The Transformation of Immanuel Quickley

The Immanuel Quickley for SEC Player of the Year chatter turned to a roar last night, as he dropped 30 points at Texas A&M. He has been on an impressive run and these facts back it up.

  • Sparked by a career-high eight 3-pointers, Immanuel Quickley led the Wildcats with a career-high 30 points, his second straight game with a personal best. He had 26 points on Saturday vs. Florida.
    • He is the first Wildcat with a 30-point game since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 vs. Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, 2018.
    • He has been torrid in the second half in UK’s current seven-game win streak, averaging 15.3 points in the second half alone during this seven-game stretch.
    • It is his third straight 20-point game, the first Wildcat to do so since PJ Washington had four straight 20-point games last February.
    • It is his eighth 20-point game of the season, all coming in the last 16 games.
    • In nine true road games this season, he is averaging 19.9 points per game.
    • It is his 17th consecutive game in double figures, most since Malik Monk had a 30-game streak during the 2016-17 season.
    • He made 8 of 12 on 3-point shots tonight. UK is 10-0 in Quickley’s career when he makes at least three long balls.
    • Eight 3-pointers ties for the fourth in one game in UK history.

The story of Immanuel Quickley’s emergence as a star is one of our favorite stories we have covered at Kentucky. It all began with Quickley playing the role he was asked to play last season as a spot up shooter. After averaging 5.2 points per game as a freshman there was speculation by some media and fans that Quickley would transfer. Instead, Immanuel chose to believe in himself and he chose to return to Kentucky. He knew that to become more than a role player would require a summer of extremely hard work. So he went to workout and train with the best. He worked out with NBA players all over the place and specifically spent a lot of time in Orlando with former #1 draft pick Markelle Fultz. In playing with these NBA players, Quickley regained his confidence by seeing he could hang with them on the court. His countless hours of work over the summer and the confidence regained from it were gigantic factors in the player you see today.

The hard work was huge,but you can’t talk about the play of Quickley without talking about his relationship with God and his amazing family. He is surrounded by an amazing support system that helped set him up for success. When things were not going quite as well as they hoped his freshman year, they did not poison him by telling him he deserved more. They simply reminded him to trust in God and to keep working. So Immanuel did just that and it has resulted in a tremendous season.

Quickley has increased his points per game average from 5.2 as a freshman to 16.2 as a sophomore. The 11 point jump is the most since Tyler Ulis increased his average by 11.7 points per game. Tyler Ulis also won the SEC Player of the Year award that I expect Quickley to win.

This season should also serve as a reminder to fans that not all freshman are going to come in and dominate, but that does not mean they can’t become dominant players. A good story to explain my point is something I experienced prior to this season. Someone I work with was asking me about the upcoming team and who the best players would be. I told him that Tyrese Maxey would be the best freshman and I said how huge it was to have Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley back for a second year. His response was, “but Quickley isn’t that good.” I simply told him that I thought he would be surprised by how good he would be this year. Throughout this season he was shocked by how well Immanuel was playing and recently admitted that he was wrong about how good he was. Fans can use the play of Quickley and Nick Richards as reasons not to write players off for early struggles.

Kentucky is playing their best basketball of the season with March just around the corner. One of the biggest reasons for that is Immanuel Quickley. He could have sulked and blamed someone else when things didn’t go his way, but instead he trusted in God and put his head down and went to work. That is something that every one of us can learn a lesson from.

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