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Kentucky Basketball

PJ Washington returns in time for the Bahamas

July 19, 2018

The Kentucky Wildcats finally have their team at full strength. PJ Washington, the sophomore big man who decided to return to Kentucky instead of entering the draft, has been recovering from a torn tendon in his pinky finger for a month but has finally returned to the practice floor just in time for final preparations before the Bahamas trip.

Getting Washington back was huge because now fans and most importantly, the coaches, can see what the team looks like at full strength. Getting him back now will also help the Cats begin to sort through possible rotation options and avoid issues which could arise due to the depth of this roster.

This will be the Cats first trip to the Bahamas since 2014 (NCAA rules mandate that a foreign trip like these can only take place every 4 years), where Calipari introduced “the platoon system” for the first time. Although the system helped his team win 38 straight games to start the year, Calipari has been adamant about not platooning again, but a rotation of eight or nine players is very possible. 

The trip will also help sort out the frontcourt situation. The Cats will be four deep with talented big men and it would be unlikely for everyone to get the minutes they expect or even deserve if everyone performs well. Freshmen forward EJ Montgomery, sophomore Nick Richards and grad transfer Reid Travis join Washington to form one of the most talented frontcourts in the country. The Cats also have a slew of interchangeable perimeter players, and with Calipari putting an emphasis on “positionless” basketball, I would expect to see some lineups with four guards and maybe even five. This would take minutes away from these frontcourt players and may force Calipari to only play three of them significantly, leaving at least one fighting for minutes. Having PJ back now can start the process of figuring out the minute distribution and see how all four play in an actual game.

PJ is also poised to be a leader on this team. Sophomore Quade Green, Washington, and Richards are the only returning players who played significant minutes last season. I would expect PJ to be the anchor down low and Green to be a vocal leader in the backcourt. Having your leaders participating and practicing with the team in the offseason is a huge bonus for any team, and Kentucky has both of theirs now.

Finally, this is a win for Reid Travis. Standing at 6’8, 245 pounds with a bruising style of play, Travis has not had anyone like himself to practice against while PJ has been out. Richards and Montgomery are longer, lankier big men who certainly are talented enough to challenge Travis, but PJ is cut from the same cloth. At 6’7, 236 pounds with a physical style of play, the battles between Washington and Travis in practice have the potential to be bruising and beneficial to both. 

Kentucky’s first exhibition game will be on Aug. 8 against the Bahamian national team. They will go on to play four total games over the course of five days, with all four televised on the SEC Network.

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PJ Washington returns in time for the Bahamas

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