By Nick Roush on ©June 23rd, 2018 @ 10:30pm
“Go to Work.” The mantra repeated before each football offseason echoes throughout the Big Blue Nation, but what exactly does it mean? In this KSR summer series, we explore what the Kentucky football is doing everyday to prepare for the 2018 season. The series begins with a look at how Freddie Maggard has made Player Development Wednesday’s an important part of the program.
“Hello there, Nicholas.”
Freddie Maggard’s greeting is familiar, but the setting is not the same. Instead of entering the iHeart Radio station for another hour-long KSR podcast, on Wednesday I found Freddie in his new second-floor office at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. It’s June, normally a month Freddie spends waste deep into Phil Steele, Athlon and other college football preview magazines.
“I’m not going to read any of them. Why should I? I care about the 100 players we have and one team. That’s Kentucky. I don’t care about anybody else’s team. I only care about the University of Kentucky.”
Walking past the college football preview magazines on the shelves at the Versailles Kroger is one of the many changes Maggard has made (and probably least significant) since he became UK’s Director of Player Development in April. In short, his job is to be the players’ coach off the field. Instead of wearing a whistle, he wears a tie, one that carries quite a bit of responsibility.
From the Top
Maggard’s position in the program is not new, but he is bringing more to the table, thanks to the vision of Kentucky’s head coach.
“I had this idea in my head for about the last year. It was a big need for us and our program to do more for our players,” Stoops said this week while hosting Kentucky Sports Radio. “We work unbelievably hard with nutrition, strength and conditioning, X’s and O’s, all phases up their life. There’s so many issues, we just need somebody there to work with them full-time to help them.”
Stoops’ verbal commitment to Player Development is substantiated by the resources the team has dedicated to the program. Every Wednesday this summer is exclusively dedicated to Player Development. In the mornings the team meets together. They finish the day with food and fun.
“He’s been wonderful in giving me the latitude to do my thing,” Maggard said. “That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s going well. There’s a lot of really good things going on here. There’s a lot of internships, jobs, graduations and we are just very appreciative of the Big Blue Nation.”
A short list of what’s happened in the first three Wednesdays of the summer:
- Crawfish Boil
- Brand Management Marketing Seminar
- Golf Simulator
- Financial Savings and Management Seminar
- Whiffle Ball and H-O-R-S-E
- NFLPA Rep Explained NFL Transition and Broke Down Salary Expenditures
- Steak Dinner
- Words of Wisdom from Jacob Tamme
- A Dunk Tank
“The emphasis on player development, it comes from the very top,” Freddie said. “I can’t tell you how passionate, how adamant Coach Stoops is about Player Development. It’s priority for him, because he wants to take care of his players. Not just for the three, four, five years they’re here. He wants them to succeed in that next 40 years. That’s why I’m here.”
Dunk Tank for the win ???? pic.twitter.com/YnnNtXURFJ
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 21, 2018
Three New Programs
At the heart of UK’s Player Development Program is the “4 for 40” motto. The goal is not to just make these people great football players for four years, but to make them successful for the next forty years, something Freddie has experienced first hand.
“I am the 4 for 40. I’m in that 40-year span of my post-football life. They understand that and I think it also helps to relate that I was in their chair 30 years ago. I was sitting right where they are 30 years ago. Time and the technology’s changed, but the only thing changes is the names on the back of the jerseys. Eighteen to 22 year-olds, that’s a tough transition. My job is to help serve them and help prepare them for the future.”
To prepare a person for the next chapter of their life, it requires a multi-faceted approach. Wednesdays take a collective angle, but each individual will follow a different path in life. That’s why each individual is formulating a “4 for 40” plan with Freddie, curtailed to their specific goals. In Mike Edwards’ plan, it involved an internship in the Kentucky State Police’s Crime Lab.
For those that missed out on the Player Development experience, Freddie Developed the “Audible” initiative. The average NFL career lasts three years. Once their time is complete and they need to find a career, Freddie is there to help with resume building, interview training and much more. In two short months five former players have found a job that fits their career path, namely Marcus McWilson, Alex Montgomery and, “The BBN’s going to be really surprised in a good way with JoJo Kemp. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s going to be a good thing.”
The third facet of Freddie Maggard’s Player Development Program is “Huddle Up.” While the “4 for 40” program is all about improving the individual’s life, the goal of “Huddle Up” is to improve together to make the community a better place for all.
“Bringing everybody together, whether it be former players, the community. How do we define community? Not Fayette County, not Lexington, but the Big Blue Nation, which has no boundaries.”
“Huddle Up” encompasses quite a few things. In the morning Freddie might connect Logan Stenberg with the Special Olympics of Kentucky. In the afternoon, he could host a handful of former players to see the new football facility for the first time.
