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Behind The Scenes Stories From The Bahamas

Behind The Scenes Stories From The Bahamas

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

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

 

Stefan Fundic did not understand why I wanted his jersey.

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

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

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

Nice guy, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immanuel Quickley likes to dance.

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

I do not know why the team was singing YMCA.

John Calipari was absolutely coaching from the stands.

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

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

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

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

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

 

There’s your inside scoop from the week.


Former UK Walk-Ons are Proud and Thankful for Scholarship Opportunity

For three Kentucky football players, practice was different today.  For the first time, Zach Johnson, Miles Butler and David Bouvier took the field as scholarship athletes.

“I’m proud to be here,” said Bouvier, a senior wide receiver from Lexington Catholic. “It feels weird being on a full scholarship now.  It’s such a blessing.”

Butler, a senior placekicker from Paducah Tilghman, was equally grateful.

“I first want to thank coach Stoops for the opportunity.  He’s been gracious to me ever since I’ve been here.  He’s supported me and given me every opportunity I could have asked for…Just a little 150 pound kid, for him to come to me, talk to me and trust me means a lot.”

During a team meeting, Mark Stoops called the three to the front of the room.  Before Stoops could even finish speaking, they were mobbed by teammates.

“I’ve got the best teammates.  I’m so thankful for them.  They’ve always got my back.  They’ve never said anything bad about me, even when I was just a scout team guy,” said Bouvier.

The excitement was also shared by former teammates.  This fall Butler could be Austin MacGinnis’ replacement.  UK’s all-time leading scorer was happy to see Butler’s hard work pay off.

“It’s well deserved,” MacGinnis told KSR. “Miles has done everything that is asked of him since he has arrived on campus. He is a 4.0 student and a great teammate. I am happy for the kid.”

Charles Walker was “ecstatic” when he heard that his former roommate finally earned a scholarship.

“He’s the type of the guy that would never talk about how he isn’t on scholly yet. He loves to work and I’m sure he’s been waiting on this day for a while now,” Walker said. “He had a personal goal and finally he obtained that goal. But that doesn’t mean he’s done working. As I said earlier, he’s one of the hardest working guys on the team and I know this season is going to mean a lot to him.”

Bouvier is off to an excellent start.  Often compared to Walker, Bouvier is the top candidate to replace him as UK’s punt returner.  He’s also impressed coaches during camp for his work at slot receiver.  Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran hasn’t been eager to praise the wide receivers’ play, but went out of his way to call Bouvier a “warrior.”

“You want to talk about a guy making plays…he’s our MVP.  That young man is getting it, making plays, he’s playing with energy and I just love that young man,” said Gran.

The road from walk-on to a scholarship isn’t easy.  It took Bouvier and Butler four years to achieve that ultimate goal.  Butler never thought he’d be in this position.  He initially planned on attending Alabama as just another regular student.  That changed when Neal Brown asked him to work out for the Cats.  His mother asked him to take some time to make a decision, but he refused.

“That’s a done deal.  I’m there,” Butler recalled.  “It’s really been quite a dream.  It’s been fun.”

Behind MacGinnis, getting onto the field was a long shot, but Butler remained ready at all times.  When MacGinnis was injured in 2015, Butler stepped in and made four field goals, including a 46-yarder.  Last year he was asked to do something a little different when Matt Panton was suspended for the Vanderbilt game.  He had not punted since high school, but Butler did not shy away from the challenge.

“I welcomed the opportunity.  It was really good to do both.  I try to be as versatile as I can — kickoffs, field goals, punt — whatever the team wants me to do to help, I try to work on it, master my craft and give them all I can.  Anything I can do to help us win a game.”

This year the Cats may need him to win a few games with his leg.  Becoming MacGinnis’ full-time replacement comes with lofty expectations, ones that Butler embraces.

“That’s definitely some big shoes to fill, but that’s a good problem to have…It’s an opportunity I welcome.  I wouldn’t want anything else.”

