Record Crowd Treated to Speed Exhibition in Blue Win
Malik Monk said it every chance he got in the preseason: Kentucky, with the makeup of its backcourt, was going to play fast.
The way things went in Friday night’s Blue-White Game, it seems Monk knew what he was talking about.
Led by Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Dominique Hawkins, the Blue team raced to a 110-94 victory in front of a record crowd of 16,059.
“It was fun,” Fox said. “We went out there, had fun. We competed.”
Fox was the quickest of the bunch. The freshman point guard has drawn comparisons to John Wall from his coach for his speed and he did not disappoint in that regard. Fox created fast-break opportunities that didn’t even seem to be there in scoring 31 points. He added 12 rebounds and six assists.
“You saw the speed of De'Aaron Fox,” John Calipari said. “One time he started walking. I said, ‘Go!’ Second and a half (later) he shot a layup. What just happened?”
The Houston native went toe to toe with sophomore Isaiah Briscoe for most of the evening, allowing fans a glimpse of the matchup that has been intense since the start of practice. Briscoe did plenty of damage of his own for the White team with a game-high 39 points and 10 assists. And in an encouraging development, Briscoe shot 9 of 12 at the free-throw line.
Briscoe, however, just didn’t have as much firepower around him as Fox did.
Hawkins, playing well with his senior season about to begin, poured in 22 points and looked as confident offensively as he ever has at UK. Not talked about as much as others, Hawkins served notice that he will play an important role no matter how talented his backcourt mates may be.
“Dom is going to be a solid player every time he gets on the court,” Monk said. “He knows what to do. He knows his job. He does it every day. So we just expect a big role. He’ll knock down open shots and just do the right thing.”
Monk is indeed talented. His stat line (26 points, five rebounds, four assists) was impressive, but not nearly so much so as the athleticism he showed on more than one occasion. Most notable were a tremendous tomahawk slam off a feed from Fox and later a seemingly effortless 360 on an uncontested fast break.
“It was insane, but we see that all the time in practice,” Hawkins said of the first slam. “All the time.”
All told, UK’s guards accounted for 141 of the 204 points scored in the annual scrimmage. Bam Adebayo led the big men with 20 points and 12 rebounds. He was joined in posting a double-double by senior Derek Willis, who had 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Isaac Humphries (knee soreness) and Tai Wynyard (left cheek fracture) missed the game and are day to day due to injury.
With an exhibition matchup with Clarion next Sunday at 7 p.m., it’s time for the Wildcats to begin preparing to play real games. That’s why on Saturday Calipari will for the first time put Briscoe, Fox and Monk on the same team.
“We got to figure it out,” Calipari said. “We haven't played them all together. We're going to start tomorrow, will be the first day that I'll play all three of those guys together. Had a great meeting with those three today. We got a lot to figure out. It's going to be organic, as it always is here. We got to figure out different rotations, who plays better with whom.”
Playing together is an exciting prospect for the three dynamic guards.
“Oh, we’ve been trying to do that since we got here,” Monk said. “We’re just ready to work.”
How the rotation shakes out remains to be seen, but there is one thing Calipari sees as a certainty.
“My guess is we would never be on the court without either Isaiah or De'Aaron,” Calipari said. “One of those two, and probably 20 minutes a game will be both of them. Then how do we play?”
First, fast. The rest remains to be seen.