Kentucky basketball: 3 players primed to level up in conference play

The Kentucky Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country, but with such a young roster, a few players are ready to take another leap and have a breakout moment in SEC play. If these three players do improve, then Kentucky shouldn't just be the favorite in the conference, but in the country.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks with Justin Edwards
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks with Justin Edwards / Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
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. player. 528. 6'8" 203 lbs. Freshman. F. Justin Edwards. Justin Edwards. Justin Edwards.

Justin Edwards came in as the top recruit in Kentucky’s incredible freshman class, and so far, he’s been the biggest disappointment. He’s played 24.6 minutes a game across 12 games and is only averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds on 47/25/71 shooting splits. 

It hasn’t been a total disaster, but Edwards has taken a lot more time to adjust to college basketball than expected. He simply doesn’t have a full tool kit on the offensive end, and that has manifested in forced shots and awkward possessions. 

Still, those numbers are far from disastrous, and the image of his one-point performance against Kansas in the Champions Classic is looming a bit too large in the perception of Edwards’ season. 

Lately, Edwards has become more of an off-ball scorer and is relying on his guards to put him in positions to use his size and athleticism. That has improved his efficiency and will raise his confidence. 

The expectation of Edwards leading this team and establishing himself as the No.1 pick in next year’s NBA draft is long gone, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a crucial part of Kentucky’s run through SEC play. 

Edwards will level up from a frustrating five-star who has fallen short of expectations to an integral role player for the Wildcats on both ends of the floor. I’m even expecting an offensive breakout game coming soon.