Saturday night in Rupp found the Cats playing against themselves as the Blue-White scrimmage brought out a great performance from Team Gillispie. We highlighted a few of the notes here last night, but in case you missed the game, here are some of the important takeaways from the evening.
(1): It is time to realize that Jodie Meeks is on star alert. Patrick Patterson has rightly been christened one of the best players in America, but Meeks showed on Saturday why he may not be far behind. His range from outside is stellar, his ability to take the ball to the basket is tremendous, but most importantly, he has become a complete perimeter player. He can play defense, rebound, get out in transition and read situations with such vision that he always knows where to be at the correct time. Absent an injury, he becomes a star this year.
(2): Josh Harrellson may be tough to keep out of the starting lineup. While Perry Stevenson gives you a lot more athleticism in the interior, Harrellson showcased just what he brings to this team on the offensive end. He can step out and shoot the three and is a good passer, running a couple of good high-low plays with AJ Stewart during the game. If he can improve his quickness a bit, he may find himself starting by mid-season.
(3): The Freshmen all have work to do. In some cases a lot of work, in some cases just a bit. Darius Miller already knows how to play and looks great on defense. His offense is still a work in progress, but he will have a great career at UK. DeAndre Liggins will find playing time as soon as he can master the system. He is still lost a bit on defense, but his vision is great and he can be a sparkplus for the team. I am a bit concerned about Kevin Galloway. He is totally lost on the defensive end and only once in the game did he display what he does best, the athleticism taking the ball to the basket. He will need to step up or he may find himself out of playing time.
(4): AJ Stewart is an enigma. I thought AJ played very well. He had 16 points, 6 boards and 4 steals and was very active on both ends of the court. But Gillispie saw it differently saying that you cant judge a game by his stat line. He believes AJ must become dominant on the glass and defensive end to see playing time and ever time you hear Gillispie talk, you wonder if that playing time is coming. Watching AJ will be a good side game for the year.
(5): Could Jared Carter be improved? Color me skeptical, but he did look better on Saturday that at any point in his Kentucky career. He had 11 points, a number of boards and for the first time that I can remember, looked comfortable in his own skin. I know its the Blue-White game, but I saw Jared go 0-12 in his Sophomore year in the game. This was much improved.
(6): Michael Porter is better. How much better remains to be seen, but you can see why he is likely to start on Monday night. He runs the offense well, knocked down some open shots and didnt get abused on defense. He still misses layups (2 on Saturday) and can be frustrating, but he will play this year and he looks to be in a better spot.
(7): Mark Krebs is ready to be in the rotation. I dont expect Krebs to play every game, but as Gillispie said afterwards, he is ready to be a “situational player” who can come off the bench and provide shooting. His defense is solid enough not to be a liability and he can hit the outside jumper as well as anyone not named Jodie Meeks. He will find himself on the floor this year and has the potential to be a real spark.
(8): There are walk-on minutes possible. Even leaving aside Krebs, guys like Landon Slone and Jarvis Walker have the potential to play….the latter of course after he sits out the first semester. In Slone’s case, he is tough, gritty and Coach obviously loves him….making him possible to see the court. He played more on Saturday than Darius Miller, Donald Williams and Kevin Galloway. Watch for him.
(9): Early on the roster will look different than later in the year. I think only three spots are locked at this point in the year…..Patterson, Meeks and a healthy Ramon Harris. When not healthy, Miller will take that starting role. However after that, a lot of guys may make their way into the lineup. Porter will start the year at PG. but Liggins, Galloway and even Miller may find their way into that spot (with Meeks moving over to PG if the latter happens). Similarly, I expect Perry Stevenson to begin the year at the 5, but we may see Harrellson, AJ or even Jared Carter there, depending on how things play out. Playing time can be earned with this group…..it just depends on who earns it.
(10): Gillispie is VERY happy right now. I only dealt with Clyde last year….but I dealt with him when things werent going wonderfully. His demeanor was generally sour and early in the year he was very difficult to work with. Things have changed….he loves this team and thinks they are far advanced of where his previous teams have been at this point. He gave unvarnished praise last night, something we just didnt see last year and you can tell he loves all the options he has right now. He really has 12 guys who can play from Day #1 and that is exciting for him. That energy is great to see.
We will have more in our night post tonight, including getting ready for Exhibition Game 1 on Monday…..