Kentucky basketball’s annual Pro Day, designed to let NBA organizations get a sneak peek at the current Wildcats’ roster took place last night in Memorial Coliseum.
Usually, representatives from all of the NBA teams are present, but this year due to the coronavirus, all were provided video feeds while anxious basketball fans were able to check the action on the SEC Network. The mega screen at one end of the basketball floor featured the faces of NBA representatives watching the action unfold in what was a 90-minute practice session.
This was the first chance for Wildcat fans to see behind the curtain and look at this year’s team. The Calipari Era has turned this into an event that other college programs just can’t match and the anticipation is always through the rafters. Even with the challenges of a pandemic, Coach Cal figured out a way to make it work and give his team their first glimpse of what it was like to play on a national stage on national television.
Wearing their UK Built Different gear we got the chance to watch as Calipari reminded us of the things he instills in each new team he has to build from scratch. “Everybody’s got to eat … You have to fight and compete …. I am holding them accountable to a higher standard.” These are the lessons each new group of Cats has to learn as the year progresses.
So what did we learn about this edition of the Kentucky Wildcats?
First, we learned that Olivier Sarr is the real deal.
The transfer from Wake Forest is a big 7 footer who can move effortlessly across the floor. Over the practice session we watched him move inside and flash outside. Sarr has great hands, a great touch in the paint, and can drain the jumper from outside. He gives Kentucky a seasoned big man in the middle that has the experience and knows what to do with the ball.
Second, we saw that Brandon Boston Jr. is going to give the team a big guard that can make things happen.
It almost went unnoticed, but it might have been the shot of the night. While Bruiser Flint was explaining to the commentators that “Coach Cal is not afraid to change” and that is one of the strengths that makes him a great coach, the split screen showed the Cats at work as Boston drove down the right side of the lane and destroyed the rim with a dunk. It happened so quickly that you wished there was a replay to look back at.
The replay came but this time during the 4 on 4 game as Boston once again came down the right side of the lane at blistering speed, sailed above the rim, and repeated the powerful dunk just like the one earlier. And all of this happened without the game day one dollar bill that he places inside of his shoe. After the way he moved and scored, Kentucky fans should be excited about seeing him play with the dollar tucked inside the basketball shoe.
Third, we were reminded that like many teams this time of year, they are young with much to learn.
As Cal stopped the workout to explain the need to play big, he pointed out how tall the team on the floor was and then summarized it by telling them, ‘you are playing like you are 6’ 3’’- every ball that goes up, you get your hands up, you go to the rim and get it - and get the ball with two hands.”
In essence John Calipari is once again being the teacher with a group of young men who have to learn to think big and play big.
So while it wasn’t the usual pro day in Lexington, it was a powerful start to a season where we get to watch a team that is Built Different. For fans awaiting Big Blue Madness this premier for the latest version of the Kentucky team was enough to get the madness started.