“This facility is less than two years old, but this facility is ours. Ours meaning, I don’t care if you played under Bear Bryant or you played under Mark Stoops. This is our facility and that’s the message I want to get out to the former players.” He added, “You can’t go forward until you recognize the past.”
Only One Hat
Freddie has created three new programs in just two months on the job, but in this job he only has to wear one hat. While working in his various media jobs, he had to play the role of former player, fan and objective media member on TV, radio and in print. Being pulled in different directions was tiresome.
“It was so hard for me. I was very protective of the football team when I was in the media. I tried to do the best I could to paint an accurate an objective picture, but that was just impossible for me to do because in my heart I bleed blue. I always have and I always will,” he said. “I’m glad I’m just now focused on one job and that is to serve our football players.”
It was hard, but he still misses many parts of his previous gig. Near the top of the list is fan interaction. He also doesn’t watch football anymore, “unless I walk by an office where the coaches are watching film.” Sleep and days off are also in short supply, but at the end of the day, he could not turn down the chance to help his team.
“This is a great opportunity. Not only for me, but to help give back to the program. For me, a lot of it is giving back. It’s providing a service that I think Kentucky needed. To me, it was a no-brainer decision to come back here and begin this new chapter.”
His office is no longer at home, but it hasn’t kept him from seeing his family. In fact, bringing his daughter Ellie to the facility is one of the many perks of working for Mark Stoops.
“I love it. Little things like family. My daughter comes to work with me quite a bit and there’s a bunch of kids running around. It’s a family environment. I really like it. I appreciate this opportunity and it’s been great.”
— Freddie Maggard (@UKPlayerDevelop) June 21, 2018
In two short months, Kentucky has integrated a comprehensive Player Developmental program. Even though the program is in its infancy, Freddie has already seen surprising results.
“Seeing the eyes of the players wide open and learning, and accepting the mentoring, and education, and the resources that we’re providing…when I see that, that’s beneficial. When I see our players going into the community and engaging and see them positively affect others, that’s what I want. When I talk to players and now they’re talking about saving money, when they’re talking about a savings plan or those kind of things, seeing them grow off the field, that’s rewarding. It was unexpected that it would come this fast. I thought it would take more time…We got a long way to go. We’re in the crawl phase but we’re still making a big difference.”
Freddie Maggard’s Player Development program will continue to grow, but there’s no end in sight. Built on preparing Kentucky football players for the next step in their life, even after they reach that point, his job is not finished.
“My job is to help serve them and help prepare them for the future and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s never complete. It’s continually ongoing…The end game is to serve our players.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 11:00pm
John Calipari is arguably the top recruiter in college basketball, but his emphasis on signing high-character athletes at Kentucky year in and year out is just as impressive. If there are major red flags with a prospect’s character or personality, the Wildcat head coach will cut off contact immediately and let another coach deal with the baggage, no matter how talented they may be.
This afternoon, Coach Cal proved yet again he signed a class of stellar recruits both on and off the floor.
I’ve been coaching at a Special Olympics basketball camp this week, where athletes have been working each day to prepare for a final championship game held this afternoon. To start the day, we warmed up and began our morning drill session, the same schedule we had gone through all week long. Nothing different.
And in walked Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus with his two prized signees, Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, to surprise the campers.
Almost immediately, they jumped in and asked what they could do to help. We introduced them to the campers, who then welcomed the Wildcats with hugs and high-fives. They followed it up with some individual attention in the drills, several fun games and activities, and some on-court help during a small walkthrough scrimmage to prepare for the big game scheduled after lunch.
During the exhibition game, they helped direct traffic on the court, assisted the campers with dribbling, passing, and shooting, and lifted their spirits on the sideline during timeouts. No matter the age of the camper or the challenges they faced, they did their best to make sure each individual had the time of their lives.
After the scrimmage, they took pictures, talked to campers, and shot around with them for as long as they wanted. They stayed for several hours, and probably would’ve stuck around longer if we asked them to.
“Our guys were super excited to come out and to be around the kids,” said UK assistant coach Joel Justus. “Immanuel and Keldon both jumped right at the opportunity to come out. They wanted to be involved and it was a lot of fun to watch them interact with the campers. We’re just so blessed here at Kentucky and they’re extremely blessed as individuals. It was a fun day all around.”
No television cameras or interviewers. No spotlight for attention. Just lending a hand to some awesome kids for the day.
Check out some of KSR’s highlights from the fun afternoon:
To put the icing on the cake, Kentucky legend Jack “Goose” Givens also came to help out this week, who gave the campers a motivational speech and worked with them on drills on Wednesday morning.
He talked about his time at Kentucky, playing in the NBA, and the keys to success in basketball.
Take a look:
This is a special, special program.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 8:58pm
How about yet another Yahtzee to close out your Friday night?
2019 JUCO defensive end Taures Payne has committed to Kentucky!
— Ricooo™? ? (@_Tisdalekid_22) June 22, 2018
Justin Rowland of Rivals.com confirmed the news, who also added Payne will have two years of eligibility remaining by the time he gets on campus:
BREAKING: Cats Illustrated can confirm that JUCO defensive lineman Taures Payne has committed to Kentucky. Two years to play two. Visited today https://t.co/cNRff5kh18
— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) June 23, 2018
Payne, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, committed to Kentucky over Central Florida, Maryland, and Houston, among others. The Cats offered Payne back in April.
— Taures Payne (@4PFPAYNE) April 17, 2018
The newest Wildcat finished with 33 tackles, six tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks last season for the Rangers.
Watch his highlights from last season:
Welcome home, Taures!
By TJ Walker on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Don’t think the NCAA has forgotten about the FBI investigation that rocked college basketball last year. In hopes to combat the influence of AAU programs and shoe companies with college recruitments, the NABC Ad Hoc committee is expected to recommend big changes to the summer recruiting circuit and live period. Those recommendations will be made to the Commission on College Basketball that for some reason is still being led by Condoleeza Rice. Dan Guerrero (UCLA AD) will draft the proposal and it will be accepted or denied by Rice and company, and we should all expect it to pass. It wouldn’t change AAU basketball this July, but things could still move quickly.
So, here’s what would change according to Jeff Goodman: The shoe company events in July (Peach Jam, adidas Gauntlet, Under Armour Championship Thing ((not its actual name)) would still run, but college coaches would not be allowed to attend. College coaches are already barred from a couple events in the spring, so evaluating would seem to be difficult.
The NCAA will host four regional camps that will invited 35 players to attend. The college coaches would vote on the players (based regionally) and then the coaches could watch those players go through drills and scrimmages. MVPs of those four camps would be invited to an Elite Camp where coaching would be provided by the G League and possibly NBA players. Kinda like an NBA Top 100 Camp situation, but with fewer players.
The plan would also include open gyms at high schools in May and June, where college coaches could travel across the country and watch their targets play in their high school gyms with other high school players. It’s clear that the NCAA wants high school coaches to have more power while trying to take the influence of AAU teams and shoe companies out of the equation.
I’m all for taking power away from AAU teams and shoe companies, but I’m not convinced the influence won’t transition over to high schools. Nike, adidas and Under Armour still sponsor high schools. High schools may still be tempted to hire shady individuals if it means the school will get more money. If the NCAA isn’t careful then high schools’ apparel rights could turn into bidding wars. It’s already happened at some prep-schools.
From a Kentucky perspective regional camps would be good and give UK the chance to see the best of the best go against the best of the best. No hiding there. But these camps could be a major bummer for unranked, three and low-end four-star players. Every year we have a few players that had zero national buzz shoot up in the rankings and land offers from bluebloods. That could still possibly happen, but it seems less likely.
There’s no easy answer, but at least the NCAA is trying new things. I’m all for limiting influence of shoe companies but hopefully the shadiness won’t just slide over to high school athletics.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 12:00pm
Now that the NBA draft is over, we finally know where our five (well, four. Wenyen Gabriel went undrafted) former Kentucky Wildcats will be playing at the next level. Let’s take a look at how they project on their new teams.
Kevin Knox – No. 9 New York Knicks
It’s a bit of a shock, but it’s official, Kevin Knox is going to be a member of the New York Knicks.
While he went higher in the draft than I expected (I had him falling off a cliff all the way to No. 17 despite most mock drafts slotting him in the 9-11 range), New York may actually be one of the best possible scenarios for him.
Instead of going in the middle of the first round to teams such as the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, or Milwaukee Bucks – all teams with solidified shooting guards – the Knicks saw the gaping hole in their backcourt and went for the 6-foot-10 guard who can shoot from anywhere on the court.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) June 22, 2018
So how does Knox fit in with the Knicks? Quite favorably, actually.
The Knicks backcourt consists of Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina at the point with Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard. Knox is better suited to play the two, especially early in his NBA career, but will still earn plenty of minutes at the three on a young Knicks team still looking to build. Odds are he’ll see a lot of playing time at the small forward position as they try to work out a proper spot for him in the rotation. The Knicks have invested a large sum of money into Hardaway Jr. and he’s showed promise as their two-guard of the future, so Knox will have to play next to him or soak up minutes when he heads to the bench.
