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Kentucky Basketball Practice Report: All smiles for John Calipari

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These young Cats continue to put a smile on John Calipari’s face.

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats’ season will begin very soon, and now we have another practice report to add to the excitement of this team.

UK opened up practice to a select few media members on Tuesday, among them being KSTV’s Thomas Beisner and SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker. As you can imagine, it involved a lot of positive developments and freshman issues that should get worked out by the time March Madness rolls around.

Here’s a recap of what Tucker and Beisner had to say about the most recent UK practice.

  • Both made sure to note that John Calipari was noticeably upbeat about his newest team. It’s hard not to be after Cal assembled arguably the best recruiting class he’s ever had, and these young Cats continue to put a smile on his face. It seems like nothing, but for Cal to be continuously be happy about his team during the time of the year when they’re raw and usually enduring freshman growing pains shows how high he’s on this team.
  • A big emphasis right now has been rebounding and being more physical, two things that alluded UK last season. Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee, Isaac Humphries, and 70-80 of Alex Poythress was not enough to keep the Cats from getting pounded far too often in the paint. Now with Bam Adebayo coming in to go with Humphries making big strides, don’t expect this to be an issue again.
  • As Beisner notes, ‘trust’ and ‘communication’ have been a key thing Calipari is harping on for this team to embrace. They have all of the talent to be an elite defensive team, but trusting one another to stop his man with or without help is part of reaching that level. Once this team develops that defensive chemistry, expect them to shut down just about anyone they’ll face in March.
  • Injuries have been a minor issue this summer, and that’s continued into the fall as well. Tai Wynyard has been missing practice due to a small fracture sustained on his face from an inadvertent elbow during the televised practice on Oct. 9. Humphries is sitting out due to a minor knee issue. UK is calling both players day-to-day, so they shouldn’t be out too long.
  • Malik Monk continues to draw rave reviews for his play, but not just for his elite scoring ability. As Beisner noted, he was told that Monk “was the smartest player on the team and had one of the highest basketball IQs of any player they’d seen come through under Calipari” by someone who’s watched this team since the summer. It’s one thing to be great at something, but knowing when to be great and when to defer to others is something many basketball stars find hard to achieve. It sounds like something we shouldn’t need to worry about with Monk.
  • As Tucker notes, Gabriel is a menace on defense and has all of the tools to be a impact player on the wing. You wouldn’t think that a 6-9 big with his frame would be capable of that, but Gabriel has consistently shown over the summer and fall he’s fully capable of being that starting 3 or 4 this season.
  • Remember when everyone thought shooting would be an issue? Malik Monk won the shooting contest with 58 threes made in five minutes, including 14 in a row, followed Derek Willis with 54. It’s one practice, but shooting is clearly something this team is capable of thriving at.
  • Both Tucker and Beisner noted that Willis was actually physical and held his own defensively, something we didn’t see enough of him last season. He’s got the frame and length to defend 2s, 3s and 4s if he really commits to being a better defender, and it sounds like that’s been a focus for the senior forward this offseason.
  • Bam is a beast, but you knew that already. He’s going to leave UK as one of the most believed players of the Calipari because of his grit, passion, hustle, and just “get s&#@ right” attitude.

Be sure to read what Beisner and Tucker had to say.