Kentucky Basketball: The Canada Trip and What it Means

The Kentucky Wildcats Tour of Canada ended with a 104-75 victory over the Windsor Lancers.

First off, a great big "Thank you!" to our Canadian hosts, who not only played hard, quality basketball but apparently treated the fans in attendance great.  I could not be more pleased with the outcome, and our gracious hosts in Ontario are a big reason why.  Thanks to all the natives of Ontario that made this trip such an unqualified success.

For the team, there isn't too much to take away from this that's truly substantive, but there are a few things:

  • Brandon Knight is really good.  No, let me restate that -- he is terrific.  There was little doubt about that to begin with, but now, all doubt has been blasted away.  Knight can score, dribble, run and jump at the highest level.  And his leadership is already showing.  In my judgment, he is likely to be a better college player than John Wall.
  • An alien robot has inhabited the body of Darius Miller.  There can be no other explanation for the transformation I have seen in his game.  He looks like a world-beater.
  • Doron Lamb is a classy player and can really score.  I love his multi-dimensional talent.  He got better with every game, and his confidence grew and grew.
  • DeAndre Liggins is everything you could want in a player.  He attacks the glass with a passion, he makes great decisions, and he defends harder than anyone.
  • Josh Harrellson has progressed, but he is not quite there yet.  He can be better than this, and he has little time to prove it and will face tough competition.  I liked his hands, but he is still too soft around the rim.
  • Stacey Poole Jr. has not quite figured it out yet, but he is a run-and-jump athlete with a lot of potential.  He has a great attitude and work ethic, and he'll get into some games this year.
  • Jarrod Polson has a chance to play this year.  He is better than I thought.  I'll wait to see him against good competition before making a final judgment about his potential, but he looked pretty good out there.
  • Jon Hood got better each game.  He still needs to be able to make the outside shot with consistency, but he has the kind of length and athleticism that will get him in games this year.  He will contribute, but until his shooting form rounds out, he will be limited.

I really like what I saw, and it can only get better with the addition of Terrence Jones, Enes Kanter, and Eloy Vargas.  Even though the teams UK played were not of the caliber of big-time college basketball in the USA, they were surprisingly talented and athletic.

I am revising my expectations upwards for this year's team.  I think it can reach the top ten, and maybe even higher.  These guys are really, really talented and skilled, and even though I have seen them all play at various times, they were a revelation in Canada.  Brandon Knight, in particular, was even better than advertised, and he is going to be a nightmare for opponents in the Dribble Drive Motion, and on pick and rolls with Kanter and Jones.

This team has real potential, and my excitement about the potential of the 2010-11 Wildcats has taken a major upward revision.  I know we can't take too much away from these extended practices, but we saw some things in this series that you just cannot teach.  It is also remarkable how quickly they have embraced the DDM, and I could almost be said to be shocked at how good they looked at times, and how unstoppable the offense was.  If they had been shooting well from the perimeter, it would have been otherworldly.

Of course, there was no zone allowed, and zones are going to be where this team separates itself from the pack.  The DDM tends to bog down in a zone, and the first one they face will be the test of how well they will do.

Defensively, there were a lot of bad things, but there always are.  You have to love their quickness, though, and how often they were able to steal the ball by poaching the passing lanes and grabbing or deflecting it in traffic, and I could not believe how they got on the floor after the ball.  This team could be very good defensively, but their positioning in these games was abysmal, as most teams are this early.

Last year, it took about 2 months for the defense to gel.  I wouldn't be surprised to see it take that long this year.

Overall, this was a great experience for Kentucky and puts them well ahead of the pack in preparedness for the season.  I think John Calipari was right when he said this was the best $35,000 this school could have spent on the basketball team this year.

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