with a midrange game. Their ability to cover the floor will be beneficial on defense. Calipari prefers to switch everything, which shouldn’t be a problem for these guys.
“I think we can switch one through five next year. Everybody can pretty much guard multiple positions,” Vanderbilt said.
Once they get the stop, it’s off to the races. Richards runs the floor like Willie Cauley-Stein. The other three can all lead the fast break. Quade Green doesn’t hesitate to throw baseball passes across the court. If they can’t get Green the ball, it’s no problem. Washington and Vanderbilt are both comfortable with the ball in their hands and they’re excellent passers.
“It’s kind of scary is you ask me. One through five, we can all grab the rebound and we’re gone. We’re going to be a transition team,” Vanderbilt said. “We got so many options in transition, it’s crazy.”
Calipari loves length and athleticism, something that is will not be in short supply next season. Each player provides multiple options on offense and defense, something Vanderbilt believes they can exploit next season.
“We’re going to be a mismatch problem for some teams.”
By now, you’ve heard how much Kentucky wants five-star big Mohamed Bamba. Kentucky’s signees have spent almost every waking minute at the McDonald’s All-American Game recruiting Bamba and Kevin Knox to pick Kentucky over Duke, and last night, Bamba trolled both fanbases a little bit on Instagram, sporting a Duke hat and a Kentucky sweatshirt and saying, “It’s official.” Here’s a screengrab:
To see the video for yourself, follow Bamba on Instagram (therealmobamba_) and check out his story.
By Nick Roush on ©March 28th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
The trip to Chicago has been fantastic so far, and I have plenty of great stories to share about next year’s Wildcats, but they have to wait another day. It turns out, if you stay awake for 20 straight hours, you’ll inevitably hit a wall. That’s what exactly what happened this afternoon.
Fear not. Countless pieces of wonderful content are coming your way before the game tips-off at the United Center tomorrow night at 7:00 ET on ESPN. Until then, here’s the stuff that didn’t make the cut for what’s to come that’s still worth your while.
Washington Knows the Rivalry Well
Power forward P.J. Washington started his life in Louisville. He wasn’t talking trash to Cardinals in the crib, but he knows what to expect when the Cards come to Rupp Arena next year.
“I don’t really like the Cards and I feel like they don’t really like us. It’s a great rivalry and I’m ready to win next year,” Washington said at media day. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to get it though. Can’t wait.”
It’s not as much trash-talking as last year’s L’s Down party, but it’s enough to quench the thirst for UofL hate.
Jarred Vanderbilt is the Class Clown
Known as Vando, all three of his future teammates think he’s the funniest of the group. The small forward always plays with a smile, but his sarcastic sense of humor is often delivered with deadpan. An example from yesterday, I asked him how guarding Washington in practice helps make his game better:
“He can’t make my game that much better. If we’re being honest.” Washington’s laugh gave away the joke, but for a second I was dumbfounded. Today I put him on the spot and asked if he had a joke to share. He took a raincheck.
Vanderbilt Won the Day
R.I.P. Vando killed the club. At one point in practice I quit counting his makes and started looking for misses. Going toe-to-toe with Kevin Knox, the two traded buckets until Vanderbilt’s defense made the difference. When people are described as having a “nose for the ball,” this is what they’re talking about: Vanderbilt knocks a ball loose, blocks a shot, then gets the rebound.
Vanderbilt blocks Knox’s shot, then gets the rebound. Richards finished on the other end with a dunk. pic.twitter.com/GllrUA57tm
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 28, 2017
His length makes his step-back unguardable (remember, Knox is 6’8″ and can’t touch it).
Nobody can stop Jarred Vanderbilt today pic.twitter.com/pO4qQkMWaA
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 28, 2017
Commits Earned All-USA Honors
Three future Cats are among the Top 15 players in the country according to USA Today. Not a ranking system or exclusive to seniors, this award is purely based on their performance from this past season. P.J. Washington earned second team honors while Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were named to the third team.
Washington almost averaged a triple-double with 20.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, Green averaged 20.8 points and 8.0 assists per game and SGA posted 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Don’t Forget About the Cal’s USA Basketball Job
John Calipari is dipping his toe in USA Basketball this summer when he coaches the U19 team in Egypt. P.J. Washington is anxious for an early opportunity to play for his new coach.
“Can’t wait. It’d be great for me,” Washington said. “I feel like I’m coming in next year knowing everything, knowing how he coaches, and then applying it to the game.”
Quade Green believes it will be a big advantage, but he’s not counting his chickens before they hatch. “Hopefully I make it.” I like Green’s chances. Green, Washington and Vanderbilt all have Team USA experience and I bet Coach Cal is hoping to share some of that experience with his new players.