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Kentucky Basketball

UK vs Bahamas National Team

August 8, 2018

This will be a running tab of some quick notes and thoughts during Kentucky's first exhibition game of heir Bug Blue Bahamas tour, against the Bahamian National team.

First Half:

The Cats started the game with Quickley, Green, Johnson, Washington, and Richards on the floor. The big takeaway from this lineup was easily Nick Richards. He looked like he wasn't over thinking every play and was just playing ball, which was something Cal and Kenny Payne stressed to him during the open practice last week. He caught a lob, made a ten-foot jump shot and knocked down a jump-hook. If he can continue to elevate his game, the Cats will legitimately be nine or ten players deep.

The second lineup of Hagans, Herro, Quickley, Travis, and Montgomery was a much better defensive unit than the first. The defense across the board wasn't great but Hagans alone is making his case to be the best guard on the roster. In his limited play, he managed to come up with four steals and an impressive offensive rebound amongst the trees. He is lightning quick and if he can knock down the occasional outside shot, he will give the other guards a run for their money.

The announcers continue to think that Washington could be the Draymond Green of this team and the more I watch this team, the more I think he fits that role perfectly. While his half was okay, you see how he could be a leader on the floor and a versatile player in the high or low post. He can run the floor, pass to the right guy, and if he can continue to expand his range, he will be virtually unguardable by anybody in college.

The final big takeaway from the first half was Tyler Herro's midrange game. We know he can shoot the three, but his ability to get to the free throw line area and elevate will be a welcomed surprise to most fans. He is much more athletic than people anticipated and has a smooth jumper when he gets to his spot.

Something to look at moving forward

The three-point shooting was 1-11 in the first half and the free throws were 11-12. If this team is going to succeed, the jump shooting will the to improve.

Second Half:

A lineup of Hagans, Herro, Johnson, Travis, and Montgomery started the second half.

Johnson is still a work in progress. He looks uncomfortable at times and settles for jump shots when his athleticism says that he should be attacking the rim every time down the floor.

Montgomery is still finding his footing as well. He's been quiet for most of the day, but he has the tools to be great.

The second half has been sloppy, but the Cats were able to pull away with an 85-61 victory. Overall there were not too many takeaways from the second half.

Final Thoughts:

The Cats have all the pieces to be great. This is the deepest collection of complementary pieces that Cal has had outside of the 2015 team. They are young, sloppy and still figuring things out right now but if this team was a puzzle, the pieces fit together perfectly. A versatile high post playmaker who can pass and score in PJ. A rim running shot blocker in Richards who continues to expand his offensive game. A low post rebounding machine and a veteran leader in Travis and a long, floor spacing big in Montgomery who will eat less athletic defenders alive once he figures it out.

The guards are quick and disruptive on defense and Herro is a "go get a bucket" type of scorer who looks extremely comfortable for a freshman. A 6-7 wing in Johnson who has elite athleticism and can guard any position, but still has work to do offensively.

Everything is there. People will point to the three-point numbers from tonight as a negative, but I would argue that the flow of the offense and settling for deep shots had a lot to do with that. The team has shooters, defenders, rebounders, athletes, and guys who can score multiple ways.

It's up to Cal now to figure out how exactly these puzzle pieces fit, what lineups he will use and to get the defense more sound. This is a title contender and after watching a mostly sloppy game against a Bahamian National team that they still beat pretty handily, I would say they are the national championship favorite.

Discussion from...

UK vs Bahamas National Team

Chad Pruitt
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Hagans and Quickley appear to be very unselfish PGs, and that sets the tone for good ball movement for the team. It also means guys posting up are going to get some touches down there. Hagans is a menace on D. Quickley seems like a solid, glue guy who's just going rack up a few stats across the board.

Herro has the defense and rebounding to get minutes and that means he's going to get some buckets for us. He had the confidence to show off his complete repertoire. Could he lead the Cats in scoring this year? The PGs are going to share, and nobody knows when Baker will be available this year. He's going to get more minutes and more looks than I thought a couple of months ago.

Richards looked pretty good, looked a little thicker. He did a nice job of getting very deep position. It will be interesting to see if he continues to get that close to the basket. He did a good job drawing fouls and can make free throws. The box score had him with only 3 rebounds.

Travis stayed closer to the basket than I thought he would on offense. I think he'll start to roam around a little more and show off more skill sooner rather than later. He showed a great motor all game and really rebounded well out of his area.

PJ looked a little trimmer and quicker and willing to drive from further out. I like him doing that a little, but we don't need him trying to be too much of a playmaker. He also did a nice job of drawing fouls and his FT% will be up a little this year.

EJ is a big man. He was a little quiet out there, also (like Quickley). He did run the floor and had a nice post up turnaround jumper. We need to get him involved in some action towards the basket and look for lobs.

I'm not sure what to think of Keldon Johnson yet. I think I had too high of expectations for him after what I've heard. He started the game with a nice jumper and then just didn't score as much as I thought he would. He was aggressive all game, though, missed a couple of poster dunks and was 2nd in rebounds to Travis. I'll reserve my judgment here, I think he'll bounce back.

Quade appears quicker which helped him driving and on defense. His jumper wasn't falling, but he led the team in assists with 5 and had a team-high +/- of 25. Not worried about his shot at all.

Overall, the team looked very willing to share the ball, but just doesn't have enough experience with one another to know exactly how to do it yet. That will come with time. This Bahama team did not play a few of their better players and we should have really rolled them by more than 24. The guys were just feeling one another out a little bit, though. They showed the ability to turn it on when they were focused. Some of the defensive lapses will get cleaned up, too. You know when Cal is coaching he'll yank them out for not playing D as quick as anybody; he has the bench to do it.
Chad Pruitt
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