To be honest, I don’t think that the hype ever ends for Kentucky Wildcats basketball, but yesterdays 74-49 win over the Puerto Rico Reserve team will certainly put us into October level hype. I have to admit that I was not expecting to be overly impressed with the first exhibition game of the year, but it was the effort and hustle that impressed me. It’s only one exhibition game in August, but this team seems focused and determined like the last year of Calipari teams have not been this early in the year. So let the hype begin.
First ESPN analyst Jay Bilas matter of factly noted Sunday that “no team in the country can match Kentucky’s talent” before adding that Duke did also have nine McDonald’s All-Americans. However, he never said Duke had equal talent.
Then after the game, sophomore guard Aaron Harrison didn’t bang the 40-0 drum for the Cats as players did last year. But he also didn’t back off the potential this team has after the easy exhibition win over the Puerto Rican National Reserve Team.
“Not many teams, college or pro, can say they have 10 guys good enough to be on the floor. We’re a special team,” Harrison said.
Not yet, but certainly the pieces are there. Even coach John Calipari knows that.
“I’m pleased. We did what we wanted to do,” Calipari said after the game. “I don’t think anybody gave us a bad effort, which is amazing for 10 practices.”
In case you missed it, here are the highlights.
Of course, Kentucky is going to have to replace all this talent next year so John Calipari has to do plenty of recruiting between now and then. Several UK targets were in action over the weekend for Team USA and Stephen Zimmerman impressed.
Also on the USA side, Stephen Zimmerman went for 22 points and 10 rebounds and stood out right from the start of the event. The 7-footer held his own in the 3-point contest, made the first triple of the game for USA, grabbed the first three rebounds and was a force inside the entire night. He said that he knows he doesn’t play like the typical big man, but he is striving to be as consistent as he can, regardless of what role he needs to take.
“I’m just trying to be the most ‘overall’ player I could be,” he said.
Zimmerman has a visit to North Carolina on Oct. 3 – the first of five straight for the center. Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona will all follow.
Carlton Bragg is another big 2015 target and he will cut his list to five on September 1. Kentucky will make the cut and it looks like a Big Blue Madness visit is in his future.
As far as his recruitment, Bragg plans to announce his final five on Sept. 1, with Kansas, Kentucky and Illinois set to make the list.
“He’s going to cut his down list on Sept. 1st,” Michael Graves, Bragg’s mentor, told SNY.tv, confirming news that had been previously reported. “On Oct. 10, he’ll go to Kansas for their Midnight thing [Late Night in the Phog] and on Oct. 17 he’ll go to Kentucky [for Big Blue Madness].”
Graves added: “As far as Kansas, they think that he’s one of the best skilled forwards in the nation. They love him. And as far as Kentucky, we’ve been in touch with [assistant] Kenny Payne and he just loves Carlton. Cal loves him and they’re just ready to get him on campus.”