By RENE CORNETTE
If last year taught us anything, it was not to buy into the early season hype but what’s happening in the Bahamas is not hype. It’s proof. Proof of just how far ahead a John Calipari coached team can be when it returns key role players from a National Championship runner-up team. Proof of what a stud freshman class can learn from those players even in a short amount of time and maybe most importantly proof that “Team Logjam” is college basketball’s worst nightmare.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said it best, “You could split this UK team in half and have two Top 20 teams.” I am convinced the most beautiful sight in the world is watching five Kentucky players being subbed at once and knowing that the competitive play will not suffer. Kentucky is loaded this season and from what we’ve seen in the two games from the Bahamas already, they will absolutely wear teams out this season. Fresh body after fresh body and our athleticism and length is unmatched. Who can compete with that? I’ll continue while you try and find an answer.
The most impressive thing to me about our team’s play is the unselfishness. They are constantly looking for the open man and will make the extra pass to get the easy basket. It’s something our team last year struggled with for most of the season and I say that not as a put down but as a testament to how far ahead of the game this team already is.
They are confident in their own abilities and most importantly confident in their teammates and they are an absolute joy to watch play. They are having fun. They’re basking in the big blue spotlight and it’s wonderful to see and their smiles are infectious. We’re living every moment on that small court, thousands of miles away in the Bahamas with them and it’s so nice. Okay, really nice and we get to experience this for four more games. Who has it better than us, Big Blue Nation? No one.
Individually speaking about the players, where do I even begin? Tyler Ulis is a pest on the court and I don’t see how he doesn’t get major minutes this season. He brings an energy that is infectious when he’s in the game and I’m convinced he has eyes in the back of his head. He was everything we were promised and more and I’m so glad he’s on our side.
Karl Towns is a match up nightmare who will give teams absolute fits trying to guard him. His talent knows no boundaries and he is wise beyond his years. He is a hard worker, a team player and he’s a force to be reckoned with. Devin Booker was billed as a shooter but he’s so much more. He’s great on defense and he has such quick hands. He’s alert and he can and will drain a 3 in your face if needed.
Alex Poythress is playing like a man possessed. He’s taking control of everything around the rim and he’s not backing down. His confidence seems to have finally caught up with his body and there’s no looking back. He has arrived and he’s staying.
Aaron, Andrew, Dakari, Marcus, Derek and Dominique have all stepped up their level of play. They have stepped into their roles of upperclassmen beautifully and they blend seamlessly on the court with their teammates. Note I didn’t mention Willie Cauley-Stein or Trey Lyles because they’re unavailable to play in the Bahamas. Kentucky has been so impressive without them, just imagine what this team can do with them? Scary.
The biggest sign that Kentucky is the real deal this season is Calipari’s demeanor. He didn’t even coach the last two games. We’re talking about a man who is known for his court side passion and antics and yet he took a seat in the stand to watch his team play while even manning a ESPN camera for awhile Monday. He is confident and he knows that this team is special.
In his own words, this team is “farther along than any team I’ve had in a while.” That says it all, Big Blue Nation. Buckle up and enjoy the ride this season. It’s going to be a fun one and yes, it’s only August but that’s just it. It’s August and this team is playing in midseason form. That’s scary for our opponents but so exhilarating for us.
The hype is real. Our team is real and those giddy feelings you have from watching this team are only a precursor of what’s to come. It’s good to be a Wildcat, really good.