Last season, Kentucky was powered by one the best, most explosive backcourts in the country. Freshman Tyrese Maxey came to Lexington to join forces with returning Sophomore Guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley. By the end of the season, Quickly shocked everyone by becoming the SEC Player of the Year and his improvement was a major key to the success that the ‘Cats ended up achieving. However, as all Kentucky fans know, each of those three players declared for the NBA Draft and will not be returning to the Rupp Arena floor. Coach Calipari has once again reloaded the roster with the top recruiting class in the country featuring 5-star Wings B.J. Boston and Terrence Clark. Before breaking down the two star incoming Freshman, I have been going through the roster and giving in-depth film break downs of other new faces. In this week’s addition, I will be diving in to Devin Askew.
Askew, a Point Guard out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, comes to Kentucky after reclassifying from the Class of 2021. Listed at 6’3” and 195 pounds, Askew finished as the #31 ranked prospect in the 247 Sports Composite Rankings and the 7th best Point Guard in the country. Despite not turning 18 years old for another month, Askew is built pretty well and should be able to transition to the college game physically even though he should just be a high school Senior. His strong frame makes defenders bounce off of him as he drives it to the basket and that strength helps make up for not being an off-the-charts athlete. That isn’t to say he is a bad athlete, because he isn’t, he displays excellent body control, a very quick burst in transition, and has the ability to elevate and finish with a dunk in some instances. However, he isn’t an explosive athlete that will “wow” you every single game. He uses his strength and extremely high basketball IQ to be an effective scorer from all three levels and is a border line elite passer in my opinion. We will break down his vision and how impressive some of his play-making abilities are, as well as take a deeper look at how he scores the basketball and how it translates to being a Point Guard in the Southeastern Conference.
While Askew may be behind B.J. Boston and Terrence Clarke in terms of national and/or local hype, he recently garnered the praise of a former NBA Point Guard. Last month, in an interview with our own Aaron Torres, 13-year NBA veteran Darren Collison said “I see a player that his IQ is one of the best that I’ve seen at all levels.” Collison went on to continue praising the future UK Point Guard in an interview with Jeff Goodman. In that interview, Goodman matched the praise as they talked about his unmatched work ethic. Just like any college freshman, especially one that is a year younger in terms of development than most of his peers, there will be a learning curve with Askew. He over penetrates at times, leaves his feet to pass around the basket too often, and will need work as a defender. However, a tenacious work ethic and the ability to see the floor the way he sees it can make up for a some deficiencies early on his career.
If there is one elite skill that Devin Askew possesses that will translate right away to the high-major college level it is his passing ability. At Mater Dei, Askew averaged 6.8 assists per game during his Sophomore season and 6.3 last season as a Junior. He plays with his eyes up at all times and maintains a high level of poise even when pushing the ball hard in transition. A lot of times, the hardest adjustment to the college level is the speed of the game, but with Askew’s ability to not get sped up while playing at the highest level high school basketball has to offer, I think he will be able function well from Day 1 even against the best opponents.
Askew showcases the ability to make plays in a variety of ways. We will touch on his scoring ability next, but he finds teammates both in transition and in the half court routinely. He is excellent at using his eyes to look off defenders and because he is constantly scanning the floor he can read the defenses movement to hit the open man. When he pushes the ball in transition he plays with enough control to still make pinpoint passes. In the half court, he is very good at playing with pace off of the ball screen. He reads the defense and is already advanced enough to take the extra dribble when necessary to allow the roll man to get open. A lot of the plays he makes are plays I would be impressed to see a college Senior make. Askew as making them already after just three high school seasons.
I mentioned earlier that he has a tendency to over penetrate at times and will leave his feet around the basket without a plan. This definitely does put him in a tough spot at times and leads to some careless turnovers. However, I think this is a relatively quick fix for him. He is strong enough to hold his own with guys around the basket so if he decides to not just try to finish at the rim (something he probably should do more often) he needs to just keep his dribble alive and move on to the other side of the floor. His decision making is already very good, it is just that he puts himself in tough situations around the basket sometimes so when he learns to see some of that coming he will cut his turnovers down even more.
I do except Davion Mintz to be the starting Point Guard for the Kentucky Wildcats when the season begins, but I also see a scenario where Askew plays well enough early on to force Coach Calipari’s hand towards playing him more minutes. Again, we are talking about a kid who recorded 476 assists in just three seasons of high school basketball. Mintz and Askew actually have a lot of similarities, but the Freshman is a significantly more talented passer. They also are both versatile enough were they will probably play together at times as well because they both can play off the ball. I evaluate Devin Askew as a guy with next level vision, elite basketball IQ, and outstanding feel for the game. If he plays 20 minutes a game I think he will be a guy that averages 4 or more assists per game, especially considering the talent that he has around him. I’ve said it a lot throughout some of these write ups, but I think ball screening will be more common in the 2020-2021 season that Kentucky fans are used to seeing. Askew is another guy who is very advanced in ball screening situations. His elite passing ability will be what gets him on the floor early in the season and it will be what, along with limiting turnovers, will earn him more minutes throughout the season.
