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Comparing UK’s Backcourt for Next Season





Going into next season, I think one thing is about as close to certain as possible: that UK is going to have the strongest and most talented frontcourt in the nation. And that’s all fine and dandy, but without good guard play a team really has no chance of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Fortunately for the Cats, though, they’ve got some pretty good guards too. Not only will the Cats have more experience at guard than they’ve ever had with Cal, but they are also a deeper unit with five guards that are going to help the Cats win a game at one point or another.

Kentucky isn’t going to be the only team with strong guards, though, as all around the country there are talented ball clubs with fantastic guard play. Let’s look around at some of those teams to see how they stack up to the talent and depth that the Cats possess.


Wichita State

Key Returners: Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton

Notable Incomers: None

The Shockers may have lost stud forward Cleanthony Early, but the starting backcourt that they return is downright nasty. Van Vleet is one of the smoothest point guards at the college level with his ability to pick apart a defense at will. Meanwhile, Ron Baker has transformed into a borderline NBA prospect with his do-a-little-bit-of-everything type of game. They’re experienced, they can shoot, and they’re incredibly smart. Tekele Cotton also adds some depth to the backcourt and adds an ability to score the ball effectively.

Compared to UK: Honestly, you couldn’t go wrong when deciding between either Van Vleet/Baker or the Harrison twins for a starting backcourt. The thing that separates the two units in my opinion is how deep UK is at guard with strong and talented backups for both twins (Ulis/Booker), and a more-than-capable third combo guard option in Dominique Hawkins. Both backcourts have the pedigree, but the Cats are just a little more talented and deeper at the position.



Key Returners: Nick Moore, Keith Frazier

Notable Incomers: Emmauel Mudiay

A returning tandem of Nick Moore and Keith Frazier is nice and all, but the real gem of this backcourt is incoming freshman Emmanuel Mudiay. Not only is Mudiay regarded by many as the most talented incoming point guard in the class, but I’ve seen Mudiay’s name associated as the top overall player in the class of 2014. Mudiay is a big physical guard that will wonderfully complement the smaller Nic Moore. Also, look for former McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier to take a big step up in his game next year. The soon-to-be sophomore was pretty effective in his limited playing time, scoring 5.4 points per game and grabbing 1.8 rebounds per game in just 15 minutes of action.

Compared to UK: Talent wise, this is one of the best backcourts in the country. The trio that they have should help SMU contend for the American Athletic Conference championship, and help them potentially contend for a second weekend berth in the NCAA tournament. Problem is, they aren’t anymore talented than the Cats are, nor are they as deep as Kentucky.



Key Returners: Ryan Boatright

Notable Incomers: Rodney Purvis (transfer), Daniel Hamilton, Sam Cassel Jr. (JUCO)

Ryan Boatright is back for seemingly his 10th year, and he’s going to try to do his best Shabazz Napier/Kemba Walker impression for this young Huskie team. The reason UConn’s guard play should be strong, though, is because of the wealth of incoming talent they have. Rodney Purvis is an uber-athletic transfer from NC State who should immediately bring another dynamic to the Huskie offense. Not only he is an elite-athlete, as he can really shoot the ball from deep as well. Daniel Hamilton is another talented guard coming in who can really score the ball in multiple ways, as he can use his 6’6” stature to shoot above most other shooting guards. Finally, hopefully the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree as Sam Cassel Jr. will add depth to an already strong backcourt.

Compared to UK: The reigning national champions will surely miss Shabazz Napier, but the incoming players will somewhat help alleviate the loss. If Ryan Boatright can make smart decisions and work within the system with Purvis then UConn has a chance to boast a top-3 backcourt next season. Again, though, they just don’t have the talent and depth that Kentucky has as UK can go bigger with the twins, smaller with Ulis and Booker, or somewhere in between.



Key Returners: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones

Notable Incomers: Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen

If you are looking for the most complete backcourt in the country, it may be Duke’s. Both Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones are going to be tough floor generals for the Blue Devils, while Rasheed Sulaimon (assuming he doesn’t do the whole disappearing act again) and Grayson Allen spread the floor allowing for easy drives for their point guards. It’ll take about ten minutes for Grayson Allen to become Duke’s most hated player next year, as he has drawn comparisons (albeit bold one’s) to former Duke legend JJ Redick. If he can do any sort of Redick impersonation next year then Duke’s backcourt will be incredibly scary.

Compared to UK: In the entire country, Duke’s backcourt is the only one that can go toe-to-toe with Kentucky’s in all aspects. They have the talent with five McDAA’s, they can shoot the lights out, they can drive and they’re just all around good basketball players. Picking between Duke’s and Kentucky’s backcourt is incredibly tough and you honestly couldn’t go wrong with either of them.

Who else do you think will pose as a tough backcourt next year? UNC? Wisconsin? Florida?




Article written by Ben Ward

13 Comments for Comparing UK’s Backcourt for Next Season

  1. Casper
    8:51 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    i can’t wait!!

  2. Rei
    9:04 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    UNC will, Florida won’t. Wisconsin I’m not sure about. Next year is a down year for the Gators imo.

  3. Kentucky History
    9:04 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    For a nice overview of Kentucky Basketball history since Coach Cal took over visit:

    Check out the other articles too!

  4. Mostly Right
    9:11 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    Ward, I agree with most of the analysis. However, I do have some beef with you. The picture for one. If I’m not mistaken, the player hugging Harrison #2 looks almost identical to Andrew Harrison himself. It’s as if Andrew is looking into a mirror. This is extremely confusing to the average fan who might not understand that. Some might suspect he even has a twin.

