What John Calipari thinks and what we learned after Kentucky's exhibition games in the Bahamas
Calipari is 'not intoxicated' by UK's success after the Wildcats went 4-0 last week in the Bahamas
The Kentucky basketball team didn't just reel off four-straight wins during its trip to the Bahamas for an exhibition tour this week -- it handed out four-straight beatdowns.
Winning by an average margin of 29 points over a near week-long stretch that included competition against Team Toronto, Mega Bemax, San Lorenzo De Almagro and the Bahamas National Team, the Wildcats flexed their muscles and dominated as you might expect they would do.
Here's a look at each game's results, highlighted by a Sunday smackdown over Team Toronto 93-60 to conclude the competitive portion of the trip.
- Sunday: 93-60 Kentucky win over Team Toronto
- Saturday: 100-64 Kentucky win over Mega Bemax
- Thursday: 91-68 Kentucky win over San Lorenzo De Almagro
- Wednesday: 85-61 Kentucky win over Bahamas National Team
Regardless of how you view the level of competition Kentucky faced, there's no denying that this team has few flaws on the surface. It out-rebounded and out-shot each of its opponents, and rarely had to break a nervous sweat late into the game. As a team over the four-game stretch, the Wildcats shot 52.6 percent from the floor and a scorching 41.0 percent from the 3-point line and even included a dreadful 2-for-20 outside shooting performance to open the trip.
Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't buy into the hype, though. After the final game on Sunday despite admitting he was happy with their showing, he tempered expectations.
"I told the guys I'm not intoxicated by this," Calipari said. "At the end of the day we should be a monster defensive team, we should be a great rebounding team, we should be a team that can fly up and down the floor and put pressure on you on both sides of the ball. And we should be a team that shares.
"It seems to me we've got some dogs," he said. "We've got a couple dogs. I like to have a couple dogs on the team that don't back away."
The lowest-ranked signee of Kentucky's second-ranked 2018 recruiting class, Tyler Herro, had arguably the most productive trip of the bunch. He finished off the trip by averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the 3-point line, all while playing the fifth-most minutes throughout the trip.
Herro has the smoothest stroke on the squad, and it's not all that close. But he also has some moves inside the arc that make him one of the more lethal offensive weapons on the team.
On a team laden with freshmen standouts, sophomore P.J. Washington is the veteran of the bunch. And his decision to return to school instead of keeping his name in the NBA Draft appears to be paying early dividends.
Washington finished the trip second on the team in scoring at 14.5 per game, and yanked down 7.5 boards per contest all while shooting an efficient 51.4 percent from the field. Even with the arrival of graduate transfer Reid Travis, Washington is in line to make a big impact in UK's frontcourt this season.
Five-star freshman Keldon Johnson may not draw a lot of pub, but he's a surefire difference-maker who Kentucky fans are going to love rooting for. In the Bahamas, he averaged 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and scrapped his way into UK's deep rotation through hustle. When Calipari talk about having "dogs" on his team, he's definitely including Johnson in that reference.
Johnson isn't afraid to go right at his opponents and backs up his smack talk with production.
Given the sheer youth of this Kentucky team, there are innumerable players I could point to as potential X-factors. Because this team will evolve and grow ten-fold over the course of the next few months. But as things stand post-Bahamas, I'm eyeing sophomore Nick Richards as the X-factor.
Richards showed up in Game 1 in a big way, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the first half of a blowout. He finished the trip averaging 12.0 points and 4.8 rebounds, all while logging four total misses on 20 shots.
"Nick looks like a completely different player," Tyler Herro said of Richards via the Courier-Journal. "What he's doing with the ball on the inside, blocking shots, that's a credit to him and how much hard work he's put in over the summer and since last season. I'm really excited for him."
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