Kentucky doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. After losing seven players to the League following last year’s 38-1 campaign, many feel that this year would be a bit of a challenge for the Wildcats to live up to the impressive standards that they’ve set over the last half decade plus under John Calipari. Wrong. These ‘Cats could be the best team in the nation, thought in Coach Cal’s eyes, they still have a lot of work to do.
“The guys’ assist-to-turnover ratio was good and I thought we had some good shot making, but the other side of that is that we didn’t fight,” Cal said of his team following their annual Blue/White scrimmage in Lexington last week. “If you play like we did today, people will know we aren’t that good right now.”
Playing two 20-minute halves, the 2015-16 Wildcats experimented with different lineups throughout the Blue/White scrimmage that had players playing for both teams at particular points of the game. It appears like Coach Cal is going to implement facets of the dribble-drive offense that he used during the D-Rose era at Memphis with this group, especially when playing Isaiah Briscoe, Tyler Ulis, and Jamal Murray on the hardwood at the same time. Ultimately, it was a great preview for what the season has in store for UK, with the White team walking away with a 74-66 dub.
Check out the highlights above. Here are a few of the players who stood out:
Tyler Ulis, 5-9, PG, Sophomore
The key returner from last year’s squad, Ulis looked like he was ready to not only be the top lead guard in the SEC, but perhaps the top lead guard in the country. He played the game with such poise that it almost seemed as if everything was going in slow motion for him. Incredibly patient, he very rarely came close to forcing the issue and constantly had his head on a swivel looking to find open teammates. The sophomore finished with 10 points and 15 assists, making a number of big-time pick-and-roll reads for the NBA scouts in attendance. Highly touted since he was a youngster in Ohio (before making the move to Chicago), Tyler has gotten better every year and doesn’t appear to be stopping now.
Skal Labissiere, 7-0, PF/C, Freshman
Considered by some to be the potential top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Skal Labissiere showed what made scouts drool over him at the Nike Hoop Summit. He showed off a gorgeous jump hook in the paint, hit face-up J’s from mid-range, then provided a shot-blocking presence on the defensive end. The intriguing Haitian posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks while facing constant double-teams, so it’s safe to say that he lived up to the hype.
Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, PG, Freshman
Splitting time between both teams, we were able to see the type of dynamic talent that Isaiah Briscoe is. He played both guard positions, shot it well from deep, and had a number of creative finishes high off the glass. Toss in his potential on D (he owns a 6-10 wingspan) and it’s easy to see why he was arguably the top point guard prospect in the Class of 2015.
Charles Matthews, 6-6, SG
One of the seemingly forgotten players in Kentucky’s freshman class, Charles Matthews showed why he was considered one of the top ten players in the country early in his high school career. After going through a number of nagging injuries, he appears to be back. The Chi-Town wing looked showed a super explosive first step, hit open J’s, and finished above the rim in transition. While some of the others may have received more buzz initially, Matthews has firmly supplanted himself on the NBA radar.
Jamal Murray, 6-5, PG/SG, Freshman
A late addition to the Wildcats’ recruiting class, Jamal Murray comes to Lexington after a ridiculous summer with the Canadian National Team that took his on-court swag to another level. Able to play either guard spot, he displayed the ability to stroke it from deep and make some really solid passes in transition. Murray will have to continue to cut down on his turnovers (like most freshman lead guards), but certainly has the talent to be one of the next wave of UK one-and-dones.
Marcus Lee, 6-9, PF, Junior
Perhaps the most improved player on the roster, Marcus Lee showed that UK is just not a place for those one-and-dones. He looked infinitely more confident offensively, was outstanding running the floor, and has the potential to be a big-time rim protector. As his offensive game continues develop, his NBA stock should follow.
Alex Poythress, 6-8, PF, Senior
Coming off of a torn ACL that forced him to miss the vast majority of last season, Alex Poythress showed that he’s getting back to normal. Playing without any type of bulky brace, the senior looked confident on the court and the results backed that up. He shot the ball well from deep, finished in transition, and provided the versatility to play either forward spot. This year will be essential for Poythress, who looks to regain the form from his intriguing freshman campaign.