    So seriously, pull it together for the next article.

  5. Simple Jack
    9:11 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    Too many words and not enough colors

  6. Doc
    10:12 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    Kentucky is going to be great next year. They will be the best team we have had since the 1990s. In fact I envision this team to go 10 deep and play two starting lineups like in 1996. i would love to see five great players at the scorers table ready to enter as we are killing the other team. This is one of first times we have recruited speciality players that have a real niche to fill, Tyler ulis is the key to these recruits and one of the fastest players in the country who can shoot defend and pass. Booker is a pure shooter and will be ready to help right away and be asked at times to be our 3, instead of his normal 2. Towns is the most skilled player at 7 feet and will be able to play the 4 and open the floor up. Lyles has a great midrange game I at least 6’10” tall. I expect him to be the forth starter as he can shoot better than Poy. My guess at this time will be the Harrisons andJohnson, with possibly lyles and Booker to start. The next two players to replace lyles and booker to start will be towns or poythress.

    The only starters for sure are the Harrisons and Johnson(coming along great developing his post play ,free throws and working on his body) I think we can have a starting five that can look like last years starting five by having Lyles and Booker start. Again, towns will be really hard to keep out of the starting lineup, poythress seems like he may do better coming off the bench still and not have pressure to impress all the time.

    The first five will be our deliberate team. This will be the closest to last year and more mature. The second five I see is the speed,defense and run and gun team. If the players are to be balanced out for 2 fives. Ulis will lead the charge with Marcus Lee and WCS and poythress plus a shooter like Booker or towns or even a Willis at times. If the second five is a running team this will allow for more players obviously to playing the game and more minutes to be shared. I would love to see us use the press as well.
    We have a slight shortage of the shooting small forward position. This is the only weakness on the team. This makes predicting the first line up a little more difficult as we do need one more ball handler other than Andrew Harrison to fill James Young’s spot. (Hopeful to see towns if he can handle it under pressure) It will also help to have one more shooter with aaron Harrison. In any event it’ll be great to see how it all works out.

  7. LeitchfieldAlex
    10:44 pm May 4, 2014 Permalink

    Hey u left out Okafor for dUKe.

    • Eazy E or Eric Wright it's all the same
      12:58 am May 5, 2014 Permalink


  8. Eazy E or Eric Wright it's all the same
    12:54 am May 5, 2014 Permalink

    good stuff, Ben.

    My favorite backcourts not listed above:

    Wisconsin: Jackson, Gasser, Koenig, Dearring
    Arizona: TJ, Stanley J, York, Allen (juco POY), Pitts
    FSU: Bookert, Thomas, Rathan-Mayes, Brandon, Watkins
    Gonzaga: Pangos, Bell, Perkins
    Oklahoma: Woodard, Hield, Cousins, McLean (juco), Booker
    Oregon: Artis, Young, Dotson, Austin (Prov transfer)
    WVU: Staten, Henderson, Phillip (juco), Browne — too bad Eron Harris transferred out
    Colo State: Octeus, De Ciman, Bejarano, Gillon
    Murray State: Cam Payne, Sapp, J-Moss, Seymour, Flomo/McCloud
    UGA: Mann, Gaines, Frazier, Parker
    GW: McDonald, Savage, Garino
    UNLV: Doolin, Kendrick, Vaughn, Deville Smith
    La Tech: Kenneth Smith, Appleby, Hamilton
    Ga State: Harrow, Ware (if he gets his waiver), RJ Hunter
    Vandy: Kedren Johnson (if he works his way back), Parker, LaChance/Baldwin/Fisher-Davis
    ND: Atkins, Vasturia, Pat C, D-Jax
    Illini: Abrams, Nunn, Rice, Starks (Oregon St Xfer), Cosby (Hall Xfer)
    Arkansas: Madden, Bell, Qualls, Beard/Babb
    K-State: Thomas, Foster, Edwards (Maine Xfer is the truth), Nigel Johnson, Harris (juco)

    • Ben Ward
      2:09 am May 5, 2014 Permalink

      Love it, man. To be honest, the most interesting backcourt you mentioned is Ga State (for a variety of reasons). I was pretty upset when GSU lost in the Sun Belt title game last year and I’m really hoping they win it next year because Ryan Harrow seems like a really good kid.

      I would’ve included Arizona, but to me SJ is more of a small forward than a guard, even though he will more than likely receive a bulk of his minutes at the 2 next season w/ RHJ and Brandon Ashley back.

      Man, can it be October already!

  9. Eazy E or Eric Wright it's all the same
    9:33 am May 5, 2014 Permalink

    Yep, I normally wouldn’t have included Stanley J, but like you said, he’ll more than likely be playing the 2 this upcoming season. TJ, Stanley J, Bash & RHJ interchangeable at the 3 and 4 and The Russian is a pretty scary, versatile lineup.

    There are a few guys up there I listed like Montay Brandon, Dotson & Austin, Bejarano, Garino, Jeff Moss, Connaughton and Qualls who will see bulk time at the wing-forward position while moonlighting at the 2.

    More articles like this, por favor!

  10. Hahaha
    10:38 am May 5, 2014 Permalink

    Hawkins is not a combo guard. Combo guards are usually bigger guards who play the 2, but have good enough handles to play point. This is the first, and most likely the last time, that I have seen anyone call Hawkins a combo guard

  11. Jbb1cam
    11:38 am May 5, 2014 Permalink

    Regarding this the same backcourt that got taken to school by something called Mercer? Just checking. If so, I’ll go ahead and NOT be too concerned about how awesome they are.