Ahead of Kentucky’s matchup with the Seton Hall Pirates in the Citi Hoops Classic, it’s time for the latest stock evaluation of the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team.
The storyline from Kentucky’s 17-point win over the UNC Greensboro Spartans was the emergence of Hagans. Since the Big Blue Bahamas tour, fans have been waiting for the defensive tenacity Hagans showed when matching up with professional players.
On Saturday, Hagans put the clamps on Spartans’ star Francis Alonso. While his stats weren’t overwhelming, his efforts on the court were priceless. The young star’s confidence increased by the possession in Saturday’s second half, priming him for another significant game this weekend.
Before the season, it was beginning to seem as if Ashton Hagans could possibly be left on the outside looking in to Kentucky’s PG rotation. After Saturday’s game, it’s evident that won’t be the case.
“But what I liked with Ashton, it’s not what he did offensively,” Calipari said. “We put him on No. 10. We said, we can either let the kid get 60 or put Ashton on him, and then Ashton made him work to get shots and run, and all of a sudden you’re into their legs. They had to take him out a few times,” Calipari said.
Just imagine where this 2018-2019 team would be without Travis. The veteran has been the pillar of dependability that most expected him to be before the season began, averaging 14.6 point per game.
Travis isn’t the most athletic or tallest player on the court, but his strength has been the recipe to Kentucky’s paint dominance this fall. Whenever the team needs a score, Travis has answered the bell. As the season moves along, Travis looks to be the leader Calipari is relying on.
Johnson’s second-half injury scare had Big Blue Nation on pins and needles Saturday, going down in agony with an apparent ankle sprain.
While the injury seemed serious, the young forward was able to return and contribute a 13 point, 11 rebound effort in finishing off the Spartans. Johnson’s effort has been unquestioned throughout the beginning of the season, with his team-leading 15.9 PPG certainly reflecting that.
Montgomery’s ability to change the game is on full-display as he sees increased playing time. On Saturday, Montgomery shot 4-6 from the field to score eight points and grab five rebounds. While the stat line seems unimpressive, he did so in just 15 minutes off the bench.
After the game, Calipari mentioned the inclusion of a press defense ahead of conference play. Montgomery’s contributions should be expected here, increasing his playing time as the team’s schedule picks up.
Montgomery may very well be the best professional prospect on the roster, as his best has yet to come.
Over his last five games, Herro has settled in on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. While he wasn’t viewed as an exceptional defender coming into college, his production speaks loudly of the effort he’s putting in.
For the season, Herro is now averaging just under 12 PPG and netting 31% of this three-point attempts. With Herro’s contributions increasing, expect his confidence to correlate with his production.
After dominating North Dakota and VMI, Washington has had a drop-off in production. In 33 minutes against UNCG, Washington scored just nine points & snatched eight rebounds. While he didn’t necessarily lay an egg, Washington didn’t have the “impact game” many anticipated.
“Today a couple times, I’m just like, kid, you’ve got to fight,” Calipari said. “Somebody told me about another player and said the difference is the kid is like playing like his life depends on it and PJ is not. He’ll get it, though, and that’s the great thing about being here.”
You can make an argument that Kentucky can still become special without guys like Nick Richards and Quade Green having big roles, but PJ is the sophomore that has to play big for this team to win big.
Richards and his stock seem to be at rock-bottom. The sophomore played a grand total of one minute in Saturday’s win and didn’t see the floor until there were nearly 10 minutes remaining in regulation. After the game, Calipari addressed the situation.
“You know, we’ll have practice this week. If Nick steps up and he steps in front of one of those guys, one of those other guys won’t play.” Calipari said.
The emergence of Hagans showed promise, but also may be a setback for Quickley. Quickley has struggled from behind the arc, shooting 22% thus far. While Calipari has repeatedly gone to Quickley in the starting lineup, don’t be surprised if Hagans takes over sooner than later.
This is more of an “up in the air” stock than a downward trend. Green did play just eight minutes on Saturday, but that’s not necessarily his fault. The fact of the matter is that there will be some games when Calipari relies heavily on Green and other games that don’t fit his style of play.
Green has made 17-19 free throw attempts this season, lobbying for his presence late in close games.