By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 31st, 2018 @ 12:13pm
Where does Kentucky’s 2018-19 roster stand after last night’s draft decisions? There are still a few pieces on the move, but here’s our best guess at what the Wildcats will look like after the dust settles.
* Denotes a player not technically on the roster yet
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.
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 creates for others and can knock down an open shot.
Hagans is still in the 2019 class, but is on track to reclassify to 2018 in the next month or so. If he does, Kentucky will regain what they lost in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, i.e., a guard who can get to the basket. Hagans is 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. If he makes it to Lexington this summer, he will be Kentucky’s starting point guard in the fall.
Often forgotten, Baker will return this fall after missing last year with a knee injury. His teammates claim he’s far and away the squad’s best shooter, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.
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, a challenge he’s ready for:
Our practices are going to be played at the highest level, can’t wait to be apart of the family. The grind starts Monday. #BBN
— Tyler Herro (@raf_tyler) May 31, 2018
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.
The only senior currently on the squad, 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. Johnson will be the 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.
Washington’s decision to come back makes this squad much more dangerous. 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 will be the anchor down low, the perfect complement to EJ Montgomery’s length and athleticism.
If Travis joins the roster, Kentucky will have another bruiser down low ala PJ. With over three years of playing experience and a degree from Stanford, Travis would provide invaluable experience to a team that needs it. A double-double machine, he is a force in the paint, so much so that one draft prospect told Jeff Goodman Travis was the strongest player he’s ever played against.
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. Kenny Payne said Richards’ problems stemmed from self-doubt, but he’s got all the tools to be special if he can get out of his head. Players often make the biggest leap between their freshman and sophomore years, making this upcoming season a pivotal one for the seven-footer.
Is it August yet?
By Aaron Torres on ©May 31st, 2018 @ 10:00am
As weird as it sounds, last night (or was it this morning?) was one of the most important days of the 2018-2019 college basketball season. The deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft was midnight eastern, meaning that today we have a pretty good idea of what virtually every team will look like in college basketball season next year. Sure, there are still a handful of big puzzle pieces that have to be figured out (the transfers of Reid Travis and Mustapha Heron for example) but for the most part we basically know what every team will look like come the start of the season.
Therefore, what better day to release KSR’s “Way Too Early Top 25” for next season than today? I’ve done one for years when I worked at Fox Sports, and it only made sense to continue the tradition here.
Before we get into the picks, there’s one thing worth noting: I choose my teams a bit differently than some. I don’t base my rankings solely on raw basketball talent – since rarely does raw talent alone win in college basketball. Instead, I value teams that bring back veterans to go along with star freshmen or All-Americans. Some teams we’ll have ranked higher here than most. Others will be a bit lower.
Regardless, it’s time to get to the Top 25 for 2018-2019. Here is our ranking:
1) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Key Returnees: Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell, Josh Perkins, Corey Kispert
Key Departures: Jonathan Williams III
Key Additions: Brandon Clarke (transfer), Joel Ayayi, Filip Petrušev
I haven’t seen another national poll with Gonzaga at No. 1 (most do have them in the top five however), but the Zags are here for a few reasons. For starters, they return four starters off a 32-win team that made the second weekend of the tournament for the fourth straight year. And had it not been for an injury to Killian Tillie, they probably would have blown past Florida State to the Elite Eight and maybe beyond. They’re also the only school – as best I can tell – who had two legitimate first round draft picks (Tillie and Rui Hachimura) choose to skip the draft and return to school. They also return a wing in Zach Norvell who averaged 13 points per game last year, and their only significant loss (Jonathan Williams III) might be addition by subtraction. He’ll be replaced by San Jose State transfer Brandon Clarke, who is a more versatile player who will likely make them even more dynamic offensively.
Some do still have concerns about the Zags point guard play, but they have the size, athleticism, talent and experience to hang with – and beat anyone – in college basketball. Two years after playing for a national championship, they are my favorite to win it all in 2018-2019.
2) Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Quade Green, P.J. Washington, Nick Richards, Jemarl Baker
Key Departures: Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt
Key Additions: Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans
Please understand that having Kentucky at No. 2 isn’t an “I write for KSR” thing. It’s an “I really like the makeup of this team going into next year” thing. And while the losses of Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel did sting on Wednesday, I do believe that the return of P.J. Washington trumps it all. Washington was the final piece of the puzzle for the 2019 Wildcats, a player who provides that physical low-post presence and scorer that the team would’ve lacked without him, and with him this team enters 2018-2019 with no true weakness. They have size, toughness, shooting, versatility and most importantly, a veteran presence on this team. We all know that John Calipari does his best work when he’s got second and third-year players to go along with a star-studded freshman class, and he will certainly have that entering next season.
To me, this is by far Kentucky’s best team since 2015, and by far its most genuine threat to cut down the nets since then as well. If this team somehow adds Reid Travis to the fold they will be the unquestioned No. 1 going into the season, but with Washington back I don’t think they necessarily need to add him to complete for a title either. The Wildcats are one of the handful of favorites to win it all in 2019.
3) Kansas Jayhawks
Key Returnees: Udoka Azibuke, Silvio de Souza, Marcus Garrett
Key Departures: Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, LaGerald Vick
Key Additions: Dedric Lawson (transfer), K.J. Lawson (transfer), Charlie Moore (transfer), Quentin Grimes, Devon Dodson, David McCormick
The pieces may be different from last year, but weirdly this roster may be deeper and more versatile than last year’s Final Four club. The name to watch here is Dedric Lawson, a 6’9 transfer who averaged 19 and 9 at Memphis two seasons ago. Ask folks around Kansas, and they believe that he – and not Devonte Graham or Malik Newman – was the best player in the program last year.
Other names to watch are point guard Charlie Moore (who averaged 12 points per game at Cal two years ago) and Quentin Grimes, arguably the best pure scorer in high school basketball last year. With them, Kansas is again in line to win roughly their 2,438th straight Big 12 title. And if they win that 2,438th straight Big 12 title, then they are certainly worth of a Top 5 ranking here.
4) Nevada Wolfpack
Key Returnees: Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline, Lindsey Drew
Key Departures: Kendall Stephens
Key Additions: Tre’Shawn Thurman (transfer), Corey Henson (transfer), Jazz Johnson (transfer), Nisre Zouzoua (transfer), Trey Porter (transfer), Ehab Amin (transfer), Jordan Brown
A lot of you went bonkers when I said on Twitter over the weekend that if the Martin twins returned, Nevada was a Top 5 team heading into the preseason. A lot of you guys wondered, “How can a team from the Mountain West which doesn’t play elite competition possibly be a Top 5 team?”
Well, here’s how. First of all, this was a Top 25 team all year last year, that won 29 games, went to the Sweet 16 and was one possession away from going to the Elite Eight. They now return three players (the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline) who averaged at least 16 points per game last year, and four starters overall. And please don’t tell me those numbers were “only” put up against Mountain West teams. The Martin twins began their careers at NC State, meaning that they’re good enough to play for and against anyone in college basketball.
Now, that same Sweet 16 team that returns four starters (including three who averaged 16 points per game) has depth, thanks to the addition of a McDonald’s All-American (Jordan Brown) and several high-level transfers. Did I mention that Nevada isn’t coached by some 36-year-old trying to move up the coaching ladder, but a guy who used to coach in the NBA and is one of the most respected minds in basketball? Well they are, in Eric Musselman.
Still wondering how Nevada is ranked in the Top 5 heading into the preseason? That’s how.
5) Virginia Cavaliers
Key Returnees: DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt
Key Departures: Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, Nigel Johnson
Key Additions: Kody Stattmann, Francisco Caffaro
I’m guessing many of you are surprised to see me rank Virginia this high after I’ve been so critical of Tony Bennett throughout the years. Well, ultimately I think there are two different things at play here. Bennett can be a slightly overrated coach who can’t adjust in March, and also be a guy who has a system which is innately designed to rack up wins during the regular season.
So when I look at Virginia, what I see is that they are a club which returns its top three scorers off a team that won 31 games last year, an ACC title and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Which also means that it’s very likely that next season they will again win around 30+ games, compete for an ACC regular season title and compete for a No. 1 seed.
If you do all that, you should be Top 5 in the preseason. Even if it will likely end with a crippling, first weekend loss in the NCAA Tournament.
