Yesterday, thanks to the absolutely rad Funchester whose real name I do not know, whose identity is a mystery to me in all but the fact that this blessed person makes UK games available to those who cannot get them any other way, I got to watch the scrimmage last night. Right, that’s enough background and gratefulness – on to thoughts!
1. It was a lot of fun. It was great to see such a fast team run the ball up and down the court, drive to the basket, slash through defenders. Bledsoe looks like he’s weaving a needle the way he can find cracks in the defense. Wall always looks like he’s having fun, and it’s punctuated by awe-inspiring baskets. Patterson looks just as good as I thought he would (and I had some hiiiigh expectations).
2. There is a long way to go for this young team. Coach Cal has been saying this from the get go, but in his Dribble Drive Motion style of play, there is no room to hide. Players are shown at the best and at their worst. The offense was at times inconsistent, shooting from the 3 point range was mostly awful (more on that in a sec), and the defense still has to get shit right, to pseudo-quote Bledsoe (honestly, Bledsoe is one of my favorite players this year – his attitude, his skill, his straight-forward nature are all just fantastic). This team will get a lot from their exhibition games coming up, and as practices continue, things will improve. I noticed a difference between the scrimmage last night and BBM. I am certain this progress will continue.
3. But don’t let 2 look too bleak. Like I said in 1, the team was having fun, which is one of the most important things (I’m not going to sit here and bullshit about how winning doesn’t matter – teams should strive to be great and they should strive to win). Also, several players really struck me as positive surprises: Darnell Dodson, Daniel Orton, Jon Hood all stepped up to the plate. Look, I’m not going to sit here talking about great Wall and Bledsoe and Patterson and Cousins are (yes, Cousins was inconsistent, but when he was on, he was ON). They get a lot of hype as is. I don’t mean to diminish their performances in the least.
Darnell Dodson is amazing. John Calipari was absolutely right in recruiting this guy. Dodson is a JUCO transfer whose skill lies in making sweet jumpshots. Without him, UK’s three point game would be limited to Harrellson (not to knock on Jorts, his improvement really impressed me, too) and a lucky one from Cousins (I love seeing him try those shots). Dodson was all over the place and led the team in scoring. Crazy, huh?
Daniel Orton often gets over-shadowed by Cousins. This should absolutely NOT be happening. Orton’s knee injury really hurt his rankings his senior year, and as he has healed, his stock has risen. His time with Hell’s Trainer over the summer helped rehab the knee and build up muscle. I can’t wait to see more from him.
Jon Hood gets pushed aside a lot. Far, far, far too often. This guy is a home-grown talent. He was ranked in the top 50 by Rivals when he was in high school, which is impressive on its own. Last night, I got to see that he can hang with the team. Hood was taking and making jump-shots, which is exactly what we need. He also had a few great drives to the rim and showed off exactly why he was Mr. Kentucky Basketball (or whatever the exact title is).
Unrelated to game play, I loved how Cal interacted with the players. You could see a strong mutual respect their. I was also a fan of him bringing Coach Joe B. Hall down to sit with him on the bench. Kentucky is a program steeped in tradition, and the way to make tradition seem alive and not just some bullshit spewed on a page is stuff like this, stuff that ties the current team and atmosphere back to a past. It makes the past vibrant and it gives the present an important context. I loved the gesture on Coach Cal’s part, and it seemed that Coach Hall did, too.
If BBM didn’t get you stoked for the upcoming season and if this scrimmage didn’t get you stoked, then go to a doctor – I don’t think you’ve got a heart. Or a brain.