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.