After guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray declared for the NBA draft, overshadowed talent Isaiah Briscoe decided to stay with John Calipari for at least one more year.
With highly talented guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk committed to play for Kentucky during the 2016-2017 season, Briscoe would face elite competition to be the team’s star.
Though the Wildcats haven’t played a game yet, their Blue-White scrimmage on Friday night showed Wildcat fans what they have to look forward to this year. Needless to say, there may not be anything fans have to worry about.
The Blue team started freshman guards Fox and Monk, along with projected top-10 NBA draft pick Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and senior Dominique Hawkins. The White team had the benefit of experienced players, starting returning players Briscoe, Mychal Mulder, and Derek Willis. They also inserted freshman Brad Calipari and Sacha Killeya-Jones into their starting five. The Blue team won, however, with a score of 110-94.
With Briscoe struggling not only from the free-throw line last season (46%) but also the 3-point line (13.5%), the sophomore guard knew he’d have to work heavily on his craft in order to increase his draft stock.
Ultimately, the summer must have done wonders for Briscoe, as he shot 14-30 from the floor (including 2-6 from the 3-point line) and shot 9-12 (75%) from the free-throw line. Not only did he score a game-high 39 points, but also recorded a game-high 10 assists as well.
With Fox receiving John Wall and Kyrie Irving comparisons, Briscoe made a clear statement to Wilcdat fans that this will be his show to run.
Fox did indeed however score 31-points, adding 12 rebounds and six assists with two blocks.
The lightning fast and lanky 6’3 guard seemed to wow the crowd every other possession with his elite ball skills. His versatility will be a great utility for Calipari this season.
Monk, receiving comparisons to Brandon Knight and Mike Conley, showed off his explosiveness with many highlight dunks. He scored 26 points and added five rebounds and four assists. He’s the clear front-runner to play on the wing this season.
Unless, however, Mychal Mulder keeps his shooting stroke as hot as it looked Friday night. Mulder played the majority of the game off the ball, which will better his chances of playing in a guard-heavy offense.
The 6’4 senior put up 18 points on just 13 shots, making 4-5 from behind the 3-point line. If Mulder can prove consistency from deep, he’ll be a viable asset to this team.
The other senior guard on the roster, Hawkins, quietly put together a highly efficient night as well. He shot 7-9 from the floor, with 2-3 coming from 3-point territory, and 6-7 from the free-throw line. Mulder and Hawkins are primed to provide major veteran minutes off the bench this season.
The third and final senior, Willis, is one of the six talented big men Kentucky will employ in their rotation this season. With a lethal 3-point shot, he struggled to score with just 13 points on 4-9 (2-5 from behind the arc) shooting.
However, he made his presence felt on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds to record a double-double. Look for Willis to stretch the floor this season and open the paint up for the Kentucky guards.
Adebayo, Kentucky’s top recruit, put together a man’s night on both ends of the court. He scored 20 points on 10-15 shooting, adding 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. Standing 6’9, 240 lbs. the talented freshman will look to be a force in the paint this season.
Gabriel and Killeya-Jones are also two of Kentucky’s power forwards who were ranked in ESPN’s top-25 recruits of 2016. Gabriel wasn't much of a force on offense, scoring just nine points on five shot attempts.
However, he pulled down ten rebounds and blocked a shot. Killeya-Jones was the opposite, scoring 15 points on 12 shot attempts and added just three rebounds. The two looked a little raw but, with Kentucky’s depth at the position, should have enough time to improve their craft throughout the season.
Calipari, a lethal shooter in high school, didn’t make a shot on four attempts. Though, he did go 3-4 from the free-throw line for three points. Reserves Jonny David and Dillon Pulliam combined for 24 minutes and two points.
Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard did not play due to injury, but when healthy, will provide Calipari with high quality depth at both the PF and C positions.
Overall, this team has 3-4 ball handlers who can create their own shot, along with 4-5 players who can consistently knock down shots. Add six big men who stand 6’9 or taller and you have a complete roster with ten players who could start any game.
Though the game was high scoring, both squads showed a competitive edge that will elevate even higher once the season starts. Ultimately, this team may be Calipari’s best yet. With a healthy mix of veteran leaders and freshman talents, it will take any other team’s best game to defeat this elite group.
The Wildcats will play their first game of the season on November 11th at 7 p.m. at Rupp Arena.