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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Tyler Herro could be one of the best scorers in the Coach Cal era

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Herro can score in a variety of ways, but he’s more than just a lights-out scorer.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Who are we talking about?

Tyler Herro, freshman guard.

What did he do before Kentucky?

When Tyler Herro decommitted from the Wisconsin Badgers in October of 2017 and signed a letter of intent to play for Kentucky less than a month later, fans of the Wildcats were ecstatic. Probably 60% of that excitement had to do with stealing a player from Wisconsin, and 40% was excited to add a shooter to the 2018 class.

“A shooter.” That is what everyone expected Herro to be. He is a white basketball player from Wisconsin, and every highlight you could find had him knocking down jumpers. He could be the next Mychal Mulder, Julius Mays, or Jemarl Baker (nobody knew he would sit the entire season at that time). No offense to those guys, but Herro is a completely different animal altogether.

2017-18 statistics:

22 games (Whitnall High School), 32.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 3 steals per game. He shot 50% from the field and 42% from behind the three-point line.

His best performance from last season:

For fans that following recruiting closely, the revelation of Herro’s abilities came pretty quickly after his commitment. It was around that time that Herro was snubbed from the McDonald’s All-American game.

After not making the cut for that game, Herro averaged 36.5 points per game for the rest of his high school season. He took the snub personally, and he took his frustration out on all of the Wisconsin high school basketball world. Herro showed that he could be much more than “a shooter.” He was a killer.

Herro could be one of the best scorers of the Coach Cal era

The Bahamas tour opened a lot of big blue eyes to Herro’s potential. Coming off of the bench, Tyler Herro led the Kentucky Wildcats in points through the four games with 17.3 points per game.

Yes, he shot 44% from behind the three point line. He is a fantastic shooter. But he also created his own shots, knocked down mid-range jumpers, scored in transition, and took the ball to the rack. He scored in a variety of ways and played excellent offensive basketball all-around.

Herro also dished out seven assists and really made some nice dishes to bigs that got fouled or he would have had even more, so if his offense is off, he’s not going to be a ball-stopper like many volume scorers can fall into the trap of becoming.

During those Bahamas games, Herro showed glimpses of talent that led some to speculate on whether or not he could be the best scorer of the John Calipari era at Kentucky.

To put that in perspective, Malik Monk is the leading freshman scorer in history with 19.8 points per game, playing over 32 minutes in each contest. Jamal Murray is second on the list with 20 points per game (he had fewer overall points than Monk due to playing in fewer games), and he logged more than 35 minutes per game.

If Herro would be able to put up his Bahamas average for a season and Kentucky makes the Final Four, he will be ranked 3rd on the list. But his scoring in the Bahamas was based on 21.8 minutes in each game, significantly less than the aforementioned top scorers.

Granted, he can be a defensive liability at times. Against the top teams in the country, Herro will need to prove that he can stop the ball to see a significant amount of time on the court. After his sub-par defensive performance in the Bahamas, you would have to think that defense has been his focus and will be leading into the season, and that’s exactly what happened.

During his media day press conference, John Calipari actually said Herro has worked so hard on his defense that he may actually be as good as Keldon Johnson now.

“Tyler is better than I thought defensively. I thought Keldon would be better than Tyler defensively. I’m not sure of that,” said Calipari.

If Herro can become an adequate defender, I think we will see his minutes increase from what we saw in the Bahamas. Yes, Kentucky’s backcourt is loaded with Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, and Keldon Johnson.

But if you watched Kentucky play in the Bahamas and cannot see that Herro has carved out a place for himself, then you were watching different games than me.

Of course, his competition throughout the season will be tougher than he saw during the summer exhibition games. And there may be games where he gets hot and could put up 35 points. But one thing is for certain: he will get his time on the court.

Will Tyler Herro get enough playing time to become as prolific of a scorer as many believe? We are just a week from finding out when the season opens against the Duke Blue Devils.

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