Updated: Oct 13, 2021
The Kentucky Basketball team hosted the second day of their Pro Day combine on Monday afternoon, in which NBA scouts stayed from the day before as well as the media was invited to watch it live.
If I had to describe what I saw at that practice in one word, I think I'd go with 'exciting.' I believe everything we've been hearing all summer long is said to be true. This team has an absurd amount of talent, and once they get a rotation down and work some kinks out, the ceiling of this team is so high. This group can make a deep run into the tournament this year if they all tap into their potential, together.
Our guard rotation is so deep. Between Davion Mintz, TyTy Washington, Sahvir Wheeler and Kellan Grady, any mix you could create from that I'm ready to go to war with. Each guard can run an offense with complete control of it, and all four can force out a basket at will in any moment.
In Davion Mintz, you have our leading scorer from last season and current team captain who looks like he's ready to get what he missed out on last season. He looks composed, skilled, and confident. He brings the 'show' of this offense, and looks to be hungry for what he left off on.
TyTy Washington is an elite talent and five-star addition brought in which will be one the best freshman in the country when this is all said and done. I think he will hit his stride early on and excel at the college level. With either of the three guards by his side, it will be a scary sight.
Sahvir Wheeler is a pass-first guard who led the conference in assists per game last year, so he will be great when guys like Dontaie Allen and CJ Fredrick come in who can shoot the lights out of a gym. Wheeler won't be relied on for much scoring outside of clean-up points here and there, but more for control the pace and distributing to our scorers.
With Kellan Grady, I just get this odd feeling about him. It is a good one though. To me, I think he is going to be way better than anyone expected. Grady will bring his veteran knowledge to this group, and he can score at will. I get a point guard version of Malik Monk when I try to compare him. All I can say now, is that Kellan Grady will show up in some big time moments this season for Kentucky. He's comfortable with the ball, can moved around as needed, and is a top-notch scorer from all around.
As of today, the twelfth of October and just four days away from Big Blue Madness, if I had to guess who would be the first two to see some action of the four, I point my fingers at Davion Mintz and TyTy Washington. For one, you're not going to bring Mintz back for a sixth year and not give him a boatload of minutes, and the starting role he deserves as team captain and the returning leading scorer from just eight months ago. I think a combination of a veteran Davion Mintz, and a young elite guard in TyTy Washington, it will propose one unstoppable guard-duo to lead this team to where they want to go. Kellan Grady at any moment can take one of those starter positions if either can't get it going early on in the season, deservedly so. I do feel that Sahvir Wheeler will take the back seat to the group, and will provide plenty of energy off the bench when asked to. Just with his size, his inability to shoot and make consistently, and of course that he left practice Monday afternoon with an ankle injury will only push him behind the other guards.
If you talk about the guard play, of course you have to talk about our big men down low. I think it's a clear cut choice that Oscar Tshiebwe will be our pride and joy near the rim, standing at 6'9 and 255lbs of only 7% body fat, the former Mountaineer will have the majority of things covered in the post. He is a bully who will lead the country in rebounds & blocks per game. Refer back to this post when he does.
For Kentucky's forward founded in the 2020 recruiting class, Daimion Collins, I think there is some caution to what to expect out of him. With full confidence, I can admit that Collins will be a star before he leaves Lexington. The kid is a 6'9 pogo stick of a defender, with linky arms and legs, who will cover so much space in the paint and block many of shots. His downfall seems to be that he's very Kevin Durant-ish in his body frame. He needs to put on weight or else he's going to get pushed up and down the court. Good thing is, Cal said at UK's Pro Day that he's already gained 15lbs since getting to campus. That's great and all, but he needs to keep going. His competition in college won't be the 6'2 kids who are fresh out of algebra like they were in High School. With that being said, Daimion Collins can shoot the mid-range well, dabble around a little bit with the open three, and dunk with his eyes closed. I think we will see great things out of him here, but I'm not so confident all of it will be in year one.
Bryce Hopkins has been the talk of the summer. People throughout the program have said he's been the most impressive during practices, and I seen glimpses of it at the open practice. His stature is near the same of Oscar's (Tshiebwe), with just being a few inches shorter, but can bang with the best of them in the post. While he was limited these last two days to injury, he looked great from what he was allowed to do. Oh, and he might be the teams best three-point shooter. No, I'm not joking. He shot close to 50 wide-open three pointers receptively, and hit 40+ of them. Multiple runs of 8-12 in-a-row makes. I have never seen anything like it in person.
