I got back from the airport just in time to catch the second half of last night’s Blue/White Game, and after watching the first half this morning, I have some thoughts to share. Mainly, that Kentucky is really good at basketball and it’s not even November yet.
1. EJ Montgomery likes the bright lights
Coming into the preseason, we didn’t really have a good grasp on EJ Montgomery because he sat out most of the Bahamas trip; now at 100 percent, the freshman big man is making his presence known. John Calipari said Montgomery came alive in front of the scouts at Pro Day two weeks ago, and last night, he was one of the most impressive players on the court, putting up 21 points and 8 rebounds. Tyler Herro, Reid Travis, and PJ Washington had more points, but given how little we knew about EJ coming in, his play was the story of the game for me. He showed off the versatility we’ve been hearing about for months, scoring from the rim to midrange, hitting all three of his free throws, and using those long arms to block shots and clean up misses. Afterwards, Calipari said he’s happy EJ is playing well when the lights are bright but he needs to bring that same effort in practice.
“E.J. (Montgomery), E.J. told on himself. He told on himself. He didn’t practice that way. If you’re that good, you’re practicing that way now. The team laughed like crazy. Like the combine and this game are the best two days that he’s played since he’s been here. Oh, so when there are people in the seats and there are scouts in the seats you just take up a notch. Really? Well, guess what son, you’re going to take it up a notch or you’re going to be on that treadmill. Because if that’s who you are then you’re going to be that guy every day. He was good.”
2. Tyler Herro continues to make it look effortless
Herro once again led the team in scoring with 34 points off 12-16 from the floor, 4-6 from beyond the arc, and 6-7 from the charity stripe. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Herro is a natural scorer, and if he carries this momentum into the season, he could be college basketball’s darling this season.
How well did Herro play last night? As Kyle Tucker pointed out on Twitter, Kentucky’s stats website StatsBroadcast debuted an analytics feature last night and Herro’s “Game Score,” which measures productivity on a scale of 0-40, was 32.5, which is considered elite in the NBA. The next closest were Nick Richards with 18.9, EJ Montgomery with 18.6, and PJ Washington with 18.1.
If you’re curious, here are all the analytics from last night:
3. PJ and Reid are doing their NBA homework
The NBA told both PJ Washington and Reid Travis to expand their games and work on conditioning before turning pro. So far, it looks like both are doing just that. Noticeably slimmer, PJ was much more fluid going up and down the court than last season, getting to the basket with ease and pulling up for jumpers. Similarly, Reid Travis also moved well, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Both also hit a three.
Travis switched between squads during the game, which allowed fans to see him play with and against PJ. It’s clear that going against each other in practice has been good for both players, and when you add in Sophomore Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, Kentucky’s frontcourt is formidable no matter the lineup.
4. Andy Kennedy was great on broadcast
Last night was the first time we got to see Andy Kennedy in his new role as SEC Network color commentator and he was excellent. At Ole Miss, Kennedy charmed the media with his quippy commentary, which definitely translated to the broadcast. It was refreshing to hear him break down Calipari’s style as only a coach who had played against him for years can, and Cal was clearly happy chatting with him during and after the game. I even liked his plaid coat. More Kennedy, please.
5. I love this team’s attitude
If the Blue-White Game is good for anything, it’s evaluating the chemistry between players, and, as we’ve noticed since the Bahamas, this group loves playing with each other. It may seem silly to take note of stuff like this, but there were way more smiles, laughs, and playful shoves between the players than in years past, a testament to how much fun they’re having and how comfortable they are on the stage. After the game ended, they even turned and applauded the fans for coming. Little stuff like that is huge. Kentucky always has talented players, but having talented players that like each other and are willing to put in the extra work is what makes teams special.
Also, Immanuel Quickley has clearly taken over the role as dance circle hype man:
Check out more of Dr. Mike’s awesome photos from the Blue-White Game below:
Believe it or not, there's a basketball season about ready to begin. Check out Dr. Mike's photos of the basketball Cats in their scrimmage tonight.