Butler, Johnson and Bouvier earned scholarships by working hard day in and day out.  That will not change now that they have scholarships, but Bouvier acknowledged things are different, but in a good way.

“I just don’t have to think about it anymore.  Every practice I was thinking, I’m still a walk-on.  I gotta make plays to get a scholarship.  I’d overthink things too much.  Now I got a scholarship.  I feel free.  I can just go ball and do my thing.”

Bouvier is a different player now that he doesn’t have the walk-on tag hanging over his head, but he will not forget what it took to reach this point.

“It’s been a crazy ride with lots of ups and downs.  I always believed in myself and knew what I was capable of.  There’s no way around hard work.  You gotta put it in everyday.  My parents were just incredibly thankful.  My mom was crying.  She was about to make me cry.  It was hard talking to her, but I’m just really…my parents have done so much for me.  Being able to get this scholarship for them really meant a lot.”


VOTE: Who is your favorite player from the Bahamas?

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

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

Tell us below:

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Monday Insider Notes: Kahlil Whitney commits and the Cats focus on bigs

Three weeks ago D.J. Jeffries decommitted. Two weeks ago it was Dontaie Allen joining the Cats and last week Kahlil Whitney followed his lead. It’s been a busier three weeks than we anticipated but everything played out great for the Wildcats. No disrespect to Jeffries, but having Whitney and Allen on board is better than just having Jeffries at the wing. People close to UK weren’t expecting such an action packed three weeks, but are happy with the results. Now the Cats can focus on their 2019 big targets. How the Cats do with Vernon Carey Jr., James Wiseman and Matthew Hurt will determine if this is an elite class for John Calipari in 2019.

Let’s get to it.

Kahlil Whitney: He commits last week and the Cats saw it coming, but before he officially visited they weren’t aware that he was so close to making a final decision. When UK offered Whitney it’s my opinion UK’s staff knew they were the leaders, but were unsure of his timeline and how quickly things may move. Whitney grew up a Kentucky fan. Once he started keying in on watching college basketball he preferred watching John Calipari and UK. It was a no brainer for Whitney. I know this is cliche but I do think there is something to landing guys that want to be at UK. Some people pick the Cats because it’s the smart business decision, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but others pick UK because they want to be a Kentucky basketball player. Allen and Whitney didn’t take any official visits to other schools and picked UK shortly after being offered/being on campus.

I think UK fans are going to love Whitney and he’s somewhat trending at a Keldon Johnson pace. Johnson wasn’t a “must-have” recruit (for UK standards) but was always highly regarded. He continued to get better and it seemed like every time he played in a big game he looked like he had improved. He played hard and with tenacity and all those similarities are there for Whitney. Johnson ended up top 10 for ESPN and top 20 for Rivals and 247. I’m guessing Whitney is a top 10 player when it’s all said and done. UK fans will love him and he will be a nightmare matchup problem for opposing teams.

@THeHoopGroup

A Change in Strategy?: Allow me to pull away from the “insider” part of these notes to make a point strictly based on my opinion. I can’t get any sources to confirm this (which may mean I’m grasping here) but it seems like John Calipari (or his staff) may be pushing kids to commit? Again, Allen and Whitney both wanted to be at Kentucky but Calipari in the past has told recruits to check out other places. Go home and think about it. It was part of his “I care about you, so I want you to make the best decision for you and your family” recruiting pitch. It was a unique and bold strategy, but the majority of recruits appreciated the approach and it showcased Calipari actually cared and wasn’t pushy. But it may have cost UK a time or two.

Shortly after D.J. Jeffries received attention from UK he committed. His dad said the Cats somewhat pushed for a commitment, so that may support my theory. Allen committed seconds after being offered and Whitney committed after returning home from his official visit. If UK isn’t pushing for commitments, they’re definitely not pushing kids to take their time and weigh all their options.

