Kentucky’s time at SEC Basketball Media Day has come to an end, which means the Cats are probably already in their private jet heading back to Lexington. I’m about to hit the road myself for Nashville, but first, a few notes.
Calipari covered a lot of old ground
Between UK Basketball Media Day and his interview on KSR last week, John Calipari didn’t cover much new ground during his 20-minute Q&A today. Once again, he expressed his concerns about the potential expansion of the G-League, claimed hasn’t read the California Fair Pay to Play Law, and talked about how EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards need to be more physical.
Here’s his response when a reporter asked him how EJ compares to PJ Washington, who also returned to Kentucky for sophomore season:
Everyone is raving about Ashton Hagans’ defense
Ashton Hagans was named Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season, and his name came up plenty today as the league’s toughest defender.
“Big fan of his game,” Florida’s Mike White said. “I mean this all positively, he’s a junkyard dog in my opinion. Pitbull. Tough as they come. Probably as good an on-ball defender as there is in the country.”
John Calipari has had plenty of talented point guards, but said Hagans is the best defender of them all. Like a leader, Hagans credited his teammates when a reporter informed him of Calipari’s praise.
“Just keep doing what I do. Keep trying to do my best each and every day when I go to practice. Compete against the guards, Immanuel [Quickley] and Tyrese [Maxey]. Immanuel is looking ten times better than he was last year, so for him to keep putting in the work that he’s putting in to make himself better, it’s just going to make our team even better as the season goes on. Tyrese is a hard worker. No one’s really seen him play except for high school and the McDonald’s [All-American] Game but I guarantee he’s going to bring the same thing he brought in those games to Kentucky. Johnny Juzang, he came to college a year earlier, he’s ready to work and show everybody what’s he’s got. The guards are just ready to come out here and compete.”
…But he also hit 60 threes in 5 minutes in a recent drill
Ashton Hagans isn’t exactly known as a shooter, but Calipari told reporters that Hagans recently hit 60 threes in the team’s five-minute shooting drill, which is an eye-opener to say the least. Hagans said that last year, he would average around 39-45 threes in the drill, but this year, has hit as many as 65.
EJ Montgomery is back on Twitter
Did you know EJ Montgomery took a Twitter hiatus? Me neither. He’s back on social media as of yesterday, and encouraged fans to follow him @EJMontgomery23.
“I just felt like I needed a break, but I’m back now, so everybody go follow me.”
With no social media to distract him, Montgomery said he spent his extra time in the gym.
“I was just more focused, trying to get myself better, staying in the gym.”
He and Nick have been battling in practice
Calipari has forced his bigs to face off in practice recently in hopes of sparking their competitive fire.
“It’s a lot of battles,” Montgomery said. “A lot of cuts and bruises. We’ve just been trying to go at each other and just fight every possession as we try to compete.”
Cal said he’s noticed a big change in Nick so far.
“Nick is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him, which has built his own confidence now in himself,” Cal said. “He’s like running out ahead and has a smile on his face. Nick now, you’re seeing jump hooks. We did rebounding stuff and he’s getting every rebound. Proud of him. Proud of EJ.”
I’ll have more from SEC Basketball Media Day tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can watch my interviews with Ashton and EJ below.