We're still a little over three months away from the start of basketball season for the Kentucky Wildcats, but summer practice reports are in full swing for the program as the team works to get back to its winning ways in 2021-22. KSR released the first practice report of the summer back in June, with Matt Jones adding an updated report of his own over the Kentucky Sports Radio airwaves on Tuesday.
The consensus? Look out for TyTy Washington and Kellan Grady.
"As far as the new guys, all I've heard is that TyTy Washington, people say is the truth," Jones said on the air. "... (I was also told) Kellan Grady is even better than we hoped. I think they hoped he'd be one level, and maybe he's a level above that."
He doubled down later in the segment with praise of the five-star freshman guard and the incoming transfer from Davidson.
"I do feel very excited, and I especially feel excited about Kellan Grady," Jones added. "You can tell sometimes when you talk to people around the program when they're a little giddy. I think they're giddy about TyTy Washington and Kellan Grady."
As a unit, Jones says John Calipari and the UK coaching staff are pleased with the team's backcourt and veteran presence as a whole. If a few select pieces in the frontcourt can provide consistent production, Kentucky has a chance to be "really good."
"This was the exact quote: 'If we can get one or two bigs to bring it every night, we're going to be really good with the guards we have,'" one source told Jones. "... What I've really heard is, these older guys, Cal really likes having a team of older guys. He just likes it. They know what to do, he's able to teach, and what I was told, they're able to teach much more advanced stuff at an earlier time now because they're dealing with veterans."
Jones' assessment goes hand in hand with what KSR heard about the roster back in June, with Washington and Grady separating themselves from the pack early, specifically in the backcourt.
"As for individual standouts, the first name brought up in numerous conversations with individuals inside the program and players’ parents is freshman guard TyTy Washington, specifically for his impressive shooting in pickup games and drills," KSR reported back in June. "In one recent shooting drill that focused on dribble combinations leading to shots along the 3-point line, Washington knocked down 45 of 50 total attempts. He’s a fluid and consistent shooter that knows how to get to his spots and convert when he gets there. Building strength is a key point of emphasis for the five-star freshman this summer, but the early expectation is that the early hype with Washington is real.
"From there, Davidson transfer Kellan Grady has earned plenty of early praise, with one source telling KSR that his addition was like bringing a “pro” into practice and the locker room. The way he carries himself with a business-first mindset has been a huge plus for some of the younger players on the team, meticulous in his practice habits and working in drills. One individual added that they would be fairly shocked if the 6-5 guard didn’t lead the team in scoring this season."
While we're dropping scoop, let's add a few other practice tidbits of note to hold you over for a while:
- Bryce Hopkins has come on strong in practice, with the staff extremely impressed with the four-star freshman's versatility on offense and knack for scoring. Minutes will be tight in the frontcourt splitting time with Keion Brooks Jr. and Jacob Toppin, but he'll get his chances.
- While he is raw now - he didn't start playing basketball till he was 16 years old and didn't lift weights until he got to Lexington - Daimion Collins continues to show small flashes of absolute brilliance, with the staff hoping he can turn those flashes into consistent production by the end of the season. There are mixed reviews regarding Collins being a one-and-done given how new he is to the game - rival coaches that recruited him out of high school believe he'll spend two years at Kentucky - but there is hope he puts it all together by year's end.
- Oscar Tshiebwe had a bit of an adjustment period upon returning to Lexington this summer, working to get back in game shape and fit in with the team's new pieces after a few months off. Strong optimism regarding his impact going into the fall and certainly when the season begins - as you can see below, he certainly looks the part - but something to keep in mind.
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- The team has been running with units of four in scrimmages and drills to allow for all 12 scholarship players on the roster opportunities to thrive. Not necessarily a platoon system, but core groups to divide up practice.
- Numerous sources continue to stress just how impressive the team chemistry is and how enjoyable the basketball facilities are to be in and around after a difficult season for the program. There are no locker room issues and team synergy is the highest it's been in years. It's made for better practices and optimism regarding the team's chances to not only compete in the SEC, but make a run in March this season.