We all have varying expectations regarding any new Kentucky basketball player. Whether that player is a McDonald's All-America, or a JUCO transfer heretofore unknown, some fans expect immediate results, while others realize it takes time to become acclimated to a new system, coach, and teammates. I tend to lean toward minimizing my own expectations for newcomers, primarily because of my previous disappointments regarding freshman, as well as JUCO transfers. What I have learned is that some make the college-game adjustment quite flawlessly, and rather quickly, while others are slower in their acclimation, for various reasons.
Anticipation of performance can, and has been, a kill-joy. After-all, it's not Bret Bearup's fault that he was named a McDonald's All-America; nor is it Richard Madison's fault he was named a McDonald's All-America. Both of those players suffered through negative press, and negative fan reaction because their on-court performance didn't jive with how talented they were supposed to be.
We have come to allow the recruiting services to dictate to us, the fans, our anticipation of performance. While I suppose there is nothing really wrong with that, it's not always the wisest course of action when evaluating how a player should perform at the collegiate level. And it can lead to unnecessary hand-wringing, and shouts of -- "This guy's no good!" -- A statement that can sometimes, a month or two down the road, make a person look foolish.
I think the best time to at least BEGIN to evaluate a new players potential value and worth to the team, is after a number of college games. This year, that number is nine.
So without further lecture, or "preacherations," let us look at the newcomers, how they have performed so far, and my expectations for the future:
DeAndre Liggins -- Liggins has played in all nine game, averaging 20.9 minutes per game, and 7.4 points per game ... he's 23 of 45 (51%) overall from the field ... he's made 5 of 20 (25%) three-point attempts ... Liggins has made 18 of 25 (72%) two-point attempts ... he's gathered in 29 rebounds (3.2 pg), which is only four less than Jodie Meeks ... he's 16 of 22 (73%) from the free throw line ... he leads the team with 34 assists and he's committed 29 turnovers ... he has five blocks and nine steals.
- vs. Lamar: He recorded 16 points on 6 of 6 shooting (2-2 from three), seven rebounds, four assists, two turnovers, one block and one steal in 27 minutes played.
- vs. Miami: Liggins was only 6 of 15 from the field and 0 of 8 on his three-point shots, but he delivered 18 points, seven rebounds, to go along with five assists, three turnovers and two steals, in 32 minutes of action.
- vs. Mississippi Valley: Liggins provided 10 points on 2 of 4 shooting, and he was 6 of 9 from the free throw line. He recorded five assists and three turnovers, one rebound, one block, and two steals in 20 minutes.
How's he doin'?
Liggins has so far been impressive. The team seems to exhibit a much smoother offensive set when he's running the point, and he is quickly becoming an excellent transition player. Earlier in the year he made a few ill-advised passes on the break, but he's now beginning to get the ball to the right people, in the right spots. He's also shown an ability to get the ball to Patterson in scoring position (which not many other players can claim to do).
He's a penetrator, and he's only going to get better. He shields his man very effectively on the drive, and he is very good at finding, or making seams in the defense. As he perfects the art of penetration, UK will become a much more dangerous offense.
Although Liggins is a better scorer than I thought he was going to be, he has a small mechanical issue with his jump shot: He doesn't shoot at the apex of his shot. He waits just a hair longer, and releases on his way down. While this isn't proper technique, I don't know if the coaches will want to monkey around with his form; coaches vary in their opinions on whether to change a players shooting technique, or not. With that being said, he is making 72% of his two-point shots, which is pretty impressive.
Defensively: He's a better defender than most freshman. He utilizes his long arms and length to prevent penetration, as he did quite effectively against Ty Lawson in the North Carolina game. He's averaging about one steal per game, a figure I would like to see go up, at least slightly.
I think he's going to be a defensive stopper before he leaves UK. His lateral quickness is excellent, which is in my opinion, the most important characteristic a perimeter defender can claim.
Overall I've been very pleased with Liggins. Regardless of whether he or Porter starts, Liggins will continue to be the main man manning the point. His potential is limitless, so let's allow Gillispie the opportunity to massage the situation, as needed. When he's ready to play 35 minutes per game, he will.
Trending: In the last three games Liggins has recorded 14 assists and committed eight turnovers. Not quite the 2/1 ratio we want, but he's getting there.
Darius Miller -- Miller has played in nine games, with two starts ... he's averaging 21.7 minutes per game, and 4.7 points per game ... Miller is shooting 34.2% from the field ... he's only 1 of 11 (9%) from the three-point line ... he's made 12 of 27 (44%) two-point shots ... Miller is 15 of 20 (75%) from the free throw line ... he grabs 3.8 rebounds per game, and is third on the team in offensive rebounds with 14 ... Miller has recorded 18 assists and 19 turnovers ... he has four blocks and five steals ... Miller leads UK with 27 committed fouls.
- vs. VMI: In 21 minutes of action (his first collegiate game), Miller was 5 of 8 from the floor, which was good for 12 points, and he grabbed eight rebounds.
- vs. Delaware State: Miller scored 13 points, had three rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers. He also made 4 of 4 free throw attempts.
- vs. Lamar: He was 3 of 5 from the floor, for six points. He had three rebounds, a block and a steal.
- vs. Miami: Miller gathered in 10 rebounds (6 off./4 def.), dished out five assists (three turnovers), and blocked one shot and had a steal.
How's he doin'?