I’ve already praised Askew’s composure with the ball and his ability to play with pace. He doesn’t seem to get sped up, even when he is going fast in transition and that is an excellent quality to find in a younger player. His ability to finish as a driver is helped in large part due to his upper body strength and his body control. He really does seem to absorb contact when he goes up against bigger defenders at the rim. On the perimeter, despite not being an explosive athlete, he showcases good burst with his first step that can get by defenders on a bad closeout. In transition, he has pretty good top end speed end-to-end and again plays with enough control to survey the defense, look for open teammates, all while attacking down hill and finding an opportunity to get to the rim. One of the best parts of Askew’s game is he is a guy that should attract all ten eyes of a defense. When he has the ball, he is a threat to shoot it, drive it, or whip the ball to a teammate. He forces very active help defense and puts his on-ball defender in a tough spot. Even the best scores don’t always force all defenders to pay attention if they aren’t as much of a threat to make a play off the dribble or find the open man, but Askew has all of those skills.
Another thing about Askew’s finishing ability comes with how he plays off of the ball. For example, the very first clip shows him curling a down screen and finishing with an intermediate range floater. That floater helps him finish over larger defenders that he may rather not try to meet at the rim and lets him score from that tough 5-7 foot range. Kentucky fans grew to love the Tyrese Maxey floater this past season, and time will tell if Devin Askew has that level of ability, but he certainly has the touch to finish them at a pretty high percentage. That intermediate scoring ability is what allowed him to rack up over 1000 points in his shortened high school career. Askew is also very good at cutting when his teammates drive it or have the ball in the post. He is rarely just standing around which leads to him getting a couple of easy buckets when his defender loses him on a cut to the basket.
Devin Askew is a guy who isn’t afraid of contact and will even seek it out at times when he attacks the basket. He can finish around the hoop and from intermediate range with his floater and has shown he has a knack for cutting without the ball. Once again, these qualities point to his high basketball IQ and are reasons why he may be ahead of where some Kentucky fans may think of him in his development process. The more I have watched of him the more I think he can be a relatively major instant impact type of guy. He probably won’t finish as well as a Freshman as he did last season in high school just because the defenders are bigger, stronger, and more athletic, but he has enough game to continue to adapt and his feel for the game will allow him to figure it out as he plays more and more.
Askew is coming off a season that saw him make 58 3’s in 33 games, after making 49 the previous season. His percentages are unavailable, but he can definitely shoot the basketball. He has shown the ability to make perimeter shots while running off screens without the ball and can also make them off of the dribble. His shooting mechanics are pretty darn sound and he has a quick enough release to get his shot off regardless of the situation. I will mention it once again, but he plays with such great pace with the ball in his hands that he can put defenders on their heels in order to pull up off the dribble. When running off screens without the ball, he reads defenses well and makes the appropriate cut at the point of the screen to get open for his shot. Askew is aggressive and confident enough offensively that he is going to make defenders pay for going under ball screens or hand-offs, something that I have openly complained about from Kentucky guards the last couple of seasons. While I don’t necessarily see Devin Askew being a high volume 3-point shooter right away, I do think he will take and make the ones he is supposed to shoot which is exactly what the Wildcats need out of a lead guard.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about his shooting. He can make 3’s off the dribble and while running off of screens which will allow him to play on and off the ball some if need be if Davion Mintz does hold on to primary Point Guard duties. Askew averaged 14 points per game as a Sophomore and 16.7 points per game last year. I don’t really see him every approaching those numbers at Kentucky, mostly because he will be relied on heavily as a distributor, but he does have a lot of offensive tools that should allow him to be a double-figure scorer at some point. No matter who ends up being the primary Point Guard, both B.J. Boston and Terrence Clark, not to mention Olivier Sarr, will have the ball in theirs hands enough that it will be important to be active off the ball and present a threat to the defense. Askew does exactly that.
So far in these breakdowns prior to Devin Askew I have written about Davion Mintz, Oliver Sarr, and Isaiah Jackson. In some ways, I actually think what Askew provides this season is the least important of those players in terms of how it translates to the success of 2020-2021 Kentucky Wildcats. I am confident in what Mintz will provide being a veteran of the high-major level and his versatility and steading presence will be what a young team needs. I have been very outspoken on just how good I think Olivier Sarr is and his pending eligibility is probably the difference between a ceiling of “very good” and “national title contender” this season. Lastly, as I spoke about last weekend, Isaiah Jackson will provide very important front court depth regardless of whether Sarr can play or not. Now, to say all of that is not meant to take anything away from Askew. Hopefully my excitement about him has come through in this article because I think he is very, very good. Whether he ever ends up being a starter this season, I think he will provide quality minutes and be a guy that Coach Calipari can count on when he is in there. He will have to improve defensively, but offensively he is a playmaker from Day 1 that will make all of his teammates better.
There have been some excellent Point Guards under Coach Calipari since he arrived in 2010 with John Wall. It is tough to really compare Askew to many of them because they are all so great and it would be unfair to a yet-to-be 18 year old kid, but also his game is a little different than most of them. As shown through the videos and breakdown above, he is a next-level passer with elite vision and poise both in transition and in the half-court. In terms of scoring, he can score through contact at the rim and has developed an intermediate scoring game with a trusty floater he uses when there are bigger defenders at the rim. Also, he has shown the ability to make 3’s at a good clip while playing one of the best high school schedules in the country at Mater Dei. Askew is a guy who is going to play his role and do it to the best of his ability. Despite reclassifying from the Class of 2021, fans can expect him to take on some semblance of a leadership role from Day 1. He is going to work hard and continue to get better throughout the season, just as most players do under Coach Cal. His poise and playmaking ability will make him a contributor right away, but he also is a guy that could spend a couple of years in Lexington. If so, Kentucky fans should expect to eventually see his name on some all-time assist lists and I expect he will become a fan favorite. Askew is an important piece and he is going to be an excellent player for however long he rocks the Kentucky blue.