Grading the starting Cats


Kentucky players huddle up as head coach John Calipari walks back to the bench during the game against Kansas on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Chase Campbell

The season is nearing its end, and the UK men’s basketball team has had plenty of time to grow and develop. While there is still plenty more basketball to play, including in the postseason, I’ve taken the time to assess and grade the performance of each player this season.

Keep in mind that these grades do factor in their overall expectations and talent level, as P.J. Washington will obviously be graded on tougher criteria than Ashton Hagans.

Ashton Hagans | PG | B

Ask me this question a month ago, and Hagans would be in the stratosphere of this grade. His on-ball defense in the months of December and January was better than just about anybody in the country, and he was progressively improving as a playmaker in every game. Recently, he’s been in a slump, and his grade suffers because he’s succumbing to being timid. Aggressive Ashton is the best Ashton, and it’s been a while since he’s been spotted.

Tyler Herro | SG | A-

Herro has become the most well-rounded player on this Kentucky team not named P.J. Washington. He defends, rebounds (13 against Tennessee!) and can create his own shot. He came into Lexington as just a scorer, but he’s become one of the most valuable assets for Kentucky, especially on the road. He averages 16 points a game away from the confines of Rupp Arena, and he’s come up clutch on multiple occasions.

Keldon Johnson | SF | B-

Keldon Johnson gets buckets, yes. However, he’s become so inconsistent compared to the beginning of the season that it’s beginning to become a liability. It’s not a shock to see him shoot under 30 percent for a game, but get himself to the free throw line. His energy is contagious, but it isn’t always around. His teammates have to encourage and push him if he gets in a slump, as he often can’t provide all that energy himself. When he’s on, though, he’s a scary sight. His expectations as a defender and a consistent player hurt his grade here.

P.J. Washington | PF | A+

What’s there to say about Washington that hasn’t been said? He’s the best shooter from outside on the team right now, his jump hook is unstoppable, his bull moves look like LaMarcus Aldridge and he’s a very capable shot blocker and rebounder. There just isn’t anything that Washington does on the basketball court poorly. There’s no glaring weakness to exploit. You just have to survive him as an opponent.

Reid Travis | F/C | B

Travis had to do a lot of adjusting to come to the SEC. The bigs are more athletic and more imposing, and Travis has struggled at times. That’s no fault of his, because he just isn’t built to take them on, but it does hurt his overall grade. There are games when he simply vanishes on offense because he gets swallowed up. The main thing going for him is his defense, specifically against No. 1 Tennessee. He took on Grant Williams as a defensive assignment to make Washington’s job easier. He’s been the solid complimentary piece that does the dirty work when Washington doesn’t always have to. His struggles against athletic bigs counts against him heavily, though. There are a lot of tendencies he’s struggled to break.