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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Will Johnny Juzang live up to the preseason hype train?

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Juzang has received a lot of preseason hype and even first-round NBA Draft buzz. Will he live up to the hype?

Kentucky State v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Johnny Juzang

  • Class: Freshman
  • Height: 6-7
  • Weight: 214
  • Hometown: Los Angeles, California
  • High School: Harvard-Westlake School
  • Recruit Rankings: No. 33 nationally, No. 9 small forward in 2019 via 247 Sports composite rankings

The hype for freshman shooting guard Johnny Juzang has done nothing but grow since his arrival on campus this summer. There is even a Twitter account that goes by @Juzanghypetrain. It seems like the Big Blue Nation is confident that Juzang will be a pleasant surprise this fall.

The California native is known for his ability to flat out score the basketball and after reclassifying he will have the opportunity to make his presence felt in a major way this upcoming season.

If you remember, Juzang was originally a member of the class of 2020, but ultimately chose to reclassify into 2019. You can only assume that the decision was centered around John Calipari’s vision for just how Juzang can assert himself on his 2019-2020 roster. His shooting ability is expected to create spacing on the floor.

After moving up a class, the four star prospect finished the 2019 rankings as the 33rd best player in America according to 247 Sports. But just about anyone that has scouted Juzang has made a point to mention that he has a five star pedigree. His size and ability to handle the ball a rare combination, when you factor in his outside shooting ability to can begin to see why he Johnny Juzang has the chance to be a special player at Kentucky and beyond.

After receiving Juzang’s NLI, Coach Calipari has this to say about adding the 6 foot 7 215 pound freshman.

Johnny can really score the basketball, you’re talking about a kid who has a college-ready body, which is why I was in full support of him reclassifying.” John Calipari said.

“When he told us he was doing it, I said let’s do this. He can really shoot the basketball and has a great skill set, but what I love about him is his will to win, his fight and competitiveness. He likes to play physical and can shoot over the top of defenders, plus he’s a very good rebounder for his age. He’s a smart player who is really going to make us a different team next year.”

Juzang’s competitive spirit is something that has been brought up time after time. He plays the game with a fearless elegance and as of now, Devin Booker and Tyler Herro are the most common former UK player comparisons that you will hear. That is obviously high praise, but remember, Devin Booker came to Lexington ranked as the 22nd best player in the class of 2014, and Tyler Herro as the 37th. The obvious lesson is that rankings don’t mean everything and wing players with skill sets comparable to Booker and Herro have found a way to achieve major success under John Calipari.

Basketball IQ is likely going to be an area of strength for Juzang, his Harvard Westlake High School is one of the top academic institutions in all of California. His brother, Christian, is a member of the Harvard University basketball team. In a recent interview with Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald Leader, Juzang was asked about playing in a hypothetical game against his older brother.

“Oh my gosh, there’s no one I want to play more.” he said. “That would be super fun. That would be incredible. About 60 family members would probably be at that game.”

With all of the versatility on the Kentucky’s roster for this upcoming season it is difficult to project just where Johnny Juzang will fit in. Many believe he has the potential and based off feedback from the summer, he will start. That is yet to be determined, but one thing is certain, if he’s making shots - he will be on the court. Tyrese Maxey is expected to score in bunches but Juzang could find himself in a situation to lead the Cats in scoring from game to game.

That wing position is a spot that the Cats will have multiple options at when you consider guys like Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks. However, with the uncertainty in the front-court it is reasonable to concoct a scenario where Whitney and Brooks are forced to pick up some slack in the paint, opening up considerable minutes and opportunity for Juzang.

It won’t be long before fans get their first look at Johnny Juzang in action when Kentucky opens up against Michigan State in the Champions Classic on November 5th.