With Santa Claus hurriedly organizing his naughty and nice lists and gathering all manner of toys for those deserving, it’s time for my Christmas wish list for the Boys in Blue. Although the ‘Cats have been very nice this year (UK’s 7-2 record attests to that), there are a few items needed by the team before the season that matters – SEC and NCAA Tournament play – is upon us.
Without further ado, I present the naughty, nice and everything in-between list for the current players in the winningest program in college basketball history:
Terrence Jones: 32.0 minutes per game: 18.9 points per game: 44.7% field goals (59-132): 34.6% threes (9-26): 10.2 rebounds per game (2.8 off. rebs pg): 1.9 assists pg: 1.8 turnovers pg: 2.2 blocks pg: 1.5 steals pg.
Trending — Over his last three games, Jones has made 15-46 field goal attempts (32.6%), and 3-13 trey tries (23.1%) over his last four games. Jones has recorded four double-doubles on the year. The first three games of the season Jones made only 10-24 free throws (41.&%), in the six games since he’s made 33-51 (64.7%). In Jones’ first four games he averaged 3.8 offensive rebounds per game, in his last five contests he has averaged 2.0.
Under Terrence Jones’ tree, he will hopefully find the consistency that so often eludes even the most talented freshmen. Jones has performed, at times, as well any UK freshman in recent memory, and at other times he has struggled to find that happy place between trying too hard and allowing the game to come to him. Also eluding Jones thus far, is the knowledge that every opponent that suits up against the ‘Cats are juiced to make a name for themselves by bringing down mighty UK.
Brandon Knight — 33.7 mpg: 17.4 ppg: 43.4% field goals (53-122): 33.9% threes (20-59): 75.6% free throws (31-41): 3.7 rebounds pg: 3.7 assists pg: 4.0 turnovers pg: .8 steals pg
Trending — Since posting zero assists and eight turnovers against UConn, Knight has dished out 24 dimes (4.8 pg) and turned the ball over 18 times (3.6 pg) in his last five games. Since making 0-8 three-pointers versus UConn, Knight has made 11-25 long-range attempts (44.0%). Over his last four games, Knight has made 19-20 free throws (95.0%). Knight has grabbed 10 rebounds his last two games. Knight took a season-low eight shots versus Indiana, and a season-high 10 free throws.
In Knight’s stocking a dash of knowing when to take over a game with his shot, and when to get others involved is all that’s needed. Santa Cal has been encouraged over the past two games at how well Knight is accepting his tough love. The freshman from Florida is growing quite nicely into his role as point guard, raising his assist average and shooting percentage at the same time. If Knight will only continue to improve at his current pace, the New Year will bring great satisfaction, indeed.
DeAndre Liggins — 32.8 mpg: 9.9 ppg: 38.4% field goals (28-73): 40.0% threes (8-20): 59.5% free throws (25-42): 4.1 rebounds pg: 2.7 assists pg: 1.4 turnovers pg: 1.4 steals pg.
Trending — Liggins has made 3-6 trey attempts over his last two games. Ligs had a season-high nine rebounds versus Indiana. Liggins recorded 16 free throw attempts versus IU, 10 more than in any other game this year. He has committed only three turnovers over his last four games, compared to nine assists.
For his Christmas gift, Liggins only needs to remember what it is that makes him valuable to his team — Unending hustle, leading the team in floor burns, defensive tenacity and being the experienced leader such a youthful team needs. When he plays like that, he’s the complete present with pretty wrapping paper and a perfect bow.
Darius Miller — 28.3 mpg: 9.8 ppg: 46.9% field goals (30-64): 53.3% threes (30-64): 70.6% free throws (12-17): 4.9 rebounds pg (1.6 off. rebs pg): 1.7 assists pg: 1.4 turnovers pg: 1.1 blocks pg: 1.0 steals pg.