6) North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Returnees: Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks
Key Departures: Joel Berry, Theo Pinson
Key Additions: Nassir Little, Coby White, Rechon Black
Truth be told, I like the Tar Heels more than most. Whatever you think about Luke Maye (and I know how plenty of people reading this feel) he averaged 17 and 10 last year and will return to college basketball as one of the most accomplished players in the sport. Cam Johnson was a double-figure scorer who will only get better, and Nassir Little is their first truly elite recruit since Harrison Barnes signed in 2011. Big guys like Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks will only get better.
To me, the Tar Heels are one of the more underrated teams heading into the 2018-2019 season. If they can get their point guard play right, they’re a true national championship contender.
Kentucky forward PJ Washington is officially back, and the Big Blue Nation is celebrating accordingly.
After going through the draft evaluation process, the newest Wildcat sophomore decided to come back to school to up his draft stock and win a national title.
Here is what Washington’s return means for Kentucky going forward:
No worries about the frontcourt
Before Washington’s decision, Kentucky only had two players locked in for the 2018-19 frontcourt: Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery. With Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard transferring out of the program, the uncertainty behind Richards’ development, and Montgomery being a freshman with zero experience, there were obvious concerns.
At various points of the process, all three of Kentucky’s potential NBA guys were rumored to leave. Obviously John Calipari would’ve found a replacement on the grad-transfer market, but had all three left, leaving an extremely thin frontcourt to chance was a bit scary.
With Washington back, you can breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a guarantee in the frontcourt to anchor the middle, no matter who else stays or goes. A darn good one, at that. And with teams as young as Kentucky’s year after year, constants are absolutely beautiful when others experience growing pains.
Beyond Washington, Richards, and Montgomery, if Reid Travis joins (as expected), the Cats will have two absolute bullies in the frontcourt to work with.
One player who went up against Reid Travis in an NBA workout recently: “He’s the strongest guy I’ve ever played against.”
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 30, 2018
Sounds like a whole lot of flexin’, to me.
The frontcourt looks great right now. Get one or both of Vando and Travis, we’re talking about one of the most loaded rosters in college basketball.
Guarantees a Final Four-caliber roster
To build off of the previous subheading, Washington’s return guarantees a loaded roster absolutely capable of making a run to the Final Four next March.
And it was a big reason why PJ decided to come back for round two.
“One of my goals is to win a national championship in college, and that’s what I want to do next season at Kentucky,” he said. “I believe with who we have coming back and who we have coming in that we can do that.”
When you go down the list, he’s pretty spot on.
This is what Kentucky’s roster looks like as of now:
Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Jemarl Baker, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and PJ Washington.
Elite guard play? Check.
Skilled frontcourt? Check
And there’s a strong chance the Cats will add one or two more to that list.
We talked before about Stanford transfer Reid Travis and how Kentucky is the runaway favorite to land him. As a First-Team Pac-12 player averaging 20 points and eight rebounds a game last season, he’d almost certainly start from the get-go. He’s a superstar. Add in Jarred Vanderbilt, and you can go ahead and pencil the Cats in as preseason No. 1.
SEC Player of the Year candidate with tournament experience
Most people focus on Washington’s devastating 8-20 performance from the line against Kansas State in the Sweet 16. Though it stung and likely kept the Cats from finishing off a run to the Final Four, it doesn’t tell the entire story of just how impressive Washington was to end the year.
The Kentucky sophomore was finding his groove in a major way, proving to be one of the team’s most consistent scoring and rebounding threats on the roster. To finish out the season, Washington finished in double-digits in 11 of Kentucky’s final 12 games, to go with at least five rebounds in each of those 11. He averaged 11 points and six rebounds throughout the season, but ended the year averaging 13 and seven in the final 12 contests, including performances of 18-15, 14-8, 18-7, and 13-10.
When Washington took advantage of his size and strength last season, he was unstoppable. If he can continue to develop that killer instinct in the post, along with show off an improved jumper, Washington has the potential to take home SEC Player of the Year honors.
There will be more experience next season, but the freshmen will need guys to take them under their wing and show them the ropes. Washington’s return will allow them to find their way with little pressure to tip off the season.
On that note… Bring on Duke.
Jarred Vanderbilt’s career at Kentucky comes to a close after playing in just 14 games. The Houston native announced on Twitter that he will remain in the NBA Draft.
