This is Matt by the way
Kentucky Sports Radio was in the house for the Blue-White scrimmage at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday. Pretty good crowd as the place was not full but still had quite a fan showing nonetheless. Overall the team actually looked quite good to me, slacking a bit on defense as one would expect in a glorified pickup game, but also showing much greater offensive efficiency than we have seen in the last year. The point totals and highlights are below, but dont truly tell the story of the game, so for those of you not fortunate to get to see the festivities, I will give you my positive and negative highlights of the day and a little overview of what we saw from each player.
Offensive Aggressiveness — For those that watched the Cats last year, it was easy to get frustrated as players seemed to spend most of their time standing around the outside of the three point arc. This game saw explosiveness from Bradley, Meeks, Jasper, Perry and especially, Joe Crawford. All of these guys showed a desire to take the ball to the basket and get to the rim. And for much of the game, when he decided to make such moves, Joe Crawford was unstoppable.
The Big 4 production — I have spoken often on this site about my belief that after the top couple of teams, Kentucky’s Big 4 is as good as any in the country. This was shown tonight as Morris, Crawford, Perry and Bradley all had over 24 points. All four guys showed that they can score, if not at will, with ease and, most importantly, can create their own shot when necessary….a skill often lacking on last year’s team.
Free Throw shooting — While one doesnt want to overreact at a scrimmage, the Cats shot 89% from the free throw line, and the winning team shot 100% from the line. No player who was fouled ever missed both free throws, and even the very few misses were not bad misses. For a team that has often in recent years been painful to watch from the line, this is again a very good sign.
Freshman production — We have hoped for some time that these freshmen would be able to produce and this game showed that they will. Meeks and Jasper proved that they will be point producers immediately….Jasper with his penetration and Meeks with his strength and shooting. Stevenson and Porter both looked like they will take a bit longer, but didnt look lost…..a feature all too common in freshman in the past few years.
Shooting — Whether it was Perry, Bradley, Crawford and others from outside or Woo with the medium range jumper, this team shot the ball very well on Saturday. When open, the shots virtually always fell and the rhythm was universally smooth. Few would have thought that an open Woo would hit a crucial shot in the game, but he did, something that he shared with the vast majority of the team.
Eric Allen — Walkon Allen has often been forgotten on this team and it is not even clear that he will dress this year. But Allen had 10 points and looked more intergrated into the team concept than some of the other scholarship players. Folks Allen has talent and could find himself playing his way into the roster very soon.
Jared Carter — One hates to single a person out, but Carter once again proved to be steps behind the rest of these guys. HE was consistently beat on both ends of the floor, often by Woo, who scored 14 points on him and should have had another 10 but for his missed layups. Carter was completely out of the offensive team play and was bullied by all of his teammates. He had a couple of nice blocks but in general was completely forgettable on the court.
Randolph Morris hustle — Morris is going to have a HUGE YEAR. He is a stud and his offensive game is absolutely in peak form. He is playing strong and looks better than ever. But he still doesnt give 100% on the floor. At Madness this was obvious, but excusable…..it was nothing but a fan event. But thi was a team scrimmage that all the players gave their all towards…..Randolph should too.
Defensive rotation — Granted this is not a real game, but rotation….one of the hallmarks of Tubby Smith defense was lacking today. Too many wide open shooters for Smith’s liking I would assume.
My negatives are actually very few, as I do think the team was generally very positive today. EVERY PLAYER looks stronger (thanks Scott Holsopple) and conditioning didnt seem to be a worry. Here were my short takes on all the guys:
Derrick Jasper: It took Jasper a few minutes to get in the flow, but when he did, he showcased why he may have the most potential of all the Freshmen. HE is a great slasher to the basket and may become very quickly, the best passer on the team. His athleticism is through the roof and his defense is stellar. Jasper seemed completely comfortable with the offense and took no bad shots. Best performance by any of the Freshmen.
Sheray Thomas — Sheray was relatively quiet, but not in a bad “I am blending into the floor” way. Thomas hit the glass, set a number of screens (the blue team was much more effective at this) and scored in double digits. Most impressive to me was how much more athletic Sheray looks. He seems much more like the leaper of the Freshmen year who we were so excited about than the more lackadaisical Thomas of last year. Good performance.
WOO — An overall solid performance from Woo with 14 points. Woo still is dreadful at making layups, missing at least ten gimme points with his inability to finish. But he shot the ball very well and made a number of pretty outside jumpers. One of the advantages to teaming him with Morris is that if Morris works the low block, Woo may be able to hit the free throw line jumper on the double team. Woo’s strength as always was his defense and screening, both of which he does better than any of the other big men. He did however foul like crazy.
