The Kentucky Wildcats are back in action Saturday for their final game of pool play, taking on Team Africa at 1:30 pm ET on CBS Sports Network.
Thankfully, this game will be broadcast live on CBSSN after Thursday’s game was aired via tape delay.
Even though these are exhibition games, it’s hard not to be excited about what we’ve seen so far in Canada. Despite being without Ugonna Onyenso (ankle) and Aaron Bradshaw (foot), the Wildcats made easy work of Team Germany on Wednesday, then dismantled Team Canada in Thursday’s action.
To no surprise, fifth-year senior Antonio Reeves is Kentucky’s leading scorer through two games, racking up a combined 47 points on 18/31 shooting, including 6/13 makes from deep.
Reeves actually didn’t score 23+ points in consecutive games last season, while he had just one two-game stretch of shooting 50% or better. That came in the opening wins vs. Howard (50%) and Duquesne (55.6%), so what we’ve seen of Reeves in Canada is as good as we saw during his first season with the Wildcats.
Fellow fifth-year senior Tre Mitchell has been just about everything Kentucky hoped for following his transfer from West Virginia. In two games, Mitchell has racked up 28 points on 10/20 shooting, 12 rebounds, six blocks, three steals, and six assists. He also made 4/6 3-point attempts vs. the Germans, proving he’s more than capable of stretching the floor and opening up Kentucky’s offense in a way we’ve not seen much of in recent years.
Highly-touted recruits DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, and Rob Dillingham have also been solid to this point, but it’s Reed Sheppard who’s been the biggest revelation among the freshmen thus far.
In Game 1, Sheppard failed to score but still made a big impact with six assists vs. zero turnovers, three rebounds, and two steals.
It was Game 2 where Sheppard really showed off his full arsenal, going for 14 points on 5/8 shooting (2/4 from deep) with four assists, four steals, two blocks, and two boards. After gaining a lot of positive reviews prior to the GLOBL JAM and since backing it up, it’s clear that Sheppard is well on his way to earning a major role with the 2023-24 edition of Kentucky Basketball.
Up next for the Cats, they’ll get one final tune-up game vs. Team Africa before Sunday’s Gold Medal Game. There will even be a little rivalry flavor Saturday, as Kentucky will face Louisville Cardinals sophomore forward Emmanuel Okorafor
A mid-year enrollee this past season, Okorafor averaged 4.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 15.0 minutes per game in five appearances. The 6-foot-10 center should be a nice challenge for a Kentucky frontcourt that currently has just one true big man available in Tre Mitchell.
Sticking with the Bluegrass flavor, Africa also features current Western Kentucky forward Babacar Faye. The 6-foot-8 Faye joined the Hilltoppers this offseason after two seasons with College of Charleston, where he averaged 4.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in 15.7 minutes per contest.
Another Bluegrass connection comes in New Mexico senior forward Nelly Junior Joseph, who spent the last three seasons with Iona and head coach Rick Pitino before transferring this offseason after Pitino took the St. John’s job.
This past season, the 6-foot-10 Joseph averaged 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals in 31.8 minutes per game.
You’ll be shocked to hear there’s yet another Kentucky connection on Africa’s roster in junior forward Aly Khalifa, who spent two years at Charlotte before transferring to BYU this offseason, where Mark Pope is entering his fifth season as head coach.
The 6-foot-11 Khalifa averaged 11.7 points, 6.3 boards, 2.7 assists, and 0.6 blocks in 28.5 minutes per game last season while leading the 49ers to a CBI championship, the program’s first-ever postseason title.
Kentucky Basketball vs. Team Africa
Game Time: 1:30 pm ET on July 15th, 2023
Location: Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ontario
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network (go to the bottom of this post for the channel number)
Online Stream: Go here to watch CBS Sports Network online and on mobile devices through your TV provider. DirecTV Stream, fubo, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV all stream CBSSN. Go here for more online streaming options and free seven-day trials.
Radio: UK Sports Network with the legendary Tom Leach and Jack ‘Goose’ Givens.
Rules: Go here for everything to know about FIBA rules, or use the photo below.
Finally, here is what head coach John Calipari and select players had to say following Thursday’s win over Team Canada, courtesy of UK Athletics.