Welcome to the magical place between Pro Day and the Madness. It is that excitement of an impending start to another Kentucky Wildcats basketball season, mixed in with the optimism that you can’t help but get from the glimpses we have been able to have of the team thus far.
The Pro Day event(s) were interesting and gave us, along with NBA scouts. A chance to see the skill levels of this edition of the Wildcats. As the television audience watched and commented on social media, there were stretches that they might have hoped for the commentators to have been better and describing what we were seeing.
But we have to remember, it was simply a showcase. One of the best takeaways of the Pro Day drills were when you turned the volume of the coverage down and just watched the shooting drills unfold. Unlike last year, there were streaks of jumper after jumper with no misses. The net almost smoking as the ball repeatedly went through.
Sure it was just drills, but it confirms what many had hoped we would see this year – a strong shooting team. That was a badly missing skill set last year.
The week began with some open practices that could be best described as controlled workouts. Anticipating seeing some scrimmage work for the team gave way to the frequent whistle, the coaching, the reset, and then restart to make sure they get it right.
As badly as we want to see the team in action, this is necessary and if you think about it, not really a surprise. Coach Calipari has stated that he is blowing the whistle more but coming off a season like last year, there is too much at stake for this edition of the Cats. They have to do the work and get it right.
The one exciting statement and the one that did seem to be confirmed throughout the last few days is when Cal said, “We are going to be a speed team. If you’re not running as fast as you can you’re not playing.”
This is an older and more seasoned team than we are used to seeing in Kentucky blue. It is easy to see how they can play up-tempo, with a dose of run and gun, that will use their speed, agility, length, and strength to put up shots galore and then crash and swarm the boards.
In the summer I referred to it as the “AirCal” offense, there has been nothing in the peeks we have seen to suggest that will not be the case.
We won’t have to wait long. The season will be here soon. But for now we are caught with trying to summarize what we have seen between Pro Day before we get to Big Blue Madness this weekend.
We hope to continue to see improvement from Brooks. Mintz has displayed the leadership and skills that made him a favorite last year and a prized returnee this season. Wheeler has a better first step than some thought. His explosive first step toward the basket might create some great opportunities around him. A setback might be an ankle injury he suffered on the practice floor Monday, and it’s still unclear how bad it was.
Allen has seemed more confident in finding his space on the floor and seeing shots. Not getting lost or trapped by the action will give him a chance to flex the scoring skills that we saw in glimpses last season.
Washington is a solid ball handler and shooter that will provide some reliable skills to anchor the team on the floor. Collins and Tshiebwe have both been strong underneath and the latter is also going to be dangerous with a nice mid-range jumper.
As expected, there are some players that will have to get healthy before the opener but from here you can feel the madness starting to happen.
Let’s get ready to let the Cats loose and watch them run. It is going to be fun!