There’s been time for Kentucky basketball to decompress since the Bahamas trip. The quickfire reactions and hype has settled, though expectations are still high.
Assistant coach Joel Justus sat down with CoachCal.com editor TJ Beisner to talk about what he saw from the team in the Bahamas.
He first talked about how good it was to see Kentucky perform at the level it did so early, but also contextualized that the same way John Calipari does: by saying it’s just a start.
“For us to see that group come together so quickly, be unselfish, enjoy playing, but then also compete at the level that they did down there, you have to be pleased,” Justus said. “And I think with where we are right now, and with what coach has talked with them, it’s a great start. And I think that’s just what it is, it’s a start. As with any team that we’ve had here, we’re nowhere near the finished product.”
Justus then turned his attention to specific players, and talked in depth about what he saw in Keldon Johnson when he was recruiting him.
“Every time I went and saw him he got better,” Justus said. “We saw a kid that loves basketball, that’s a fan of the game, but also loves to improve. And you can see that when—every time we would go see him, I would go see him, I’m like ‘man, this kid’s getting better. He’s quicker, he’s faster, he’s stronger, his jump shot’s better.’ And I still think, and we still think as a staff, his best days are way ahead of him. And I don’t know that any of us will even get a glimpse of how good Keldon Johnson’s going to be when he’s wearing the blue and white.”
The Wildcats are loaded with talent this year, and Justus said that because of that, it’ll take a awhile to figure out who plays best with who. The versatility and the ability for several players to play so many different positions doesn’t make it easier.
“This team is so versatile, they’re so skilled,” Justus said. “All good problems to have, I guess. And if that’s my job, and if that’s our job as Kentucky basketball coaches, I know there’ll be a long, long, long line of coaches that would love to have our problems.”
Who plays best with who is one of many unknowns for Kentucky this year. Justus did, however, state some of the things that the staff knows for sure about this year’s team.
“We do know that Nick Richards is better than he was as a freshman,” Justus said. “We do know that PJ Washington has worked on his body and his motor. We do know that Quade, again, has worked on his body. Those three guys are returning, and we do know that they are better than they were before.”
Kentucky still has a lot to figure out, and it won’t all be clear by Nov. 6 when the Wildcats start the season against Duke. But what is obvious, as Justus said, is that this team is talented, and Justus and other coaches certainly have good problems on their hands this year.
You can listen to Beisner’s full interview with Justus on the Behind Kentucky Basketball podcast here: