LEXINGTON, Ky. – Several former Kentucky stars have been back in town over the last week to work at John Calipari’s youth camps, and we made sure to ask how the next wave of Wildcats is looking.
A veteran nucleus of Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Isaac Humphries has been joined by five 5-star freshmen: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Wenyen Gabriel, Bam Adebayo. The whole roster has been together all summer. So?
“Me, Tyler (Ulis) and Devin (Booker) played pickup with them the other day, and they’re going to be real good,” NBA free agent Alex Poythress said. “Isaiah’s really bringing some leadership (and) Malik stood out to me. He’s real athletic and real gifted offensively. Isaac stepped up, too. Isaac’s gotten a lot better; I think he’ll have a big year.”
Jamal Murray, who set the UK freshman scoring record last season and was the No. 7 overall pick in the draft in June, also believes his former backcourt mate, Briscoe, is ready to take charge.
“Last year was a lot of learning for all of us as freshmen, but this year is his time to lead,” Murray said. “The best thing about it is he’s going to get it done on the defensive end more than anybody, so I think that will help a lot.”
Booker, a fast-rising young NBA star who joined Monk on Saturday to host a shooting clinic for kids, is equally optimistic.
“They look like they’re going to be really special,” Booker said. “Defensively, they should be one of Cal’s best teams. They have the length, they have the athleticism, so I think it’s going to be real interesting, real fun, because I think it’s going to be more fast-paced, a lot of dunks.”
Towns, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, said Wednesday he’s not yet played any pickup with the new guys – but he still predicts a great 2016-17 run for the Cats.
“I don’t think I need to jump in a pickup game to know how talented they are,” Towns said. “It’s on paper. I don’t need to see it. They’re going to be a very good team, possibly one that rivals ours.”
That’s quite a statement, considering Towns’ 2014-15 Kentucky team went 38-1, reaching the Final Four undefeated.
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