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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Practice Report and Highlights

These Wildcats are hungry for greatness.

Keldon Johnson Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats will be off to the Bahamas next week. Before they make the trip, they held an open practice Wednesday that Sea of Blue was able to attend.

As if you needed any more reason to be hyped about this team, Wednesday brought about more encouraging developments for the preseason co-favorites to win it all.

First, a few updates on injured guys. Immanuel Quickley has missed some practice this summer with a groin injury sustained a few weeks ago. He’s since returned to practice and didn’t have any restrictions today.

PJ Washington was sidelined for most of June and part of July while recovering from finger surgery. He returned to practice two weeks ago and continues to look great:

Unfortunately, Jemarl Baker has had some swelling in his knee and has been sidelined for about a week now.

Now, for what took place today.

First off, the returners look like they’ve really been working hard to change their bodies this offseason. Quade Green especially looks like he’s in a lot better shape, and it showed in practice too. He was more active on both sides of the court and really has made some nice strides defensively.

His stroke still looks as good as anyone in the SEC, and with better endurance, it will hopefully help him knock down more big shots in crunch time. He actually hit the deck hard on a drive late in practice, but he got up and hit a floater the very next play, then later stripped Immanuel Quickley on defense. Green is my pick as the starting point guard right now.

PJ Washington has really worked to transform his body and looks primed for a big sophomore season.

His stroke is also looking much improved, something we saw glimpses of during the NBA Draft combine. If he can add a consistent jumper from around 15 feet, his game will greatly expand, likely enough to put him in the first-round conversation come the 2019 draft.

Everything you hear about Reid Travis being a physical freak is true and then some. He’s easily the most physical player Kentucky has had since Julius Randle. At one point, Travis was posting up against Richards so hard that Richards hit the deck. He also stonewalled PJ on a drive to the rim.

Travis’ strength in the post is so brutal that he’s going to have opponents’ bigs inconstant foul trouble this season. There may not be a player in college basketball that can keep him out of the paint one on one.

Something else Travis does well is set hard screens, and the rest of the team is already looking good in that area. Guys didn’t do a good job of get each other open enough last season, but this team already looks mile ahead in that regard.

Keldon Johnson’s attitude is so infectious in the best possible way. From pre-practice stretching down to the final seconds of practice, he was constantly smiling and cheering his teammates on while demanding max effort.

Between Johnson and Travis, I have no doubt they’ll get the most out of this team, which is easily a title-contending squad.

EJ Montgomery is the real deal. His offense is so balanced for a big man entering his freshman season, I won’t be surprised if he leads Kentucky in scoring in a lot of games. His three-point stroke looks nice, but his athleticism around the rim makes him a very tough guard for any college big. If he can become more physical and consistent, he’ll be a lottery pick come next June.

BRAD HIT A 3. REPEAT: BRAD HIT A 3 AT THE END OF PRACTICE. Thankfully, no one in the stands was yelling for him to shoot.

Immanuel Quickley is just smooth. He doesn’t do any one thing great, but he’s not got a glaring weakness at this stage either. He’s also really buying into to defense and should make a big impact there. I think he should come off the bench and embrace more of a DeAndre Liggins role with this team.

He also wears really, really short shorts.

It’s clear that Nick Richards and Tyler Herro are a little behind the other guys, but that’s mainly because the other guys already look good with over three months until the regular season. They’ve got a little catching up to do to earn meaningful minutes this season, but there’s still plenty of time between now and Game 1.

One more thing: To anyone who says Calipari just ‘rolls the ball out and let’s them play,’ they’ve never been to a Kentucky practice. Calipari is a perfectionist who isn’t afraid to blow his whistle every five seconds in team drills to make a correction, even if it’s something very minor.

Calipari coaches to make his team as close to perfect as they can become. That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer with a national title and Final Fours at three different schools under his belt. He’s nothing short of one of the best to ever coach in this sport. His results speak for themselves, and watching him go full bore for almost two hours will bring a greater appreciation for not only how good he is, but how driven he is to make his players the absolute best versions of themselves.

Now, the real fun begins next week when the Cats begin their four-game slate of Bahamas exhibition games.

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