By LARRY VAUGHT
It was only an exhibition game, but Kentucky’s 108-51 win over Division II Clarion Sunday night left Clarion coach Marcess Williams convinced this could be a special year for the Wildcats.
“They’re as good as advertised. They’re really long and really athletic. We knew we were coming down here and playing against five or six potential pros,” Williams said. “We thought they might deny the pass lanes a little bit more, but they really didn’t. They were really climbing in us with the guy with the basketball.
“They were, like I said, as good as advertised. They were really long and really talented, and really warranted all the hype.”
Williams had hoped having older players might help against UK so early in the season. Instead, UK’s freshmen were more than ready.
“The resources they have you can kind of progress your players a little quicker than a Division II or Division III school. We kind of didn’t know how far along those freshmen would be. Them being 18 years old, I thought that was one of our only advantages coming into the game, that we had some older guys. We didn’t know what their bodies would be like, but when you walk through the practice facility, you see a state-of-the-art this, and a state-of-the-art that,” Williams said.
“There’s no reason why those freshmen can’t progress quicker. I mean, that’s what it is. They’re ready to play. If the SEC started tomorrow, you know they’re going to be able to compete for a championship.”
Actually, he thinks Kentucky will play for more than a SEC championship because of UK’s versatility.
“I always kind of look at championship teams as being able to play in different ways. To win a championship, you’ve got to be able to do a little bit of both. When you put those three guards (Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk and De’Arron Fox) on the floor that makes you one of the most athletic backcourts in the country,” Williams said.
“But then you go and put Bam (Adebayo), and my favorite is (Wenyen) Gabriel, I love that kid. That kid, he might be the best one of them all. So, you get long all of the sudden, and you get big. You can put (Derek) Willis in and stretch the floor, but you don’t lose size. So, he really has the opportunity to play any kind of way against any style in the country.
“I mean, the sky’s the limit for Kentucky basketball right now. You’ll probably see them at the Final Four this year.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said it was too early to even think about a Final Four berth. But freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones didn’t mind.
“That’s our goal is to get to Phoenix (for the Final Four) and then win it. Obviously we’re focused right now on one game at a time, focused on going 1-0 every night. That’s our focus, but that’s definitely our bigger picture goal,” Killeya-Jones said.