BBN, Thank you for endless support and being patient with me through this decision. Kentucky will always be my second home!!! ??? pic.twitter.com/awGVHQ2MwJ
— Jarred Vanderbilt (@JVando) May 31, 2018
“Being a professional basketball player has always been a dream of mine,” Vanderbilt said in a statement from UK. “From the moment I first picked up a basketball when I was 4 years old, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. These past couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for me. With everything I went through this past season, I’ve had a lot to think about and what’s best for me and my future. Through it all, I’ve become a better man on and off the court.
“First off, I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity because without Him, none of this would be possible. I also want to thank all of the people in my life who have supported me throughout this entire process – from my family, to my teammates, to the coaches and UK staff, and most importantly the fans. The relationships I’ve built here will last a lifetime and I will cherish the memories I’ve made here forever.
“After going through the process, I was able to get some positive feedback that confirmed what I had hoped: that my time is now. It is going to be tough to leave this place, but I’ve decided to remain in the NBA Draft and pursue my dreams now.”
“Although I didn’t get to play a complete season like I initially intended, I’m still thankful for the opportunity I had to put a Kentucky uniform on and play for my dream school.
“I am very grateful I was able to play in front of the greatest fans in the world. I want to thank you for giving me support as I went through this process. You guys supported me throughout the year as I went through my injury and welcomed me with open arms when I got back on the court. This place is very special to me because of you all. Thank you for helping make Kentucky a second home for me. Big Blue Nation, I’ll forever bleed blue with you guys.”
During Vanderbilt’s 14 games at UK the Cats went 7-7 and he averaged 5.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mysterious foot injuries kept Vanderbilt sidelined for UK’s fall and first 17 games. What was labeled an ankle injury kept Vanderbilt out of UK’s six postseason games (three in the SEC Tournament and three in the NCAA Tournament).
“Jarred had a difficult decision to make,” John Calipari said. “I know he has been pulled in two different directions. On one hand he wants to show our fans what he can do in a full season and compete for a championship. I know he feels like he got that taken away from him this year. On the other hand, he’s seen how quickly this can be taken away. I completely understand and support his decision to get healthy and pursue his dreams now. As I said before, we’ve only seen a small part of his game because of the adversity he faced this season, but he’s got the motor and skill set that will serve him well at the next level.”
Vanderbilt’s NBA Draft stock isn’t currently high because he skipped the NBA Draft Combine, but if the right team drafts Vanderbilt and is patient with his recovery there’s no reason he can’t have a successful professional career. UK’s frontcourt will feature P.J. Washington, Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery, which leaves the door open for the Cats to bring in Stanford grad-transfer Reid Travis.
UK could be fine with just three frontcourt players, but expect the Cats to add one more. Vanderbilt’s UK career wasn’t what we were anticipating, but that’s life. Injuries stink and Vanderbilt seems like a great kid. Here’s to a speedy recovery and coming back better than ever in the NBA.
Wenyen Gabriel has decided to stay in the NBA Draft, ending his career as a Kentucky Wildcat. He announced the news via social media moments ago.
“BBN, thank you for supporting me for the last two years and being patient with me through these last few weeks,” Gabriel said. “This process hasn’t been easy for me and it’s choosing between a lifelong dream and playing in front of a fan base that I’ve grown to love so much. Opportunities like these don’t come without the support and encouragement from my family, Coach Cal, the coaching staff, my teammates, and of course, the fans.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of this journey at the University of Kentucky and I just want to thank everyone for who has supported me through both my ups and my downs. Lord knows this hasn’t been easy, but my time here has only better prepared me for what the future has for me.
“After receiving positive feedback, my dreams of becoming a professional basketball player are that much closer to reality. I believe that I’m ready to take that jump and will be keeping my name in the 2018 draft.”
To the best fans in the world, I couldn’t be more honored to have worn that Kentucky name across my chest for the past two years. It truly has been a blessing. To all those who have supported me, I just want to say thank you. My time here will never be forgotten… wish me well! pic.twitter.com/zpukdXMcf1
— UPM?N™ (@WenyenGabriel) May 30, 2018
Last season, Wenyen averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds but came on strong in the final stretch. Over the last nine games of the season, he averaged 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-point field goals per game, becoming UK’s go-to perimeter shooter. He set a UK and SEC Tournament record in the semifinals by going a perfect 7-7 from the outside en route to 23 points.
“Wenyen’s game is where the league continues to trend towards,” John Calipari said. “He’s a position-less big man who can shoot, guard multiple positions and is willing to do what it takes to win. Wenyen grew so much from his freshman season to his sophomore year. If he continues to make those same strides, he’s going to carve himself a role with a team. He and I have talked and he knows he’s going to have to work hard to get there, but I’m confident he can.”
