Kentucky Basketball: 5 Things Learned from the Blue-White Scrimmage
Kentucky fans caught their first real glimpse of this year's Wildcats squad in action on Wednesday as the Blue team defeated the White team in the annual Blue-White scrimmage.
There were many reasons for fans to be excited—not the least of which was the debut of John Calipari's third straight No. 1 recruiting class.
Many questions were answered by Wednesday's performance, and possibly even more were postulated. Either way, there was a lot to take away from the action.
Following are five of the biggest lessons taken away from Kentucky's first live-game action of the year.
Terrence Jones Is Currently the Best Player on the Team
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Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Basketball season has barely started, but Terrence Jones already looks like one of the premier players in the nation.
Okay—Kentucky fans heard the same story last season as Jones dominated the Maui Invitational early on.
Jones then struggled as the season carried on, and virtually disappeared down the home stretch of SEC play—leading fans to wonder which player would be more likely to emerge in 2011.
Well, the answer is honestly neither.
Jones is showing the same sort of dominance he displayed early on last season, but it's also clear that he's transformed into a different player.
He's bigger and stronger, but more importantly, he's a better player. He's no longer simply floating around the perimeter on offense, or throwing up ill-advised shots from beyond the arc. He still has great shooting range, but he has adopted a more attacking mindset and is getting to the rim on a more consistent basis.
On Wednesday, this aggressive nature allowed him to pile up 52 points, while hitting on 24 of 31 shots.
If Jones can maintain this aggressive mindset throughout the season, it will put a ton of pressure on opposing defenses and open up the court for some other players offensively.
Marquis Teague Is Poised to Be UK's Next Great Point Guard
He may not have the flash of John Wall or the offensive skill-set of Brandon Knight, but Marquis Teague has exactly what it takes to become the next great point guard under the tutelage of John Calipari at Kentucky.
Despite having been on campus for only a few short months, Teague already has the look of a guy who has been running the show for years.
It was already a well-known fact that he has upper-level quickness which allows him excel in the open court and beat defenders off the dribble, but Wednesday's scrimmage allowed the freshman point guard to display his superior court vision and passing ability.
Teague facilitated the offense all game long and was constantly creating open looks for his teammates.
The fact that he is already filling the role of facilitator is very encouraging and should help to eliminate some of the freshman learning curve.
Kyle Wiltjer Is a Matchup Problem Offensively
If you were to conduct a poll on who Kentucky's best three-point shooter would be this season, Doron Lamb would likely be the odds-on favorite.
However, Wednesday night's scrimmage may have been enough to sway a few peoples' minds in Kyle Wiltjer's favor.
The 6'9" freshman knocked down almost every open look he was given from three-point land, while proving that his range extended well beyond the arc.
This skill could prove to be quite the problem for opposing defenses as he will usually be defended by low-post players. This will force the opponent's big men to play out of position and consequently free up space around the paint.
And although we didn't get a chance to see much of it, Wiltjer also possesses a very polished post game, including an infamous and proficient hook shot.
This inside-out combination will put a lot of pressure on defenses, especially when taken in combination with the other offensive threats on the rosters.
The Backup Point Guard Spot Is Still Up for Grabs
Although Marquis Teague appears poised to live up to all of the hype and expectations of being a point guard at Kentucky under John Calipari, it is still unclear as to who will run the offense in his absence.
Twany Beckham would appear to be a viable candidate, but he is ineligible to play until second semester.
Doron Lamb may end up assuming most of Teague's responsibilities while he is on the bench, but there are still some concerns about how well he can effectively facilitate the offense.
The dark horse candidate would be Jarrod Polson. He was the starting point guard for the blue team on Wednesday and the offense seemed to flow pretty well while he was in the game—granted he did have Terrence Jones at his disposal.
One of the bigger weaknesses of last year's squad was the lack of a true back-up point guard. This year's team may end up with the same problem unless a guy like Polson or Beckham steps up to the plate.
The Team Still Has a Long Way to Go
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With the blue-white scrimmage in the books, it's safe to say that Kentucky has the potential to become a championship contender by the end of the season.
It's also safe to say that they still have a long way to go before they get there.
It's clear that this year's squad is extremely talented—perhaps the school's most talented squad of the past decade. However, Wednesday's scrimmage also highlighted the team's youth and inexperience.
Players could be seen botching dunks and easy layups, and many of them appeared gassed before half time.
The good news is that these sorts of things should be resolved with enough repetition and practice.
Defense was also at a premium on Wednesday, and although there were a couple of impressive individual performances, team defense in general was lacking. It will take some time before all of the players—especially the freshmen—learn their defensive assignments and responsibilities. Until then, the team's performance could be a bit tenuous.
There's no doubt that this squad has the potential to be special, but it won't happen overnight, and the players shouldn't become discouraged if they face some adversity early on.