Killeya-Jones’ freshman experiences helping him as a sophomore


Kentucky sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones prepares to shoot a basket during the game against Centre College at Rupp Arena on Friday, November 3, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 106 to 63. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

A year ago, Sacha Killeya-Jones didn’t think he would be one of UK’s few returning players on this year’s team.

Killeya-Jones envisioned himself being one of UK’s major role players in his freshman season, as fans have seen happen many times before. However, the exact opposite happened, as Killeya-Jones wouldn’t play a single minute in the second half of the season.

Many things contributed to Killeya-Jones’ slide down the depth chart, including the fact that he was younger than most of the players he was going up against in practice last season.

“His age, he’s now the age of a freshman right now. This is all new to him,” John Calipari cited as a reason for last year’s struggles in a preseason interview.

If one positive came away from last season’s disappointment, it’s that he had a lot of time to correct mistakes that he made last year. A lot of Killeya-Jones’ mistakes were caught on camera, where he was able to specifically see what went wrong.

“I’ve gone back and reviewed different film,” Killeya-Jones said. “What mistakes I was making and what I need to improve on, I tried to take all those things, just work on that and get as ready as possible for this year.”

One of the common trends that Killeya-Jones noticed on the film was the lack of physicality. Killeya-Jones earned minutes last season against the weaker non-conference teams, but when the SEC and NCAA Tournament-caliber teams faced the Cats, Killeya-Jones was often nowhere to be found.

Killeya-Jones knew in the offseason he had to build his strength otherwise he’d go through the same situation he went through last year.

“I had to get stronger, mostly my base, just get more physical, becoming the aggressor in a lot physical situations,” Killeya-Jones said.

In UK’s exhibitions this year, Killeya-Jones’ added strength has been noticed, as he’s come up with several rebounds in the few games played. Calipari said after the game against Thomas More that if Killeya-Jones rebounded the way he did against Thomas More, it’d be hard to keep him off the court.

If Killeya-Jones can carve out a consistent role for himself, he knows he can impact the game in a positive way for the Cats.

“When I really get my game going, I affect the game in a lot of different ways,” Killeya-Jones said. “Blocking shots then going back and forth making multiple efforts on multiple possessions.”

Killeya-Jones also hopes to be a leader for this team, and serve as an example for the freshmen when times get tough during the season.

“I think it’s a good opportunity (being a leader,) I’m going to try to teach them to come in here and be ready,” Killeya-Jones said. “The season is going to hit really quickly, you got to be ready to go.”

There are many things to pay attention to as the new basketball season begins, and watching for Killeya-Jones’ role is one of them. Regardless of how many minutes a game Killeya-Jones plays, he knows he’s improved since his struggles last season.

“I’m a whole different player, I think the Sacha now would enjoy playing against the Sacha last year,” Killeya-Jones said.