I think coaches that pressure and try and force commitments cross a line, but if UK is being more aggressive in recruitments I’m all for it. It’s just another small change in Calipari’s ever-changing recruiting strategy. Calipari has also extended more offers, he’s offering guys earlier and while Big Blue Madness will always be UK’s premier recruiting event Kentucky’s staff is more open to staggering official visits so top talent get enough attention. Calipari is far from stubborn in his ways, if something isn’t working he will gladly switch up his style.

USA Today

Vernon Carey Jr.: Folks, I think UK leads. There’s a quiet confidence from folks close to UK about Carey and I’m starting to hear whispers from AAU folks that think the Cats have moved to the front of his recruitment. There’s not much of an obvious relationship between Carey and Whitney, but during basketball camps over the weekend the two spent a good chunk of their free time together. Whitney has already started recruiting on UK’s behalf, and while that’s generally overblown it doesn’t hurt.

People continue to sleep on UK’s chances with Carey Jr., and that’s fine for UK. I’ve actually heard that Kentucky’s biggest competition will be Miami (Fla.). So many assume that Duke is the clear leader and that doesn’t appear to be the case.

He’s my favorite big in 2019 and could put up nutty numbers for UK in 2019-2020.

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Oscar Tshiebwe: Get to know Oscar because I think there’s a solid chance he ends up in UK’s 2019 class. Kentucky has kept tabs on Tshiebwe for months but the Cats are in a tough spot. They like Tshiebwe and would love to add him, but they wouldn’t want him to hurt their chances with Carey, Wiseman or Hurt. In a perfect world UK would land those three, but Kentucky’s staff even knows that’s highly unlikely. So, what people close to UK are trying to figure out is this:

  1. Who’s likely to stay/leave off the current team?
  2. Where do we stand with Carey/Wiseman/Hurt?
  3. Would Tshiebwe hurt us with any of those three?
  4. Can Tshiebwe play at this level?

I’m told the answer to four is yes. UK believes Tshiebwe can make an impact at a high level and if he’s not a one-and-done player he would certainly bolt for the NBA after year two. But that was the easy question to answer. The Cats are still surveying the first three questions and my guess is he ends up with an offer. West Virginia is the biggest competition for Tshibwe but if the Cats offer and get him on campus I think Kentucky can jump to the front.

Quick Hitters:

James Wiseman: There is still a great deal of Memphis buzz. That’s not going to stop anytime soon. Remember when Wiseman said he planned a visit to Kentucky in August? I haven’t heard one way or the other if that visit will take place. My guess is UK is trying to keep things quiet but I would expect the visit to happen. Only 18 days left in the month so we’ll know soon, but if he visits soon that should calm down the Memphis buzz momentarily. If the visit doesn’t happen that won’t help the Memphis buzz but I’d be shocked if a visit didn’t happen in September or October. I wish I could confirm the August visit but I can’t at this point.

Cole Anthony: College coaches are salivating over the chances of coaching Anthony. One assistant that’s still in play for Anthony told me that they think Anthony could take an average team to the Final Four. I’ve said he’s the smartest basketball player I’ve ever watched at the high school level and believe if he were to end up at Kentucky he could be Calipari’s best point guard he’s ever coached. He’s that good. No decisions will happen until the spring but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a few fall visits.

Matthew Hurt: Like Carey, I think UK is in a better spot than national analyst believe. Hurt really loves UK’s style of play. He’ll visit this fall.

Jaden McDaniels: UK is still in contact with McDaniels but I don’t see this recruitment going much further. A visit isn’t out of the question but McDaniels is more of a wing than a PF and the Cats have two great wing players already.

Bahamas Trip: I’m told this trip was good for recruiting. The Cats were on SEC Network, not ESPN +, and I’ve already been told some recruits took time to watch. I don’t think it will matter that much for the 2019 class but it’s always good to plant seeds for 2020, 2021 or 2022. I think the Cats accomplished that this week.


