Its getting closer and closer to the start of the Kentucky basketball season. With Big Blue Madness less than a week away tonight, we had the opportunity to watch this team go through several different drills in their annual pro day.
All 30 NBA teams were in attendance and over 100 total scouts had a chance to get a unique view of what the potential draft picks bring to the table. Even former Kentucky Wildcats star Tayshaun Prince was in attendance, as he’s now working for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Cal has done a tremendous job over the years with helping kids achieve their dreams, as well as having a tremendous amount of success winning a lot of games.
This team is going to have high expectations, like most Cal teams, and will be every other teams biggest game on the schedule. They will be a fun team to watch and follow all season and it is always good to be able to watch the pro day and see where they are this early in the year.
Takeaways from Pro Day
This team is quick and athletic
When this team made their trip to the Bahamas we saw from those performances that they liked to get out in transition and run. The vertical jump and full court drills showed just how fast this team can be. That speed and athletic ability is going to lead to a lot of transition points for this team.
Finishing at the rim will be a strength of this team with that athletic ability allowing them to get over the defense and finish strong at the rim. That quickness will draw a lot of fouls and put teams in tough situations with foul trouble.
The one player who looks significantly better in these regards is PJ Washington, who clearly has some extra speed and athleticism he didn’t have as a true freshman. He’s really worked his tail off this offseason, and it’s showing on the court. He could be in for one of the biggest freshman-to-sophomore jumps we’ve seen in the John Calipari era.
Their length and quickness will lead to turnovers and then that will allow them to get out on the break and score quickly on teams. Since Cal has been at Kentucky he loves to have teams that will get out and run. This team will do just that and fits his style of play.
Shooting will be much improved from a year ago
In previous years, most recently last year, Kentucky has struggled when shooting from the outside and that forced them to do most of their work on the inside. They didn’t have a reliable option from the outside when they needed it. Not being able to shoot also gave other teams a reason to pack the lane and force them to shoot.
By my count, this is 27 consecutive makes from the three-point line. https://t.co/8QYO2Ocd8j— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) October 8, 2018
That should not be an issue with this team. This team has a lot of options like Tyler Herro, Immanuel Quickley and Quade Green to go to from the outside that are more than capable of knocking down a three, which is something that could’ve been the difference in how far some of Cal’s teams made it in March.
Smooooooooth midrange jumper by EJ Montgomery.— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
"Who is that?", Coach Cal yells. pic.twitter.com/rtNAxfH7lk
Even Ashton Hangs knocked down some threes, and that was a big thing he needs to work on before beginning his freshman season.
Ashton Hagans making perimeter shots also gonna be problematic for opponents. pic.twitter.com/UyHihMjwYD— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
One thing that will help the Cats this season is PJ Washington’s and Reid Travis’ ability to step out on the perimeter and knock down a shot. That will open the lane for the guards to be able to penetrate and make them very hard to guard. We saw them both knock down shots in the Bahamas, and Travis hit on in this session.
EJ Montgomery no look cross court pass to Reid Travis for the corner 3. pic.twitter.com/DsRQgb7Jqy— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
Leadership and experience is showing itself already
In the Cal era, he hasn’t had many years with experienced players to lead the young guys. That is not an issue for this team. Having PJ Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards returning will help the young guys grow and develop quickly. In this practice, you could hear the veterans talking constantly and giving instructions to the team.
Not only does he have guys from last years team, he has Reid Travis who has a ton of experience from his time at Stanford and is used to being a leader on the floor. Cal mentioned in his interview that Travis was helping the team with his experience in the Bahamas. His time at Stanford is going to be a big difference maker for this team.
This team is ahead of schedule
Cal’s teams in the past have been known to start slow and by the time January and February rolls around they are playing their best ball. This team has already been working on defense and looks much further along than some of his younger teams.
"That's what you do for us Ashton." pic.twitter.com/zoLq7gfFqi— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
The guys are also communicating very well on both ends of the court, something that’s harder to do with younger teams, but guys like Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson are really staying on each other to talk and play the best team ball they can.
Speaking of Travis, he is going to be a monster in the paint. He struggled some in the Bahamas against bigger and more athletic bigs, but he already looks like he’s made nice strides here as he goes against Washington, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery everyday in practice.
A man's finish by Reid Travis. pic.twitter.com/LNDy3kkDIy— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
Freight train Reid Travis. pic.twitter.com/Mx69Psqo8j— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2018
With the tough schedule that this team has, it will be huge for them to be this good that early in the season, especially when they face Duke right out of the gate.
Getting to see this Pro Day should have all of BBN excited and ready for the season to get started. It is easy to tell from this practice and the Bahamas trip that this team enjoys being with each other and going at one another in practice to make them better as a team. In the past, we have had some teams that we liked but they were not “fun” to watch. This team is going to be fun to watch and grow all season as they work towards March.