Just one day away from college basketball season tipping off and the Kentucky Wildcats taking the floor for the first time, many of our answers about the 2020-21 roster have been answered.
Who are the star talents? Easy, BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke, two consensus top-ten prospects in the 2020 recruiting class.
Who will anchor the frontcourt? Olivier Sarr, the nation’s top transfer this summer, has been declared eligible and Keion Brooks Jr. is also back for year two. Talk of Isaiah Jackson being one of the biggest surprises in college basketball is also spreading like wildfire. UK has options there.
What about depth? With Jacob Toppin’s immediate eligibility, Kentucky now has 11 scholarship players at its disposal. With five 5-stars, three 4-stars, and three high-profile transfers, the team has plenty of star talent lining the roster from top to bottom.
But what about the point guard position? Who is going to be starting for the Wildcats when the ball is tipped tomorrow evening?
That remains to be seen.
“Davion [Mintz] and Devin [Askew] are totally different,” UK head coach John Calipari said today.
On one end, Askew is an incoming five-star prospect known for being a floor general and a fierce competitor. On the other, Mintz is a college veteran with NCAA Tournament experience playing for Creighton, a perennial top-25 program in the nation.
It’s a great problem to have, one the UK coaching staff is certainly grateful for.
“It’s going great, me and him compete every day in practice,” Askew said of Mintz. “It’s fun learning from an experienced point guard like him, he’s been in college for five years now and he knows a lot. I just learn from him every day. … The way he helps lead our team. I’m a pretty good leader, but seeing the way he leads gives me the extra edge. It’s fun learning from him.”
“Just to attack practice every day with a competitive spirit,” Mintz said of what he has learned from Askew. “Just being able to teach him the fact that you have to have a great relationship on the court and that’s by him competing against me every day and that’s by me competing against him every day. That’s just us guys wanting better for each other. It’s been fun and he’s been doing really well so far.”
Askew says both players can give you something different depending on what the team needs at that given moment.
“I mean, I’m a pass-first point guard,” Askew said. “Davion, he scores the ball and he can pass as well. He can really shoot the ball well. I can shoot it, but he can shoot it really well. But, yeah, it’s just two point guards.”
“I think I can be a guy that does it on both ends,” Mintz said. “I can pass it up ahead or be the guy that’s catching it or receiving up ahead and making a play. I think with me it’s just versatility. I can do whatever is asked of me on the court.”
“I just try to make the right play, whatever that it is,” Mintz added. “If that’s an opportunity for someone else to score or someone else open, then that’s what it’ll be. If it’s an opportunity for me to finish it, that’s what I do. But, in all situations I just try to make the best play just to convert. No wasted possessions. So, that’s my philosophy.”
That versatility extends to the entire backcourt, something that separates Kentucky’s roster from the rest of the college basketball world.
“You can do whatever with our team,” Askew said. “We have a lot of guards and we can play anywhere on the court. With us being able to do that, you can put anyone at the one, anyone at the two, even at the three.”
As for who will start from day one, that remains unclear, though Olivier Sarr did note on Monday that Askew has been running with the starters in the team’s preseason scrimmages.
“The usual like you’ve seen in the scrimmage before. The white team against the blue team,” Sarr said. “The white team was Devin (Askew), BJ (Boston), TC (Terrence Clarke), Isaiah (Jackson) and myself.”
We’ll find out for certain either way when Kentucky tips off its season against Morehead State tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.