Five takeaways from the Bahamas
It was a whirlwind trip to the Bahamas and we finally have recovered enough to put together our five biggest takeaways from the trip.
- Keldon Johson is the heart and soul of this team– He may only be a freshman and he may be a pretty immature kid compared to a lot of his teammates but make no mistake about it, he is the driving force of this team. His personality and attitude is infectious in a very good way. He plays as hard as any top recruit that Kentucky has ever had and that includes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He has the heart of a warrior and will never back down no matter how many times he is beaten. It was clear that the way he plays is rubbing off on his teammates who elevate their competitiveness to match Keldon. He is the funnest kid to interview off the court, and has fun with the team and brings them together off the court. In terms of skill he can score the ball inside and outside on top of being lethal in the open floor. To sum it up I love everything about this kids game and he is the key to the Cats title hopes.
- Tyler Herro is better than advertised– That is saying a lot for a kid that has been hyped up by fans quite a bit but it is true. He is an elite level scorer that can put points on the board in a hurry. He has a range that extends well beyond the three point line but he is also quick off the dribble when defenders guarded him closely. His one dribble pull up jumper from the elbows is like watching an NBA veteran. He drove to the basket and drew a lot of fouls where he went 15-15 from the free throw line. His defense is not as good as some of his teammates but it was not poor. He has good lateral quickness and that should help him learn to defend at the level that Cal wants him to. He handles the ball very well and is a willing passer despite his scoring prowess. He is going to give teams fits as they try to clog the middle against Kentucky’s big men while also trying to guard Herro. Fans should enjoy him while he is here because it may end up only being for one season or two at the most.
- PJ Washington, Nick Richards and Quade Green are way better– PJ was clearly stronger and quicker than he was as a freshman. His shot from outside looked vastly improved and he drove the ball to the hoop very well. He rebounded at a high level and blocked several shots. Nick lost his confidence last season but Kenny Payne has worked with him a lot this summer to try to rebuild it and it showed up in the Bahamas. He made jump shots and finished around the basket with authority. He also ran the floor like a deer and was a rim protector that Cal hoped he would be last season. His development gives Kentucky great versatility when they want to play a bigger lineup and have a shot blocker on the floor. Quade struggled to make shots in the first game but he spent a lot of hours in the gym throughout the trip and he looked great in the final three games. He has improved his ability to score off the dribble and made several pull up jumpers. No matter if he starts or comes off the bench he will be a huge factor in the success of this team.
- Reid Travis is rebuilding his game but he will be a monster– He came to Kentucky to transform his game so that he could play in the NBA. Cal is asking him to play in a completely different way than he did at Stanford and he is struggling with that right now. Stanford played a slow and methodical offense and Travis relied on playing bully ball to score a lot of his points. Kentucky plays a much faster tempo and Cal wants him to play much more face up and out on the floor. He wants Travis to use his athleticism more than relying on his strength to bully people. One thing that was clear in the Bahamas is that he is an elite level rebounder that will make an impact in that regard from day one. In the coming months he will begin to understand how Cal wants him to play and he should look a lot more comfortable in October. His impact off the court and in the locker room will also be huge for this young team as they head into uncharted territory this season.
- The chemistry on this team is through the roof– This team is talented and it is very deep but the chemistry is what is the most eye catching thing about this team. They all seem to genuinely enjoy being around each other. They had a ball on this trip and the bonding that occurred during that time will pay huge dividends when the season rolls around. They ran to help each other up any time a player went down. They defended each other when opposing teams tried to get physical with them. I have watched teams up close for several years now and I have never seen a Kentucky team that interacted with each other in a better way than this team does.
If you asked me to sum up the entire Bahamas trip in just four words I would simply say. I like my team.