Trending — Since taking 14 shots against UConn (making six), Miller has averaged only six shots per game in the four contests since. Miller has made nine of his last 16 three-point tries (56.3%). He has made 8-10 charity stripe attempts over his last three games. Since grabbing 11 rebounds in the season-opener against East Tennessee, Miller has no more than seven boards in any game since. Miller has handed out four assists over his last two games, but recorded only one steal in his last five games.
For Miller, a dose of selfishness to counterbalance his unselfish nature, and the knowledge that he has been blessed by the basketball gods just as generously as his more heralded teammates, is what he needs this Holiday season.
Josh Harrellson — 23.4 mpg: 5.4 ppg: 61.1% field goals (22-36): 1-2 threes (50.0%): 100.0% free throws (4-4): 9.0 rebounds pg (4.0 off. rebs pg): .7 turnovers pg: 1.1 blocks pg.
Trending — Since going 0-1 from the field versus UConn, Harrellson has made 13-20 shots from the floor (65.0%). Of Harrellson’s 81 rebounds, 36 are of the offensive variety (44.4%). Harrellson has recorded two double-doubles (Boston U & Indiana). The big fella has committed only three fouls over his last two games. Harrellson has turned the ball over only three times in his last five games. He has snagged at least four offensive boards in seven of nine games, recording four double-digit rebounding games.
What Santa needs to bring the perpetually nice Harrellson is a bit larceny for his heart. The now famous BWK – “big white kid” – needs to realize he is capable of performing at a very high level when he allows his aggressive nature to take over, ala the Indiana game. Every night can be a double-double if Harrellson receives this in his Christmas stocking, and the ‘Cats will come much closer to fulfilling their vast potential.
Doron Lamb — 27.1 mpg: 12.0 ppg: 48.0% field goals (36-75): 48.5% threes (16-33): 76.9% free throws (20-26): 2.2 rebounds pg: 1.9 assists pg: 1.1 turnovers pg: .6 steals pg.
Trending — Lamb made a combined 0-7 three-point attempts versus Washington and Notre Dame, in his seven other contests, he’s made 16-26 trey tries (61.5%). In 93 minutes of action over his last three games, Lamb has turned the ball over only once. Lamb has made 10-11 free throws over his last three games. Over his last four contests, Lamb has 10 assists to only three turnovers. Lamb has four steals over his last four games.
The New York native only needs to keep doing what it is he does. Which is make shots, value the basketball, and continue to grow on the defensive end of the floor. Of all the ‘Cats, Lamb and his sweet shooting touch, have come closest to making every day Christmas.
Eloy Vargas — 12.6 mpg: 2.4 ppg: 45.5% field goals (5-11): 75.0% free throws (12-16): 3.2 rebounds pg (1.3 off rebs pg): .8 blocks pg.
Trending — Through his first six games of the year Vargas averaged 14.2 minutes of action, in the last three only 9.3. Vargas has committed only two turnovers all season. He has recorded two steals in his last 19 minutes played. Vargas has attempted zero shots in his last two games.
Santa needs to be extra nice to Vargas. For Eloy, blessed with size and mobility, needs to become more aggressive both offensively and defensively. His dead-eye free throw shooting stroke belies his hesitancy to take shots, and his size and wingspan belie his defensive tendency to reach instead of playing defense with his feet. It’s a process and one Santa can help move along if under his tree, Vargas receives an understanding that his size has given him the opportunity to be a great player, the rest is up to him.
And finally, to Jon Hood, Stacey Poole, and Jarrod Polson, Santa hopefully has for them the fortitude to continue to play hard in practice, knowing the sacrifice will, in the end, be worth the effort. Each have already contributed for the Cats and the encouraging thing for this trio is that with a short bench, any of the three could be called upon at any time. They need to find ever-ready pills in their stockings and take them in large doses the rest of the way.
For all of us, let’s remember what Santa Cal has been saying all season – enjoy the path. As Santa Claus and Rudolph will tell you, it’s the path to the promised land that makes the journey so rewarding.