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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: No Quickley or Montgomery Would Leave Concerning Void

I’m starting to get very concerned about next year’s UK basketball team.  Normally we go into the off-season and end up convincing ourselves on why the Cats will be a Final Four team the next year.  It’s usually a combination of whoever is returning will make some great leap, the incoming freshman are all long and athletic and have great chemistry, and the previous year’s end will motivate the group to the Final Four.  But with the increasing possibility that both Immanuel Quickley and EJ Montgomery out the door, it basically only leaves Keion Brooks as a returner.  And we didn’t have a finish to the season this year.  And frankly I am done believing any recruit is awesome until they are on the floor in uniform and prove it.

So assuming Brooks is the only returning player who played in 2020, that really leaves the Cats with minimal production.  Just consider since 1980 who the leading returning scorer was for the Cats, both in career points (at the beginning of that season) and by the previous year’s points per game:

1980-81: Fred Cowan, 772 points (Sam Bowie, 12.9 ppg)
1981-82: Dirk Minniefield, 462 points (Minniefield, 10.8 ppg)
1982-83: Derrick Hord, 943 points (Hord, 16.3 ppg)
1983-84: Melvin Turpin, 991 points (Turpin, 15.1 ppg)
1984-85: Kenny Walker, 649 points (Walker, 12.4 ppg)
1985-86: Kenny Walker, 1359 points (Walker, 22.9 ppg)
1986-87: Ed Davender, 678 points (Davender, 11.5 ppg)
1987-88: Ed Davender, 1120 points (Rex Chapman, 16.0 ppg)
1988-89: Derrick Miller, 172 points (Leron Ellis, 4.2 ppg)
1989-90: Derrick Miller, 618 points (Miller: 13.9 ppg)
1990-91: Reggie Hanson, 765 points (Hanson: 16.9 ppg)
1991-92: Deron Feldhaus, 823 points (John Pelphrey, 14.4 ppg)
1992-93: Jamal Mashburn, 1129 points (Mashburn: 21.3 ppg)
1993-94: Travis Ford, 577 points (Ford: 13.6 ppg)
1994-95: Rod Rhodes, 782 points (Tony Delk: 16.5 ppg)
1995-96: Tony Delk, 1251 points (Delk: 16.7 ppg)
1996-97: Jared Prickett, 698 points (Derek Anderson: 9.3 ppg)
1997-98: Allen Edwards, 478 points (Scott Padgett: 9.6 ppg)
1998-99: Scott Padgett, 785 points (Padgett: 11.5 ppg)
1999-00: Jamaal Magloire, 629 points (Magloire: 6.9 ppg)
2000-01: Tayshaun Prince, 640 points (Prince: 13.3 ppg)
2001-02: Tayshaun Prince, 1215 points (Keith Bogans: 16.9 ppg)
2002-03: Keith Bogans, 1359 points (Bogans: 11.5 ppg)
2003-04: Gerald Fitch, 921 points (Fitch: 12.3 ppg)
2004-05: Chuck Hayes, 840 points (Kelenna Azuibuike: 11.0 ppg)
2005-06: Patrick Sparks, 374 points (Sparks: 11.0 ppg)
2006-07: Randolph Morris, 577 points (Morris: 13.2 ppg)
2007-08: Joe Crawford, 900 points (Crawford: 14.0 ppg)
2008-09: Patrick Patterson, 411 points (Patterson: 16.4 ppg)
2009-10: Patrick Patterson, 1020 points (Patterson: 17.9 ppg)
2010-11: Darius Miller, 437 points (Miller: 6.4 ppg)
2011-12: Darius Miller, 851 points (Terrence Jones: 15.6 ppg)
2012-13: Kyle Wiltjer, 199 points (Wiltjer: 4.9 ppg)
2013-14: Alex Poythress, 371 points (Poythress: 11.2 ppg)
2014-15: Alex Poythress, 605 points (Aaron Harrison: 14.7 ppg)
2015-16: Alex Poythress, 649 points (Dakari Johnson: 6.3 ppg)
2016-17: Isaiah Briscoe, 326 points (Briscoe: 6.9 ppg)
2017-18: Wenyen Gabriel, 174 points (Gabriel: 4.5 ppg)
2018-19: PJ Washington, 401 points (Washington: 10.8 ppg)
2019-20: Nick Richards, 336 points (Ashton Hagans: 7.6 ppg)
2020-21: Keion Brooks, 138 points (Brooks: 4.4 ppg)

Only 3 times since 1980 have the Cats not had a returning scorer who scored at least 5 points per game the previous season and a returning scorer with at least 300 career points.  Next year could possibly be the fourth.  And why is this concerning?  Because in those three occurrences, you had a losing season, and NIT team, and the 2018 squad which lost to Kansas State in the Sweet 16.  Not exactly our best squads of the last 30 years.

