Day 1 of basketball in the Bahamas is in the books and fans are very satisfied with what they saw from the Cats in their first outing. The KSR quintet is now back at the resort after a long and potentially dangerous ride in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck and we’re about to head out to see how people do Sunday Funday around here. But first, I’ll share with you my observations from the game.
Alex Poythress was at his best.
“He was terrific,” Coach Cal said of his veteran forward. “That’s as good as he’s played.”
Poythress was very active on both ends, showing off that incredible athleticism he possesses. He looked like the Alex Poythress from the Duke game his freshman season when he was hauling in rebounds and dunking over the top of defenders. His missed dunk today against Puerto Rico, a one-handed attempt off an Aaron Harrison lob, would’ve been a SportsCenter Top 10 play, no doubt. Harrison estimates Alex’s hand was 12 feet in the air when he caught the ball.
Calipari added, “He just does things the normal players can’t do. To be honest, the stuff he does, I can’t teach. I wish I could but I can’t.”
Awesome performance from Alex and it made me even more optimistic about his game this coming season.
It’s going to be tough to keep Tyler Ulis off the floor.
The Ulis debut backed up everything we’ve heard and seen from UK’s summer practices. The kid is good. He lived up to the hype today by showing off his stifling defense in the full court and his vision on the offensive end. He goes wherever he wants with the ball and puts it in the hands of the open man, leading Jay Bilas to say on the broadcast, “A lot of guys look, but he sees.” The box score credits him with five assists but it could’ve easily been more. He’s going to be very valuable in the UK backcourt this year.
The Five-In, Five-Out rotation will continue.
Coach Cal’s “platoon” strategy will stick around all week, he told us after Game 1. He considered going down to an eight-man rotation but the six games in eight days schedule is an exhausting stretch of basketball and he wants to keep the players as fresh as possible.
Alex said he likes the five-man units because it allows them to go all out while they are in without having to worry about wearing themselves out. Aaron wonders if they may keep it up once the real basketball begins in the regular season.
Aaron Harrison believes this group is special.
“Not many teams, college or pro, can say you have 10 guys that can actually be on the floor and compete. So we’re just a special team.”
Harrison is going to be a special player, too. He looked to be an all-around better player today, showing off improved skills across the board, including a nice one-handed flush on a drive down the lane. In the postgame press conference he said we can expect to see more of those in his sophomore campaign.
Dakari Johnson is in great shape.
Much like the Tyler Ulis talk coming out of summer practices, Dakari’s weight loss has been a hot topic in BBN and it was on display today. Dakari shed several of those chubby pounds and it’s made him a better player because he is running the floor and sustaining energy at a rate he just couldn’t do last year. I was a big believer in Willie being this team’s starting center, but I’m not so sure after seeing the new Dakari Johnson.
Andrew and Aaron Harrison are also in much better shape than they were a year ago.
Karl Towns is the real deal.
Also from the living-up-to-the-hype department, Karl Towns is the truth. The new big man and 2014 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year is smooth yet powerful with the basketball. He’s very skilled offensively and may be one of the team’s go-to scorers before the season’s over. I’m excited to see what he does in the week ahead after flirting with a double-double in his first appearance in blue. Something tells me he is just getting started.
Devin Booker too.
Speaking of smooth, Devin Booker has a gorgeous jumper. I believe there was a stretch when he hit a three, stole the ball and then made a nice dish to Aaron Harrison for a score. Or maybe I made that up. Something cool happened and he played a leading role in my excitement. He, like the others, is going be very fun to watch. (This is getting repetitive but they all looked so good today.)
Andrew Harrison’s crossover was lethal.
And it led to this awesome photo from UK photographer Chet White:
We’ll shut’er down after that one.
Go Cats, everybody.