Over a two week period, the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team has been in the news and not all of it has been good. As I have read and listened to the news, I have formed some thoughts and opinions about the topics and I would like to share them with you.
Let's get started with probably the biggest story:
Derek Willis and the Lack of Response
What started off as an arrest for public intoxication blew up into something bigger after a cringe-worthy police dash-cam video was released. In it a clearly intoxicated Willis was passed out on the side of the road right beside his car. He was so drunk that the EMS responder had to check his pulse to ensure that he was indeed alive.
What was a benign PI charge (if there is such a thing) could now be a case of drunk driving. Neither Willis nor his girlfriend remember how they got to the spot they were in but it won't be easy to charge Willis with drunk driving as a field sobriety was not administered and his blood-alcohol level was never taken.
We all make mistakes and I went to my fair share of college parties and there was plenty of alcohol flowing for young men and women to enjoy. I can relate to Willis and I am sure many of us can as well. But if this is a case of drunk driving then the punishment needs to be harsh.
John Calipari has not commented yet and the University has not released an official statement other than "no comment." But something needs to be said by Cal. He made it clear on his appearance on Mike Lupica's podcast that he won't ruin a kid's career or throw him under the bus.
Nobody is asking Cal to ruin Derek's career, but at the same time, he needs to show his team and the fans that this behavior will not be tolerated. Calipari has had a great run of players and they most always do the right thing. His program has produced quality individuals that are pillars of their communities.
But you have to take the bad with the good and Willis made a mistake. Willis is going to be vital to this team. His three-point prowess will make defenses stretch the floor. Willis may also be the best free-throw shooter on the team. He has transformed into a good rebounder and an adequate shot blocker. His team needs him to have his head on straight and focused.
Maybe Cal is waiting until the investigation is over until he makes an official announcement. He deserves the benefit of the doubt on that. Whatever happens, I will support Cal and Derek.
Isaiah Briscoe the Leader
Cal has really amped up his expectations and communication with his sophomore guard. Briscoe has had a taste of the NBA process and he knows what it takes to get to the next level. That information and experience will be just as vital to leading this team as his minutes from last season.
We've already seen the kind of sophomore emergences that various college players have made. Between Briscoe's offensive background as a high school prodigy to his defensive prowess as a freshman, who's to say he doesn't put them together and become a star next year?
Briscoe has never been shy on the court and he learned leadership from the best in Tyler Ulis. His tenacity on defense will be infectious to the rest of the team and will set the tone on how they play on both ends of the floor. If he can add to his offensive game, the backcourt will again be very dangerous.
Malik Monk isn't getting enough Hype
While Frank Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and even teammates De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo are getting the most hype, Malik Monk may end up better than all of them. Kentucky really hasn't seen a guard with his skills. The closest may be Eric Bledsoe, but Monk is a better shooter and even more athletic.
He's probably going to lead the 'Cats in points this season and in highlight reel dunks. He also has the ability to be a devastating defender and he has the attitude to go with it. Do not be surprised if Malik Monk's draft status rockets as the season progresses.
I mean, just look at this:
John Calipari, Summer Newsmaker
As is his fashion, John Calipari cannot help himself when it comes to publicity. He's run the gambit from ideas about moving the SEC Tournament to the beginning of the season to lobbing grenades at Rick Pitino. Cal is controversial but he is the perfect salesman as he continues to be a newsmaker and a talking point on all of the ESPN talk shows.
His latest jabs with Rick Pitino has resurrected a latent rivalry that had seemed to cool off recently. But maybe Calipari is bracing himself for the fact that Pitino, like Roy Williams, may not feel the wrath of the NCAA infractions committee.
Cal is very sensitive about the fact that the NCAA nailed him not once but twice, and he bristles whenever he feels others do not receive the same treatment that he did.
While we in BBN high five each other and laugh at the shots Cal takes, his detractors continue to sharpen their pencils to write the next scathing article so that they can throw his words back in his face. Cal made a bold statement when he said that a coach should know what goes on with his players on campus and should be held responsible. He better sleep with one eye open.
So far he has been very lucky with his players at Kentucky.
The Curious Case of Tai Wynyard
The native New Zealander has talked more to the media this summer than he did all last season. And yes that season was only a half a season for him but you get my point. He seems like a good kid and he is enjoying himself at Kentucky, but we still don't really know how good he is.
He looked like an NBA All-Star in the FIBA 3X3 U18 Championships, but consider the level of talent and the type of basketball he was playing. And there is also the case of him refusing to go in a game last season to protect his eligibility and because he didn't feel like he was ready.
I guess I can understand that, but it was clear that his team needed him. The center position was the weakest part of the team and maybe Tai could have helped. And maybe not. Maybe he was so far behind that he would not have played any meaningful minutes and he really would have wasted a year.
Either way, it will be excellent if he can contribute in a meaningful way this season. Bam Adebayo is going to be the man in the post, but he would thrive even more as a power forward instead of at center. At worst, Tai or Isaac Humphries need to be consistent backup players for Bam.