After the drama of June with the NBA Draft decisions and the commitment of Reid Travis, we now have a clear picture of what the Kentucky Wildcats will look like next year.
Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel made their decisions to leave for the NBA, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard transferred, and John Calipari’s 2018 recruiting class is finalized.
That being said, here’s a look at next year’s roster:
It’s hard to see David’s role being any different than it has been the previous three years. The 6-2 guard has scored just seven points in his career at Kentucky, and has appeared in no more than 11 games in a season. However, he has made the SEC Academic Honor Roll every year.
Reid Travis (graduate transfer)
Travis is a huge part of the roster as an experienced big man. Kentucky had depth down low, but Travis adds a ton of it and immediately becomes the best big on the team. A two-time All-Pac-12 player and a former McDonald’s All-American, Travis will fit right in with the star power that Kentucky has coming in. He’s an offensive-minded big who can clean the glass as well as anyone else in college basketball.
He won’t be the most gifted athlete on the team, but he’s got more experience—at this level and more accolades at this level—than anyone on the team.
With Tai Wynyard and Sacha Killeya-Jones transferring, and Wenyen Gabriel going pro, Calipari is the lone junior on this year’s team. He’ll surely still get yelled at to shoot by Rupp Arena spectators when he gets into games.
John Calipari’s son has scored 11 career points, grabbed five rebounds and dished two assists. He got emergency playing time when Quade Green was out, so perhaps the youngest Calipari can earn spot minutes again next season if other guards are hurt or in foul trouble.
Washington is going to be the leader of a sophomore class that’s stronger than most in the Calipari era. Washington averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his freshman year, which makes him the top returning scorer and rebounder. Washington’s role will certainly expand. He’ll get more minutes and he’ll take more shots.
Washington’s biggest weakness in his freshman season was free-throw shooting, as he shot just 60.6 percent from the line. He is also recovering from surgery on a torn tendon in his pinky, though he is expected to be ready for the Bahamas trip.
Green didn’t reach his full potential in his freshman year, but he certainly has a chance to do that in his sophomore year. He averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists, making him the second-leading scorer and leading passer among returning players. Green was one of the more efficient shooters on last year’s team, as he shot 45.1 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the foul line.
Green’s scoring and passing ability will be huge, and his veteran leadership will help set him apart in a star-studded backcourt that is going to feature Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro and maybe Tyrese Maxey.
At 6-11, Richards is the tallest returning player on the roster. He’s the third-leading returning scorer, as he averaged 5.1 points last year. He’s also the second-leading returning rebounder, as he averaged 4.4 rebounds last year. He was Kentucky’s most efficient scorer, as he shot 61.6 percent from the field, albeit almost always from inside the paint.
Richards, like Green, didn’t reach his full potential in his freshman year, but could certainly do so in his sophomore season. Richards will need to learn to be more assertive and use his big frame to his advantage down low. If he can do that, he can become Kentucky’s best rebounder, which, at his size, is exactly what he should be.
UK’s newest walk-on is Zan Payne, the son of Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne. Zan committed to Kentucky earlier this month after averaging 19 points and about 9 rebounds per game for Lexing Catholic this past season.
Payne can play, and if not for an injury this past season, he probably would have had multiple options to go somewhere and play on a scholarship. Kentucky should be very glad to have a talented player like Payne joining the roster.
Thanks to knee surgery, Baker missed his entire freshman year, which will make him a redshirt freshman next year. As a returning freshman, Baker will look to prove his value by giving Kentucky something it needed badly last year: a 3-point shooter. With Baker sidelined, Kentucky was awful from deep. Fortunately, with him and Tyler Herro on the floor next year, the Wildcats will be in much better shape when it comes to shooting.
Speaking of Herro, he’s the only four-star recruit among Kentucky’s class, but he’s got no shortage of ability. The 6-5 guard is a sensational shooter and made the Jordan Brand Classic Game.
As the No. 35 player in the class and the No. 6 shooting guard, he’s got to be one of the most likely players in the class to open some eyes in his freshman year. He’ll need to have a big summer and preseason to ensure he has a role on this guard-loaded team.
Johnson is easily one of the most versatile players in the class. His skillset screams point forward, and Calipari is all about positionless basketball these days. In that sense, Johnson is a blessing. He can play 1-3, he can pass, he can score and he can defend multiple positions.
Johnson the No. 11 player in the class, and he might be the most important player that Calipari has in his 2018 class. He also played great defense on RJ Barrett when the two faced off in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Perhaps we’ll see more of that when the Cats and Blue Devils face off this coming season.
A late addition to the 2018 class, Montgomery adds much-needed depth to the frontcourt, as the backcourt next year will be loaded. At 6-10, 200 lbs, Montgomery gives Calipari two well-sized big men as he’ll join Nick Richards. That’s something that Calipari hasn’t had since ... well, since his first season when he had DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson on the same roster.
Montgomery is the No. 9 player in his class, and the No. 2 power forward. He brings a lot of star power to the frontcourt. He’s already been turning heads in practice, so perhaps he’ll have a bigger role this season than many are anticipating.
It feels like Quickley has been a Wildcat for three years. He committed in November 2017, and has been all on the BBN wagon since. The No. 20 player in his class and the No. 4, he’s expected to be Calipari’s next top point guard.
The McDonald’s All-American will join Quade Green, Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro in what will be a star-studded backcourt, and depending on how the battle between him, Green and Hagans (again, maybe) plays out, he may be the leader of the guards.
Last but certainly not least is Hagans, who was a 2019 prospect and the No. 1 point guard, but he has since moved into the 2018 class and is already on campus. He’s still the No. 1 point guard of 2018 at 247 Sports Composite, which makes him a certain candidate to be Kentucky’s starting point guard next year.
The 6-4, 185-lb guard has been turning heads in practice early on, so he may very well win the starting point guard spot when Kentucky faces Duke in Game 1 of the 2018-19 season.