Top 10 things we learned from the Big Blue Bahamas trip

Kentucky finished the Big Blue Bahamas tour unscathed, knocking off four of four opponents in dominating fashion. Each presented a different level and style of competition, but the Cats came out on top each time by a significant margin.

An average margin of victory of 29 points against professional basketball players, to be exact.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to be excited for in the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Here are the top ten things we learned from Kentucky’s Big Blue Bahamas trip.

These Cats like to have fun

The biggest gripe Kentucky fans had last year was just how hard it was to connect with the Wildcats throughout the season. We all wanted to love them and cheer them on, but their personalities just weren’t as vibrant and bright as we’re used to seeing. We just weren’t as emotionally invested.

With this team, we get everything you could possibly ask for. We have the sheer passion for the game and intensity in Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans, bright smiles in Tyler Herro and Immanuel Quickley, mean mugs from PJ Washington, senior maturity and professionalism from Reid Travis, etc. If things are going well, they use that energy for positive momentum. If things aren’t, their killer instincts kick in to kill the cold spell. They’re resilient.

It’s the perfect mix of personalities to make this unit just flat-out likable.

And a lot of it has to do with the following section…

Their chemistry is already high

This trip was meant for team bonding, and it did the trick, and then some. We got to see them work together in the Bahamian community washing the feet of those in need, giving them shoes to wear in the process. We got to see them have fun at the waterpark, racing down waterslides and passing time on the not-so-lazy river. On their day off, they set sail on a catamaran, relaxing and snorkeling with the fish in the ocean. Whatever they wanted to do, the Cats did it as a team and loved every second of it.

On the court, that chemistry is just oozing off of them. John Calipari says they are already ahead in practice, one of the most advanced of any group he has worked with. In games, the passing is impeccable, the defensive reads are stellar, talking is loud and constant, etc. They just work together really well, very reminiscent of the 2014-15 group filled with alley-oop jams and no-look passes.

After games, they started a new-and-improved version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s “Breakfast Club,” where the team hit the practice court and worked until the early hours of the morning. They have one common goal this season, and that’s bringing No. 9 back to Lexington. By the early looks of things, they’re going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans are the heart and soul of the team

As mentioned above, this team is just plain likable, and a lot of it has to do with Johnson and Hagans. Neither are going to be Kentucky’s leading scorers on a consistent basis, but their intensity on the court at all times is contagious and will directly impact the outcome of games this year.

On defense, they pick up all 94 feet of the court. They never give up on plays, never let their guard down, and never allow easy buckets. That killer mentality has allowed others to rise to the occasion and produce at a high level, as well. When their teammates make big plays, they are the first players to run up and congratulate them. Even if they have off nights offensively, and they did in the Bahamas, they will absolutely make up for it in other areas of the game.

We’ve heard the word “dog” in reference to both Johnson and Hagans this offseason, and now we know why.

Tyler Herro may be the leading scorer

Arguably the biggest takeaway from this trip was just how freaking good Tyler Herro is offensively.

He ended the Big Blue Bahamas tour leading the team with 69 total points (17.25 PPG) on 24-41 shooting (59 percent), adding 8-18 from three (44 percent) and 15-15 from the free throw line. He scored at all three levels, created his own shot, and did it all on ridiculous efficiency.

When I watched him play in the Jordan Brand Classic and the practices leading up to it, I saw an “it” factor with this kid that made me fall in love with him. Zion Williamson said he was the most underrated recruit in the nation, saying his offensive skills are second-to-none. By game three of the Big Blue Bahamas trip, announcers were saying Herro had the opportunity to be the biggest Lexington fan-favorite of all time.

Not too shabby for a four-star prospect.

The backcourt is interchangeable

One of the biggest arguments Kentucky fans had before this trip had to do with the team’s starting lineup, specifically with the backcourt. With so much talent and different skillsets, how do we know how to juggle starters/minutes?

Luckily for the Big Blue Nation, it doesn’t really matter, because they’ll all get a chance to shine.

