While excitement was already high for the 2022-23 Kentucky Wildcats, the Bahamas Tour has taken that to another level.
Every scholarship player who’s played thus far has looked great in one or both games, including Adou Thiero and Lance Ware, two players facing an uphill battle to get any playing time next season when the rotation tightens up.
Of course, the two opponents Kentucky has faced thus far aren’t exactly North Carolina...or North Carolina State...or probably even North Carolina A&T.
Still, it’s easy to see just how much potential this Kentucky team has, and the Bahamas trip is only adding to the anticipation for next season.
Here are three more thoughts from Kentucky’s two-game dominance in the Bahamas thus far.
Adou Thiero is Kentucky’s most intriguing player
When Kentucky first offered a scholarship to unranked guard Adou Thiero back in March, many wondered if this wasn’t John Calipari just doing a favor for one of his former players, as Adou is the son of former Calipari-coached Memphis Tiger Almamy Thiero.
That has emphatically been debunked, as Thiero looks ready to earn minutes as a true freshman on a loaded Kentucky roster, particularly in the backcourt.
A big part of that has been Thiero insane growth, which is still going as we speak, and he may even end up in the 6-foot-10 range.
That is wild. TJ is definitely 6-5, at least. https://t.co/6XZvLz9iTy— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) August 9, 2022
NEW: Adou Thiero says he’s 6-6 with “three to five inches left” to grow.— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) August 11, 2022
He’s adjusting on the fly, figuring out his basketball identity as he continues to sprout up.
Until then, though, he wants to contribute however he can. His debut was a nice start.https://t.co/SAGepbPSg2
Of course, being tall can only take you so far at the Division I level, but Thiero is showing he has the skills to go with his freakish growth spurts.
Making his first start Thursday vs. Monterrey Tech, Thiero finished with 13 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists. Through two games, he’s averaging 10 points (72.7% shooting), 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and one steal per game.
He’s also hit 2/4 attempts from deep, which could be what gets him playing time next season for a Kentucky team that has some question marks in that area and currently has just two scholarship players — Chris Livingston and Antonio Reeves — shooting 35+ percent from deep in the Bahamas.
Thiero has also shown potential as a great defender who can cause havoc with his length and athleticism, which should improve as he continues to grow and fill out his frame.
Thiero may not have five stars next to his name, but he’s quickly becoming the most intriguing player to watch for next season and what kind of role he’s able to carve out for a Kentucky team that believes it can hang banner No. 9.
3-point shooting still TBD
As great as Kentucky has looked in just about every facet thus far, the 3-point shooting is still a work in progress.
Through two games, Kentucky is shooting a respectable 34.6% from deep (18/52). However, that’s largely due to Reeves and Livingston shooting a combined 56.3% (9/16). Add in Thiero, and it’s 55.5% (11/20).
Kentucky’s other scholarship players? They’re shooting 20% (5/25) from deep. We’ll give CJ Fredrick (25% on 1/4 shooting) a pass since he’s playing limited minutes and coming off a long layoff while recovering from multiple surgeries. Same for Oscar Tshiebwe and Daimion Collins (0/3) since they’re frontcourt players.
However, it’s a tad concerning to see Cason Wallace (2/7), Sahvir Wheeler (0/5) and Jacob Toppin (2/6) all shoot so poorly from deep, especially Wheeler since he’s believed to be an improved 3-point shooter from last season.
Thankfully, it’s only a two-game sample size in an arena unlike anything Kentucky will play at when the real games begin.
Best shot-blocking team in America?
The biggest takeaway from the first two games has been how insanely long Kentucky is and how challenging it will be for teams to score in the paint against this group.
The Wildcats have an absurd amount of length and athleticism that it shouldn’t be any surprise if they do lead the nation in blocks next season.
If Cason Wallace, averaging a block per game thus far, eventually becomes the starting point guard, Kentucky would have five starters all 6-foot-4 plus, easily making them one of the tallest teams in America.
Collins and Toppin alone are averaging five blocks per game combined in the Bahamas, and it’s easy to see how both of them could average a couple of blocks per game next season.
And that’s not even accounting for what Ugonna Kingsley could give this frontcourt. Remember, Kingsley was one of, if not the best shot blocker in high school hoops before reclassifying and picking Kentucky.
Typically, the best shot-blocking team in college hoops averages around 6-8 blocks per game. Kentucky averaged 4.2 per game last season, and I think the minimum this team should average is 6.0.
What has been your biggest takeaway from Kentucky’s Bahamas games thus far? Let us know in the comments section!
Up next, the Wildcats’ third game of the Bahamas Tour comes Saturday when they take on Carleton University, one of the top programs in Canada. They’ve won 16 of the last 19 national championships, including last season.
The Ravens have already faced two Division I teams this summer as part of the 2022 Can-Am Shootout. They lost to Northeastern 104-91 and then fell to Florida State 98-64. The Seminoles are ranked 25th in Jon Rothstein’s Preseason Top 45 for the 2022-23 college basketball season. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky does on Saturday compared to another preseason top-25 club.
Now, here’s how you can watch and follow Game 3 of the 2022 Kentucky Bahamas Tour.
Kentucky Basketball vs. Carleton
Game time: 6 pm ET on Saturday, Aug. 13th
Location: Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas
TV Channel: SEC Network
Announcers: Tom Hart and Dane Bradshaw.
Radio: UK Sports Network with Tom Leach and Jack Givens on the call.
Online Radio: UKAthletics.com
Rosters: UK | N/A