Ever wondered which Kentucky basketball player you are most similar to?
I’m sure those of you who played basketball when you were younger – or still do today – used UK players for inspiration. Now that the coronavirus has shut down parks and taken the nets off of public hoops, we’re all dreaming of the day we can once again show off our skillset with a friendly game of pickup.
I’ve outlined nine pickup basketball archetypes based around Kentucky players, with a few representing each group. And by the end, you’ll have to decide which of the Calipari-era guys you most-closely resemble – at least on the pickup court.
John Wall | Anthony Davis
You’re the ultra-commanding point guard, a ball hog by force of pure skill. You have the best handle on the court, are probably the strongest and maybe even the biggest. The John Wall is a daily gym frequenter, maybe a former high-level athlete in their own right. They win the triple crown of physicality in any pickup game: Biggest, Fastest, Strongest. Oh, and they are the best pure basketball player, the smartest, the best passer and finisher, and King of the Court mainstay. You’re freaking John Wall compared to the veteran dads, dainty three-point launchers, and meathead post bullies.
There’s also Anthony Davis, the tallest and most athletic person on the court. They’re too fast and too skilled for big guys to defend and far too enormous and dominant for the guards. The other team doesn’t even bother shooting in the paint by the end of the game because of the shot-blocking inevitability.
THE PURE POINT GUARD
Tyler Ulis | De’Aaron Fox
Your peers respect you because you find them when they’re open. You can break down the defense and get a bucket off the dribble or a pull-up jumper, and you never overstep your athletic ability. The Ulis is the shortest guy on the court but is the last dude you’d like to fight. He’s the righteous yet self-appointed captain and he’s the ultimate point guard – a savvy pass-first leader.
The Fox keeps everyone happy and full-court sprints past everyone for a minimum of three free layups per game (closest to the Wall, too). He’ll be guarded by three or four different people as the other team cycles through overconfident defenders like family members trying to open a pickle jar.
THE DOMINANT POST PLAYER
DeMarcus Cousins | Julius Randle | PJ Washington
As both squads stroll down the court, this guy moseys his way into the mid paint and grinds his guy down to the block, sticks a hand up and leaves it hanging like a confused schoolchild. The DeMarcus is a spunky, ballooned headband-wearer whose muscle you sorely mistook for fat. He’s annihilating anyone shorter than him.
The Julius feasts on the glass, especially as the game and everyone’s fatigue wears on, and he converts nary a pretty shot yet a frustrating amount of tip-ins. You’ll be a pile of sweat – his and your own – after a 15-minute bout.
The PJ has a streetball version of Kareem’s skyhook. You know he’s backing you down, shoulder-faking, rising and jump-hooking another two points right over your head, but you can’t stop it. EVER.
THE SWEATY HUSTLER
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | DeAndre Liggins | Reid Travis | Ashton Hagans
Vicariously coached by Bruce Pearl, this guy shows up in a white T-Shirt and leaves doused in perspiration. He’s going to wipe his body all over you and everyone else, so deal with it. He’ll be a dude you’re damn lucky to have on your side: a prodigious hard player, menacing defensive presence, and the guy who always stays back after a basket to try and steal the inbounds pass.
The MKG can’t shoot worth his Nike Elites, but you don’t even bother trying to drive on him and he throws himself into every rebounding scrum. The Liggins is a zero on offense, but he hounds the best offensive player on the other side of the court. The Reid is a slow-footed, quiet big man with the most impressive biceps on the floor, and he’ll be the first to say “good game” afterward. And the Ashton slings every fast-break layup a little too hard off the backboard, dribbles the ball off his foot a few times, and verbally abuses the other point guard.
THE SNEAKY, SUPER-TALENTED GUY IN A HOODIE
Malik Monk | Doron Lamb | Tyler Herro
Pickup players in hoodies (especially when the hood is up) are always one of two things: extraordinary scorers or a flock of seagulls, and sometimes both. The Monk shows up in a tight hoodie, rubs and blows air into his hands (even in mid-July) before stepping onto the court…and then drops five three-pointers and a flurry of acrobatic layups. Then he’ll wander off at dusk undefeated and without a care in the world.
The D-Lamb loiters in the corner and talks to his buddy on the sideline the whole time, but when he’s open, the jump-shot is going in. The Herro is the kid trying way too hard to look like an NBA player; he maybe has some jewelry, technicolored shoes, or some ‘SUPREME’ gear… but then he lives up to his own mythical hype and is super-athletic, can dunk, and splashes a slew of threes.
THE DISAPPOINTING TALL GUY
Eloy Vargas | Skal Labissiere | Freshman Nick Richards
There is always, ALWAYS, a tall dude shooting around while the teams are being organized. You take a peek and think he’s HUGE, or dang, dude’s like 6-5 or Holy cow, he just bent the rim in half! And then his first touch is an absolute mess.
The smaller, rounder, older defender takes the ball right from his fumbling hands – the same hands that drop the next four rebounds out of bounds. Freshman Nick is the rebound-dropper who clenches his fists out of self-frustration after every mess-up. Skal gets his tail whooped in the post and resorts to taking long twos that have everyone jogging back on defense before the ball even clanks off the rim. The Eloy tries hard but haplessly, is strong enough to wrestle away a few boards, and can’t buy a layup on the other end.
THE STAR OF THE LOSING TEAM
Archie Goodwin | Kevin Knox
Goodwin and Knox will be knocked historically for the same reason: they played for the two worst (so far) Calipari teams. Really, these were the only two years where fans went into March without truly believing Kentucky could win the National Championship.
As pickup archetypes, Goodwin’s team falls behind early, and he takes total control of the shot-taking and ball-handling duties, bricking a bunch of jumpers and finding the bucket on a few tough finishes to keep his side lingering. The less-talented half of a pickup game will defer to a Knox – unless they already have a Goodwin – a tall smooth-shooting scorer who can connect from outside but won’t chase a crucial rebound or a loose ball.
THE WHITE, STREAKY SHOOTER
Kyle Wiltjer | Derek Willis | Nate Sestina
Needs no explanation. The quintessential spot for NARPy middle-aged white guys. Ask any basketball fanatic over 40 “how good were you back in your playing days?” and they’ll respond with “oh, I had a great-lookin’ jumper.”
Were they Kyle Wiltjer? A galactically slow polar bear. How about Derek Willis? A skinny, non-lateral quick-shot from three. Maybe Nate Sestina? Someone who bangs in the post and cycles the arc for a chance to let his pretty jumper fly.
THE HARDWORKING, BEER-BELLIED CENTER
The Josh is the lovable yet hot-tempered fifth-year senior you saw hurling in the Two Keys toilet Saturday night but is somehow still punishing all-comers in the paint during some Sunday afternoon pickup hoops. The Josh is a molasses Julius Randle who will shove you into the next court if you get snippy with him.
So, which Cat are you?