Knox is a good fit for New York because he brings another threat from the perimeter and can help make open shots as defenses will turn most of their focus on Kristaps Porzingis.
Knox still needs to work on becoming more consistent when attacking the rim and playing focused defense, but his shooting stroke is undeniable. He shot 36.9 percent from NBA three-point range in his lone season at Kentucky, per The Stepien, which is around the league average and would be a great number for him to aim for in his first season.
Something that is key here is that he’s going to have opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them, something he wouldn’t have nearly as much leeway with if he were selected by a low-seed playoff team trying to win sooner rather than later.
Knox worked well next to a prolific floor general in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, something he won’t have in New York with Mudiay (who may be the most inconsistent player in the entire NBA) or Ntilikina just yet (who is entering his second year after a solid rookie year but primarily succeeded as a defensive stalwart). Knox will have to rely on working off Porzingis to generate shots until he can become more consistent getting to the rim, which is a blessing more than anything else. He’ll be able to hang along the perimeter and hunt for open looks. He could be an incredibly difficult cover with his height and shooting ability if he dedicates himself to consistent off-ball movement on offense.
Another reason this fit works so well is because of Knicks new head coach, David Fizdale. Fiz is a great players coach who has always been able to make connections and get the most out of guys who specialize in one area. Fizdale was overly impressed with Knox in workouts and the consensus appears to be that Fiz was the one who really wanted to take a gamble on Knox.
It’s hard to tell right now if Knox will be a starter – that’ll become more clear after free agency gets rolling – but he has a clear role on this team without playing one minute. The Knicks needed more outside shooting to complement the backcourt and Knox provides that immediately.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – No. 11 Los Angeles Clippers (via Hornets)
After originally being selected by the Charlotte Hornets, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers were desperate for a starting point guard and they finally got their man, one that fits perfectly into their scheme.
SGA immediately brings a floor general playstyle that the Clippers were obviously missing with the departure of Chris Paul. Patrick Beverley played only 11 games last season due to injury, so they missed his production at point guard, but he can’t run and direct an offense like SGA can. If the Clippers do manage to hang onto DeAndre Jordan before next season begins, he and SGA will form a dangerous pick-and-roll that can beat the defense from every area of the court and – more importantly – create open looks for shooters. SGA is great at attacking the rim, he has a solid outside jumper and reads defenses better than any guard prospect in this draft.
With Lou Williams and Tobias Harris taking on most of the scoring responsibility, SGA won’t be asked to do as much as he was at Kentucky and can focus on setting up his teammates and attacking with perfect precision. He’s a brilliant basketball mind and it will be put on display even more so than it was in college.
Jarred Vanderbilt – No. 41 Denver Nuggets (via Magic)
Of the four drafted, this is without a doubt my favorite fit. Jarred Vanderbilt is a humongous work in progress but with so much unique potential. He plays stellar defense, rebounds at an already elite level, can slip passes through the tiniest windows, and handle the ball like a guard. Going to Denver couldn’t have worked out any better for him, especially since Orlando – one of the two NBA graveyards (sorry, Sacramento) – was the team that drafted him before trading him to the Nuggets (I understand that Denver had Orlando make the pick for them, I’m just happy he didn’t get stuck there regardless).
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone led one of the league’s most dangerous offenses last season with a focus on pushing the tempo and scoring as many points in as little time as possible. Vando is a one-man fastbreak and gives the Nuggets another option to keep a fast pace and constant pressure on opposing defenses at all times.
Vanderbilt is going to desperately need to develop a consistent touch around the rim before he does anything else, but even without it, he can be plugged into a small-ball lineup surrounded by the Nuggets many shooters and thrive.
Vanderbilt joins two other former Wildcats, Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles, who both had the best seasons of their still young careers. The Nuggets slightly missed the playoffs, in large part to a putrid defense and streaky offense, something they’ll bring Vanderbilt in to try and correct. If fully healthy, Vando can make an impact on day one and could end up being one of the steals of this draft.
I think his connection with Nikola Jokic is going to be dangerous (when Paul Millsap is on the bench, at least) and their combined basketball IQ could wreak havoc on underprepared defenses. Off the bench, Vanderbilt could play the point forward role alongside Mason Plumlee, another great passing big. Noticing a trend here? Vando, Plumlee, Millsap, and Jokic are all great passing bigs. The Nuggets clearly value that and it’s worked in their favor thus far. With Murray, Harris, and Jokic all scheduled to have huge seasons, Vando could slide in and quietly make an impact for a playoff team.
Great pickup for Denver. Better fit for Vanderbilt.
