We are right in the middle of football season, but Kentucky basketball is just around the corner. Practices began on Wednesday around the country and the first game of the season is expected to tip-off just before Thanksgiving, which is approaching quicker than you can imagine.
Before I got busy with Cincinnati Reds coverage, I had been breaking down film and profiling each Kentucky basketball player on Sunday’s for the 2020 season. I had intentionally saved B.J. Boston for last as I expected him to be the star of the team. Today, we will finally dive into what I expect to see from Boston this season.
In preparation, I watched three Sierra Canyon games from Boston’s senior season and went through his countless highlight tapes available on YouTube as well. If you missed the previous articles on Davion Mintz, Olivier Sarr, Keion Brooks, Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew, Isaiah Jackson, and Lance Ware you can click the links or scroll through my Twitter feed as I will have them all in an updated thread.
B.J. Boston finished up as the top Shooting Guard in the country according to 247 Sports and was number five overall in the final 2020 rankings. Boston played his senior season at Sierra Canyon High School with a star-studded lineup and averaged 19.7 points per game on his way to being named a McDonald’s All-American.
The incoming Wildcats backcourt had the opportunity to get some training in together in Lake Forest, California with former NBA point guard Darren Collison during the coronavirus pandemic. Devin Askew had already been training with Collison when he invited Boston, who lives about 45 minutes away. Soon after, Terrence Clarke decided to fly out to California from Massachusetts to spend some time with the Boston family so the highly-touted incoming trio could workout together.
While evaluating Boston, it was easy to see why he ended up as a top-five player in the country. I think he is a high-level shooter and would probably be my pick to lead the Wildcats in scoring this season. He really impressed me with his ability to finish at the rim despite his thin frame. Boston’s length and athleticism make up for what he currently lacks in strength, but just like any 18-year-old, he will continue to get stronger throughout his season in Lexington.
Another thing that really stands out when watching film on B.J. Boston is how hard he plays. When you are breaking down 5-star prospects in high school games it is common to see guys take possessions off or simply not play hard all the time. It isn’t necessarily that they are lazy, but they simply don’t NEED to play super hard to still dominate the game. Playing with a high motor is a skill and it isn’t one that a lot of elite high school prospects come into college with. Boston has that skill and you will see it pay off on the defensive end from day one. I don’t think he will be an elite defender right away by any means, but I do think that he will develop into a reliable defender that can guard multiple positions by the end of the season.
Let’s go ahead and break down some film. First, we will cover B.J. Boston as a perimeter shooter and why I think he has a chance to be a high percentage 3-point shooter. Then, we will look at his game off the dribble and how that will lead to him being a top 10 scorer in the SEC as a freshman.
After watching the film I’m going to go ahead and go out on a limb–although I know it isn’t a really long limb since a lot of people nationally agree–by saying that I think B.J. Boston is a great shooter. Now, I’ll be the first to say, we should all pump the brakes a little bit, just because a lot of times freshmen don’t come in and absolutely light it up from beyond the arc. However, I think he will be a 35% or better 3-point shooter on multiple attempts per game. Last season I was the “Shoot ‘Em All, Immanuel” guy on Twitter, and while Boston won’t hit that high of a percentage, he should shoot even more 3’s than Quickley did.
Boston displays excellent balance and remains “stacked” on his shot regardless of the situation. What I mean by that is, after watching the film, whether he is coming off of a screen, waiting for a catch-and-shoot, or shooting a step-back off the dribble he always has his feet underneath him and can get vertical on his shot as opposed to fading away or letting his momentum take him side-to-side. That seems like a small detail, but it makes for much more consistent success as a shooter.
As you watch the highlights you can see that he makes shots in a variety of ways. Boston has a tight enough handle that he can create space off the dribble and he garners enough respect off the dribble that defenders can’t just crowd his space all the time. His length also allows him to create separation when he utilizes his step back. Again, when looking at that step back, it can seem like a “bad” shot at times, but he is so on-balance with the majority of them that I will have no problem seeing him squeeze a couple of those off each game.
Just how good B.J. Boston is as a freshman will probably be predicated on how high of a percentage he shoots from 3-point range. If he can’t eclipse that 30-35% mark then I think he will be around 15 points per game. However, if he can hit above 35% I could see him approaching 20 points a night and that is why I think he has a chance to be among the leaders in the Southeastern Conference in scoring and will be in contention for an All-American selection.
Off the Dribble Scoring
Kentucky will have plenty of options for scoring production this season. I think that lead guards Devin Askew and Davion Mintz will make plenty of plays for others, as well as themselves. They will have options down low too with Olivier Sarr (hopefully) along with Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware. Terrence Clarke is a high-level perimeter scorer as well. I say all of that to say, opposing defenses will have their hands full with this offense and there will be opportunities for all players to score from all levels because you can’t just key on any one guy.
We’ve talked about how good of a shooter I think B.J. Boston is, but his game off the dribble probably impressed me as much as anything. He is a much better ball-handler than I had expected him to be and can create shots for himself with a variety of dribble moves. Askew and Mintz will definitely handle most of the point guard duties this season, but having off-guards like Boston and Terrence Clarke who can also handle the ball and make plays for themselves will help the flow of the offense.
Boston’s length and athleticism make up for what he may lack in physical strength and allows him to be a pretty consistent finisher at the rim; he shoots a much higher percentage around the basket than I would have thought. He is a creative finisher and is skilled enough to get the ball out away from his body and finish through contact. However, Boston will need to work on finishing off of two feet more often when he goes up against the strength and size of SEC big men. In the minute-long video above, his only two-foot finishers were the big dunk and the last clip where he finishes through contact. You can see how much stronger his finishes are when he is exploding off two feet as opposed to one foot. At the high school level, he can simply get around defenders, but in college, he will need to finish through more contact.
This is going to be a fun team to watch across the board offensively with a lot of talent at each position. After watching the film I think B.J. Boston is definitely the most polished scorer besides maybe Olivier Sarr, who obviously scores it in a very different way. A lot of Kentucky’s ultimate success in March will probably be predicated on just how good Boston becomes. If he is a legitimate All-American candidate then I think the Wildcats will be competing for a national championship.