Not listed in any major mock drafts or top 100 prospect rankings, Wenyen’s best chances of playing professionally will likely be the G-League or overseas. So far, he’s worked out for Oklahoma City, Utah, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Sacramento, so here’s hoping he gets a spot in a summer league.
“Big Blue Nation, we’ve shared some exciting memories together,” he added. “From the first time I walked out for Big Blue Madness all the way to walking out of St. Louis as SEC champs, Kentucky will always be my home.”
Best of luck, Wenyen. Thank you for the memories. We’ll all be rooting for you.
PJ Washington is back, baby! Washington just announced he is withdrawing from the NBA Draft and will return to Kentucky for his sophomore season:
— PJ Washington (@PJWashington) May 30, 2018
“I want to thank everyone for their support during this process and allowing me to take my time for one of the most important decisions of my life,” Washington said in a release from UK. “The plan all along was to get all the information that was out there to make the best decision for me and my family. I’ve always had a list of goals that I want to accomplish in my life, and one of the most important ones is making it to the NBA. That hasn’t changed at all.
“But another one of my goals is to win a national championship in college, and that’s what I want to do next season at Kentucky. I believe with who we have coming back and who we have coming in that we can do that. I learned a lot during my freshman season and became a better player, but I think I’ve only scratched the surface. With everything I’ve learned, I want to lead this team and compete for a championship. I can’t wait to get back on campus and get this thing started again.”
John Calipari praised the rules that allow player to test the waters to get feedback, but admitted he’s really happy he’ll be able to coach PJ for another season.
“This is what the NBA Draft rules are in place for,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “PJ was able to test the waters and get all the information that was available to him to make the best decision for him and his family. Whatever PJ decided we were going to support, but I’m really happy with the decision he’s come to because I really want to coach PJ for another season. I know how good of a player he is and think he showed it at times last season, but I’m looking forward to seeing him grow and build on it. What I love most about this decision is why PJ is doing it. He told me he wants to come back to be a leader, to grow and to drag his teammates with him as we try to do something special.”
LET’S GOOOOOOOO. Jarred, Wenyen, and Reid, get in here!!!!
I hope everyone is enjoying UK Decision Day 2018. We are over 16 hours into this day without any decisions, but that will change over the next eight hours.
Here’s a short update on what I’m hearing:
P.J. Washington: I’ve heard only positive things but I haven’t had one person come out and tell me he’s definitively coming back to UK. There’s no denying that the buzz on Washington over the last week has flipped.
I haven’t spoken to anyone with knowledge of the Reid Travis and how that impacts Washington.
Washington may leave, but my guess is he is leaning towards returning to UK.
(UPDATE: Moments after publishing this story Washington announced he’s returning to UK)
Wenyen Gabriel: I’m most confident about Wenyen Gabriel RETURNING to Kentucky for a junior season. I’m at the point where I would be slightly surprised if he stayed in the NBA Draft. Again, I haven’t had anyone tell me if Reid Travis possibly coming to UK would lead Gabriel elsewhere. Assuming Travis doesn’t scare off Gabriel I would expect him to return.
Jarred Vanderbilt: It seems that where there’s been positive momentum for Washington, it’s been the opposite for Vanderbilt. This has easily been the toughest code to crack, but I haven’t spoken with one person that believes Vanderbilt will return to UK today. No one was 100 percent certain, but it seems that Vanderbilt may try his luck at the next level. If that’s the case I hope he gets healthy and dominates.
Reid Travis: He seems locked into going to UK, but I am curious if Washington and Gabriel return, along with Richards and Montgomery, how that may impact his decision. I’m going to wait to see what the UK trio does before going down that wormhole.
I was told that the decisions shouldn’t last until midnight, so we could be hearing final decisions shortly.
By TJ Walker on ©May 30th, 2018 @ 11:48am
Jeff Goodman is reporting that it isn’t quite a done deal for Reid Travis to enroll at Kentucky.
In his ESPN article, Goodman says it will be Villanova or Kentucky for Travis, but says the (UK) Wildcats are the heavy favorite to land the 6-foot-8, 245-pound grad-transfer.
