The basketball roster goes through a huge change year after year in Lexington. A group of veterans return to join a new group of talented freshman, they build themselves up as a contender, and then they split up again as individuals just for it all to start again.
Everyone in the Bluegrass awaited the decisions of who would return from last year’s group. Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards all chose to return to join the nation’s consensus #2 class for 2019.
Immanuel Quickley has seemingly flown under the radar compared to the rest of the group, though, and he should be set to make a big impact in his sophomore season.
John Calipari has a rich history of point guards throughout his career, and he has three very talented ones on the roster this year between Hagans, Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey.
“If you wanna have one of those teams, you better have one of those guards. Tyrese and Ashton are going at each other,” said Calipari at UK’s media day.
Those two are incredibly talented and both have a great chance at starting, but the third has a chance to have the biggest impact overall.
“Immanuel isn’t even the same player. It’s like when PJ came back. He has a different mentality. He’s building his own confidence. He’s done great,” said Calipari.
Everyone has looked for EJ to make those PJ-type leaps in improvement, but it sounds like Immanuel has caught everyone’s eyes during practice as well.
“I’ve been working on my body, changing a lot of parts of my game, just working to be the all-around best player I can be,” Quickley said at media day. “That’s why you come to Kentucky, so you can play and practice against the best. My mindset has changed. Like last year, playing against guys like Tyler (Herro), Keldon (Johnson) and PJ (Washington) and all them, my confidence has increased. Knowing I can play against them, I know I can play against anyone.”
Quickley’s presence and performance will be huge for the Wildcats this season. Having a veteran point guard, albeit a sophomore, available at all times will have a calming effect on a roster that’s loaded with youth. His skill set, between his passing ability, ball-handling, and spot shooting, are all things that are vital at times. If he can start to create his own shot as well, then he can take Kentucky’s depth to a whole new level.
Point guard is arguably the most influential role on the basketball court. The ball-handler is an extension of the coach on the floor and has the responsibility of both getting his own and keeping everyone involved.
Hagans gives you incredible defensive ability, and Maxey can do it all, but having Quickley to run the offense, make shots and play both sides of the ball all from a veteran’s perspective could prove to be invaluable.
He may not be the first thought when you think of this year's group, but Immanuel Quickley’s play will be one of the many things that will help the Wildcats win a lot of games this season.