Quickley, Hagans, Green, Herro, and Johnson all ran point guard at one point or another this trip. The Kentucky coaching staff put in all different kinds of lineups, and nearly all of them worked just fine. If the Cats had at least one shooter/dominant scorer in the backcourt at all times, things ran fairly smoothly without any real cause for concern. Quickley could be in with Hagans, Green could be in with Herro, and vice versa.

Side note: Quickley turned the ball over just twice this week (both coming this afternoon), just one of the many impressive aspects of the five-star freshman’s game we saw. The narrative going into this was that Quickely was a step behind the rest of the guards, but that was proven false rather quickly (no pun intended). He’ll be a major contributor this season.

There’s a whole lot to work with in this unit.

Kentucky was shorthanded again

Back in 2014, Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein missed out on all Bahamas game action due to injury.

Fast forward four years, and the Wildcats experienced two more injuries that forced the coaching staff’s hand when it came to different lineups during the foreign trip.

EJ Montgomery sat out the final three games of the event, while Jemarl Baker missed all four. They are each expected to be pieces of a likely ten-man rotation this season.

John Calipari will never admit to using a platoon system again, but when Montgomery and Baker come back, don’t be surprised to see some mass substitutions. We saw this week that every player expected to be in the rotation is deserving of major minutes, and the only way to do that may be going five-in and five-out.

Nick Richards, Quade Green, and PJ Washington have all improved

In the past, some players have returned for sophomore seasons at Kentucky, but their jump from year one to year two was minimal, at best.

This season, however, all three of Kentucky’s sophomore returnees showed major improvement during the Big Blue Bahamas tour.

Sophomore Nick Richards exploded on the scene in game one against the Bahamas National Team, and continued to show progress throughout the week. His timing was much better on shot-blocking, he looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, and he rebounded like a grown man. His on-court awareness was night-and-day from last year. He deserves a ton of praise for his quality minutes this week.

We didn’t see as much facilitating from Green, but his offensive production was a major improvement. The sophomore point guard is confident in his shot and with the ball in his hands. He’ll be a solid shot-maker from mid-range and three this year.

As for PJ Washington, have mercy. Sources within the program told me earlier this offseason that the team fully expects him to win SEC Player of the Year, and from what we’ve seen in the Bahamas, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all. He has cut weight, worked on his jumper, and still maintains the strength that made him so valuable in the post last season. Analysts compared him to Draymond Green this week, and I don’t think that’s terribly far off.

And his frontcourt-mate might be just as much of a problem.

Reid Travis will be a monster down low… in time

The fifth-year graduate transfer had the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his first four games in a Kentucky uniform. From the first Bahamas game, Travis dominated on the glass, but he wasn’t able to find his groove offensively. He looked sloppy, dropping passes out of bounds and fumbling the ball into the mitts of the opposition. Travis was able to use his body to create space and find open holes close to the basket, but just couldn’t find a way to put the ball in.

He got better, going for 11 points in game two and eight in game three, but the efficiency still wasn’t there. By the fourth and final game, Travis exploded for 19 points and 15 rebounds, proving to dominate in the post like we saw from his time at Stanford. He needed to get the rust off, and he seemed to really turn the corner this afternoon.

It may take a couple regular-season games before we see what Travis really brings to the table. When it comes, however, the Cats are going to be unstoppable.

There aren’t many weaknesses, if any at all.

After a 2-20 performance from three in their first game, many wondered whether or not this team would struggle from beyond the arc this season. They followed it up by hitting 24 of their last 48 shots from three to finish 38-percent from distance on the week. Check.

When it comes to mid-range scorers, Tyler Herro and Quade Green have that down to a science. Immanuel Quickley will continue to improve from there, while PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson have also proven they are more than capable from that distance. Check.

Down low? Look no further than Washington and Travis for easy buckets and/or free throw attempts. Montgomery and Richards are developing, but they will be extremely reliable as the year progresses, as well.

