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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / July 12.
  • NBA Teams Turn Out to Watch Youngest Kentucky Team Ever at Pro Day

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    All 30 NBA teams were invited to Kentucky’s annual Pro Day on Sunday to watch the youngest team John Calipari has had in his nine seasons in Lexington.

    This year’s Wildcats will have to replace 92.6 percent of their scoring and 76.6 percent of their rebounding from a year ago. Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard are the only current players who played in games last season.

    “It’s hard, young kids,” Calipari said on ESPNU. “I’m having fun with it, but it’s hard.”

    There is no projected No. 1 pick — or even a Top-5 type pick — on the current Kentucky roster, but they do have multiple projected draft picks, as usual.

    ESPN has sophomore guard Hamidou Diallo projected as the No. 17 pick and freshman center Nick Richards at No. 22.

    NBADraft.net has freshman forward Kevin Knox at No. 9, Richards at No. 12, injured forward Jarred Vanderbilt at No. 25 and Diallo at No. 26.

    The 6-foot-5 Diallo should be an interesting story all year. He enrolled at Kentucky in January but only practiced with the team. He did not play in any games. He then tested the NBA Draft waters before deciding at the last minute to return to campus.

    “I’m a totally different player,” Diallo told ESPN’s Seth Greenberg. “I just understand the game more. I would say that’s the biggest thing that changed. Before I used to just run up and down and just think it’s about just playing basketball. But it’s different reads and different things that I learned in my half a semester up here so it’s just been great.”

    Diallo said he benefited from playing against lottery picks De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk last year during practice. He also spent the summer training and playing with Calipari on the USA U19 team that also featured teammates Knox and P.J. Washington and won the bronze medal in Egypt.

    “I would just say competing against two guards like that, every day day in and day out,” he said of Fox and Monk. “Both of those guys were two lottery picks and something that I focus on being. But just going after those guys, they’re both great players, and they’re two different players. So it’s tough reads but that made me better defensively and just made me more confident.”

    Monk said he believes Diallo will take a “humongous step” this season.

    “Yeah that’s my guy,” Monk told in June. “I think he’ll take a humongous step. A lot of people have seen the player that he is…He’s a leader, just wants to win so I think they’ll be pretty good.”

    Told that he was a “city guard,” Diallo, a Queens native said he hoped to bring some of that toughness to this young Kentucky team.

    “I mean city guards are just tough guards who compete and two-way type of players,” he said. “Some city guards are Lance Stephenson, Kenny Anderson, Isaiah Whitehead, those are a few guys who made it big and are competitors.”

    As for Knox, he said the first four practices have been eye-opening for the freshmen.

    “These are definitely the hardest practices I’ve ever had in my life,” he said on ESPNU. “In high school I practiced really hard, but Coach Cal pushes you to a different level and gets you outside your comfort zone. That’s one of the reasons I came here because I knew he’d push me really hard.”

    Knox said he wants to work on getting stronger and more consistent shooting the ball.

    “A lot of people say we lack shooters but I think we’re a really good shooting team,” Knox said. “My shot’s gotten better, I’m getting stronger in the weight room so a lot of things I’m working on I’m getting better at.”

    Knox’s father won a national championship in football at Florida State in 1993 and he said he’d love to add some of his own hardware this year.

    “We want No. 9 and we all talk about that in the locker room,” he said. “The fans want another championship since 2012 so my dad got like four different rings in his closet. I used to play when I was little and put them on.

    “So it would be good to get my own ring, I could show it off to him. He’s really pushed me really hard, he has a really great work ethic and he’s really passed it down to me.”

    Kentucky, meantime, has another big weekend on tap next weekend with “Big Blue Madness.” They will host key 2018 recruits Bol Bol, Darius Garland and Zion Williamson, along with 2019 forward James Wiseman.

    “I think we should get some commitments,” Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky’s lone 2018 commit, said Sunday in Colorado at the USA Basketball minicamp. “Before high school basketball season, we should be good.”

     

     

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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