“Multiple sources told ESPN that Kentucky is the front-runner to land Travis, and that defending national champion Villanova is also involved. The Wildcats have three frontcourt players who have declared for the draft, but have yet to decide whether to withdraw: Jarred Vanderbilt, P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel. UK also added elite big man E.J. Montgomery and brings back Nick Richards.”
I would be surprised if Travis went elsewhere, but the Cats may have some competition. Expect Travis to visit UK in the very near future and maybe Calipari can lock him down when he’s on campus.
If I’m Calipari I’m printing a picture of Dante Cunningham and showing it to Travis. That’s Villanova’s best big in the NBA. Former UK players have surpassed a billion dollars in the NBA and Villanova has Dante Cunningham.
(let’s ignore the fact Nova has won two titles in three season)
This is going to continue to be a wild day.
As we await tonight’s eligibility deadline, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter what happens, John Calipari has a plan. One potential ace in his sleeve is Reid Travis, the grad transfer from Stanford who could easily plug a hole on next year’s roster should PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and/or Wenyen Gabriel decide to stay in the draft.
We’ve mentioned Travis from time to time on this site, but with the clock ticking, here’s a little bit more about him.
1. He was third in the Pac-12 in scoring and rebounding
Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last season, which ranked third in the Pac-12 in both categories. In fact, he was top three in the Pac-12 in ten categories overall, including made and attempted free throws, total points, total rebounds, and double doubles. In turn, he was named First Team All-Pac-12 for the second year in a row and was a NABC First Team All-District Selection.
2. He made his mark on the Stanford record books
Travis is one of only three players in Stanford history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in less than 100 career games. He ranks 10th on Stanford’s career rebounding list (758 rebounds) and 16th on the career scoring list (1,427 points). A three-year captain, he received the Hank Luisetti Most Valuable Player Award this past season.
3. He injured his leg as a sophomore, which earned him an extra year of eligibility
A top five power forward and McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Travis had a promising first year at Stanford, but suffered a leg injury early in his sophomore season, which earned him an extra year of eligibility. He’ll graduate next month and, once the semester is over, can transfer to the program of his liking with no restrictions.
4. He declared for the NBA Draft but was not invited to the Combine
Travis is also testing the waters of the NBA Draft, so he’ll have to let the NCAA know tonight if he’s staying in the draft or returning to college. He did not receive an invitation to the Combine and isn’t listed on any major mock drafts, but has worked out for several teams including Cleveland, Brooklyn, Denver, Minnesota, and Golden State.
(Update: Jeff Goodman is reporting Travis has withdrawn from the draft and Kentucky is the favorite.)
5. Kentucky and Duke may battle for his services
If John Calipari loses even one of the three players to the draft, Travis could be his first call. At 6’8″, 245 lbs., he’s a workhorse inside that could easily fill the void if PJ Washington goes pro. Even if PJ comes back, Kentucky would benefit from having Travis’ experience and consistency in the post. For that reason, reports suggest Mike Krzyzewski is also interested in picking him up, meaning Travis’ chances of being on a national title contending roster next season are high.
6. His nickname is R2D2
In an interview with Stanford’s kid reporter Gavin, Travis revealed that he gave himself the nickname R2D2 in high school, but it didn’t catch on in college. Maybe it can make a comeback in Lexington?
7. He played quarterback in high school
If he comes to Kentucky, get ready to hear that a million times per game.
8. Here he is with Anthony Davis
— Reid Travis (@2ReidTravis2) January 24, 2014
The two met at the LeBron James Skills Academy in 2013.
9. Regardless of who comes back, I want him on my squad
The more I read about Travis, the more I like him. A smart, dependable double-double machine with over three years of experience playing at the college level? Come. On. Down.
10. He likes pineapple on his pizza
Nobody’s perfect. We’ll forgive you for that one, Reid.
By KSR on ©May 29th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
Will PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Wenyen Gabriel be on Kentucky’s roster this fall? With the NCAA’s eligibility deadline fast approaching, the Kentucky Sports Radio staff turned in their predictions.
Tyler: PJ’s situation has been the most frustrating to me because he has the most to gain by coming back. Only one or two mock drafts have PJ getting drafted at all this year, whereas he’s projected to be a mid-first round pick in the 2019 draft. PJ and his family have always struck me as very reasonable, so why drag this out? The only answer I can come up with is PJ is so close to his dream of playing in the NBA that he’s taking this to the wire in hopes of getting a first round guarantee. I doubt he’ll get it, so my prediction is reason will win out and he’ll return to Kentucky and have a monster sophomore season.
