It isn’t a big secret to anyone who has watched a Kentucky Wildcats basketball game this season that the guard play is quite different than we are use to.
We are use to seeing guards who can blow by their man in the blink of an eye. Guards who finish at the rim consistently, or cause the defense to sink into the lane because of the threat of their play making abilities.
Unfortunately, the team this year doesn’t have that guy, but they do have a bright spot for the future in the guard position: Devin Askew.
Though the true freshman has struggled mightily at times in his first season of college basketball, Askew has had some bright spots that bode well for his future.
Askew was actually a big reason why Kentucky began SEC play with a three-game winning streak. In those wins over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Florida, Askew averaged 10.7 points on 41% shooting, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 turnovers per game.
However, the last three games have been a major struggle, as he’s averaged 6.7 points on 28.6% shooting, 1.0 steals, 3.0 assists and 3.3 turnovers per game.
The guards struggled last night against Georgia, and Cal mentioned the struggles in his postgame press conference.
“Our guard play was awful. BJ showed some life, the rest of the guard play was not good at all, I know when they’re going to play their best in certain roles. You start putting guys (in), doing stuff. I’ll tell you, it woke up BJ. Made him sit, but the other guards were so bad, I had to start him in the second half.”
For Askew, his stat line was very rough. Putting up only three points without making a shot from the field to go along with five turnovers and a key missed free throw in the final minute while also giving up a critical three-pointer as well.
As you can imagine, Askew was taking the loss last night pretty hard.
“I feel bad for him and I even told him I’m putting you in this last play because I believe in you and that last free throw I know crushed him.… You know, you watched. He didn’t play great but I believe in him,” Calipari said. “This stuff is hard. All I keep coming back to, again, play to the training.”
Sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. also came to Askew’s defense.
“Devin is fine and Devin is going to be fine. He’s not the reason we lost the game. It was a group effort, a team effort. We all broke down at one point during the game,” Brooks stated. “Devin is tough. He’s mentally strong. I know he’s probably taking it a little hard right now, but we’ve all been in those positions where we felt like we caused the team to lose or we didn’t do our job. We feel like we single-handedly affected the outcome of the game, but Devin is going to be fine. All I can say to him is to keep your head. I’m with you, the whole team is with you, our staff is with you, so Devin’s going to be OK.”
Calipari also mentioned last night about trying to take the ball out of Askew’s hands more, to get him into an off-ball situation. Similar to what was seen with Immanuel Quickley last season.
Get the kid some more open set shots, grow the confidence he has to make plays and be effective when he does have the ball, and this offense could possibly show a sign of a pulse moving forward.