Believe it or not, basketball season is already upon us. And, believe it or not, the Kentucky Wildcats have a battle for starting point guard on their hands. Throughout most of the pre-season and even leading into the Bahamas, Ashton Hagans was the man most thought would be best-suited for the job. But while both Hagans and Quickley had solid performances down in the sun, it was Quickley who shone the brightest.
Over the course of four games, Quickley averaged 24 minutes of playing time per game. He went 7-23 for 30.4 percent from the field and 4-10 (40 percent) from behind-the-arc. Quickley grabbed 18 rebounds, 16 of which were defensive boards, while dishing out 18 assists and committing just two turnovers. He was also credited with five steals and averaged 7.3 points per game. He showcased his defensive intensity, his competitive nature and his determination to get his teammates the ball and make a play while still acting as a calming presence.
While some of Hagans numbers (21.5 mpg, 17 rebounds and five ppg) are very comparable to those of Immanuel Quickley, there are other areas with large discrepancies. Hagans shot the ball more efficiently from the floor (8-15 for just over 53 percent), but he didn’t have the same long-range as Quickley (0-2 from the three-point line). Most notably, Hagans had 10 assists (eight less than Quickley) and seven turnovers (five more than Quickley). Both point guards had excellent stat lines, but it’s hard to ignore Quickley’s abilities and demeanor on the court.
Quickley showed his dominance in the opening game of the trip, and he ended up starting in three of the four August games. But, the Cats’ time in the Bahamas wasn’t the first time Immanuel Quickley showcased his talents. A 5-star recruit and a McDonalds All-American (and the winner of the McDonald’s game three-point contest), the point guard was the first recruit who committed to John Calipari from the 2018 class.
But then other big names started signing. Fans got excited about players like Keldon Johnson and EJ Montgomery; fans got excited about the return of PJ Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards; fans got excited when Ashton Hagans not only de-committed from Georgia but then reclassified to begin playing with the Cats immediately. And, somewhere in all of that excitement, Immanuel Quickley got lost.
The hype surrounding Quickley briefly re-appeared during the Bahamas trip, but following the conclusion of the final game, the BBN’s attention turned to football, returning Quickley to the background. But that’s alright with him – it just meant he had to get back to work.
“Individually I’m just looking forward to getting better everyday,” Quickley told KSR during media day. “I enjoy that part of the process of just getting better [and] working on my game.”
And he’s been putting plenty of time into that process, according to John Calipari. The head coach compared Quickley to Brandon Knight and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, two players notorious for their time spent in the weight room and the gym after-hours.
Quickley stole the show at Big Blue Madness, starting with a spectacular dance and ending with him winning the three-point contest. With a combination of grit on the court and personality off of it, he has once again been thrust into the spotlight and is poised to become a fan favorite. But will it last? Or will he have to once again prove himself once games officially begin? Either way seems fine by him.