Being in the coaching ranks for over 30 years, Kentucky assistant coach Bruiser Flint has seen quite a bit of talent in his time.
What he hasn’t seen, though, is roster turnover and the replacement of overall talent the way UK has had to overcome this offseason.
With six players leaving for the professional ranks (Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery, and Kahlil Whitney), one transferring (Johnny Juzang), and one graduating (Nate Sestina), only two scholarship players remain from the 2019-20 roster in Keion Brooks Jr. and Dontaie Allen.
To counter the mass exodus, UK added a whopping nine new scholarship players this offseason, including six high school signees and three transfers.
“The only time that I’ve ever been in the situation like this was when I took over from UMass to Drexel, where I’ve never coached nobody that played the year before,” Flint told the UK media Monday morning. “I mean, pretty much you’ve got a brand-new team. That’s the one thing that sort of shocks me a little bit. You really have one player that you’re returning. I’ve never had that in my career no matter where I’ve been.”
Despite the overhaul and the adjustment period that comes with such an offseason, Flint made it clear that this Kentucky roster is talented from top to bottom.
Really, really talented.
When asked about specific players on the roster and who is standing out early, Flint singled out freshman guard Terrence Clarke as a player who “oozes with talent” and could be up there with the likes of John Wall and Anthony Davis by the time he leaves Kentucky.
“Very talented. I mean, extremely, extremely talented,” Flint said of Clarke. “Versatility, I think that’s going to be one of his biggest things. I think you can almost put him on any position on the floor to play. Now, I’m not going to lie, Cal has been all over him about some of his habits, but he’s unbelievably talented. Great size. Puts it on the floor. Shoots it. But he’s a typical high school kid who has pretty much had his way. But you see it.
“Oozes with talent. Oozes with talent. Cal, when I used to talk to him, even before this, would talk about him in the same way to me as the John Walls and the Anthony Davises and things like that. So, he has that type of talent, but he’s still got a lot to learn. But, he’s a really, really talented player.”
As for the rest of the roster, Flint gave a player-by-player breakdown with the majority of other newcomers, including Devin Askew, BJ Boston, Olivier Sarr, Dontaie Allen, Lance Ware, Cam’Ron Fletcher and Isaiah Jackson.
With Askew, the Kentucky assistant said the freshman guard was “one of the hardest working kids” he has ever coached.
“I will say this, in my short period of time, he is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been doing this for a minute,” Flint said. “He goes hard on every rep and he gets in, puts his time in the gym. And I’ve been around some guys that do it, and this this kid, he’s up there. I mean, his energy is unbelievable. He’s one of those kids that I always say, “Hey man, why don’t you come have a seat. Rest yourself, don’t run yourself into the ground. But unbelievable work ethic, unbelievable work ethic.”
While he’s been limited with a finger injury in recent weeks, Boston has already shown off an elite knack for finishing around the rim.
“Unbelievable finisher. Now, he’s really just started because of his finger, so he hasn’t been as in as many practices. But one of the things I’ve seen is he’s unbelievable finishing around the basket, can really score the ball,” Flint said. “I’ve been really impressed with that. It’s been a little limited because he still has the finger injury going on a little bit, so he’s not in every single thing, but last couple days he’s been in it. And one thing you see with him is he finishes the ball. Finishes and scoring.”
John Calipari has always said if you don’t have a post presence, you’re a fraud. With Sarr, that won’t be an issue, with Flint highlighting his ability to score the ball around the rim.
“One thing that I know about Cal is he loves post presence,” he said. “He’s not a guy who likes to shoot 3s all of the time. I think Olivier gives you post presence. He gives you a chance to score the ball around the basket. He’s very highly skilled. He’s not just a back-to-the-basket player. He can play out on the floor. He can shoot 3s. So, offensively I think he gives you a big guy who can give you some versatility whether it’s around the basket or away from the basket. As much as you shoot a ton of 3s in college basketball now a days, Cal believes that if you don’t have post presence, you’re a little bit of a fraud. So, we need that, and I think Olivier is going to give us that.”
After missing a year due to injury, Flint raved about Allen’s shooting ability, specifically with how fast he can get shots off. That’s something he feels will help Kentucky in games from day one.
“He can really shoot. Can really shoot. Can get it off quick,” he said. “Playing against some really talented players, but the one thing he adds is he can shoot that ball and he gets it off quick. What Cal has really been complimenting him about it is he’s doing a good job of actually getting himself open, running to get balls to be able to shoot it. You never have enough shooters, and that’s the one thing he can do. And one thing I do like about his shooting is he gets it off pretty quick. So, that could be something he could really help us with.”
After recruiting him a bit out of high school at Indiana, Flint said Ware has gotten bigger and better, noting that he’s an elite rebounder and has a knack for finding the ball.
“One, I think he’s gotten a lot better. Actually, a little bit taller also, too,” he said. “I remember going to watch him as a junior and in the game, he shot all 3-point shots. So, I was like, this kid is losing his mind. But, one of the things you learn from recruiting him is he’s an unbelievable rebounder; what I call a tracker. He can go get balls. (If) the balls don’t come near him, he can go get balls out of his area. I think he’s taken to that. I think because of that, he’s becoming a much better player. Plus, he told me he’s think he’s grown at least an inch since his senior year of high school, so he’s gotten a little bit taller.”
As for Fletcher, he’s got phenomenal energy and versatility on the floor, but needs to control himself at times so he doesn’t “kill somebody in practice.”
“Great energy. Kid has great energy out there,” Flint said. “Now he’s got to harness it a little bit before he kills somebody in practice, but the kid’s got great energy out there. He’s going to bring it, that’s the one thing you’re going to appreciate about him when you see him play. Like most most freshmen, he’s got a lot to learn, but his effort is always there and he’s got some versatility too.”
To close out the player breakdowns, Flint said “the sky’s the limit” for Isaiah Jackson as a standout shot-blocker, rebounder and finisher.
“I mean, you do what you do best, and what he does is rebounds and blocks shots. I think he has a little bit of ways to go with his offense, but I think he’ll continue to get better because he works at it. Great athlete. I remember watching him as a high school player, always played with great energy, but I didn’t think he was a layup maker or a finisher around the basket, but he’s getting a lot better at that. He’s doing what he does well, which is block shots and rebounds the ball. Unbelievable lift, so I think he will be a really, not a good defensive player, a really good defensive player. He’s got great feat. I think the sky’s the limit for him, I think he got a chance to to be pretty good, but he’s a work in progress offensively. I think he shoots the ball a little bit better than I thought he did as a high school player. I think got chance to be really, really good.”