College basketball is really upon us as today was the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball Media Day.
In what was the first time the media got to hear from John Calipari and members of the team for this season, here are a couple of takeaways from what was said throughout the event today.
CJ Fredrick recovery
It has been anticipated that CJ Fredrick would begin full-contact practice any day now, as the Iowa Hawkeyes transfer is recovering from a minor surgery he had this summer.
According to John Calipari, his return to practice is close, just not quite there yet.
“CJ has not started yet. Started practicing yesterday, said ‘we’re going to take it another day.’”
It’s obvious that Coach Cal and the medical staff want to take it careful with the sharp-shooting guard, as Fredrick took the court on Tuesday ready to go, but Calipari decided to push his return back another day.
During the player portion of the day, Fredrick had this to say:
“I’m pretty much back. Just being smart with my body. The way we practice, you can’t just go out there and run three hours straight. I’ve just been gradually working my way back to doing things live.”
Sounds like CJ is feeling pretty good which is a good thing as the marquee matchup against Duke is coming up quickly.
Bryce Hopkins continues to impress
It can be easy to think that Bryce Hopkins wouldn’t play a huge role on this year's squad with Keion Brooks and Jacob Toppin returning, but all indicators out of practice seem to say otherwise.
In fact Calipari himself today said that Hopkins was working his way up the rotation.
“Bryce...woof. He was out for 10 days, and he moved back. Well, now he’s back practicing, nudging his way up ( the rotation),” Calipari said. “Very physical. Starting to rebound more. You can play him as a 4. You can play him as a 3.”
As a high 4-star prospect out of Oak Park (IL), Hopkins was the lowest ranked of the three-man class that was brought in this season, but he has continually impressed since he set foot on campus.
With a good offensive skill-set, if he can continue to rebound and play solid defense, it appears Hopkins will play a pretty significant role in the early part of the season at least.
Class of 2022: Just high school recruits?
One of the bigger takeaways from Wednesday’s press conference with Coach Cal was what he said regarding transfers in the class of 2022.
“The way I expect this class to finish, maybe we take a transfer. If we miss on a kid, maybe we take a transfer.”
After an offseason filled with transfers, it would have been easy to assume that the recruiting philosophy might have changed in the UK coaches mind, but it definitely hasn’t.
Coach Calipari has made his career by recruiting and developing elite high school prospects, and that will continue to be the case as long as he is coaching at the college level.
With the new one-time transfer rule, his mind could change completely depending on who enters the portal during or after the season, but it appears that currently they will only be targeting a big man via the portal if they miss on 5-star center Adem Bona.
There hasn’t been a bad practice
Now, the Big Blue Nation will love to hear this.
After watching Kentucky endure through one of the worst seasons in program history, Calipari spoke glowingly about how much fun it’s been coaching this team, which hasn’t had a bad practice.
“We have not had a bad practice yet,” Cal said. “We go through seasons without a bad practice here, and those are the teams that are winning 38, 35 games and there’s a bunch of them. Last year is a blip. That’s so far behind me. What we went from, I learned from it, and you move on.”
Calipari noted that all of his players want to be coached, and it helps that this roster has a strong group of veterans leading the way.
“I am having a ball every day I walk in because I’ve got a bunch of guys that want to be coached, that want to challenge each other, that are engaged. We’ve got veterans. When you have veterans, they’re on time. It starts to lead. Without even saying anything, they lead. That’s been fun.
“I haven’t had many teams with veteran kind of players on it, so I kind of forget that it takes one thing off your plate. But it’s good. They’re shooting the ball. They’re playing. They’re competing. You know, a little bit like Reid (Travis) and PJ (Washington), that kind of team.”
Last season was obviously a struggle for numerous reasons, but it is apparent that Coach Cal has learned from the mistakes that were made last season.
Oscar with the quote of the day
Take a listen below to who can take the ball away from Oscar:
Who can take the ball from Oscar Tshiebwe? “I don’t know, probably God.” pic.twitter.com/ketKGqFksU— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) October 20, 2021
We will get the first real look at this team in a game setting this Friday during the Blue-white scrimmage.
The Kentucky basketball season is inching closer and closer.