Adebayo ‘getting closer and closer’ to dominant form

Impressive as Kentucky was in three blowouts to start the season, Bam Adebayo was somewhat of a forgotten man – well, as forgotten as a 6-foot-10, 260-pound athletic specimen can be.

With a dynamic backcourt doing the lion’s share of the damage, Adebayo – due to foul trouble and a lack of touches – had been quiet. That’s a big reason why John Calipari directed his guards to force-feed the post in practice this week.

“Just making the guards throw it in,” Adebayo said. “Even though they have open shots, they still have to throw it in.”

Adebayo certainly wasn’t complaining about the policy.

“You know I’m fine with it,” Adebayo said, flashing a big grin.

The effort continued on Sunday evening, with Adebayo and his fellow big men seeing the ball early and often as UK (4-0) coasted to a 93-59 victory over Duquesne. Adebayo took advantage in scoring 12 points and showing off a couple pretty post moves, including jump hooks with both hands.

Freshman forward Bam Adebayo had 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals versus Duquesne. (photo by Chris Reynolds)

Freshman forward Bam Adebayo had 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals versus Duquesne. (photo by Chris Reynolds)

“It’s great,” Calipari said. “He’s getting better every day. Making his free throws. He’s rebounding in traffic. He’s coming up with balls. He’s still got a ways to go but he’s getting better.”

Effort has never been a problem for the tireless Adebayo, who has been limited by fouls in two of UK’s four games. A good number of those fouls have come on the offensive end, specifically when he jockeys for position against smaller defenders. He’s having to adjust in that situation, abandoning his mentality of trying to force his man all the way under the basket.

“Now, the adjustment for him is to just catch the ball,” associate head coach Kenny Payne said. “If you just catch the ball, you’re going to be a problem to guard, so just catch it. You’ve done a good job of fighting for position. You don’t have to get the ball right under the basket. Just catch it and make a strong move.”

Payne is working closely with Adebayo, as he does with all of UK’s bigs. That’s not always fun for Adebayo, but Payne’s track record is beyond reproach.

“Fifty dunks with a medicine ball,” Adebayo said. “We’ve run—he makes us run suicides one day. He’s just hard on us. He has his ways and it’s working for us. So I’m not complaining.”

Complaining about the medicine-ball exercise would be understandable. Dunking with a basketball is a breeze for Adebayo, but doing it repeatedly with a 15-pound object is another story. The first time he did, Adebayo almost didn’t make it out of his dorm the next morning.

“I was kind of sore,” Adebayo said. “I really didn’t want to get out of bed, but we all gotta go to class. I had to be in class.”

The pain is starting to pay off though. And one of the teammates that’s been passing Adebayo the ball sees an even bigger game in his future.

“Like Cal said before, I was getting ready for my breakout game and it happened against Michigan State,” Malik Monk said. “I think Bam’s is coming up because he feels more comfortable in the post. We’re passing him the ball more. I think it’s coming close.”

Coach Cal agrees.

“I thought Bam was outstanding,” Calipari said. “He’s getting closer and closer.”