T.J.: A week ago I thought there was a slim chance that Washington would return to Kentucky, but after his last two workouts last week there seems to be a sense that he may actually return to UK for a sophomore season. The question with Washington is how serious is he about that first round guarantee? Is it a first round guarantee along with a top 10 pick in the second round? If he truly is set on first round or bust, well, it’s not happening. I’m starting to actually believe Washington will return for a sophomore season.
Nick: Even though there appears to be some late breaking scuttlebutt that Washington will return to Kentucky for one more season, I’m not buying it. If he does return, he’ll be the Cats’ best player, but after a few excellent scrimmages at the NBA Combine, my gut refuses to believe that he will only leave if he’s a guaranteed first round pick.
Jack: Washington has had a great evaluation period, featuring a strong performance at the NBA Combine and impressive workouts showing off an improved jump shot. He began the process in the late-2nd/undrafted range, but has pushed his way up the board to the early/mid-2nd round range. If he fails to find a taker at the end of the first round, as expected, I think Washington realizes he can return to Kentucky and become not only one of the best frontcourt players in the SEC, but the entire nation. With the opportunity to dominate, lead his team to a title, and jump into lottery position in next June’s draft, the Kentucky forward will ultimately return to school to anchor the 2018-19 roster.
Drew: Before I make any of my predictions, I’d like to make it clear that I don’t know anything more than you do about the three. Like you, I’m a little baffled we’re even having this conversation in the first place because I think all three should return, except for maybe Vanderbilt if he’s not confident he can stay healthy. That being said, I’ll go on the record as saying Washington will return because he is not going to get that first-round guarantee. He has so much to gain by coming back, I think he’ll ultimately decide to do so. He can get redemption for his free throw woes in his last game; he can show the NBA he can shoot; he will be an All-SEC player; and he can take advantage of a weak 2019 draft class. Come on back, PJ.
Tyler: It’s hard to understand Jarred’s situation because the extent of his injury is still unknown. An NBA team would probably take a chance on him in the second round, but clearly, he could help his case with a successful second year at Kentucky; however, is his injury — and, perhaps more importantly, the fear or reinjury — enough for him to go ahead and take whatever he can get this year? Even though he has people around him who want him to stay in the draft, I believe he will return to Kentucky simply because he doesn’t have a lot of options otherwise.
T.J.: We will never cover a Kentucky player as mysterious as Jarred Vanderbilt. His recruitment was kept in the dark, and we have no idea the extent of his injuries during his time as a Wildcat. We also don’t have any idea what’s next for Vanderbilt. We do know that he bailed last minute on the NBA Combine. We know he hasn’t met with many NBA teams (if any at all). We know that he wouldn’t be drafted in the first round. It seems like a no-brainer Vanderbilt should return but we are here still waiting. It seems like he may have to return to UK unless he wants to rehab in the G-League.
Nick: Vanderbilt can’t leave, can he? He bailed on the NBA Combine for unknown reasons. We will discover after his decision that it was likely because of injury. If Vanderbilt finished the season, I would understand the motive to depart for the NBA Draft: cash in while you can. However, the injury that kept Vanderbilt out of the NCAA Tournament gives him no other choice than to return to UK for one more year.
Jack: Vanderbilt easily has the toughest decision out of the three Wildcats participating in the evaluation process. When he was on the court, there was no denying Vando was one of the most talented and fun-to-watch players on the team. His motor and rebounding abilities were second-to-none, and we saw in high school just how silky-smooth he could be on offense, as well.
But that was when he actually played.
If Vanderbilt gets hurt again, there’s a chance the NBA may be too scared to take a shot on him ever again. After pulling out of the combine for unknown reasons, teams now have zero medical records and very limited on-court film of him to work with. Teams draft on potential all the time, but I have an extremely hard time believing a team would take a shot on him right now with so many question marks surrounding his status.
My gut tells me Vando returns to Kentucky in hopes of an injury-free season to maximize his draft stock for 2019. If he’s able to accomplish that, he has first-round lock written all over him.
