The Kentucky Wildcats must replace their best player, and then some, as is per the course for John Calipari these days.
Coach Cal is bringing in another star-studded recruiting class to take the place of his departing players, but there is one in particular that stands out, at least to PJ Washington: Tyrese Maxey.
Washington and Maxey have known each other for a long time as they grew up playing together in Texas, which helps explain PJ’s confidence in how good Maxey will be at the next level.
“I’ve known him since he was in like the first grade,” Washington said when asked about Maxey at the NBA combine. “He’s always been playing up, always been dominating. So, I expect nothing less of him. He’s a worker.”
So, what does Maxey do that will help him “dominate” for the Cats next season?
“He’s going to come in and try to do his best each and every day and bring a lot of energy toward the game. He can guard multiple positions, he’s a scorer. He can pass the ball as well. I think really highly of him, and I think he’s going to have a great year.”
The 6-3, five-star guard is UK’s highest ranked recruit in the 2019 class coming in at No. 10 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Maxey was actually rumored to possibly reclassify last summer. That was before current starting point guard Ashton Hagans decided to make the jump from 2019 to 2018, so that he’d be able to play last season.
Maxey was excellent in his return to South Garland High School, where he averaged 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in his senior season.
“He’s a high-scoring guard,” Washington said. “Guy like Bradley Beal or something like that, guys who can play on both ends of the ball. And he’s a competitor. ... He’s kind of a little brother to me. We both have the same trainer. Just a guy like him I think is great for our program.”
Beal is an NBA All-Star and that comparison will likely result in lofty expectations, but like all incoming freshmen, Maxey still has room for improvement.
As a senior, he made just 31 percent of his 204 three-point attempts. With Hagans set to return to starting point guard duties, Maxey figures to start at the two, which means that shooting percentage needs to tick up a bit.
While Hagans’ strength is his defense and ability to create plays for his teammates, Maxey’s scoring ability looks like the two will make for the perfect combination at Kentucky.
But don’t sleep on Maxey on the defensive end. We all know Coach Cal loves his defense, so to stay on the floor, Maxey’s going to need to step up on that end of the floor.
Washington and Maxey’s trainer Tim Martin says that shouldn’t be a problem.
“He’s very intelligent defensively to where he picks his spots when to play passing lanes, but ultimately, he’s very well-grounded, meaning being able to disrupt rhythm,” Martin told the Courier-Journal. “Similar to Ashton. I think they actually have the chance to be the best defensive backcourt in the country.”
Once again, there are lofty expectations for the incoming freshmen, but Maxey doesn’t seem to be one that shies away from the spotlight. He’s definitely going to be a fan favorite in Lexington next year.