Kentucky’s second game of a six-game exhibition tour in the Bahamas was supposed to be a bit of a test as they faced French professional team Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket on Monday, but the loaded Wildcats showed some terrifying upside in an 81-58 win.
Playing against a team with seven former Division I players, Kentucky showed how deep and talented they are despite missing junior starting center Willie Cauley-Stein and talented freshman forward Trey Lyles. Freshman center Karl-Anthony Towns may be projected to come off the bench with the return of Cauley-Stein and sophomore Dakari Johnson but with the way he played on Monday, that’s tough to imagine. Towns had 19 points and 10 rebounds in only 21 minutes as he showed off his production and skill inside.
Good luck keep Towns off the floor for a long time with the ability he is showing since the spring. Towns is simply too big and too talented to leave on the bench, not only as a productive scorer and rebounder but a good interior passer.
Junior Alex Poythress also added 16 points and eight rebounds and Johnson had 10 points and four rebounds. The Harrison twins played good overall floor games as well for Kentucky while freshmen Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis each showed flashes of strong play as well. One of the biggest surprises for Kentucky was the play of sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins, who looks more confident on the offensive end of the floor so far on this tour.
Obviously, this is only an exhibition tour, but this Kentucky group seems far more cohesive and also deeper than last year’s team that made the title game before falling to UConn.
It’s a long season against a lot of good opponents, but Kentucky’s 2014-15 season is off to a positive start.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.