Sunday was another chance for the world to see what this Kentucky Basketball team is all about.
Now, it’s time to hand out grades for the Wildcats:
Nick Richards - Richards really seems to be focused on improving as a player. During warm-ups before the Blue-White game, I watched as he took shot after shot with sweat pouring off his body. Richards was working out with a purpose and asking for additional instruction during each phase of the workout.
You could see the hard work pay off in the Blue-White Game, as Richards scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the first eleven minutes of the game. Improving his mid-range shooting game appears to be the primary focus of the sophomore center.
I also maintain my stance that Richards is one of the biggest human beings on the planet, definitely one of the biggest in NCAA basketball. His size will be important for Kentucky on both ends of the floor. Getting a block or two a game from Richards will go a long way for this team to be the best version of themselves. His three swats early in the second half is exactly what Coach Cal wants to see.
Richards obviously wants to play in the NBA, but he will first have to carve out his role on a team loaded with frontcourt talent. He clearly has improved by leaps and bounds but needs to be careful to not try and do too much.
Nick Richards punches it off the fake handoff. pic.twitter.com/c1y9gGCuvu— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
Tyler Herro - At this point, the secret is out, Herro has established himself as one of the primary scoring options for the Cats. His ball fakes now must be respected in such a way that he pretty much can have his way with defenders.
Herro’s greatest contribution to this team may be his ability to knock down transition threes. It feels automatic when he catches the ball on the break, takes one dribble, and rises for his shot.
In a recent video posted by the UK Men’s Basketball account, Calipari challenged his team to see if anyone could make six threes in a row in a transition drill. Herro was up to the task and drained all six effortlessly.
His confidence seems to be sky high, which is a good thing because UK will need his scoring all season long.
Tyler Herro with 34 points on 12-16 FG. pic.twitter.com/s8u4Q2P9gY— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 22, 2018
Reid Travis - Travis didn’t waste any time showing why he was an All Pac-12 performer. He scored 16 points on 8-9 shooting in the first half, along with grabbing 7 rebounds. Travis is an anchor who should provide stability when he’s on the floor. He does all of the dirty work and appears to enjoy doing it.
Running the floor, boxing out, racing to 50-50 balls, and crashing the boards are pillars of Travis’s game. He rarely gets in a rush and always seems to know exactly where he and everyone else on the court should be.
As the season progresses, the best option for a bucket in a big situation very well may be throwing it to Travis on the block and getting out of his way. It’s becoming cliche at this point, but Travis’s experience will be invaluable this season.
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
EJ Montgomery - After missing most of the games on the Big Blue Bahamas Tour, fans are starting to learn how special EJ Montgomery is. During the first few minutes of the Blue-White game, Montgomery immediately showed his aggressive offensive rebounding and ability to finish above (way above) the rim.
Montgomery can not only guard every position on the floor, but can also score in a variety of ways. Coach Calipari will undoubtedly have the option to play Montgomery at the 3 spot, which would introduce an enormous line-up that should be nearly impossible to keep off the glass.
Now, it’s crazy to think how close Montgomery was to going to Duke, I predict that he is going to show out on November 6th when the Cats meet the Blue Devils in Indianapolis.
Tyler Herro drops the dime to EJ Montgomery for the slam. pic.twitter.com/NGUxwvQrTm— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
P.J Washington - It was a rough first half for Washington who didn’t get one rebound after playing all 20 minutes. That is kind of miraculous when you think about it, as even Brad Calipari snagged a board in the first half.
Washington picked it up in a major way during the second half and played out of his mind. But the disappearing act of half number one was reminiscent of last season and something that will need to be corrected.
Yeah, it’s just the Blue-White Game, but sustained effort is an area that Washington must show improvement. With a team this deep in the front-court, his minutes aren’t guaranteed, but Washington showed in the second half how dominant he can be. His dunk over EJ Montgomery at the 9 minute mark in the second half was incredible.
Washington is sure to have some jaw-dropping highlight this season.
7:22 to go it's 90-75 Blue. PJ Washington having a much stronger second half. 19 points and four rebounds after just four points and no rebounds in the first. All the sophomores have shown they are much improved.— Aaron Gershon (@agershon99) October 22, 2018
Keldon Johnson - You could easily make an argument that Johnson is the most well-rounded player on the team and maybe the most important. The moves he makes look like pro moves and he has the strength to dominate opponents.
Everything about Johnson screams lottery pick. I expect as the season progresses that Johnson will establish himself as the alpha of this team on both ends of the floor. He is ultra competitive, talks trash, and has the game to back it up.
Johnson has SEC Player of the Year potential and beyond.
Keldon Johnson with a nice looking 3 point stroke. pic.twitter.com/bk2tTJzRnm— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
Quade Green - Green filled up the stat sheet in the Blue-White and did a little of everything to help his team. He scored 17 points, had 9 boards, and 4 assists. In my opinion, Quade Green has distanced himself as Kentucky’s best option at the point guard position. He looks so much more comfortable than he did a season ago. Green can distribute and get his own shot off, along with bringing the experience of season under his belt.
Immanuel Quickley - There is not a ton of news to report after Quickley’s performance in the Blue-White game. Quickley didn’t play poorly; he just wasn’t as involved as others for much of the game.
As mentioned above, I believe Quade Green has distanced himself for the starting point guard position. Quickley remains a three point shooting threat and will be a contributor all season long.
But after shooting just 4-16 in the Blue-White game, Quickley will need to focus on taking the right shots.
Immanuel Quickley from deep pic.twitter.com/OMvK2DMtLh— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
Ashton Hagans - I would never want to have to dribble the ball around Ashton Hagans. He is such a ferocious defender and loves getting in the grill of opponents. He also showed his ability on offense by scoring 15 points.
For a freshman, he looks comfortable in his role and that should only improve. If a guard is giving UK problems, you can count on Hagans getting the assignment to slow him down. His reclassification could end up being a crucial piece for the Cats contending for a championship.
Ashton Hagans rip leads to the Tyler Herro triple. pic.twitter.com/XoMQYBHw6r— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 22, 2018
Jemarl Baker - How awesome was it to finally see Baker in play basketball in a Kentucky uniform? He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but wasn’t shy to let it go and looked comfortable on the court. Baker did show why he is considered to be such a great shooter as he knocked down a few from deep. Shooting with consistency will be his ticket to minutes.
Grade - C
Jemarl Baker splashes a 3. pic.twitter.com/I8gMOOolhH— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2018
Kentucky has so much talent that it is tough to determine how any opponent is going to game plan a scheme to beat them.