With just under a month until the Bahamas trip, we’ve got a new practice report from CoachCal.com’s TJ Beisner.
As you can imagine, Reid Travis was a big focus in today’s report, as the bruising forward is now cleared to practice:
Travis had been sidelined briefly while waiting to be officially admitted into UK’s graduate program. He’s now practicing and already doing a little bit of everything, just as he did in his final year at Stanford.
While Travis does most of his damage as a back-to-the-basket big, he’s very skilled and can even step up for a long jumper. The hope is John Calipari will further utilize that and make Travis more of a complete player that could even play on the wing some.
The biggest thing Travis is doing right now is bringing a physical presence that’s making his teammates better, as Beisner notes:
As impressive as Reid was in practice, the most encouraging part of his presence was that no one – not one player – backed away from him when things got physical. This is a team that has been built on competition in the first few weeks and the introduction of a physical monster did nothing to change their desire to compete and get physical. Practice remained a battle and not one player, no matter the size difference, was afraid to mix it up with Reid.
While Travis is a battle-tested veteran with years of college games under his belt, Keldon Johnson already looks and plays like a hardened veteran.
By now, you know all about Johnson and the in-your-face style he plays with. He’s arguably the best defender in the 2018 recruiting class, and he’s easily one of the most physical recruits Calipari has landed in Lexington.
So, as you can imagine, Johnson and Travis are already having some wars in practice:
Keldon has already established himself as an alpha dog in the first few weeks of practice and he found himself matched up with Reid for the majority of Tuesday’s practice, which created a competitive subplot that was impossible to stop watching. They went at each other when they had the ball. They went at each other harder when they didn’t have the ball.
The combination of Johnson and Travis is going to be mentally and physically draining on opponents. We’re already seeing a glimpse of that.
The star of the first practice report was EJ Montgomery, who has at times been overlooked with so much focus on Travis and sophomore forward PJ Washington (still out while recovering from finger surgery).
But Montgomery is a rising star that will absolutely make a big impact as a freshman, at least if practices thus far are any indicator.
One of the biggest questions facing this team right now that could linger into the regular season is the guard situation. UK has a wealth of talent in the backcourt, but figuring out how it’s going to work out is something Calipari still has plenty of work to do to figure out.
The biggest focus here is at point guard, where Ashton Hagans, Quade Green and immanuel Quickely will all make a push for the starting job.
While there wasn’t much to speak of on this battle, Beisner did note how Green has been stepping up and being more competitive, as it sounds like adding Hagans and Quickley has lit a fire under the sophomore guard.
Overall, the biggest takeaway from this report is the level of fight this young team is already showing in the middle of the summer. It’s going to take everything they have to become a ture national championship-caliber team, which it sounds like they’re fully committed to becoming.
They may not have quite the talent and depth the 38-1 team had, but it sounds like they’re already getting close level of fight and will to win.
Next season can’t get here fast enough.