LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s guard play has carried the team to its 3-0 start, but assistant coach Kenny Payne wants to see his big men more involved.
One is freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones. He’s been on the fringe of the post rotation, fighting for minutes along with sophomore Isaac Humphries behind freshman center Bam Adebayo. Killeya-Jones has seen less minutes than the fellow highly touted freshmen he came in with.
Payne said Killeya-Jones’ path to more minutes is defensive effort.
“What we’re really trying to get Sacha to understand is that skill wise, he’s really good,” Payne said. “He’s talented. He’s long, he’s athletic. To be on this floor at Kentucky, energy, defense and rebounding. You give us that, your offense will take care of itself.”
And while it’s Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who have been filling the highlight reels, Payne said Kentucky still needs frontcourt-backcourt balance as the season progresses.
“What happens to us is, similar to last year when you have such great guards, it’s hard to like understand that you’ve gotta get your post guys involved,” Payne said. “But in order for us to be a great team, Bam, Wenyen (Gabriel), Derek (Willis), Isaac, Sacha, Tai (Wynyard), we’ve gotta be able to go to them and get something out of them. I think that’s the key to being a championship team: being versatile enough to where you’ve got an inside game and a perimeter game.”
Killeya-Jones is just 1 for 3 in from the floor in 20 minutes with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Chapel Hill, N.C., native is only three games into his career and still getting used to the new level of play.
“It’s definitely a different game than high school,” Killeya-Jones said. “Everyone’s faster, longer, stronger and everything like that. Being here definitely helps, being able to play against that kind of talent in practice.”
Killeya-Jones said confidence, and as Payne said, being more active, are his main goals moving forward.
“I definitely have a lot of room for improvement,” Killeya-Jones said.