Six games in eight days. Grueling heat and humidity. Opponents full of professional and ex-college players. The general lethargy of late summer.
The Kentucky Wildcats Big Blue Bahamas Tour, for what it’s worth, ended up being a little more than a casual Caribbean vacation. It was a week’s worth of challenges and, at times, stiff competition. Overall, it was an experience that will help make this team much better in the long run.
Going 5-1 in the tour, the Cats at times looked like a team poised for an historical type of season. Boasting a devastating front line, an embarrassment of talent and depth that isn’t common in the “one and done” era, Kentucky showed a great range of abilities to do damage to the opponent.
Double digit victories over national teams from France, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, before a one-point loss to the Dominican Republic on the last day of the tour, showed that there is room for improvement. But more room for optimism.
Amazingly, they did it without the services of future lottery pick and experienced junior Willie Cauley-Stein, as well as incoming McDonald’s All-American Trey Lyles. The Cats weren’t even whole.
Here are some observations about the kids who did suit up:
Andrew Harrison – Appears to be a bit stronger and focused more on distributing the ball to his arsenal of weapons. Harrison is still not an elite ball handler and will be challenged for playing time by freshman Tyler Ullis.
Aaron Harrison – Looks like the confidence from the NCAA tourney has carried over. Harrison is a scoring machine and looked aggressive and ready to give the Wildcats a bucket whenever they needed a score.
Tyler Ullis – A defensive terror that was totally disrupting opposing backcourts. Also demonstrated the ability to handle the rock and knock down open jumpers. Diminutive but could be the PG of the future for UK.
Devin Booker – Didn’t look ready yet. Struggled shooting the rock, but possesses a big body and athleticism.
Alex Poythress – Also carrying over more confidence and effort from a strong stretch run last year. Will need to play a lot of 3 this year.
Marcus Lee – Human pogo stick. Human eraser. Still needs more bulk.
Dakari Johnson – More confident, stronger and in better shape. Not a tremendous athlete, but incredible touch and looks lighter on his feet. Could have a huge year.
Karl Towns – Total package. Top 5 pick next year, most likely. Still has lots of maturing to do, but at 6-11 can handle the rock and stroke from deep.
Derek Willis – Presents a conundrum for Coach Cal because there really is nowhere to play him on this roster, but it looks as though he is ready to be a major contributor. Great offensive polish and more athletic than last year. Could easily be a 10 min per game zone buster or could redshirt.
Dominique Hawkins – Also may be a candidate to redshirt due to depth issues. But he is athletic and can be a dynamic defender for this team.go back