Reid Travis is officially a Kentucky Wildcat, meaning the 2018-19 roster is complete. Let’s break down that roster, and why the addition of Travis makes Kentucky a legitimate national title contender.
We saw how much it hurt Kentucky not to have a returning guard last season. This year, Calipari will have one in Quade Green, who averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists his freshman year. Quade missed some games due to eye and back injuries and lost his starting spot to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but will provide crucial leadership and experience in a young and loaded backcourt; in fact, we’re hearing he’s already doing that in summer workouts.
Quickley is sometimes an afterthought in next year’s backcourt, but shouldn’t be. Despite being hampered by injuries at the end of his senior year, Quickley is a reliable floor general with a relentless work ethic that can get to the basket, create for others and knock down an open shot.
Hagans gives Kentucky what they lost in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, i.e., a guard who can get to the basket. He’s a dynamic playmaker who can burn defenders off the dribble and distribute; he led the Adidas Gauntlet in assists by a wide margin. He’s also a tenacious defender. Simply put, you want the ball in Hagans’ hands, which is why he will eventually be the starting point guard alongside Quade Green.
Baker will return this fall after missing last year with a knee injury and, according to his teammates, is the best shooter on the squad. Everyone’s been raving about Baker so far this summer, so I can’t wait to see what he does on the floor.
Herro is much more than the three-point specialist he’s billed as. At 6’5″, 200 lbs., Herro can score from anywhere and is also comfortable bringing the ball up the floor if needed. Once a Wisconsin commit, Herro developed a thick skin and chip on his shoulder after being booed routinely by Badger fans his senior year. A tough competitor, he will only elevate his game going against elite talent in practice.
With a plethora of guards on the roster, Brad probably won’t be called into action as often as he was last year, but should exhibit more confidence to fire away when he gets an open shot — even with the crowd demanding it.
David will be tasked with keeping the sideline loose and ready for dunk and lob celebrations. If history is any indication, he will also steal the spotlight in postseason locker room interviews.
Johnson can play small forward, shooting guard, or, if you listen to John Calipari, even point guard if needed. Described as a “dog” by his future teammates, Johnson is a fierce competitor that won’t back down from anyone. He will be a highlight maker on this squad and is a notorious trash talker. Between him, Hagans, Herro, and Quickley, Kentucky’s about to get a much-needed dose of nasty.
PJ is this team’s anchor, and, based off his appearances since deciding to return to Kentucky, is ready to lead. PJ can bully his way to the basket and finish with the best of them, and with an offseason to work on his jumper, can take his game to another level. PJ’s best work will be on the inside, but with Reid Travis joining the roster, I expect him to heed the NBA’s advice and expand his game outside.
With over three years of playing experience and a degree from Stanford, Travis will provide invaluable experience to a team that needs it. A double-double machine, Travis is a force in the paint, which will allow PJ Washington to flex his versatility. The frontcourt of PJ Washington and Reid Travis is physical and formidable, something UK’s lacked in recent years.
A 6’10” lefty that can stretch the floor? Sounds like Calipari’s dream big. Montgomery’s got length, athleticism, ball-handling skills, and can score from almost anywhere. He needs to add strength, but will see plenty of time as a stretch four next year.
Kenny Payne’s son is still recovering from a knee injury, but once healthy, can play either guard or forward. A standout player at Lexington Catholic, he averaged 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his senior season.
Richards struggled his freshman year, but we saw glimpses of his potential throughout the season. During interviews last week, he said he’s moved past the self-doubt that plagued him his freshman year and his confidence is at an all-time high. That’s great news for Kentucky, who will rotate him in and out when height and length are needed.
The combinations are endless, but the lineup I like best right now is Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington, and Reid Travis. That’s a solid, powerful group with three veterans and two playmakers, from which you can rotate in three-point shooting and size. Immanuel Quickley may eventually take Quade’s spot, but for now, I like Green’s experience in the backcourt. Besides, if Calipari decides to platoon again, it won’t really matter, will it?
For the past few years, Kentucky’s roster has been missing key ingredients in March. With the additions of Reid Travis and Ashton Hagans and a head start in the Bahamas, they finally have everything they need to make a run at Number Nine.