Drew: Vanderbilt’s entire first season was a head-scratcher, filled with all kinds of rumors about what was truly going on behind the scenes. There was speculation that he was ready to play much sooner than he actually did, and that he and his family had eyes on the NBA over playing at all his freshman season. I still think they’re eager to get to the league, so I’ll say he makes the jump now to begin rehabbing with an NBA franchise while making whatever money he can get right away. He’s obviously very fragile, and if he were to injure himself again at UK next season, he may never earn a dime playing basketball.
Tyler: Wenyen’s choice is the simplest of the three. If PJ and/or Jarred come back, he probably won’t get the minutes he needs to improve his draft stock; however, he’s one year shy of graduating. If both PJ and Jarred return to Kentucky, I think Wenyen’s gone, but if only one of them returns, I think he’ll decide to come back, fight for playing time, and get his degree.
T.J.: Similar to what Tyler said above. If one of P.J./Jarred leave for the NBA Draft I would expect Wenyen to return, but it’s going to come down to minutes for Gabriel. His three-point shooting makes him intriguing but if he won’t get the minutes to play it makes sense to go overseas and get paid.
Nick: With all of these predictions, I’m sticking with my gut. Washington will leave, while Vanderbilt and Gabriel will return. It provides just enough opportunity for Gabriel to get minutes as a lengthy perimeter player. He will graduate and have an infinitely higher chance of cashing an NBA check after three years at UK.
Jack: If Washington and Vanderbilt return to Kentucky, I think Gabriel will keep his name in the draft and explore his professional options further. The Wildcat forward enjoys playing at UK, but he also likely sees the writing on the wall when it comes to playing time. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards are locked in, and if Vando and Washington return, that’s a loaded frontcourt with limited extra minutes. I suppose Gabriel could work on his guard skills a bit and see additional time at the three, but that’s not something to bank on.
I think Gabriel would obviously find minutes as a junior, but how much could he actually improve his stock if he’s not a go-to option on offense?
If one of Vanderbilt or Washington leaves, Gabriel fills that spot and returns to Kentucky. If not, I believe he is gone.
Drew: Like everyone else said, Wenyen’s decision is going to come down to how many minutes are waiting for him at Kentucky. I’ll be different and say he leaves, and if he does, I wish him nothing but the best because he’s one of my favorites. I’m a big Wenyen fan and I hope I’m wrong.
Maybe some of the older members of Big Blue Nation will remember this but the greatest coach in UK history nearly ran for office.
The University of Kentucky had a mandatory retirement age of 70. Some (including Adolph Rupp) thought an exception would be made for Rupp after he had been coaching since 1930. After Rupp’s 1972 season ended in the Elite Eight he questioned whether he could continue to coach despite UK’s rule.
Rupp tried to fight retirement and hoped the UK Board of Trustees would change the rule, but Rupp was unsuccessful. While in limbo and waiting to hear from UK, Rupp told the Courier-Journal that he was considering running for the 6th district congressional seat. That district spans Lexington, Richmond and Frankfort.
Rupp had zero experience running for office or holding office, but he was confident that if he ran not only could he win but he would do a good job.
“I know as much about Vietnam and these other things as those other fellows know,” Rupp told the Courier-Journal. “I was brought up on a farm. I worked on a farm until I was 23. I have owned a farm since 1941.”
I would have voted for Rupp with the campaign slogan “I know as much about things things as those other fellows.” Quite frankly it’s better than what we get today.
Incumbent William Curlin decided not to run and just a few days after mentioning a potential political career Rupp thought better of the idea thanks to advice from his family.
“After meeting with my family they all hoped I would not run for Congress, and urged me not to,” Rupp said. “I will abide by their wishes.”
Rupp’s plan was to run as a Democrat but after his family asked him not to run the seat was won by fellow Democrat John B. Breckinridge. Breckinridge would go on serving for six years. Rupp died just over five years later from spinal cancer on a night UK beat Kansas (Rupp’s alma mater) at Allen Fieldhouse.
Perhaps Rupp was just trying to show the UK Board that he had other options and didn’t have to coach. Or perhaps Rupp truly wanted to make a political run.
Would you have voted for Rupp? Do you think Cal has any political aspirations after coaching?
Just a few days later, Rupp had decided. He would not run. John Breckinridge, a former KY Attorney General, won the 6th District that fall. The appointed incumbent, William Curlin, had decided not to run.
— KYPoliticalHistory (@HistoryKentucky) May 29, 2018