Out of all of the players on the current Kentucky basketball roster, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley has the toughest decision to make regarding his future.
On one hand, the 6-foot-3 guard out of Havre de Grace, MD made an unprecedented jump as a sophomore, going from averaging 5.2 points in 18.5 minutes per game in year one to 16.1 points in 33 minutes per contest in year two. It was a jump that earned him SEC Player of the Year and All-SEC First Team honors this season.
On the other, Quickley’s role as a slightly undersized off-ball scorer hasn’t earned him much credit on the draft boards, as most analysts have the sophomore guard currently listed anywhere from the middle of the second round to undrafted. Should he return for a junior season, Quickley could take over the lead point guard position and prove his versatility to NBA scouts looking for guards who can thrive at either guard spot. In this scenario, he could also take incoming freshman guard Devin Askew under his wing and groom him for the 2021-22 season while he finds his legs at the college level.
Should he opt for a junior season, Kentucky head coach John Calipari says he is certainly open to the latter scenario.
“He could [play point guard]. He could,” Calipari said. “Jamal Murray did not play but about 15% point guard. I would say Immanuel played 5 or 8% point guard because the other two guys in front of him were better in pick-and-rolls and creating shots for their teammates. They weren’t a shot creator like he was, so the team used that strength and exploited that in him.”
Further improvement on defense could also be huge for the 6-foot-3 guard, who Calipari says “couldn’t stay in front of anyone” as a freshman, but is now one of the “best defenders” on the team.
“He couldn’t guard a year ago. If you remember, he couldn’t stay in front of anyone,” he said. “Now all of a sudden he became one of our best defenders and he would be in the huddle saying, ‘I got so and so. Let me guard him.’ Again, yes, would we be a better team, him being a point guard on this team coming back? Yes.”
Calipari stressed that while Quickley would be a great fit on next year’s roster, he shouldn’t make a decision based on that. He only wants his star guard to make the best decision for himself based on his mental and physical readiness, along with the mastery of his skills.
If he feels he’s falling short in any of those three categories, he would certainly applaud a return to school.
“That’s not why he should make a decision,” Calipari said. “His decision is, is this the right time? Am I ready to succeed in that league? Am I mentally ready? Which I know he is. Am I physically ready? Yeah. Have I mastered my skills the way I need to? That’s the decision he would have to come back to.
No matter what Quickley ultimately decides to do, Calipari is thrilled with the progress he made over the last year and how he was able to accomplish some of his greatest goals as a sophomore.
At the end of the day, Calipari feels the sophomore guard has been “one of the great kids” he has ever coached.
“Let me say this, what I’m so proud of of Immanuel, and I told the team this: On his wall, on his mirror in his bathroom in the lodge, his goal for this year was to be a starter. Was to be a starter!” Calipari said of Quickley. “From that, he became (SEC) Player of the Year as voted on by the coaches, who had to play against him. Player of the year in our league. … I think, again, one of the great kids that I’ve ever coached. One of the most grounded young men that I’ve ever coached.”