In this edition of Three-Point Arc, we take a closer look at three things we learned from ESPNU’s live broadcast of Kentucky’s practice on Sunday night.
Senior forward Alex Poythress appeared to be running the floor well during various segments of practice, but admitted to Andy Katz during a sideline interview that he’s not totally out of the woods yet with his rehabilitation from knee surgery. Poythress said he’s not fully participating in all of the Cats’ agility-based drills at this time, but he did scrimmage.
At times, he looked somewhat unsure of himself. In fairness, anyone would be in the same circumstance. It will be interesting to watch as Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White Scrimmage are conducted later this month if Poythress has full confidence in his reconstructed knee.
For UK to reach its goals this season, the Cats need the reckless abandon version of Alex Poythress, crashing the boards, throwing down putback dunks and rejecting transition shots in a manner that no one else on the roster can do.
Many Kentucky fans got their first extended look at Haitian big man Skal Labissiere’s exceptional offensive skill set. The 6-foot-11 center wasn’t eligible to play in many of the all-star games that featured his highly-regarded teammates, so he’s still something of a mystery to Big Blue Nation.
There’s a reason why many scouting services consider him the top player in the Class of 2015 and a strong possibility to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. During the two-hour ESPNU broadcast, he showed a little bit of everything on the offensive end of the floor: a silky-smooth 15-foot jumper; a high-flying putback jam; a deadly up-and-under move over teammate Marcus Lee that made Labissiere look like the crafty veteran and Lee the freshman.
Labissiere will, inevitably, draw comparisons to former Cat Anthony Davis due to his size, wiry frame and elite potential. That won’t be entirely fair because we know now that Davis is one of the five best players on the planet, but one can make the argument that Labissiere is more advanced on the offensive end of the floor at the same stage in their respective development. Imagine what he might look like three years from now.
Ulis in Command
Calipari has gone on the record that he believes sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis could be the best backcourt player in college basketball this season.
After watching this practice, one can see flashes that support that statement. Ulis was in total command during the team’s 3-on-3 games, operating at a different speed setting than his young teammates. He was hitting teammates with crisp passes for assists. He was knocking down the open 3 when it presented itself. He was driving to the basket and finishing strong against taller, longer defenders.
His confidence level belies his 5-foot-9 stature. Many scoffed when Calipari suggested last year that Ulis may be joining the NBA ranks as well, but would anyone be too surprised after what we saw from him as a freshman and the expected improvement from Year 1 to Year 2?
And with the shooting/scoring abilities of fellow guards Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Mychal Mulder and Charles Matthews, could it have Coach Cal thinking three-man backcourt this season?
Jeff Drummond is a former sports editor of the Harlan Daily Enterprise who now covers University of Kentucky athletics.