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The Mystery of Sacha

The class of 2016 haul that UK brought in was, per usual, a great one. And we’ve definitely seen it bear fruit–whether that was Malik’s 47 on UNC, De’Aaron’s performance last night, Bam’s man-eating dunks, or Wenyen’s inexplicably long reach.

But one of that class’s gems has yet to shine for the Cats: Sacha Killeya-Jones.

Coming into UK, the 6-10/11 power forward was heralded as a Trey Lyles clone, and he’s shown flashes of a similar skill set in limited action. The bright spot in his tenure so far has been a four-game stretch, from Duquesne to Arizona State, where he averaged just under 7 points and almost 12 minutes. In those minutes–though they admittedly came at times when the game was out of hand–Killeya-Jones showed that he could make plays in the post, he could hit the 15-foot jump shots that made Lyles so valuable, and he could rebound the ball well enough. Obviously, that wasn’t against top-tier competition, but the effort didn’t go unnoticed.

He got in for a minute, and was pulled after committing a foul, against UNC, but never saw the court against big-time opponents UCLA or Louisville.

Now, with the Cats having begun SEC play in earnest, it seems the former McDonald’s All-American gets lost in the shuffle. Even with the still-tantalizing height, build, and touch, the North Carolina-native has found himself behind the likes of Gabriel, Isaac Humphries, and Derek Willis.

I’m not saying his placement in the lineup is unwarranted, mostly because I don’t see what goes down at practice, but it’s probably worth questioning why the forward has gotten the same number of SEC minutes as Brad Calipari. They checked in at the same time last night and the game before then, and SKJ saw no time in the Ole Miss game while Wynyard did–albeit for one minute. Maybe it’s a matter of sending a message and lighting a fire under SKJ’s butt on coach Cal’s part, or maybe he’s just not cutting the mustard–who can say?

Perhaps it’s confidence that will come with an extra year under his belt (after all, he is the youngest player on the team). The forward does have his flaws, and lack of confidence would be the one that I can identify, but have we seen enough of him to be sure he warrants a spot at the end of the bench? Maybe so.

Personally, I’d like to see more of the guy whose mid-range game (is that not the one area where we’re absolute garbage?) excited me from the get-go.


Article written by Austin Horn

Follow him on Twitter @Lilbighorn23KSR

14 Comments for The Mystery of Sacha

  1. CatsFan92
    4:46 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    Like you said, you don’t see what goes down at practice. If playing time was warranted I don’t see why Cal would keep him on the bench.

  2. The Frizz
    5:01 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    The next Charles Matthews in the making.

    • Luether
      1:46 pm January 9, 2017 Permalink

      Sacha will likely transfer too…

  3. World Wide Wes
    5:15 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    Not everyone is an instant freshman star. Sacha will be a very good player for us in the future. He’s on a different path. He’s practicing against superstars and will continue to grow and get better. He could come out next season and be an all-American. I’m in his corner and believe in him!! In Cal we trust.

  4. kentuckyjoe
    5:53 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    Good piece Austin. From what I’ve seen, which is very little, he sure looks like he deserves more clock. A few of Gabriel’s minutes would be a good place to start. But, as you and others have said, we’re not at practice. And in Cal we trust. I’ll admit, Coach probably knows a little more about the situation than I do.

  5. Curtis Lowe
    6:04 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    One could make the same argument for Mulder…. Cals given Gabriel the Skal treatment. Giving him endless opportunities at willis’ expense. It cost us last year, Hope history doesnt repeat itself.

    • UK Big Board Update
      6:09 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

      Go back and watch how many times Willis lost his man on defense – and then that man scored.

    • SanDiegoCats
      7:55 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

      Agree. While Willis is improving defensively, he consistently gets beat. And while he was struggling on the offensive side there wasn’t a reason for him to get minutes over Gabriel. As far as Sacha is concerned, yes he does look more polished than Gabriel offensively and is a much longer and effective defender than Willis. But that’s what we see in limited minutes. If he was overwhelmingly better than Willis and Gabriel he would be in. We don’t know what happens behind the scenes. I mean look at Mulder, I don’t think the guy has missed consecutive 3’s yet this season but he still doesn’t get the playing time you would expect someone who is that efficient to get.

    • Luether
      11:15 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

      Cal plays favorites. Always has, always will…

  6. shelby
    7:52 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    I Like Sachas game; he has a great skill set. I think he just has yet to adjust to the speed of the game at this level.

  7. Aar
    8:05 pm January 8, 2017 Permalink

    Nice article, Austin. I agree and would like to see more of him. I like his offense but lose him on defense. He also seems to get winded very quickly – like 3 trips up and down the court quickly. He also doesn’t look very lean – despite adding quite a bit of size while on campus. We all know that Cal loves a fit defender. I suspect Killeya-Jones’ fitness and defensive presence are limiting his minutes.

    Another factor is that in pre-season pressers, Cal always seemed to speak of him as young and still growing. He also tended to speak of him as a player that would take a year to develop. His current utilization rate tends to agree with that. On the other hand, in the post-Arkansas presser last night, Cal mentioned that he liked what he saw from Killeya-Jones. Could we see him a bit earlier and in rotation against Vandy?

    I think we could use another look in the front court. Adebayo, Humphries, Gabriel & Willis all have their strengths and weaknesses and most opponents “solve” 3 of them within the span of a game.. Apparently Wynyard sets picks like Mt Everest. I’d love to see enough of Killeya-Jones to understand his strengths and weaknesses.

  8. 2thepoint
    12:13 am January 9, 2017 Permalink

    I see SKJ’s problem just like any other player for Cal is if you don’t play good defense you don’t see the floor. We are seeing more of Humphries because he is playing better than he had been. We are seeing a little of Wynyard, but not much. He has to be able to play defense at a fast pace. There are only so many minutes to go around and we need consistency to win. Hawkins, Mulder, Willis, and Humphries are going to get those minutes unless one of the remaining players plays defense good enough to replace them.

  9. fauxbobknight
    9:17 am January 9, 2017 Permalink

    When was he ever dubbed a Trey Lyles clone? He cant dribble like Lyles and he cant play the 3 (on offense or defense).

  10. Ukgrad2006
    1:25 pm January 9, 2017 Permalink

    SKJ>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Humphries. Humphries is the biggest liability on the team,