We can rely on freshman all we want in this program but the reality is that even under Calipari, he usually has at least one guy coming back with significant scoring history.  It went from Patrick Patterson to Darius Miller to Alex Poythress for a while.  And then he rode PJ Washington and Nick Richards the last 2 seasons.  Hell, even Isaiah Briscoe provided a second year player with significant experience.  Next year, he doesn’t have that guy coming back if Quickley and Montgomery go.

John Calipari has a knack for “figuring it out”.  He comes into almost every season with significant questions and holes in the roster and then makes it work with the pieces he’s got.  But if Keion Brooks is the leading returning scorer next season, Cal will have NEVER come into a season with a more unproven roster.  I don’t see how the word “confidence” can be used by anybody to describe the outlook for the team and it will almost be a certainty they will have early season struggles.

As with most Cal teams, all of that won’t matter.  What will matter will be how quickly and effectively he can develop this group into something resembling a team that could compete in March (or whenever the tournament will be).  But the climb might be the highest of Cal’s career.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

12 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: No Quickley or Montgomery Would Leave Concerning Void

  1. Fitz
    10:09 am April 9, 2020 Permalink

    “Concerning Void” The understatement of the off-season! How about devastating dilemma? But, don’t fret Cat fans. Cal says we’re going to be fine.

  2. dave1964
    11:01 am April 9, 2020 Permalink

    Not expecting much from next years team with or without EJ. Would be nice to see Quickley return. Will need a good grad transfer center to do anything exciting next season.

  3. VirginiaCat
    11:10 am April 9, 2020 Permalink

    More often than not, we start each season with a new group of players that have to be molded into a team within a five month time frame. The start of the season is like herding cats. Ugly to watch. We stack the schedule with cupcakes in order to enhance the wins column. We lose at least one game to a no-name school that qualifies as a historic loss. Cal bemoans the youth of the team and gins up the “everybody’s Superbowl” mantra. The “tweaks” gimmick is standard. The season is up and down with improvement shown heading into March. Our inexperience and unsteady coaching catches up to us and we finish the year with a loss to an inferior team. That is the bargain that we make as Kentucky fans. We think that every recruiting class will be THE recruiting class and wrongly assume that a 5-star high school kid will be a 5-start college player. We suffer through some bad losses with the hope that we can put six games together in March. Cal’s career success rate in doing that is 4%. 2015 seems so long ago. It reminds me of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. High hopes tempered by harsh reality.

    • Alex90
      11:20 am April 9, 2020 Permalink

      And here we go..KSR has begun the panic articles so now we will start getting the “We need this to happen” or “Here’s who were about to get” stories. It’s not an ideal situation but we have learned every year that Cal somehow gets it figured out. Now I know I’ll get negative feedback here but y’all can panic if you want

  4. UKFanSC
    11:59 am April 9, 2020 Permalink

    As with all BTI articles his observations are based in fact not emotional blubber. Expecting freshmen, regardless of high school pedigree, to carry a program like ours is a tall order. Unless we get good news on returning juniors or the Purdue transfer we gave every reason to be concerned. Being concerned is not being pessimistic.

  5. Fly Cat
    12:32 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    Hope that wasn’t a pep talk.

  6. VirginiaCat
    12:34 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    What we don’t get is that a five star high school senior does not equate to a five star college player, with a few notable exceptions. It’s not just experience, but also physical maturation. An 18 year old does not have the physical prowess of a 21-22 year old. I believe that a physically mature three star with experience is often worth more that a 5-star freshman. We tend to over estimate the value of top recruitment classes because they typically don’t stay long enough to refine their skills and develop physically. If the majority of our OADs had stayed one more year, we would have a few more banners hanging from the rafters.

    • CrystalBall
      6:11 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

      Well said, VirginaCat.

  7. T-Town Cat
    1:27 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    My concern is that once again we will not have 10 good healthy scholarship players, limiting our ability to go full speed in practice and have personal growth due to daily competition. Will Riley Welch have to go up against Askew?

  8. michaelb
    1:29 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    Wonky stat , that really really truly means nothing

  9. Fitz
    2:09 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    I may be wrong but it’s my understanding that star ratings are designated based on the players potential to make it as a professional. You’re spot on about the maturity levels,

  10. CATS-R-Gr8
    4:29 pm April 9, 2020 Permalink

    Here’s the thing, current players can’t take so much time in deciding whether to make the leap or not. Right now transfers and any potential recruits are waiting to see what they will do with no guarantee. This is a hostage situation! Kids make millions and our program is looking more like the 2016 cats or worse!