The Kentucky Wildcats opened their basketball season with a Blue-White scrimmage on Sunday, with the Blue team defeating the White team 104-96.
That result is a bit misleading, however, since Coach John Calipari mixed the teams up at halftime. Regardless, several players stood out as being ready to contribute to a special season.
Tyler Herro led all scorers with 34 points, Nick Richards had 16 rebounds to lead the way, and Quade Green dropped a team-high 9 assists.
This was the team’s last public appearance before an exhibition game on Friday when the Wildcats will host Transylvania, so here a few things you need to know.
Reid Travis is a man.
We knew this already, but it was quite another thing to see him flying around and gathering rebounds on both sides of the court. He will not lead this team in scoring, but his presence in the paint will be vital for this team’s success.
Reid Travis block off the backboard leads to the pull up 3 by Tyler Herro. pic.twitter.com/RFOEhnavP3— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
When Travis gets his hands on the ball, nobody is ripping that rebound away. With the other bigs performing well also, he can play a particular role and just be whoever a particular lineup needs him to be. He showed on Sunday that he can shoot the mid-range shot, knock down a three every now and then, score in transition, and clean up the offensive glass.
Keldon Johnson can shoot.
Johnson’s athleticism and competitiveness were his calling cards coming into the season, and those traits were definitely present during the scrimmage. But one thing that stood out during the Blue-White game was his shooting.
Johnson’s shot looked pure and he shot 67% from the floor. If he can continue to shoot that way, it changes the entire dynamic of the offense. Especially with EJ Montgomery on the floor, Johnson’s ability to shoot now gives you guys 5 guys that can drive and kick, and also 5 guys that can knock down the shot if left alone.
Sophomore Nick Richards is for real.
Nick Richards was dominant in the Bahamas. He owned the boards, played impressive defense, and scored in a variety of ways. He was a completely different player from the guy we saw last season.
Richards picked up in the Blue-White game right where he left off. He had 16 points and 16 rebounds, throwing down several impressive dunks and looking like a first round NBA Draft pick.
EJ Montgomery is special.
I know 2 out of my first 3 “things to know” were about big guys (and neither of them concerned PJ Washington’s impressive game), but I would be remiss to leave out EJ Montgomery. After only seeing him in limited action in the Bahamas, many have wondered if Montgomery would be the “odd man out” in the front court rotation.
EJ Montgomery shows why his upside is unlimited. pic.twitter.com/2fDxyQqXc6— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 22, 2018
However, Montgomery did it all during the Blue-White game. He ran the floor, made perimeter jumpers, and played above the rim when needed. He finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
Montgomery has potentially the most NBA-ready skill set of any big on the roster, and his ceiling is incredibly high. There are very few big men in the country with his versatility.
Balance, balance, balance.
This team is balanced in every sense of the word. The front court is very talented and deep, but the guards are also versatile and play very well together. This team seems primed to thrive in any style of game they find themselves in.
There is also balance on the bench. I would suspect that the original Blue team represents the starting lineup early in the season, but the game was close throughout the first half and there seemed to be little-to-no drop-off between the two teams. The second half squads were evenly matched as well.
Tyler Herro with 34 points on 12-16 FG. pic.twitter.com/s8u4Q2P9gY— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 22, 2018
Besides Jemarl Baker looking a little rusty and nervous early on, this team showed that it is securely 2-deep at every position. Most believe that Cal will not platoon this season, but there will be a lot of guys sharing minutes. The most interesting question concerns who will be on the court to close out a close game.
The game was a lot of fun. Tell us what got thought below!