Miller has been better than I thought he would be. Well, let me reword that: Miller is playing major minutes much sooner than I thought he would. Which I think is a testament to his work ethic, talent, and high basketball IQ, which Gillispie raves about.
Offensively, Miller is going through a confidence crisis at the moment. He seems hesitant with his shot (he was 0-6 versus Miami), and the fact that he's 1 of 11 from distance can't be sitting well with his psyche. He has demonstrated the ability to make shots, though, and when he figures out what a good shot is, as opposed to a bad shot, his percentages will go up. Miller is a scorer, he'll get past this.
Miller's rebounding numbers were not very impressive earlier in the year, but of late, he's asserting himself more on the boards: He grabbed 10 boards versus Miami, and he's currently third on the team with 14 offensive rebounds. I think the improvement we've seen in Miller's board-work is due to Gillispie not keeping him on the perimeter as much, and Miller becoming more aggressive. Whatever the cause, I look for him to continue to improve his rebounding numbers.
Defensively, Miller has been adequate. He has committed 27 fouls, though, which is a high number of fouls to commit in the minutes he's playing. His defensive deficiency lies in his habit of reaching, instead of moving his feet. But I do think he'll become a good defender, he certainly has the long arms and lateral quickness to become a lock-down type of player.
Trending: Miller played only 11 minutes versus Mississippi Valley, after struggling offensively against Miami.
Josh Harrellson -- Harrellson has played in nine games ... he averages 14.3 minutes per game, and 5.7 points per game ... he's 19 of 37 (51%) from the field ... he's made 2 of 3 (67%) three-point shots ... Harrellson is 17 of 34 (50%) on his two-point shots ... he's made 11 of 15 (73%) free throws ... he averages five rebounds per game ... he has recorded four assists and six turnovers ... he also has 10 blocks (third on the team) and four steals.
- vs. Longwood: Harrellson played 16 minutes, he scored 12 points (5-9 shooting), grabbed seven rebounds. He also dished out one assist and had three blocks.
- vs. West Virginia: Harrellson once again scored 12 points (4-6 shooting), and he led the team with 10 rebounds (four offensive). He recorded one block and one steal, all in 25 minutes.
- vs. Lamar: Harrellson made it a trifecta, with again, 12 points (4-7 shooting). He also nabbed seven rebounds to go along with two blocks and one steal, in 24 minutes.
- vs. Miami: Harrellson played only eight minutes. He was 3 of 5 from the floor, good for six points. But, he had no rebounds.
How's he doin'?
I love Harrellson. I did not expect him to be this good: He takes good shots (I don't think he's forced one shot), he rebounds well (Harrellson has played 129 minutes this year, and he has 11 offensive rebounds. Patrick Patterson has played 284 minutes this year, and he has 15 offensive rebounds ... Harrellson averages 4.0 rebounds per game, while playing 14.3 minutes per game. Patterson averages 9.2 rebounds per game, while playing 31.6 minutes per game), he's a good on-ball and off-ball shot blocker, and he's got mad range.
What's not to like? He may not be the fastest, or quickest guy on the floor, but he's a darn fine basketball player. He brings a blue-collar mentality to the court with his aggressive rebounding, but he's also fundamentally sound: He uses his behind and chicken wing to keep his opponent behind him, when blocking out. He also grabs rebounds with both hands, something too few players do with consistency today.
Considering this is only Harrellson's sixth year of organized basketball, I expect he will improve considerably over the next few years. I realize UK has Patterson and Stevenson, with Daniel Orton coming in, but a player of Harrellson's considerable talents will find ways to get on the court.
Trending: Harrellson has played only 20 total minutes over the last two games.
Kevin Galloway -- Galloway has played in six games, with one start ... he averages 6.2 minutes per game, and .66 points per game ... he's 1 of 5 from the field ... he has made 2 of 3 free throws ... Galloway has recorded five rebounds ... he has seven assists, to go with five turnovers ... he also has two blocks and one steal.
- vs. Lamar: Galloway played 19 minutes. He scored two points, he had five assists and only one turnover. He also blocked two shots.
How's he doin'?
From all indications, earlier in the year something was going on in practice (or not going on) which precluded Gillispie from playing Galloway. That situation has supposedly been remedied. We'll see.
Galloway seems to possess all of the attributes that one looks for in a point guard, except for an alleged inability to make the outside shot: He's long, with long arms. He seems to be very quick, and from what I witnessed in the Lamar game, he's a fine passer.
I have a hard time believing that Gillispie would bring Galloway into the program, at this critical time, if he didn't feel like he could make a significant contribution to the team ... this year.
I have to say that I like what little I've seen of Galloway. I only hope I see a lot more of him in the near future. He only had two years of eligibility when he arrived on campus ... tick, tock, tick, tock.
Or am I being impatient?
I've never written anything on the front page of A Sea of Blue about UK fans booing Wildcat players in Rupp Arena. I find it distasteful, but if someone buys a ticket, I guess they have the right to make a jackass of themselves. But, for 'fans' to cheer when Michael Porter fouled out of the Miami game, that's just indefensible and deplorable.
My message to those who cheered Porter's exit: Get in your car ... drive to Lake Cumberland ... get out ... find the nearest pier ... jump in (and be sure to wear a heavy coat, it's cold out).
Actually, what Mitch Barnhart should do is this -- Allow people to boo, but if one feels moved to boo you have to hold your boo until after the game is over. Then, as the players leave the locker-room, you can boo right in his face.
That's right. You can boo, but you have to boo in the player's face.
Now that's nipping a problem in the bud.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!