Why next year is looking like a 2015 remake for UK basketball


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats drives down the lane during the game against Florida Saturday, January 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Florida defeated Kentucky 66-64. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

We all remember the heartache that was the 2014 national championship and 2015 Final Four, but fans don’t realize we might have another shot at being elite again. Not 38-1 elite, but a caliber to rise to the forefront of college basketball.

Getting the named talent has been something we haven’t done since 2014, and it’s streaking to that point again as we saw Zion Williamson commit to Duke with Cameron Reddish and RJ Barrett.

The current team is tweakable and has the potential of having a lot of the core players back for another run. Players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green and Jarred Vanderbilt have pro caliber potential, but no one knows that coming back would be huge for their growth but a positive for the program.

Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo are for sure leaving for the draft and are not looking back, but what is excellent are the holes we have that could fit into a more team-based approach and not one-on-one offense like we see this year.

With the addition of McDonalds All-American’s Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley, the quickness and strength are going to get better than ever. Johnson is going to fill that missing piece we have this year. A two forward swap is excellent, but has shown its flaws as we saw on Tuesday night against South Carolina. Johnson is built like a PJ Washington before summer camp, and shows promise that could give us more rebounding power.

Also, with Vanderbilt on the verge of coming back, this will allow him to move up to that role next year. With Vanderbilt’s passing, putting him in that Kevin Knox role could open the horizons as we can implement many parts with him getting the ball at the free throw line and allowing the team to work from the inside out.

Then you have Immanuel Quickley. Quickley gives you something like Tyler Ulis did in 2015. Ulis came as a starting point guard off the bench. Getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back and Quade Green, the backcourt looks unstoppable as we can see Wisconsin-native Tyler Herro play the Devin Booker role as a spot shooter in the corners who isn’t afraid to drive the ball.

Can I mention Jemarl Baker? He’s the unknown commodity of this year’s team due to injuries that could come in next year and step up huge for the Cats.

Lastly, we know the backcourt is loaded with shooters and passers, but the frontcourt is where we might see the big jump due to experience. Coming into this year, everyone needed to see more of Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel. Between last year and this year, their bodies transformed. Can you imagine a three-year gritty player in Gabriel? His motor on the floor keeps the team into the close game.

Next, you have PJ Washington. Washington coming back will help him and the program advance in the future. Being that post player this year has opened many lanes to the cup and outside. We all know what happened in the first half of the UT game as he opened Gabriel up for him to go 3-3 from the 3-point line.

Next year’s team has a lot of potentials to do something great. Being focused this year is critical to keep the train rolling, but what can happen without a Zion Williamson player is scary. Look out next year for another run for the championship.