UK basketball team starts season with overseas experience


Kentucky freshman guard Hamidou Diallo guards Thomas More junior forward Ralph Stone during the game against Thomas More at Rupp Arena on Friday, October 27, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 103 to 61. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

While involvement in the NBA is a staple for UK basketball players, another element of professional competition helps the Cats become better players while still wearing blue and white. This summer, four Cats got to add red to that color scheme as three represented the United States and one represented Great Britain in international competition.

Most notably, redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo and freshman forward P.J. Washington took to the court to represent the U.S. in Cairo, Egypt. They played for the USA men’s basketball U19 team, coached by UK’s own John Calipari.

The two young stars shined, as Washington started all seven games and Diallo started in six. Washington led all American scorers, averaging 12.9 points a game. Diallo was third with 10.9 points per game.

“PJ’s [Washington] a beast and I don’t know how you guard him,” admitted Calipari after the team’s win against Italy in the team’s third game. “If he gets an angle by you, he’s tough to stop. And he made his free throws today. He’s playing the way we need him to play.”

The team advanced to the semifinal round of the tournament, where they fell to eventual champion Canada 87-99. Canada was led by high school standout and UK recruiting target R.J. Barrett, who scored 37 in the game against the USA.

Current UK players weren’t the only ones involved in the overseas affair, as 2018 commit Immanuel Quickley started all seven games for the USA, averaging 6.7 points and 2.4 assists.

Outside of Egypt, several other Cats were involved in competition overseas as well. Calipari’s son, sophomore guard Brad Calipari, competed in Croatia on a team of quality collegiate athletes as they played against local teams in the region. Calipari played in the Global World Academy and averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3 rebounds per game.

Finally, former McDonald’s All-American Sacha Killeya-Jones attended a training camp in Great Britain toward the end of the summer, trying to earn a spot on Great Britain’s FIBA Eurobasket 2017 team. While he didn’t make the roster for this year’s Eurobasket team, he gained valuable experience playing against the best players Great Britain had to offer.

With about a quarter of UK’s roster playing international basketball over the summer, several members of the team have gotten accustomed to playing with and against professionals.