Practice report: Takeaways from UK Pro Day

The 2017-18 Kentucky men’s basketball team got its first taste of playing at Rupp Arena on national TV Sunday night when it held its fourth annual UK Pro Day.

The event was held at Rupp Arena for the first time in its history. Three rows of tables were set up along one side of the court with NBA staff members representing all 30 teams in the league on hand to watch and take copious notes. Many of the teams in attendance Sunday will stay in Lexington for another (more normal) practice on Monday.

Below are 10 takeaways from the two-hour practice Sunday night. Please note that all observations and opinions are only those of Metz Camfield.

  • As usual with this event, the energy on the court from the players was good. Lots of encouragement, clapping and overall positive vibes. Rupp Arena usually doesn’t look like it has 23 empty seats during a game, so it was a bit weird to have the guys on the court competing and going through drills with 23,000 empty seats around them. The positive energy and clapping helped to make the empty stands not be so noticeable.
  • As expected, Hamidou Diallo stole the show when it came to the max vertical testing. Diallo, who posted a 44.5-inch max vertical at the NBA Draft Combine in the spring, dropped some jaws again Sunday night at the UK Pro Day.

  • Really liked Quade Green’s passing and shooting during the individual drill work. Instead of just feeding his teammates the ball nonchalantly (they were competing against air at this point), Green added some flare, but was well within his comfort zone. As in, he wasn’t making any passes that could lead to a turnover. What those passes did was add just a bit more energy to the drill. In terms of his shooting, Green’s shot looked pure and repeatable. Coach Cal will be stressing throughout the season – he already has – that this young group must embrace practicing consistently. That means repeating the same shot and motion over and over. Quade will be able to do that with his shot.
  • PJ Washington sure doesn’t look like a freshman. Standing at 6-foot-7, 236 pounds, Washington is a guy who can play anywhere on the floor. That can be said for a number of these guys – much to Calipari’s delight – but with Washington you’re talking about a guy who could play the five and hold his own despite being just 6-7. Calipari said his wingspan is eight inches longer than his height. He’s strong, he’s athletic and he has a motor that when he’s mad and engaged he can take on anyone. Calipari has said him having that mentality is the key for him.
  • Nick Richards’ athleticism and ability to get up off the floor is eye opening. At 6-11, he’s the tallest player on the team, and his footwork and jumping ability make him a strong candidate to be a key piece to UK’s defensive hopes in the paint this season. His offense looks a bit behind his defense, but that will come with time.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who teammates gushed over based on his play in summer workouts, again looked like a really nice player Sunday. A 6-6 guard, Gilgeous-Alexander can get in the lane really well and his length makes him a nice defensive presence for the Cats (he had a nice deflection during the four-on-four portion). When the team did the five-minute shooting drill Gilgeous-Alexander shot 3s from the right wing and during one stretch hit 11 out of 12 attempts.
  • Wenyen Gabriel really got in a zone during the five-minute shooting drill. At one point the sophomore forward hit 15 consecutive shots (some jumpers, some 3-pointers). He also showed the leadership that this team will need from him. Whenever it did get quiet on the floor, Gabriel was one of the first players to encourage his teammates individually and collectively.
  • During four-on-four work the white team was Green, Diallo, Washington and Richards. The blue team was Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones. The drill, which was more of a defensive drill than an offensive drill, showcased the Wildats’ length and versatility. “You gave him a contested jump shot,” Calipari said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
  • From an injury standpoint, freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt did not compete during the UK Pro Day after he injured his left foot during a team skill instruction session on Sept. 29. Freshman guard Jemarl Baker also did not participate Sunday due to a knee injury. He is day-to-day.