Three Takeaways From the Blue-White Game Film Room

[] Three Takeaways From the Blue-White Game Film Room

First and foremost, don’t read too much into an intrasquad scrimmage. That is especially true when the team is missing three scholarship players. The Kentucky Wildcats were without Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler, and Lance Ware for Saturday night’s annual Blue-White Scrimmage. Everything else deserves a grain of salt when you don’t have the National Player of the Year and a Bob Cousy Award Finalist.

However, because we are a little crazy in Big Blue Nation, we still need to have some takeaways. The level of play was certainly impacted by three walk-ons having to play significant minutes, but there still were some things that stood out on film. Let’s take a look at three primary takeaways after watching the tape from Kentucky’s Blue-White Scrimmage.

Elite Shot-Makers Make a Difference

Coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have been criticized for a lack of shooting in recent seasons. After finishing 107th in percentage of points coming from three-point range (29.6%) in 2011, a stat tracked by KenPom, the ‘Cats finished higher than 266th in the Calipari era. The 2012 team shot 37.8% from deep, but no team since has eclipsed the Top 100 nationally in three-point percentage. Those stats have a real chance of changing this season.

Kentucky still won’t look like Alabama in terms of volume or Colgate in terms of percentage. However, the overall skill level in Lexington is improved. CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves are elite shooters who put on an impressive display on Saturday night. At the Blue-White game, the two veterans combined to go 9-17 from beyond the arc. Everyone else was just 5-21, but the overall percentage was still better than in year’s past.

These two clips are perfect examples of the shots that Fredrick and Reeves can make. Fredrick moves so well without the ball and has an incredibly quick release. Most opponents won’t go under the handoffs, or be as short as Kareem Watkins, but that three off of the handoff is still a big time shot. As for Reeves, that was a truly elite make. To have Cason Wallace chasing right on his heels and to still have the confidence to shoot, let alone make, that shot is why he has been named MVP of both the Bahamas trip and the Blue-White game.

Adou Thiero & Ugonna Onyenso Look Ready

If Adou Thiero or Ugonna Onyenso were on nearly any other team in the country they would be talked about as instant difference-makers. However, at Kentucky, they are fighting for rotation spots. At the Blue-White game, both looked like players who may force their way into playing meaningful minutes.

Before diving in too deeply, this is an important time to circle back to the first sentence of this article. Part of the reason for Thiero and Onyenso’s success was by being thrust into roles they otherwise would never play. They got to play with and against walk-ons. Also, in the Blue-White game, the stakes simply aren’t as high. Having to play with a scouting report and execute a game plan against another team doing the same is a totally different beast.

Now, with that being said, Saturday night was still incredibly impressive. Just check out these clips below. Thiero has elite size, strength, and body control for an incoming freshman. Going head-to-head against Chris Livingston for most of the night, Thiero honestly outplayed the 5-star recruit. The clip below shows his ability to create something out of nothing and play through contact to finish at the end of his drive. As for Onyenso, the size and length can’t be taught. This is a strong and patient finish that he displays below. It is great seeing him get to the midline and use a shot fake against the bouncy Daimion Collins. Really impressive move from the developing big man.

Improved Skill Leads to a Faster Pace of Play

The Kentucky Wildcats were 150th in adjusted tempo last season according to KenPom. That was just a hair above the national average, but with Sahvir Wheeler at point guard, you would expect a little faster pace. In fairness, when you have an All-American center you don’t mind grinding things out in the half court a little more. Still, it is fair to assume the ‘Cats will push the tempo a little more this season.

Coach Calipari will likely feel more comfortable playing faster because he has more players who can handle the ball and effectively make decisions on the move. Obviously, Wheeler has the keys to the car in transition. However, Cason Wallace has proven to be a more than capable point guard. CJ Fredrick, Antonio Reeves, Chris Livingston, and Adou Thiero are all solid secondary playmakers who can get it and go on the break. Also, Jacob Toppin is looking much more under control and able to go coast-to-coast. You can play faster when you can get a rebound and go instead of always searching for the point guard. Kentucky appears to have several players capable of doing so.

If Jacob Toppin tried to go coast-to-coast like this as a sophomore or junior Coach Cal might have gone onto the floor and stolen the ball from Toppin himself. Now, the game appears to have slowed down for him and he plays with his head up while maintaining control of the basketball. In the clip above, Toppin even slices the floor like a point guard to find an open Cason Wallace on the wing who then delivers a “one more” pass to a wide open CJ Fredrick in the corner. Just five seconds into the shot clock and the Wildcats created an extremely high percentage shot. That is high-level basketball.