Metz Camfield from Coachcal.com gives us the first practice report of the new basketball season.Big Blue Madness is just a little under month away, but John Calipari got to work with his team for the first time as a unit on Saturday.
New Faces: Jamal Murray, Mychal Mulder, Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, Isaiah Briscoe, Isaac Humphries
Veterans: Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, E.J. Floreal
- Obviously John Calipari has to bring the new guys up to speed about how practice is run. With six new players, Cal must also rely on his returning players to make the transition an easy one. This is nothing new to Cal as he welcomes in a new crop of talent each season. The players were a little rusty and the new guys have a lot to learn. Big difference from last season when the Wildcats were full of veterans.
- Alex Poythress is practicing but he's not going full speed and he's not participating in scrimmages. It seems like Alex is right on schedule in his rehab and will be ready to go at 100% once the season begins. He is going to be vital for this team as his presence at power forward will be a nightmare match up for opposing teams this season.
- Cal wants this team to be fast, fast, fast. This is evident as he coached the big men on taking less dribbles when the ball is in their hands, particularly on fast breaks. For one, you want your big men to keep the ball off the floor as much as possible. That takes away their height advantage. Also in order to move at a fast pace, dribbling must be limited.
- Tyler Ulis is another coach on the floor. He is telling guys where they need to be and giving direction on the court. His leadership and court vision are invaluable.
- Cal is transforming Briscoe into a shooting guard. With Ulis, the point guard position is solidified. Calipari is going to help Briscoe's game by improving his shot and his scoring.
- Charles Matthews is going to be an x-factor type of guy. His athleticism is going to allow him to beat guys off the dribble and take them to the rim to either finish or get fouled. There really wasn't a player like him on last season's team. He could be a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type of player, a hustler and a finisher.
- The athleticism of this team is outstanding. They should be able to run teams to death.
- Mulder is longer than we thought and his three point shot is a pretty one.
- A line-up of Ulis, Briscoe, and Mulder is going to be a problem for opposing teams. Ulis is going to set the other players up, Briscoe is going to a driving machine, and Murray can score from any point on the floor. Good luck guarding them.
- Ulis' three point shot has improved. Oh boy.
- Skal is a freak and has the ability to be a shot-blocking machine. His offensive skills are more refined that Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein when they were freshmen. He isn't afraid to slam the ball and is not showing signs of being timid. He can also hit a jump shot with regularity and accuracy as can Isaac Humphries.
- Marcus Lee is improving in every facet of his game, including his shot. This will be his year to blossomn as play time increases.
- Isaac Humphries has was a bit of a surprise. He can both muscle opponents and he has a nice outside stroke. Much more athletic than the coaches thought he was. He's going to play major minutes.
"We’re not losing a game this year because a guy tries to catch a ball with one hand and it goes out of bounds," Coach Cal said. "We may lose a game another way, but not that way. We always rebound and catch with two hands."
"Man, it’s good to see Alex out here!"
On one particular play, Jamal Murray raced the ball down court and hit Briscoe on the wing. When Briscoe paused and kept the ball along the perimeter the play was blown dead. He wanted Briscoe to drive and simply see what would happen. "We’re not running plays!" Calipari said. "I’m trying to teach you how to play. There are no right plays."
"I like that Isaac! You went right by Skal. I didn’t know you had that quickness."