Tyrese Maxey believes in Kentucky's potential, offers wisdom: "Be a sponge"

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim12/09/23

Kentucky had a trio of special guests in attendance for the team’s much-needed victory over Penn in Philadelphia. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was one, Immanuel Quickley was another. The third, though, was none other than 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey, who has emerged as a star on that very court in the Wells Fargo Center.

The former Wildcat joined the ESPN broadcast to share his thoughts on the current group — and why he thinks they have a chance to be special.

For starters, it’s the camaraderie and on-court chemistry. Maxey loves the way they feed off one another and embrace roles. And the injured bigs are just about back to full strength, with Aaron Bradshaw exploding for 17 and 11 for the Cats and Ugonna Onyenso expected to make his sophomore debut next weekend vs. UNC.

“I was telling Coach Cal, we talked two days ago when he was here and we were eating. You can tell that the team is together,” Maxey said. “I watched them play Miami, I’ve watched them play — every game I’m not playing, I’m watching them on TV. I feel like they’ve got great guard play again, the big fellas are getting healthy. Tre is doing a good job. He’s got a lot of talent on this team that can do a lot of different things.

“Like Rob (Dillingham) — he’s got like three or four guards who can really play. Them coming off the bench and taking that challenge, actually being successful with it, that’s a big step.”

He hadn’t gotten the chance to meet with this group in person quite yet, though that changed after the win. All three celebrity guests spoke with the Wildcats in the locker room, sharing their experiences as former Kentucky stars who each found success in the league — Maxey and Quickley continuing to do so.

“Just try to give them wisdom,” Maxey said of his anticipated chat with the team. “I feel like I’m getting old, it’s crazy.”

What does that wisdom look like?

“My message to them would just be to keep working, keep listening and keep learning,” he added. “Be a sponge in this atmosphere, learn from your teammates, compete against your teammates in practice. And then go out there and leave it all out there on the floor. These guys work extremely hard in the offseason, they worked really hard in the fall and the summer. Just go out there and keep working.”

Maxey remembers putting on that Kentucky jersey like it was yesterday. He remembers his welcome-to-stardom moment in the Champions Classic vs. Michigan State and the team’s end-to-end growth that saw the Wildcats firing on all cylinders by year’s end.

The Sixers star wants this group to enjoy that same ride and soak in every moment just like he did. And then when it’s their time to go to the league and become stars, pass down the same message to the next generation.

“It’s a huge difference (dreaming of playing at Kentucky versus actually doing it). You know, it’s kind of surreal,” Maxey said. “Like, man. When you actually put on that jersey, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m actually a part of this now. I’m actually a part of the brotherhood.’ What’s special about Kentucky is everybody is together. The guys in the league, they show love, they show support. And then when you get to the NBA, they do the same, as well.

“Like, it’s a brotherhood. It’s a really nice scenario.”

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