After sitting in on Kentucky basketball’s Monday practice, CBSSports’ Jon Rothstein was a guest on KSR this morning to elaborate on some of the things he tweeted yesterday about the Cats.
The first order of business was responding to his prediction of Marcus Lee in the starting five, to which he admitted he tends to lean toward returning players over incoming freshmen. “I still think it remains to be seen which bigs can play together for Kentucky,” he said. “The surplus of bigs Kentucky has is unlike any other frontcourt in college basketball this season and probably any other frontcourt college basketball has seen in quite some time.”
Rothstein then went on to rave about Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, UK’s three participating freshmen, plus Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, the projected 11th and 12th guys in the rotation. I transcribed his comments for you below, because I’m a nice guy…
“I gotta tell you, the buzz, I think outside the Kentucky program, isn’t really palpable right now surrounding Karl Towns, but inside Kentucky’s program, the buzz is beyond palpable. And the different thing about Karl Towns versus other big men that have played for Kentucky is he has the ability to extend the defense from the four or the five spot. He’s a skilled big man that’s going to bring the opponent’s four or five away from the basket — like a Frank Kaminsky, like a Walter Pitchford who excelled this past year for Nebraska. So it’s a different type of look for Kentucky and — I tweeted this and I said it because I just made the parallel during practice — he’s a little bit like how Channing Frye was when Channing Frye was at Arizona and how he’s been in the NBA: a nice pick-and-pop threat from the four or the five spot.”
“I was really impressed with Tyler Ulis’ ability to read situations within the defense. He’s different in the sense that he is a table-setter; he is going to be the person that gets people baskets. And one thing I think is really going to stand out for Kentucky fans: Tyler Ulis knows how to read the defense in-between the three-point line and the foul line. He knows where to pick his spots — whether it’s better to use a lob for a big man, whether it’s better to just pull up and take a shot from in-between the foul line and three-point line. His feel and ability to shoot the basketball I think are beyond what people would expect.”
“I don’t think there is anybody, in the gym yesterday or from what I’ve heard throughout the summer, that is shooting the basketball better than Devin Booker. It’s going to be really tough to keep him off the floor. You know, teams are probably going to try and zone Kentucky this season to slow them down because of their size and athletic ability; you won’t be able to zone Kentucky if Devin Booker is on the floor.”
“I gotta tell you this, there are probably 50 to 70 BCS programs that Derek Willis would start for right now.”
“Nik Stauskas was slicing up Kentucky like a side of fries in the regional final last year — he had 18 points in the first half — and John Calipari’s decision to put Dominique Hawkins on Nik Stauskas in the second half changed the game. I don’t think, without Dominique Hawkins, Kentucky goes to the Final Four. And Dominique Hawkins, I can tell you this, is a better offensive player than he was at the end of last season.”
Exciting stuff from Rothstein on the younger Cats. The entire interview will be available a little later on the site when the podcast is uploaded.