What to watch for with UK's players and targets in the FIBA World Cup

Mrs. Tyler Thompsonabout 4 years


Photo: USA Basketball

Team USA’s run in the FIBA World Cup isn’t just summer basketball, it’s a glimpse into what Kentucky basketball could be this season and beyond. On Saturday, John Calipari’s U19 National Team will open play vs. Iran, giving us our first look at freshmen Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington, along with 2018 targets Immanuel Quickley, Romeo Langford, and Cameron Reddish. After listening to bits and pieces about each player during last week’s training camp, here’s a guide to what we know and what we hope to see starting Saturday.


 Hamidou Diallo

What we know:

Because he sat out the spring semester, Diallo has largely remained a mystery. Aside from some crazy dunks during shootarounds, we don’t know a ton about Diallo other than he’s a freak athlete. Diallo turned in the second-highest vertical in NBA Combine history at 44.5 inches, which may have been enough for NBA teams to take a chance on him, but he decided to come back to school for a year instead. Reports out of Colorado Springs suggest that was a wise move; Diallo’s athleticism still leaps off the page and his jump shot has improved, but his game needs refinement. Three weeks of training under Calipari and his first real game action since high school should help that.

What we’d like to see:

We all know Diallo can dunk, but Calipari wants to see him handle the ball more in hopes of cutting down turnovers and improving his decision making.

“I want his hands on the ball,” Cal said on KSR last week. “Now, that’s going to force him to make better decisions, throw better passes, because going right to the rim, he’s really good. He’s shooting the ball better, but got a ways to go. And he has a winner’s mentality. He’s okay defensively, but I’m different, I want guys that really lock people down and he’s not quite there yet.”

A very promising sign? Diallo has reportedly been the first player in the gym before workouts and the last to leave, showing that he’s taking this opportunity to learn very seriously.

Sneak peek:

 PJ Washington

What we know:

Washington came to Kentucky with a reputation for versatility and rebounding. At training camp last week, he proved to be one of the most positionless players on the court, a hybrid forward with a mean streak in the lane and an impressive shooting range all the way to the three-point line.

What we’d like to see:

Calipari admitted on KSR last week that Washington is so versatile he’s still trying to figure out how best to use him.

“I’m still trying to figure him out. I want some people to tell me, professional people, what they want him to look like. I’ll need some help because I’m still – like, I’m going to ask him this question today, ‘Alright PJ, the game is on the line and we need a game winner. Where do I give you the ball? You tell me. Where do I give you the ball where you’re getting fouled or scored. How are we doing it?’”

Sneak peek:

 Immanuel Quickley

What we know:

Quickley is one of two point guards Calipari has offered in the 2018 class and, judging by his interview with Evan Daniels this morning, could be the first 2018 player to commit. Down to Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, and Miami, Quickley confirmed to Daniels that Kentucky is “definitely” his leader, which is a good thing because he would be an excellent player to build the class around. At 6’3″, Quickley uses his speed and length to burn teams in transition, while keeping them honest from the outside.

What we’d like to see:

A commitment? That may sound obvious, but Quickley wants to announce his decision before his senior season, and two more weeks under Calipari may seal the deal for the Cats. Jerry Meyer recently called Quickley a hybrid of John Wall and Brandon Knight in terms of Wall’s frame and speed and Knight’s scoring ability. As a 2018 player, I’ll be curious to see how he leads college players against international competition.

Sneak peek:

 Romeo Langford

What we know:

Kentucky is one of many blue chip programs in the hunt for the New Albany native, the best shooting guard in the 2018 class. Langford is an exceptional scorer, able to put it in the basket from anywhere on the court.

What we’d like to see:

Duke, Louisville, and Kentucky are early leaders for Langford, which makes the next few weeks absolutely huge for the Cats’ chances. Not only will Langford have a chance to experience Calipari’s coaching firsthand, he’ll be playing alongside two Kentucky players and two other potential commits. Langford told Ben Roberts Calipari is already making a good impression.

“I like the way he coaches,” he said. “He doesn’t let you slide on anything. Little things like catching the ball with two hands. Little things like that – that’s what makes you better as a player.

“It kind of gives him a head start. I get to see how he coaches, and I get to see if I like the way that he teaches his kids.”

Regardless, don’t expect a decision from Langford anytime soon; he says he’ll cut his list of schools to seven at the end of the summer, but doesn’t seem in a rush to do anything past that.

Sneak peek:

 Cameron Reddish

What we know:

Reddish recently cut his list to Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Arizona, Maryland, Miami, UCLA, and UConn. Reddish is a lot like Kevin Knox in terms of versatility, a guard’s game in a forward’s body. Like Knox, he’s smooth, and according to ESPN’s scouts in Colorado Springs, naturally unselfish, with an instinct for sharing the ball and creating for others. So far, Calipari has been impressed.

“The one kid can play one, two, three, four, five. I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” Calipari told reporters last week, via Kyle Tucker. “The kid can play every position. I mean, he’s skilled and sees it. He’s good.

What we’d like to see:

I’m looking forward to seeing how Reddish’s game contrasts with Kentucky’s other primary target at small forward, Zion Williamson. As he’s proved in countless YouTube mixtapes, Williamson is not afraid to dominate the lane, whereas Reddish may be more of a pass-first forward. It’ll be interesting to see how his game develops over the next few weeks and to what extent he credits Calipari for the improvement. Duke’s considered the favorite so far, so Calipari’s influence could help the Cats make up some major ground.

Sneak peek:

How to watch the FIBA World Cup

Team USA’s schedule during the preliminary rounds:

  • Saturday, July 1: USA vs. Iran, 11:30 AM ET
  • Sunday, July 2: USA vs. Angola, 12:15 PM ET
  • Tuesday, July 4: USA vs. Italy, 10:30 AM ET

From there, the round of 16 begins. All games will be streamed on YouTube and, if possible, embedded on KSR. Stay tuned for more FIBA World Cup coverage, including reports from our very own correspondent, Sofie Tapia.

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