With Nick Richards going down in Kentucky’s first exhibition game, John Calipari’s front court is surrounded by uncertainty and a lack of depth. However, the back court in Lexington is a different story.
Returning Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley, and bringing in Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Johnny Juzang, this group is as deep as it gets in the country. And given the development we expect from the returners, it may be the most talented.
NBC Sports seems to think so, as writer Scott Phillips ranked the top 15 back courts in the country with Kentucky coming in at No. 1. He explains how the experience, talent, and complementary skill sets of this group make them the best in the land.
It’s hard to top a perimeter group that boasts four five-star prospects and multiple McDonald’s All-Americans, but it’s become practically the norm at Kentucky.
Ashton Hagans proved himself capable of running an offense and being a lockdown defender last season. The sophomore is hoping to expand his offensive game this season as perimeter shooting will be something to monitor. Tyrese Maxey is one of the most college-ready scorers in the freshman class as he’s also capable of playing with the ball in his hands.
The duo of Hagans and Maxey could also compliment each other nicely with Hagans as a lockdown guy and Maxey focused on bucket-getting. There might not be a better third guard in the country than former McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley as he can help on both ends of the floor. Freshman Kahlil Whitney could get heavy minutes on the wing as he’s a run-and-jump athlete with more skill than advertised.
While I may argue that Whitney is not part of the back court rotation, especially with Richards out with injury, he certainly can fill in there if needed.
There are some really talented groups of guards this season in college basketball, and for Kentucky to be considered the best is really saying something. Kentucky opponents that also appear on the list are Michigan State (No. 2), Florida, (No. 3), and LSU (No. 14).
If Kentucky’s back court develops at a pace we are used to seeing from Kentucky guards, this could be a really special season. The NCAA Tournament is often dominated by the performance of guards, and having such a deep, talented group is very promising in looking ahead to March.