Another week full of Kentucky Wildcats news and this time with a little less controversy.
Let's get right to it:
Isaac Getting Over the Hump
With Marques Bolden picking the Duke Blue Devils over the Kentucky Wildcats, the opportunity has opened for other players to step up and earn minutes at the 5 spot. It is assumed that Bam Adebayo will start at center for the 'Cats, but his natural position is at power forward.
Bam will be the best rebounder on the team and will be the most physical player in the post, but wouldn't it be nice to have another player on the team that can effectively play center as to take some pressure off of Bam and let him play the position to which he is better suited?
Enter Isaac Humphries into the equation. Last season we all saw flashes from him. There were times where John Calipari needed a little toughness under the basket and Humph was able to provide that. But he was still extremely raw and extremely young. Remember that he was too young to take part in the draft experience of which Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe took advantage.
Matt Jones talked a little bit about the summer workouts that are going on at the present on his radio show today, and his insiders told him that Isaac is by far the most improved player from last year's team. He is in better physical shape, something with which he struggled last season, and he looks to belong on the court with the elite talent.
Granted, these are summer workouts we are talking about here, but this is great news. If Humphries can take the next step in his development, he will give Kentucky even more of an advantage under the basket than they already have.
Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee were unable to take advantage of opportunities at the five spot last season. One is no longer with the program and the other slid almost all the way out of the first round of the NBA draft after he was projected to be a lottery pick.
Can Isaac learn from the mistakes of his teammates and become the big man we all know he can be?
Draft Night Dud?
Ever since Coach Cal proclaimed in 2010 that his inaugural draft night at Kentucky was the most important night in the history of the program, expectations have always been extremely high and the disappointment has been rare.
But one cannot avoid the fact that every player in the Kentucky draft class were taken lower than expected, particularly Skal. Jamal Murray was still taken in the lottery, even though many projected him in the top five, and Tyler Ulis fell into the second round due to his size and the rumored hip injury.
Murray's case had to do, in my opinion, with the Boston Celtics questionably taking Jaylen Brown with the third draft pick. Conventional wisdom stated that Kris Dunn was the third best prospect in the draft and should have been the Celtics pick, but with Danny Ainge opting for Brown, Dunn fell to five and the Timberwolves had to take him. If Dunn had been picked earlier, I do think Murray would have ended up in Minnesota.
As for Skal, it was painful to watch as pick after pick occurred as he continued to wait on the main stage. Things became visibly uncomfortable for him, his family, his agent, and John Calipari. But he was finally picked late in the first round by the Kings and he will join DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Rajon Rondo barring him leaving the team.
I see Skal's spot with the Kings having both good and bad aspects. The good is that he has two bigs in front of him with Boogie and WCS so he will not be asked to play right away. I don't think he is capable of being an NBA contributor right now. WCS would be a great mentor for Skal. He is a great guy and knows what it's like to be doubted only to prove people wrong. Boogie maybe not so much.
The negative is that the Kings are an absolute train wreck as a franchise. They are starting with ANOTHER head coach, their biggest star (Boogie) is not happy there, and their latest draft was a disaster according to most experts. Skal needs stability and a nurturing environment for him to thrive in the future?
So was draft night 2016 a bust? Three 'Cats were selected overall, but by the lofty standards set by Cal and expected by all, it kind of was. The good news is that every time the draft has been considered a bust by the 'Cats (2013, 2014) the next season was special.
Can Drew Barker Step Up?
Las Vegas already has the football 'Cats as an eighteen point underdog to the Louisville Cardinals when the two face off in November at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. First thing, that line is, in my opinion, way too high. And plus it's June, folks. There was a point early last season when Kentucky was almost a double-digit favorites over Louisville. In football.
So while Louisville fans are already claiming victory over a spread at the beginning of summer, the Wildcats have questions to answer before then and the biggest question is at quarterback. D
Drew Barker was the face of his recruiting class and arguably the best recruit that Mark Stoops has pulled. He was a highly touted and sought after QB that didn't receive a UK offer until late in his recruitment. His arrival at Kentucky was greeted with hype and a Super Bowl ad that promised that things were changing and he was the face of that change.
But an airsoft gun and bar fight incident later, the fans and the public were questioning Barker's maturity, decision-making ability, and even his talent even though they had not really seen him play outside of the spring game. But what could be made out of the fact that the four-star player couldn't beat out a struggling Patrick Towles until the very end of last season, and even then Barker was benched in the Louisville game.
But now the team is his and there is no other player breathing down his neck. Barker also has for the first time in his college career, a true quarterbacks-only coach with Darin Hinshaw. If Barker can be as good as advertised or, at the very least, very efficient, then Kentucky will be fine on offense.
He has enough weapons in the backfield and on the outside to succeed. He has a world-class college tight end in CJ Conrad.The offensive line should be much improved. The only questionable variable is Drew Barker.
If he can step up to the plate and be a difference maker, then that 18-point spread will shrink and the long bowl game drought will end.
The Kentucky Wildcats have had some pretty fantastic back-courts during Calipari's tenure at Kentucky: John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray; but could the best one waiting in the wings?
Last time I did the musings, I mentioned that I thought that Malik Monk wasn't getting enough hype. Well, apparently De'Aaron Fox isn't either. More summer work-out scuttlebutt says that Fox is better than we had thought and that he will be Calipari's best point guard since John Wall.
Recruiting Rankings Updated by Rivals
One UK and Duke target makes a big jump, but it's the big men who dominate the top.
Skal & Maker paths tells recruits to skip college
Skal Labissiere entered college as a potential No. 1 overall pick in his draft class, but ended up falling all the way to No. 28. His disappointing season in college cost him millions, and if he could do it over he'd likely avoid college. That's what Thon Maker did. With that draft loophole being found, could we see more players avoid college?
But is that surprising? Monk and Fox were co-MVPs in the Jordan Brand Classic. Both are highly athletic, quick guards that can beat most defenders off of the dribble. Fox is considered the best defender in the 2016 class and Monk has the tools to become elite on defense. De'Aaron Fox likes to drive and dish while Monk is all about the buckets.
It's going to fun watching these guys play. There won't be many guard combos in the country that will be able to handle them on either end of the floor. And add Isaiah Briscoe to that combo.
RIP Pat Summitt
2016 has been a bad year for the passings of some major cultural figures. Muhammad Ali, Prince, David Bowie, are just a few names on that list.
Add Pat Summitt.
Summitt was an important figure not just in women's college basketball but in all of sports, especially in the era of Title Nine. She showed why women's athletics deserved to be in the forefront as much as men's.
The Lady Vols were UConn before UConn. They had all the best players, they won the title seemingly every season, and they had a coach that many debated whether or not could coach on the men's level. Pat Summitt meant more to Tennessee basketball than any man that ever held a position as a coach or as a player. There is a reason they call where they play The Summitt.
Her legacy will live on forever and she belongs on the list of great coaches: John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Coach K, and Pat Summitt.