On defense, you have two lockdown defenders in Johnson and Hagans. Both will put their bodies on the line to make a winning play, something the Cats really didn’t have last year.

Beyond a pure numbers standpoint, their overall killer mentality is night and day from last season. When they built a lead against Mega Bemax last night, they just went after them harder.

Many times Kentucky fans begged the 2017-18 group to just beat the hell out of teams weaker than them. They just wanted to see them keep their foot on the gas pedal and steamroll someone.

But very rarely did they ever let it happen.

I don’t think that’s going to be a worry going forward.

This team is going to be special

So much talent, so little to complain about. So much personality. So much excitement. So much intensity.

When it comes down to it, it’s impossible to not get giddy about this group of kids.

I feel like I’m having déjà vu of the 2014-15 season. They may not be able to pull off the historic 40-0 feat the double-platoon squad came just inches short of, but they’ll dominate college basketball this year.

We’re just a few hours removed from the game, but I’m itching for basketball season already.


Photo: UK Athletics

Reid Travis saved his best game in the Bahamas for last

Photo: UK Athletics

After three up-and-down performances to open his Kentucky career, Stanford transfer Reid Travis finally had a breakthrough performance in the Bahamas.

He led the team with 19 points and 15 rebounds, showing off a little bit of everything in Kentucky’s 93-60 victory over Team Toronto. Travis knocked down two three-point jumpers, finished several buckets inside with gorgeous footwork, grabbed rebounds like a grown man, and even sent one opponent’s shot flying several feet from the basket.

For Travis, he understands it was a rough start, but his performance in the game-four victory was a step in the right direction.

“Oh, it felt good,” Travis said of his double-double. “It’s definitely nothing I’m sweating too much. I know those are a lot of plays I can make. I just missed some easy ones that I usually put in. It’s expected, especially playing summer basketball, trying to get used to a new team, competition, stuff like that. So it did feel good to cap the trip off, getting some more looks to go in.

Part of it comes with trying to develop his game beyond pure bully-ball. He wants to show the NBA he can be versatile.

“Individually, I’m trying to change the way I play. Being more athletic, a lot quicker, running up and down the court faster. Subtle changes that seem like quick adjustments for normal fans, but for me, it’s a big transition from how I’ve played my whole career as far as playing a bully-ball system. (I usually) put the ball down, go into peoples’ chests. Now they’re asking me to go up, catch lobs, block shots, and run up and down the court as fast as I can. I’ve only been on campus for a month, so it was great to come down here and see where I was in the process, understanding it’s still really early on,” he said.

Calipari is excited Travis broke through, though he’s going to have to break some old habits if he really wants to find success at the next level.

“I like the fact that Reid [Travis] kind of busted through today because he struggled, but he’s still — he and I just talked and I said, your habit right now is to gather yourself. It isn’t going to work anymore. Not only here but if you want to be professional, that will not work. And he knows it. He says, ‘you read my mind.’ I said, anytime there’s any kind of pressure, you’re going to revert to what you know best. And that’s what he knows best right now because we haven’t coached him. So I said, we’re going to get you to where you’re getting balls to the rim quicker, you’re shooting some runners and then go rebound your miss and you’re not going to gather yourself down and bust your way through. There are games he can do that, but not against the good teams.”

As far as what he likes from Travis as a player, Calipari says the Wildcats got a physical freak of nature, but he needs to work on his athleticism.

“He’s the man… This kid’s a grown man. He’s not 18, 19. He’s a grown man. He’s lost about 20 lbs. Probably needs to lose another four or five. Defends, bouncy. How about he blocked a shot? I’m telling you, I watched all of his games. I don’t think he had a blocked shot last year. You’ve got to go show it. You’ve got to show your quickness, your athleticism. He has it but he’s never used it. It’s been more bully-ball.”

It was a step in the right direction, but Travis knows there’s still work to do. When he can work those kinks out, watch out.

“It’s going to be night and day when I get it to click,” Travis said.