By Ricky Blair /
UK Season quest for title number 9 underway – Photo by Brendon Miller
November 6, 2015 – The exhibition season is over as the Wildcats crush a couple of overmatched teams by 59 and 53 points respectively. So, what did we learn from these one-sided affairs. Let’s take at look at each individual player.
Jamal Murray – The 6-foot-4 freshman shooting guard from Canada is a superstar in the making. He was one assist short of a triple-double in the 117-58 win over Ottawa with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assist. He followed that up with 20 points in the 111-58 win over Kentucky State. He has a confidence of a much older player and has the floor skills of a point guard. He will have a huge year.
Tyler Ulis – Coach John Calipari said this preseason “Tyler is our best player and it isn’t even close.” Ulis has shown why Calipari was so quick to sing his praises. The little sophomore point guard from Chicago has 14 assist to only 1 turnover in the exhibition games while also putting in 17 and 15 points during the two games.
Skal Labissiere – Considered the second best player coming out of high school last year. Is a rail thin center at 6-foot-11 and 225 pounds. The young freshman Haitian will have to watch about foul trouble this year until he can build up a little more strength. But his offensive skills are unquestioned. Labissiere scored 18 points in the first exhibition and 22 in the second. He is still learning to play with his back to the basket, but has a very skilled face the basket type offensive game. Was voted pre-season first team All-SEC and to some pre-season All-American teams and should have no problem living up to these expectations as the season plays on.
Alex Poythress – Poythress has teased us with his potential since his freshman season in 2013, but now as a senior it is his last chance to turn that potential into a dominating force for the Wildcats. Still recovering from the knee injury he suffered last year, and he is still only about 80 percent healthy according to Coach Cal.
Poythress will be playing at his more natural power forward position this season and his NBA type physical body will give the Wildcats a much needed strength inside the paint. Poythress will not be the star of this team, but he will be a much-needed presence inside as the Cats are very limited with big men this year.
Marcus Lee – The 6-foot-9 jumping jack junior forward from Antioch, California will finally get his chance to show the Big Blue Nation his talents. Lee has very limited offensive skills, but has the athletic ability to be a Dennis Rodman type player. For those old enough to remember the strange, but talented Rodman, will remember how he would lead the NBA in rebounding year after year. Rodman was also consistently on the NBA all-defensive team. Lee is a long way off now, but could be a similar type player. He did have 11 rebounds in the second exhibition and that is what Kentucky needs from him this season.
Isaiah Briscoe – The freshman point guard is too talented to keep off the court and is the main reason Calipari has decided to play a three-guard lineup this year. At 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, he has a strong body type and has shown during the exhibition games that he is very skilled at taking the ball to the basket. Perfect for the dribble drive offense.
Isaac Humphries – A late addition to the 2015 recruiting class. The 7-foot center, from Australia is a very raw talent. Humphries has a soft shooting touch from about 15 feet. He is only 17 years old, so he still has a lot of time to develop his skills. With the limited number of inside players for UK, Humphries will get chances this season.
Charles Matthews – The 6-foot-6 freshman from Chicago is an athlete. He has a chance to be a great defender and he runs the court well. Has a winning attitude and hustles, so he is a prototypical Calipari type player. Look for him get valuable minutes early just based on hustle.
Mychal Mulder – The junior college transfer shot 45% from 3 point range last season and while he is a little behind as far as learning to play at this next level. He will certainly get a chance to show his shooting skills at some point during the season.
Derek Willis – May have been the most pleasant surprise during the two exhibition games. Very skilled at 6-foot-9, Wills has self admittedly said his heart has not always been into it, since arriving on campus three years ago. But it looks like the light has finally came on for the versatile big man. Willis had seven rebounds and two blocks in the first exhibition, then followed that up with nine rebounds and five assist in the second game. Like the other frontcourt players; he will see playing time just because of the limited number of people at those positions.
Dominique Hawkins – The former Kentucky Mr. Basketball has been sidelined with a hand injury this preseason and has not seen the court. He will play a secondary role when he gets healthy, but never count out the ever-resilient Hawkins. He was instrumental in the 2014 Final Four run as a freshman.
The speed and athletic ability of this team will make it fun to watch. Unlike last season when Kentucky had a team full of big men, this team will be guard oriented.
Look for them to run and gun a little more than most of Calipari’s previous teams. It should be another fun season for the Kentucky fan base. The Wildcats will start the season at home with a game against Albany on Friday.