Hamidou Diallo – No. 45 Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nets, Hornets)
After being drafted by the Brooklyn Nets (the team most expected him to ultimately end up on) and quickly traded to the Charlotte Hornets, Hamidou Diallo was once again traded, this time to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was on three teams in less than three hours, but Diallo finally found his home in OKC.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 22, 2018
Unfortunately, I don’t have the same enthusiasm about Diallo’s fit in OKC as I do with Vando in Denver. The Thunder need shooting more than anything, in my opinion, and all they did was add another version of Terrence Ferguson to their plethora of over-the-top athletic guards/wings. With Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis, Andre Roberson, and Ferguson, the Thunder already have way too many players who aren’t reliable outside shooting threats. If Paul George (and hopefully Carmelo Anthony) find their way to new teams, that only exacerbates the situation.
Playing time will be hard to find for Diallo and I don’t see how he fits next to Westbrook in any way that benefits him more than it hurts him. Then there’s also the history of Victor Oladipo, who was held back like a fourth-year sixth grader until he graduated to Indianapolis where he is now an All-Star. Westbrook is an incredible player, but not one that regularly makes the players that surround him better. The team is in win-now mode more than ever as Westbrook continues to age, and I just don’t see how Diallo is going to fit into their scheme that doesn’t include having him float around the perimeter begging for an opportunity.
Had Charlotte or especially Brooklyn drafted him, I’d feel a lot better about his potential in his rookie season, but I don’t believe in the Thunder all-of-the-sudden going through an entire shift in their offensive gameplan. I think Diallo will get some chances early in the season, but this doesn’t look to be an ideal fit for him at the moment.
Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan
By Nick Roush on ©June 21st, 2018 @ 5:15pm
Jacob Tamme was driving to Gatlinburg with his family for a weekend getaway when he received a phone call from Mitch Barnhart.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear that,” Tamme said. “It was a special moment, a special call, for all kinds of reasons.”
That special call confirmed the former Kentucky tight end would be a member of the 2018 UK Athletics Hall of Fame Class. Tamme has received many honors for playing football — two First Team All-SEC selections and two Music City Bowl trophies to name just a few — but all pale in comparison to this.
“I’m probably not going into Canton, but even if I were…for me, the way I grew up and what UK Athletics means to me, going into this one, I don’t know if it could be any better.”
In an interview with Kentucky Roll Call, Tamme’s humility could be heard through the airwaves. The Danville native never thought his football career could take him this far. He just hopes it will inspire others to do the same.
“For this Kentucky boy who grew up dreaming to play for the Cats, to think that I made a mark there worthy of a recognition like this is very, very special,” he said.
“It’s something to be proud of and I hope it’s something that gives encouragement to small-town Kentucky kids all over the state to go chase that dream and work. Some talent, some grit and some determination can take you a long way.”
Tamme admitted he didn’t really think about playing football professionally until later in life. He simply remained focused on school and helping his team succeed. The rest took care of itself. After the 2006 season, a lightbulb when off when Tamme was selected First Team All-SEC tight end.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know what, First Team All-SEC tight ends usually have a chance at going to the NFL.'”
After another excellent season, Tamme earned the esteemed All-SEC title again before the Indianapolis Colts drafted him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Initially a special teams player, that grit and determination made him one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets. Tamme played in three Super Bowls in nine NFL seasons before retiring and returning to Boyle County to become a cattle farmer.
One Kentucky Wildcat may soon following Tamme’s footsteps. C.J. Conrad is currently projected as the top tight end in next year’s NFL Draft. If Conrad remains healthy, Tamme believes he has all of the tools to succeed.
“I think if he stays healthy it certainly could be a fun year for him,” said Tamme. “He’s a good all-around tight end. I think he does a good job when they ask him in the run game. He does a good job of catching the football. The main thing for him is staying healthy, where he can move at 100 percent all the time, get open on those man-to-man routes and find holes, get in the right spots.”
In the 15-minute interview, Tamme also explained how UK’s offense can get more receptions to the tight end, why his father-in-law’s absence is a good luck charm and he answered the question, “Who is the best Kentucky football player to ever wear No. 18?”
Listen to the entire interview with Tamme below:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 21st, 2018 @ 12:16pm
What should Kentucky fans expect from Reid Travis? I asked Stanford beat writer R.J. Abeytia, who’s followed Travis’ career for the past four years.
“He’s an impressive person both on and off the court. Off the court, he’s got a real charisma. He’s incredibly thoughtful and smart and he is exactly what you want from an upperclassman and leader. He’s the first guy out on the court on game days taking extra shots. His willingness to put in time and work hard is pretty much unparalleled. He’s a guy that people rally around and want to be with.”
