After mulling his professional and transfer options, Quade Green has reportedly decided to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season. And that news is massive for the Wildcats and their national championship hopes next year.
Here are four reasons why Green’s decision to return was crucial for the 2018-19 basketball season, and why that could lead to No. 9:
He’s going to be really, really good
To start things out, let’s just point out that Green has the potential to have a massive sophomore year as the lead man of the Wildcats. In 26 minutes per game last season, Green averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists on 45-percent shooting, 38-percent from three, and nearly 81-percent from the line. He had a hard time adjusting to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being the lead man, but when the ball ran through him, good things usually followed.
His advanced numbers are impressive, averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 assists, and three rebounds PER-40 minutes. His effective field goal percentage of 53.1-percent was also solid.
He finished the year scoring fewer than ten points in five of six of Kentucky’s final games, but as the team’s leader and likely starting point guard, he’ll be able to put points on the board in a hurry.
Green is already an outstanding catch-and-shoot player, but with a full offseason to work on creating his own shot, defense, cutting down on turnovers, and fighting through contact, he can be special.
Guarantees a loaded backcourt
Before this decision, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Jemarl Baker, and Brad Calipari were the only guards locked in for next season. Ashton Hagans committed to Kentucky, and will likely reclassify to the class of 2018, but he has said on multiple occasions it isn’t a certainty. If for whatever reason the top point guard in 2019 wasn’t able to reclassify and Green transferred, Calipari would have been scrambling at the last minute to find depth at the guard position. And it’s slim pickings at this point.
Now with Green back, the sophomore point guard can take over the lead role with Quickley playing off-ball. If Hagans reclassifies as expected, he would be a stud option to give Green a breather, while star shooters Herro and Baker can come in to replace Quickley. Perfect combination of depth, facilitating, shooting, and pure scoring.
There is also talk that Tyrese Maxey could still reclassify to 2018 and commit to Kentucky, which would easily give the Cats the most dominant backcourt in America.
When you go down the list of the last 11 national championship winners, each of them had a standout point guard to lead the way.
Mario Chalmers (Kansas), Ty Lawson (UNC), Jon Scheyer (Duke), Kemba Walker (UCONN), Marquis Teague (Kentucky), Peyton Siva (UofLOL), Shabazz Napier (UCONN), Tyus Jones (Duke), Josh Hart/Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Joel Berry (UNC), and Brunson again this past season.
With a backcourt of Green, Quickley, Hagans, Herro, and Baker, with the possibility of Maxey sprinkled on top, you better believe the Cats will be locked and loaded for next season.
According to KSR’s Matt Jones, John Calipari met with Green last week about returning to Kentucky as the team’s veteran leader. Apparently the pitch worked.
Coming out of high school, Green was seen as a guy recruits wanted to play with, especially compared to Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young. He was a vocal leader on the court and built chemistry off of it, with analysts and other top recruits describing him as the perfect teammate.
When Gilgeous-Alexander took over, however, that leadership got lost in the shuffle.
Even if Green left, Kentucky’s backcourt would’ve been talented with Hagans, Maxey, Quickley, Herro, and Baker. But none of them have played a minute of college basketball.
With Green, the Cats have a proven guard that was a big part of a Sweet 16 team and knows the grind of a full season. He knows what he has to work on for next season, and can show the newcomers some of the things he has learned. As mentioned above, national championship teams usually have a veteran point guard to lead the way. We saw it with Villanova specificially this past season.
Green has the potential to be that guy next season.
Allows incoming guards to find their footing
To build off of the previous section, Green’s return will allow for the newcomers to find their footing at the college level before being thrown in with the sharks.
This past season, Green, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Hamidou Diallo had never played on the big stage, and it was obvious at times. They were inconsistent, and it showed all the way through their season-ending loss to Kansas State. When one or two of the Kentucky guards struggled, the team usually struggled as a result.
Green is a sure-thing. We know he’s going to be able to come in and put points on the board next year for the Cats. While the other freshmen guards find their footing and acclimate to life as a college basketball player, Green can right the ship and keep things afloat. It could help avoid unnecessary losses early in the year, along with keeping the team alive in March.
Welcome back, Quade!