How about some quick breakdowns on future Wildcats (and one potential ‘Cat) from one of the smartest basketball minds in the business?
Over the weekend, KSR made the short drive up to the Indianapolis area to watch a handful of future Kentucky basketball targets at the MADE Hoops Midwest Mania event. From the best of the best such as Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren to rising prospects such as Dereck Lively II and Shaedon Sharpe, there was plenty of talent on display that would make any basketball fanatic excited for the future of the sport.
But those hoopers are all still a year or more away from entering the college ranks. Most of the highlighted stars at Midwest Mania were from the class of 2022 and 2023. Whether they ultimately land with Kentucky is still some time away. However, in the immediate future, head coach John Calipari has a trio of high school seniors who will join the Wildcats for the 2021-22 season: Nolan Hickman, Daimion Collins, and Bryce Hopkins.
In attendance to scout Midwest Mania was none other than basketball guru Jonathan Givony, who rose to fame as the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com from 2003-2017 before joining ESPN as the organization’s NBA Draft expert. If you follow the NBA Draft even somewhat closely, chances are high that you’ve heard of Givony at some point.
KSR was able to catch up with Givony at Midwest Mania and he was kind enough to share some quick-hitters on what he thinks of both Nolan Hickman and Daimion Collins, along with another potential addition in point guard TyTy Washington, who de-committed from Creighton back on March 11 and received a scholarship from Kentucky roughly one month later on April 13. Givony added that he would prefer to watch more film on Bryce Hopkins before offering up some thoughts on the forward from Illinois.
Here’s what Givony had to say about Washington, Hickman, and Collins.
TyTy Washington – Point Guard, No. 12 overall by ESPN (5-star): 6-4, 185 pounds
On Washington’s strengths: “I like TyTy Washington a lot. He has an extremely high basketball IQ, he just really knows how to play. He’s a winner, he’s competitive, he makes other guys better, he can shoot off the dribble. He’s got good size, he’s got length, he really has a lot of things that you look for from a point guard that age.”
On Washington’s weaknesses: “I think his body is the main one, getting into better shape, which he’ll do in college. He’s not going to be jumping over people, he’s not the most explosive athlete around, he’s more of a play at different speeds type of guy. I think his defense, that’ll probably be the biggest transition for him, high school to college, just locking in defensively every possession. He did so much for his high school team that I don’t know if that was the biggest priority for him.”
Nolan Hickman – Point Guard, No. 22 overall by ESPN (5-star): 6-2, 185 pounds
On Hickman’s strengths: “His basketball IQ, the way he plays pick-and-roll, just the way he gets other people involved, playing at different speeds, he’s just really advanced for a kid his age in terms of his ability to play pick-and-roll.”
On Hickman’s weaknesses: “I think the [3-point] shooting can improve, probably his body–he’s not the strongest or most athletic kid, I think those are the main things.”
KSR then asked Givony if he believes that Hickman could come in right away and play the lead guard role for Kentucky as a freshman:
“He’s got some talent but there’s a big transition from high school to college and Kentucky is the highest level of college basketball so to ask any kid that age to be ready to do that from day one, that’s a lot. I think he’ll get there eventually but I do think he’ll need some help.”
Could that help come in the form of TyTy Washington? Givony raved about the potential of Washington, going on to explain that Washington’s extra physicality puts him in a better position to be the starting point guard from day one.
“I think that TyTy is bigger, he’s stronger, probably a better shooter. He’s played off the ball more, too. I think he’s a point guard long term but he’s 6-4 and he’s got a 6-9 wingspan so you can play him with other guys. I just think he’s a little bit more ready physically to step in from day one.”
Daimion Collins – Center, No. 17 overall by ESPN (5-star): 6-9, 210 pounds
On Collins’ strengths: “He’s an absolute freak physically, and some of the things he does on the perimeter–I don’t think the gap between him and Chet Holmgren is that big, honestly. They have a lot of similarities. I need to see more of him, I’ve actually never seen him play live, I’ve only seen him on film. I love everything I see from him, I think he’s got a chance to be special.”
On Collins’ weaknesses: “He’s got a lot of work to do in the strength department, he’s really weak physically. He’s not the most physical kid so I think there’s going to be a transition for him in that regard but he’s got seven months here to really lock in and work on his body.”
KSR also asked Givony about his thoughts on the potential frontcourt pairing of Collins next to West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe, who is more of a traditional big man:
“I think the fact that Daimion can shoot is going to help him a lot [playing next to Thsiebwe], and he can pass too. He’s a pretty versatile big man.”