Cats Showcase Talent at Open Practice

Photo Gallery | CoachCal.com: Six Takeaways from Open Practice

For the second year in a row, Kentucky held an open preseason practice.

For the second year in a row, NBA personnel flocked to the Joe Craft Center to watch.

With ESPNU televising the practice nationally, 30 NBA teams were represented with more than 80 personnel – from assistant general managers to scouts – indicating beforehand they would attend. The practice began with the Wildcats – absent the injured Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis – being measured in the 3/4-court sprint and agility drills.

From there, it was a normal UK practice, starting with the Perfection Drill that John Calipari uses almost every day. Spot shooting, 3-on-3 scrimmaging, pick-and-roll work, the five-minute shooting drill and more competitive drills followed in order.

Participating throughout in a welcome sight for UK fans watching at home, Alex Poythress was back on the floor after the knee injury that ended his 2014-15 season in December. Poythress is still rounding into form, but Calipari said he is around 75 percent.

UK’s substantial talent was on display, headlined by Skal Labissiere. The freshman showcased the skill and athleticism belying his 6-foot-11 frame that has him atop Draft Express’ 2016 NBA Mock Draft. He is joined in the first round of that mock draft by Jamal Murray (No. 6), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 18) and Marcus Lee (No. 28).

Tyler Ulis is not on that list, but the sophomore point guard stood out on Sunday. He commands the respect of his teammates and dictates the action whenever he is on the floor. Combined with Murray and Briscoe – both point guards as well – UK figures to have good ball-handling on the floor at all times.

Before the practice, UK players participated in many of the same drills they’ll face in the pre-draft process and scouts were supplied with the results. Incredibly, six of the 10 Wildcats measured (Alex Poythress and UK’s walk-ons were not) measured with a maximum vertical leap of 39 inches or more.

The practice started a busy week for the Wildcats. On Wednesday, Kentucky will hold its annual media day. On Friday at 7 p.m., fans will flood Rupp Arena for Big Blue Madness.