Keion Brooks, you pretty much know what you're going to get from him. A rim to rim finisher who can shoot from anywhere inside 15 feet. Entering his third year at Kentucky, he's projected to have a major jump in performance just like all of the other former two-year plus guys have found here. I think he's ready to chase that NBA dream he thought would only take one year here to do, and have no mercy along his way. I'm feeling a junior year Nick Richards kind of season from Keion Brooks. Outside of Davion Mintz, this is his team and if we want the Elite Eights and the Final Fours for this season, they will go through him.
As of today, I think John Calipari will go with a Keion Brooks at the four and Oscar Tshiebwe at the five to start the season off, rotating Bryce Hopkins and Daimion Collins out when needed. When we get a 100% Bryce Hopkins notice, watch out. I think he has a break-out year, if his body holds up. With a little extra work, and some trail and error here and there, Daimion Collins can make a lot of noise as well.
Lastly, I will cover everyone else. The four players (outside of walk-ons) that I have yet to touch on, who will be moved throughout multiple positions as needed for this roster. CJ Fredrick, Dontaie Allen, Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware. I'll make this brief, and blunt. Going off what I seen in 90 minutes of practice, I'll tell you what I think. This entire article is subject to change, as time goes on, but with the limited footage we've seen, here's my take.
Jacob Toppin is going to be a top-six player on this team. I actually have Jacob as my MIP of the year candidate already. We seen a drastic rise from his last season when he was suppose to redshirt for the season, but ended up finding quality minutes throughout the year, and he is nowhere near his max ability yet. The first time you see him in person, you might get a little insecure like I did. The kid is jacked. It looks like someone sculpted his body like they would an ice carving. Whatever the strength and conditioning coach Rob Harris has him doing, it's working. Ten times over. He has put on a lot of muscle this summer, he can already jump through the roof, and just brings that grit and confidence to the table. I can only imagine what his second round in Rupp Arena will consist of.
Dontaie Allen is already circling out Mississippi State as we speak. I think what Dontaie Allen can accomplish here is unfairly up to John Calipari. Outside of being a liability with the ball in his hands, which he shouldn't even be running an offense anyways, he gives you what you expect out of him. Dontaie is here to do one thing... to score the ball. Specifically from behind the arc. That's not what he is limited to, but that is all we need him to do. We have other guys to fill in the gaps. The offense needs to be designed in a way where he's in during scenarios that guys like Sahvir Wheeler are put in at the same time, to drive and kick it out as the defense collapses to open up shots (for Allen). Unfortunately, I believe Cal holds Dontaie Allen back and the answer to why that is what everyone has been trying to figure out since last fall. If coach will loosen up the leash he has on him, he can do some big things for our offense. Only time will tell.
CJ Fredrick is about the only one I have hard time projecting. Although he was held back the last two days due to rehabbing his leg from a surgery he had take place this summer, it did look like he was in the position he needed to be in order to heal for this season. He put a game-speed weight on it during their conditioning drills, got his shots up with ease, and seems to look like he's going to be a solid player. I get the vibe that he won't be used as much as many believed he would be here, and I could be dead wrong on that, but from the little I seen I think he's trending towards a Dontaie Allen role. Being used more as a shooter than a two guard who can run the offense if need be. Like I said, don't quote me just yet on Fredrick because I'd like to see more of him as he recovers over time.
I saved Lance Ware for last for a reason. I'm afraid he gets pushed to the side this season. I think with Kentucky's depth, Lance gets sought out as one of the last options and I think this year might not go the way he plans for it to. I would love to be wrong, but I think there is a lot of talent in front of him - with more to come as Bryce Hopkins and Jacob Toppin get healthier - and this might end in a transfer out of the program case. I like Lance Ware, and think he would be a great role player, but I just think his name being called on the rotation list is a long ways down. Maybe even 12th man.
With all of that being said, this team is going to do some exciting things this year once they set it in stone, and I cannot wait for it. BBM is this Friday.