The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team held their blue/white scrimmage tonight. This is the first time that the BIg Blue Nation as a whole has been able to see their new ‘Cats in a game situation. The first player to take the floor before the game? It was Jon Hood, and that was a sign of things to come.
After missing the nearly the entire year last year with a knee injury, Jon Hood hasn’t been playing basketball in front of the Big Blue Nation in quite a while. Being the first player on the floor for pregame warm-ups was an indication that Hood was ready to make his comeback. Before his knee injury, Hood was playing so well and developing a nice shot. Now, he has come back with more than just a jump shot. He proved his high basketball IQ, and showed the maturity of an upperclassman. One of the toughest things to do is get over the mental hurdles after an injury. Hood was able to play any way he wanted to. He was quick, has a sweet stroke, and could get to the rim. Jon Hood was definitely the most surprising player for me in this scrimmage.
Many fans expected the scrimmage to be a lot more serious than the scrimmage in Big Blue Madness. This Blue/White scrimmage felt very much like a game. Head Coach John Calipari would periodically get onto the floor and use the in-game situations as teaching tools. This scrimmage had hard fouls, blocks, monster dunks, and one hard charge.
With the players changing teams every now and then, the score was of little relevance for most of the game. Nerlens Noel showcased what he was recruited for, his defense. Noel recorded 7 blocked shots, 8 rebounds and 9 points. The most unaccounted for stat for Noel was how many shots he actually altered. The kid is a nightmare on the defensive side, but has a long way to go with his offensive skill set. As for the other big man, Willie Cauley-Stein was not to be outdone by Nerlens Noel. WCS played a very smart game and showcased his own defensive power with 6 blocks of his own. Cauley-Stein showed off some of his football skills with some long chest passes and acrobatic catches. Noel and Cauley-Stein were never on the same team,.so the “Twin Towers” lineup was not seen on this night.
Regarded as possibly being Kentucky’s best player this season, Alex Poythress played a relatively quiet game. Poythress seemed to be a little shy at times trying to assert himself into the offense. While he showed brief flashes of raw athletic ability, it took him a while to get into the flow of the game.
Archie Goodwin showed off a lot of his athletic ability with some highlight dunks. Goodwin also proved that he is a very good free-throw shooter. He may wind up being the team’s best player from the free-throw line. Kyle Wiltjer played mostly down-low and fought through traffic to score his points. He did connect on one three point shot, but did not attempt another shot from deep. The senior transfer from Wright State, Julius Mays made his Wildcat debut with an impressive outing. He showed his seasoned veteran skills and sweet shooting stroke.
Jarrod Polson played very impressively, showing a direct improvement from last year. Polson has a great shot and looks to be extremely confident in his play. Ryan Harrow has a lot of improvement to make as far as being the point guard that John Calipari wants him to be. Harrow is always good for a highlight play and breaking someone’s ankles on a fast break. The key for him will be learning how to settle down in the dribble drive and make the other players around him better. A relative new guy to everyone is practice player Tod Lanter. Lanter is a Dunbar grad and is the son of a former ‘Cat. Calipari recently added Lanter to the practice squad due to Twany Beckham being very limited because of a nagging back injury. Beckham tried to give it a go a few times in the scrimmage, but was quickly on the bench after only a few plays. Lanter played very well for a guy that has very limited knowledge of the offense and is simply living the dream. Lanter connected on his first shot of the night and finished the game with 6 points.
Here are some stats from tonight’s scrimmage:
Noel flirted with triple-double at 9 points, 8 boards, 7 blocked shots.
Kyle Wiljer: 28 points (11 of 18 shooting), 9 rebounds.
Alex Poythress had 25 points on 9 of 19 shooting with six rebounds.
Cauley-Stein: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals.
Archie Goodwin finishes with 32 points on 11 of 22 shots.
The scrimmage itself as a very impressive display of talent, and a deeper team than last year’s National Champions. The game itself came down to the wire with Kyle Wiltjer fouling freshman Archie Goodwin on a desperation three-point shot to tie the game. Goodwin missed his first free throw, made the second, and accidentally made the third. The Blue Team squeaked out the win by one point. Noel/Cauley-Stein combined for 13 blocked shots, and a ton more of those shots were altered by the “Twin Towers”. Overall, it was a great showing for the new ‘Cats. The team has a really long way to go to get into championship form. The BBN may have to exercise more patience with this team before they become elite. It’s a good day to be a Wildcat. Go Big Blue!
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP