The Kentucky Wildcats the NAIA Georgetown Tigers Sunday afternoon by a score of 80-53 in its first exhibition game of the 2019-20 season.
UK looked solid for their first real game of the season. There was some experimentation and expected sloppiness, but all in all, it was a good performance.
Next up, Kentucky will host Kentucky State on Friday night before the regular season kicks off against the Michigan State Spartans on November 5th.
An unexpected starting lineup
The Cats rolled out a starting five of Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Keion Brooks, Jr., EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards.
I think the majority of people expected Tyrese Maxey to start alongside Hagans. While there were disagreements over who would start at the three through five, the two guard spots appeared locked up.
It seems we all jumped the gun a bit and didn’t give the sophomore Quickley, or freshman Brooks the credit due to them.
Maybe, it’s just me, but I was surprised a bit. However, it shows the confidence John Calipari has in his returning players compared to the freshmen, as only one got the start.
Keion Brooks looks ready
Obviously, Coach Cal saw something in Brooks to give him the nod to start. But Brooks looked light-years ahead of the other freshmen.
His size allows him to get his shot off whenever he wants and he has a smooth stroke. That length also helps him guard multiple positions, and when placed at the three, he’s a nightmare matchup.
I now see why Cal had so much confidence in Brooks. And I have a feeling he’s the next guy that people expected to be a multi-year player that ends up being a one-and-done.
Johnny Juzang and defense don’t mix
People all around the state were excited about Juzang as he had the potential to step in and play similarly to Tyler Herro last season.
While he does have a smooth outside shot, and looks like he navigates the rim well, his youth shows, especially on the defensive end.
He looks somewhat lost on defense and he’s a step slow every time. Couple that with his proneness to turnovers and he might see scarce playing time, a la Jemarl Baker, if he doesn’t fix those things and fast.
Immanuel Quickley has taken a significant jump
Coach Cal said Quickley took a PJ-esque jump this offseason. He looked excellent in the blue-white game, but we had yet to see him in legitimate game action. Until tonight.
Quickley got the start and took advantage. He was hot out of the gate and wasn’t afraid to pull from anywhere. His confidence looked sky high, and that’s important for him to have.
The Cats will need a veteran presence at the guard spot, along with Hagans, to have success this season. March is drive by big-time guard play and it looks like Kentucky might have three really, really good ones.
Ashton Hagans is still a defensive menace
Okay, yes, we all already knew this. But Hagans was all over the place. He did struggle with his on-ball defense a bit, but his off-ball was excellent.
He is going to be a nightmare for opposing point guards all season long. Add in the length and defensive versatility of the rest of the team, and Hagans should have a blast on the defensive end this year.
He had a handful of steals tonight, and I expect another SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award for him in 2020.
Tyrese Maxey is coming along nicely
As noted above, Kentucky will have three very good guards this season. Maxey is one of those.
His youth shows every now and then, but he’s a special player. He’ll spend one year in Lexington before being a lottery pick, so enjoy him while you can, BBN.
As he adjusts to the college game, I expect Maxey to be a great scorer and distributor for the Cats. He has scoring ability at all three levels and his defensive prowess is second only to Hagans.
And that’s important. Because the bigs did not look good tonight. This team is going to be driven by guard play, and Maxey will play a huge part in that.
Nick Richards got injured
Richards rolled his ankle on a defender’s foot early in the second half. He looked like he was in a good deal of pain, but from a layperson’s perspective, it didn’t look too serious.
Richards was, however, ruled out for the remainder of the game. I’m sure we’ll get an update rather quickly, but it doesn’t appear to be anything more than a sprain.
Let’s pray that’s all it is. And wish a speedy recovery to Nick.
It was a good showing to start the basketball season and I can’t wait to see what this season holds. This team is a legitimate Final Four threat. They will be fun to watch.
The No. 1 team in the country is waiting in the wings just a week and a half away.