On the court, Travis’ numbers speak for themselves. He averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last season and ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in 10 categories. He had 16 double doubles — seven straight to end the season — and is one of only three players in Stanford basketball history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in less than 100 career games. As Abeytia noted, Travis’ work ethic really shows in free throw percentage, which improved from 48% his sophomore season to 68% last season.
So, if Travis is such a great player, why isn’t he waiting to hear his name called in the NBA Draft tonight? Like a certain player he’s about to share a frontcourt with, Travis went through the evaluation process and was advised to work on his three-point shooting before making the jump to the next level. So, he’s doing the next best thing and coming to Kentucky, where he can learn from the college coach who best prepares players for the NBA and compete for a national championship.
“With him particularly, I would say don’t put too much stock in connecting his NBA Draft status this year to his college level potential,” Abeytia said. “If he is healthy this coming season, he should play at an All-American level, certainly at an all-conference level. He should be up there in contention as an All-American…It’s fair for Kentucky fans to have high expectations.”
Speaking of the draft, it’s worth noting that Travis and likely No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton were the only players in the Pac-12 to finish in the top five in scoring and rebounding and Travis more than held his own in head-to-head matchups with the 7’1″ monster, averaging 21.5 points and 10 rebounds in two games vs. Arizona. As for his three-point shooting, it’s a work in progress. Travis averaged 29.5% (18-61) from behind the arc last year after attempting only one three in his previous three seasons. As you can see in the videos of his offseason workouts, the outside shot has been a major focus of his offseason workouts.
So, how will Travis fit in at Kentucky? He could share the frontcourt with PJ Washington, a player with whom he shares a lot of traits. Travis and PJ are of similar height and build (Travis is 6’8″ 245 lbs., PJ 6’7″, 236 lbs.), play the same style of bully ball, and both need to work on their outside shot. Abeytia believes Travis’ versatility will help the two coexist, noting how Stanford used him at multiple spots the past few years.
“I think Reid and/or PJ developing their outside shot is obviously going to be a big part of what happens, but having another guy out there who can be a back-to-the-basket player isn’t necessarily the worst thing because Reid is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. It’s not like he’s going to run down to the block and carve out that real estate and not be willing to move around.”
John Calipari’s best teams are known for their defensive prowess; Abeytia said that’s another area in which Travis hopes to improve this season, but he’s far from a liability.
“It’s not about any lack of willingness. I think he knows that one of the things, especially with the way the game is played today with 1-5 screens and switching being the tactic used the majority of the time, you’ve got to be able to step out and at least be able to play smaller guys without fouling. Try to be a solid, face up defender. I think Reid’s got some work to do in that regard.”
How will a 22-year-old college graduate fit in with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores? Abeytia said Travis, a three-year captain, already has the role of mentor/big brother down after guiding a freshmen-heavy squad at Stanford last season.
“Just from watching those guys work with him, I would expect Kentucky’s guys to be really comfortable having him out there,” he said. “As far as working with the team and blending with the team culturally, Kentucky’s going to be as happy with him in that regard as they are any other aspect of his game.”
Above all, Abeytia says Kentucky is getting a hard worker in Travis, recalling a conversation he had with the previous coaching staff a few years back.
“His work ethic is to the point where the previous coaching staff was concerned, healthwise, that he was spending too much time in the gym. He is legitimately one of those guys who has to be thrown out of the gym. I think that’s the most indicative thing I can say in terms of giving Kentucky fans an idea of what they’re in store for.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 20th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
Reid Travis is officially a Kentucky Wildcat, meaning the 2018-19 roster is complete. Let’s break down that roster, and why the addition of Travis makes Kentucky a legitimate national title contender.
We saw how much it hurt Kentucky not to have a returning guard last season. This year, Calipari will have one in Quade Green, who averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists his freshman year. Quade missed some games due to eye and back injuries and lost his starting spot to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but will provide crucial leadership and experience in a young and loaded backcourt; in fact, we’re hearing he’s already doing that in summer workouts.
Quickley is sometimes an afterthought in next year’s backcourt, but shouldn’t be. Despite being hampered by injuries at the end of his senior year, Quickley is a reliable floor general with a relentless work ethic that can get to the basket, create for others and knock down an open shot.
Hagans gives Kentucky what they lost in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, i.e., a guard who can get to the basket. He’s a dynamic playmaker who can burn defenders off the dribble and distribute; he led the Adidas Gauntlet in assists by a wide margin. He’s also a tenacious defender. Simply put, you want the ball in Hagans’ hands, which is why he will eventually be the starting point guard alongside Quade Green.
Baker will return this fall after missing last year with a knee injury and, according to his teammates, is the best shooter on the squad. Everyone’s been raving about Baker so far this summer, so I can’t wait to see what he does on the floor.
