This year is one of those years that fans look at the UK basketball team and say "this could be a special year."
UK had the best recruiting class in the country, again. Not only that, but they had a few players return like Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, and Tai Wynyard. The Cats have it all this year, height, athleticism, shooting, speed, and the list goes on and on.
But there are a few players this year who will make the difference between making the Final Four and not.
1. De'Aaron Fox
Even if Isaiah Briscoe starts at the beginning of the year, I believe that De'Aaron will be our starting PG. He is too good to not be. He is extremely athletic with a great sense of when to pass and when to take over. He has to lead the team through his play while the upperclassmen (Briscoe and Willis) will lead more vocally and mentally. In order for this team to work, De'Aaron has to be able to control the game on offense. Stepping into Ulis' shoes is almost impossible, but if it is anyone, I'm really glad it's Fox.
2. Isaiah Briscoe
Before everyone gets on me for saying that Briscoe will be more of a vocal/mental leader than a scorer or facilitator this year, just wait. Briscoe is very key to the Wildcats success this year; I do think he will have a big role in the offense, but I think his biggest role will be defense. He can guard any team's best guard and matchup perfectly.
Briscoe must also be this team's anchor. He wants the pressure on him to succeed, and I know he will thrive. I expect Cal to try the 3 guard line up again this year to see how it works with a more athletic backcourt than last years. I'm not saying it will work, but you have to try it, our guards are too good not to be on the court.
3. Edrice "Bam" Adebayo
The biggest issue, literally, last year with the cats was not having an inside game. Their presence down low was mediocre at best with Skal and Alex being their go to big's. That all changes this year. Even though I think our backcourt is better than our front court again, it is a whole lot closer this year.
The main reason is Bam; he is an absolute monster down low, and he isn't afraid of anyone or anything. The main concern is health right now, but hopefully, he has enough time to heal for a long year ahead. He will make defenses honest and allow our shooters more space to pull the trigger. He is the answer to every UK fans prayers last year, and he will be a big part in helping the Cats get back to the Final Four.
UK has yet another opportunity to live up to the giant hype that surrounds the team this year. Even though these are the three key players to get back to the Final Four, there is one player who almost made this list for me; Derek Willis.
Willis is going to be huge this year by spreading the floor for the bigs to get better looks and stepping up to be a senior leader the team needs him to be. I am very excited to watch the team this year, and I can't wait for it to start.
Here's to the chase for 9!