The Kentucky Wildcats held an open practice Friday for media to see, and it's becoming clear these basketball Cats will be a force to be reckoned with, especially now that Skal is cleared.
However, there are several players dealing with injuries that were either limited or didn't participate at all, the most notable being Charles Matthews. Today was the first time Matthews showed up as injured after he was limited while dealing with a jammed thumb.
Senior forward Alex Poythress also got a rest day as he continues to come back from last year's ACL tear. He's likely on a plan that keeps him from practicing so many days straight to keep from stressing the knee too much. It's also another indicator of why we shouldn't expect Alex to look like Alex the first few weeks, if not months of this season.
With Poythress out, Marcus Lee got the starting nod today. He was with Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere as the starting five during team drills. It's not out of the question that's the starting lineup for Game 1 if UK wants to keep easing Alex back in and have him providing a spark off the bench. As for Lee, the potential for many highlight-reel jams off lobs from his three point guards is there, and that was on display in this practice.
Dominique Hawkins continues to sit out of practice with a hard cast on his broken right hand while Derek Willis was practicing and looking good in the process, especially hitting threes. He was having a great offseason before injuring his finger, so it's good to seem him back on track. It's possible Willis earns playing time this season as a situational spot-up shooter.
The same is true of Mychal Mulder as he adjusts from junior college to playing on the biggest stage in college basketball. What he's consistently done this offseason is working hard and have a great effort in practice while also showing he can be a know-down three-point shooter. Willis and Mulder are effectively competing for the same role on this team, so don't be surprised if we see each of them playing significant minutes in some games and not much at all in others early on as John Calipari figures out his best rotations.
Tyler Ulis wasn't asked to do much offensively last year, but his floater was one of his more effective moves when his number was called. That was where he shined the most in this session, and it's something we should see a lot more of this year as he becomes 'the guy' at point guard.
Almost every season under John Calipari, Kentucky has had at least one ultra-talented big man, and that's no different this season with Skal Labissiere. His speed and athleticism were on display today, as too were his wide range of offensive moves. He could easily become UK's go-to scorer at some point in is freshman (and likely only) year if he isn't already when the season opens.
Isaiah Briscoe showed what made him a five-star prospect and the No. 1 point guard prospect for 2015. He's a big, physical guard who can blow by defenders or right into them and finish at the rim. That's what Briscoe showed off today, and it's why he'll be one of the three starting guards this season.
As good as Briscoe and Ulis are, many expect Jamal Murray to be the top guard not only on this team, but one of the best in America. That was on display in this practice as he scored in a variety of ways on the perimeter and in the lane. After Skal, Murray is the next likeliest one-and-done player on this year's squad.
Be sure to read Metz Camfield's report at CoachCal.com and Gentry Estes at the LCJ for more on the latest Wildcats practice.