Herro is much more than the three-point specialist he’s billed as. At 6’5″, 200 lbs., Herro can score from anywhere and is also comfortable bringing the ball up the floor if needed. Once a Wisconsin commit, Herro developed a thick skin and chip on his shoulder after being booed routinely by Badger fans his senior year. A tough competitor, he will only elevate his game going against elite talent in practice.
With a plethora of guards on the roster, Brad probably won’t be called into action as often as he was last year, but should exhibit more confidence to fire away when he gets an open shot — even with the crowd demanding it.
David will be tasked with keeping the sideline loose and ready for dunk and lob celebrations. If history is any indication, he will also steal the spotlight in postseason locker room interviews.
Johnson can play small forward, shooting guard, or, if you listen to John Calipari, even point guard if needed. Described as a “dog” by his future teammates, Johnson is a fierce competitor that won’t back down from anyone. He will be a highlight maker on this squad and is a notorious trash talker. Between him, Hagans, Herro, and Quickley, Kentucky’s about to get a much-needed dose of nasty.
PJ is this team’s anchor, and, based off his appearances since deciding to return to Kentucky, is ready to lead. PJ can bully his way to the basket and finish with the best of them, and with an offseason to work on his jumper, can take his game to another level. PJ’s best work will be on the inside, but with Reid Travis joining the roster, I expect him to heed the NBA’s advice and expand his game outside.
With over three years of playing experience and a degree from Stanford, Travis will provide invaluable experience to a team that needs it. A double-double machine, Travis is a force in the paint, which will allow PJ Washington to flex his versatility. The frontcourt of PJ Washington and Reid Travis is physical and formidable, something UK’s lacked in recent years.
A 6’10” lefty that can stretch the floor? Sounds like Calipari’s dream big. Montgomery’s got length, athleticism, ball-handling skills, and can score from almost anywhere. He needs to add strength, but will see plenty of time as a stretch four next year.
Kenny Payne’s son is still recovering from a knee injury, but once healthy, can play either guard or forward. A standout player at Lexington Catholic, he averaged 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his senior season.
Richards struggled his freshman year, but we saw glimpses of his potential throughout the season. During interviews last week, he said he’s moved past the self-doubt that plagued him his freshman year and his confidence is at an all-time high. That’s great news for Kentucky, who will rotate him in and out when height and length are needed.
The combinations are endless, but the lineup I like best right now is Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington, and Reid Travis. That’s a solid, powerful group with three veterans and two playmakers, from which you can rotate in three-point shooting and size. Immanuel Quickley may eventually take Quade’s spot, but for now, I like Green’s experience in the backcourt. Besides, if Calipari decides to platoon again, it won’t really matter, will it?
For the past few years, Kentucky’s roster has been missing key ingredients in March. With the additions of Reid Travis and Ashton Hagans and a head start in the Bahamas, they finally have everything they need to make a run at Number Nine.
By TJ Walker on ©June 20th, 2018 @ 1:00pm
It’s official! Reid Travis has committed to Kentucky and now the fun can begin. UK’s absolutely stacked roster will get extra practice time and will face elite competition in the Bahamas in August, but when the actual season starts in November (against Duke) no team will be deeper or more talented than Kentucky. The addition of Travis adds depth in the frontcourt but there’s a chance he could be UK’s best player next season.
His Game: Honestly, to start think of P.J. Washington’s freshman season. Washington was more versatile in high school but his outside game didn’t develop in year one and was forced to live on the block. It worked out well for Washing, but Travis has been doing it for four seasons at the college level. It’s not a perfect comparison and the players differ in a variety of ways, but for starters it’s fair to say that Travis is a bruiser like Washington that should dominate the interior.
But, Travis is more tenacious. He won’t be outworked and his energy and effort is one of the best I’ve seen from a college basketball player. He’s not the fastest or most athletic player, but man, he’s strong. I remember the first time I saw him at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and I was blown away. He was raw but he was the type of kid you wanted on your team. He just annoyed the more talented players so much that he’d eventually get the better of them. Now his talent has caught up to his tenacity and he would have been considered one of the better upper-classmen players in college basketball. Probably the preseason PAC-12 Player of the Year. Now he’s on UK’s team.
The best part of Travis’ game, which feed of his tenacity, is his rebounding. He’s a monster on the glass and I’d almost guarantee he leads UK in rebounds next season. Travis has 758 career rebounds, which 20th all-time in UK history. The only player to play for John Calipari at UK that had more was Patrick Patterson (791). There’s a chance Travis breaks Dan Issel’s school record of 1,078 rebounds.
