There’s only one place in the world that draws over 15,000 people to watch a scrimmage. That place is Lexington, Kentucky and that’s exactly what happened Tuesday night for the Blue/White game, the annual scrimmage for the Kentucky men’s basketball team.
I’m not so interested in the score as the lineups change at halftime, they reset the score and variables like that. I watched the game with an interest to see how the team would look after losing seven players from last year’s 38-1 squad. What would the offensive philosophy be? Would there be a change defensively? How would senior forward Alex Poythress look in his first action back from a torn ACL?
Now, I say all this with a grain of salt as it was an intrasquad scrimmage and not exactly the best to judge. However, there are a couple of for sure guarantees with this team after watching that game last night.
- Tyler Ulis is a special player and the team will be fine solely because of his ability to create. The diminutive point guard had 10 assists in the first half and finished with 15 for the game. He would have had more, but there were dropped passes by the bigs that cost him at least two more assists. He knows how to lead this team and more importantly, you can tell there’s a massive trust factor between him and head coach John Calipari. The way the Wildcats will spread the floor this year will allow Ulis to probe the lane and do what he does best, which is draw defenders and find the open man. He always seems to know where all nine other people are on the floor and where the right pass is. He’s a special player and one of the three best point guards in the country alongside Kris Dunn and Monte Morris. On top of his passing, he also showed his pull-up jumper, which will be a deadly weapon for him as defenders have to choose how to guard him.
- Freshman big man Skal Labissiere is as good as advertised as the potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. The tall, lanky center showed flashes of brilliance in his 18 point, 11 rebound performance, including good chemistry with Ulis to finish some alley-oops. Sure, there were some parts of the game where he wasn’t consistent—including an air ball to start the game off—but he also showed what he’s capable of as the star of the team. Labissiere can stretch the floor offensively as well as run the floor, which was showcased last night.
- The third observation from the game, was Poythress looks healthy, and that’s the key. Poythress suffered a torn ACL in practice last season after playing just a handful of games ,and the question was how he would look from an athleticism stand point in his first game back. He looked perfectly fine and there didn’t appear to be a drop in his ability to get off the floor. That included a pretty and-1 in the first half where there was physical play in the paint. He also showed off a new-found skill, which is his ability to hit from deep, going 3-for-4 from behind the line. Poythress will be the key to this team as he has the unique ability to play multiple positions and provide senior leadership.
Just like every year, you can’t compare this Kentucky team to one from the past as there are plenty of new faces. This year there is plenty of depth at the guard position and another deep bench that is expected to play at least nine guys. While it’s just an intrasquad scrimmage, if you’re a fan of Kentucky, it’s OK to be excited about this season.
The Wildcats are going to be good again.