Ramel Bradley — I love Smooth running this team. He is a vocal leader, is completely in the game and genuinely wanted to win. He went to the basket throughout the game and ran the offense better than he has in recent years. He effectively limited Porter’s open looks and was great at setting up Bobby Perry with his penetration. You still have to worry a little about him being out of control, but it only happened a couple of times and was more out of a sense of style than anything. I thought Smooth had a GREAT game.
Bobby Perry — I remember when I saw Bobby Perry in high school in Durham and I just knew he would be a good player. He was confident, smart, a good shooter and a student of the game. That is the Bobby Perry we have now here. He played wonderfully, scoring 28 points effortlessly and hitting big shot after big shot. His defense on Crawford could have been better, but he held his team together and likely would have been the MVP had one been given.
Mark Coury — Freshman walk on has a lot of work to do before he can contribute. He is a big, strong body and he does seem to have a good basketball IQ. But he is still a step slow and looks like he has to overthink the game….in the way that I used to have to when I played. I do like the way he fights down low and he shows the potential to one day get some minutes. But it wont be this year.
Joe Crawford — You had to love what you saw from Crawford. Not only did he literally score at will, but he was the vocal leader of this team, something I have NEVER seen from Joe. His drives to the basket were effortless and he attacked the basket on every possession. His defense was a bit lackadaisical but part of that was his need to be the offensive force for his team. Joe is going to play great with Ramel, because Porter is not a penetrating point guard and when Joe has that, his open looks will only increase.
Randolph Morris — There is no question in my mind that Randolph is the best player on this team. He is a man, looks like a pro athlete and has developed an NBA low post scoring ability. I liked the way he rebounded, most of his defense and the way he always made the important shot. He still however takes too many plays off, something that hopefully will go away in the regular season. I expect a HUGE year from Morris.
Jared Carter — This was a true disappointment. Lots will point out that he rarely shot the ball, but part of that is because he was never open. He let Woo control him on the block and he never was available for the entry pass. He had a couple of nice blocks (often in recovery after getting beat on defense) but in general he looked completely lost on both ends of the floor. The rationale for playing Carter over Woo is offensive ability. Woo is a better defender and rebounder and for all his faults, knows the offense more. Carter is a better scorer. But when he cant score (like tonight), there is simply no reason for him to play.
Michael Porter — An up and down performance for Porter who looked a bit nervous throughout. He had a number of turnovers and made some mistakes running the team. But he did execute the offense generally effectively and did a good job getting the ball to Morris and Crawford in positions for them to score. Has to do a better job defensively, but he wasnt completely out of step. Porter will play some this year and will be a solid four year contributor.
Perry Stevenson — Stevenson showed his athleticism a number of times Saturday, including getting higher for rebounds and blocks than anyone on the floor. He was very limited offensively and when he received the ball in positions to score, he too often seemed content on simply kicking the ball out. However he may be the most athletic kid on the team and you can see he is still growing into his body. He will play this year, but not a ton. But I like his upside and he has a great future at UK.
Jodie Meeks — Meeks looked completely comfortable on the floor and showed his Keith Bogans-0esque future with 15 points. Meeks is the most ready to be a scorer in the freshman class and in my view will see a lot of minutes. Meeks missed a number of open jumpers that he would normally hit and thus could have had a number of more points. He was a calming influence on Porter and often rotated over as the two guard/point position, a la Sparks last year. Not the best game for Jodie but one that showed why I think he will be the biggest immediate contributor this year.
Eric Allen — I didnt plan on writing about the walk ons, but Allen made me do it. Let me tell you something folks, Allen can ball, as seen by his 10 points in limited minutes. Unlike most walk-ons, he deferred to no one and caused one former UK guy to tell me he reminded him of freshman year Gerald Fitch. I will be interested to see if Tubby lets him on the roster, because if you watched him today, you would have thought he deserved to be there.
All in all a great performance. Should have more stuff later. Hope you enjoyed….
Blue beat White 95-87
Ramel Bradley – 28
Bobby Perry – 28
Woo – 14
Derrick Jasper – 13
Sheray Thomas – 10
Mark Coury – 2
Joe Crawford – 31
Randolph Morris – 24
Jodie Meeks – 15
Eric Allen – 10
Michael Porter – 5
Perry Stevenson – 2
Jared Carter – An unimpressive zero