Travis’ outside game has improved over the years, and he will take another step forward this upcoming season, but his bread and butter is inside. Travis shot nearly 30 percent from three last season, but took just 61 shots behind the arc and made 18. I would expect those numbers to be similar this upcoming season and Travis will likely only shoot if he’s wide open from outside. Teams will continue to load the paint and dare UK to shoot from the perimeter. The Cats having Quade Green, Jemarl Baker, Tyler Herro will help, but if Travis is left alone fans should feel comfortable.
Travis’ free-throw shooting numbers have improved every season and while he started as a 46 percent shooter his freshman season, last year he was at 67.5 percent. If he can get that up to 70 percent there will be no reason to be concerned. He’s not automatic from the line but 70 percent is good enough. P.J. Washington was 60.6 percent during his freshman season.
Defensively Travis will have a tough time guarding smaller defenders at the top of perimeter, but that’s not unusual for bigs. The best part about having Travis is the Cats will have muscle on the block and won’t be pushed around inside. SEC basketball is known as bully-ball for a reason and the Cats fell victim to more physical teams last season. That won’t happen this year. No team will have more muscle on the frontline. Travis isn’t a shot-blocker but hopefully Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery can help protect the rim. That may be one area where UK is somewhat lacking next season.
We’ll all learn more about Travis’ game during the Bahamas trip in a month and a half, and that will give Calipari ample time to learn how his players mesh and gel together. Travis is a team-first player that won’t worry about minutes and the reason he picked UK was to win a national championship. UK fans will love his attitude one an off the floor.
Watch him go for 29 and 10 against USC.
IT’S OFFICIAL! REID TRAVIS HAS COMMITTED TO KENTUCKY. The Stanford grad transfer announced the news via Twitter minutes ago:
I want to thank everyone who has helped me with this process of taking the next step to pursue my dreams. I couldn’t be more excited for the future! pic.twitter.com/xIwtBfFzLr
— Reid Travis (@2ReidTravis2) June 20, 2018
“Sunday I had the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of graduating from Stanford University,” Travis said. “I built relationships and memories at Stanford that will last a lifetime. I’m extremely proud to be able to say that I’m a Stanford alum. I want to thank my friends, coaches, teammates, alumni, professors, administrators and student body for playing such a big role in the man that I’ve become over these past four years.
“With that being said, I’m looking forward to a fresh start and another year of working towards my dreams. As I move on to the next step of my career, I wanted to find a school that will continue to align with my academic and athletic interests. After getting to know the staff and players on my visit, it became clear to me that there was no better place for me to start this next journey in my life then at the University of Kentucky.
“I’m excited to work hard every day and give everything of myself to the program to compete for a national championship and turn the game I love into a profession. Big Blue Nation, I can’t wait to get started.”
The 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last season at Stanford. He ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in 10 categories overall, including free-throw attempts (first, 243), field-goal attempts (first, 474), total points (second, 682), free throws made (second, 164), total field goals made (second, 250), scoring (third, 19.5), double-doubles (third, 16), offensive rebounds per game (third, 3.0), rebounding (third, 8.7) and total rebounds (third, 306).
Travis is one of three individuals in Stanford history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in less than 100 career games. A three-year captain for Stanford, he graduated 16th on Stanford’s career scoring list with 1,427 points and 758 rebounds. He was a National Association of Basketball Coaches First Team All-District selection as well as a U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District pick in 2017-18.
As you might expect, John Calipari is thrilled with his new addition.
“I felt good about where we stood with next year’s team, but when I found out how much Reid wanted to be here, I had to take a look and say, ‘OK, can he help us? Can he help our team become even more potent and can we help him reach his dreams?’ The answers were absolutely,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “You’re talking about a two-time all-conference player who could have very well entered the NBA Draft with what he’s done in his career. He was one of the best big men in the Pac-12 last season, if not the country. Our fans know when it comes to talent and experience, I’m always picking talent, but Reid gives us both.”
Yes, he does. LET’S GOOOOO.
Reid Travis watch continues into day two.
Last night we reported we couldn’t confirm the rumors (one way or the other) that Travis was enrolled at UK as a student, but as of this morning we can confirm that he is NOT enrolled. That doesn’t mean that can’t change by the days end, but as of this morning he’s not officially a student at Kentucky.
Obviously it’d be better news for UK if he did enroll, but fear not. UK remains the heavy odds on favorite to land Travis and there are no rumblings to suggest he will visit Villanova or any other schools. Stay patient. Even if Travis leaves Lexington “uncommitted” all signs point towards him ending up as a Wildcat. As long as those close to UK remain confident then we will, too.
I still expect a commitment soon, but as of Wednesday morning/early afternoon Travis hasn’t made it official.
The wait continues.