With Kevin Knox going to the NBA draft and two departures-by-transfer in Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard, Kentucky is guaranteed to be down at least three frontcourt players from a year ago. Throw in PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel, who are dipping their toes in the NBA waters, and UK could lose as many as five of its seven frontcourt players.
That leaves only two returners: Nick Richards, who started but played only 14 minutes per game; and Jarred Vanderbilt, who played in only 14 games all year and should have FRAGILE stamped across his forehead.
So how concerned should we be about frontcourt depth in 2018-19? Let’s talk about it.
If Washington and Gabriel return, depth will be more than fine. That would give John Calipari his leading rebounder in Washington and a third-year veteran in Gabriel to go alongside second-year Richards and second-year Vanderbilt. True freshman EJ Montgomery, an early-April addition from the 2018 class, would make a fifth player in the fold, assuming he will soon sign to officially join the club. Give John Calipari those five guys, and you have one of the better frontcourts in the country.
But we can’t get too excited about the best case scenario without fretting the worst. Say both Washington and Gabriel remain in the draft, that would leave only Richards, Vanderbilt and Montgomery. That’s not enough, especially if Richards doesn’t make a significant jump from his first year. There is also the concern with Vanderbilt’s durability given his injury-riddled past, and though Montgomery is highly-rated, we don’t know what he’ll be until we see him in action.
So what’s the backup plan?
Calipari definitely has one in mind and it includes Reid Travis, a former standout at Stanford. Travis has entered his name into the NBA draft but will not hire an agent, and should he return, he will seek a transfer to another school with immediate eligibility next fall. Early reports suggest Kentucky and Duke are the front-runners for his services if he does indeed return to college basketball, which, if true, means Calipari and Coach K will be battling for a player they both need.
More on Travis: He’s a two-time All-Pac-12 player; he ranks seventh in Stanford history with 1,427 points and 10th in Stanford history with 758 rebounds; and he ranked third in the Pac-12 in both scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg) last season. The No. 5 power forward out of the 2014 class, Travis spent four years at Stanford but was awarded an additional year of eligibility due to an injury early in his sophomore year.
As of now, Travis is not projected to get picked by any of the mock drafts, and is not ranked within the ESPN top 100 prospects. Barring a change in his stock, it seems likely he would come back for another year of college basketball and Kentucky will want him if Washington and Gabriel do not return.
For what it’s worth, my uneducated guess is I think UK will get one of the two back and still pursue Reid if he’s available.