With Kentucky Basketball’s Pro Day set for October 6th at the Joe Craft Center, coach John Calipari shared a recent progress report on player development as he held a roundtable discussion with the media in between recruiting stops.
Most notably, Calipari said that everyone on the roster has shown signs of improvement. Here’s a quick summary:
- Nick Richards has shown more confidence with the ball
- EJ Montgomery has changed his body and continues to work on his craft
- Tyrese Maxey can really score and was compared to Jamal Murray
- Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley are both better shooters
- Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks can each play the four in a “small ball” lineup
- Nate Sestina and Johnny Juzang are even better than expected
Not mentioned in Coach Cal’s preseason analysis was incoming freshman Dontaie Allen, the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball, who has been recovering from a torn ACL that occurred back in December during his senior year at Pendleton County High School. Allen averaged 42.9 points through 13 games last year and finished his high school career with 3,225 points to finish 11th all time in state history.
The fact that Calipari overlooked Allen could just be an oversight as the 6-foot-6 guard has participated in limited activities this summer, with both the knee rehab and a broken collarbone that was the result of a car accident back in April.
But this could also mean that a redshirt year is imminent. We’ll get a better sense of Allen’s progress when the SEC Network rolls into Lexington for the annual Pro Day as players will go through individual drills and play 5-on-5 in front of NBA scouts.
Keep in mind that Calipari has a history of being extremely cautious with injured players, with both Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker Jr. taking longer than expected to take the Rupp Arena floor the past two seasons.
If Allen’s not ready, you can beat that he’ll be on the sidelines for UK’s Pro Day.
The Wildcats return four key players (Richards, Montgomery, Hagans and Quickley) from last year’s team that advanced to the Elite Eight and finished with a 30-7 record. Sestina was a great last minute addition as the 6-foot-9 forward led the Patriot League in rebounds last season (8.5) and was sixth in points per game (15.8).
Kentucky also brings in the No. 2-ranked recruiting class with Maxey (10), Whitney (14), Brooks (29), Juzang (34) and Allen (68) all inside of Rivals Top 70.
If healthy, Allen could be an explosive offensive weapon and find some minutes at the two guard spot to rest Maxey, who will also have to expend energy on the defensive end. However, he’ll also have to earn every minute as Calipari prefers an eight-man rotation late in the year and hasn’t played ten guys since the platoon system during the 2014-15 season.
Early projections have Hagans, Maxey, Whitney, Montgomery and Richards starting for the Wildcats with Brooks expected to make a huge impact off the bench. Quickley will split time with Hagans at the point guard position and Sestina will get plenty of opportunities at the five. Juzang, the team’s best perimeter shooter, will also get quality minutes.
Kentucky opens the regular season on November 5th at New York’s Madison Square Garden against Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic.