By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Tyrese Maxey didn’t start Kentucky’s exhibition opener against Georgetown College, but that doesn’t mean much moving forward.
As Kentucky inches closer to the season-opener against Michigan State set for Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in the State Farm Champions Classic, Maxey figures to play a bigger role as junior Nick Richards recovers from a foot injury he suffered in last Sunday night’s exhibition 80-53 win over Georgetown College.
Maxey played 25 minutes against the Tigers and finished with 14 points and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Like most of the guards who have come before him, Maxey is experiencing a learning curve.
“Tyrese is doing fine,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I’m on him hard. It’s a different game when possessions matter more than ever in your entire life. And the reason possessions don’t matter as much as a high school player is because you’re going to have 30 of them one way or another whether you’re bad, good, indifferent. I’m the best player and I’m getting 30 looks.
“I’m getting 25 shots. Well now, every possession matters a little bit more. A pass to the wing with pressure on you matters more. The open jump shot, you’re not getting 25. You’re going to get eight, nine, 10. They matter more. So all that kind of stuff is one of those habits that we’ve got to teach these young kids.”
Maxey played in a three-guard lineup with veterans Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickey and also shared the floor with classmates Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang and veteran newcomer Nate Sestina at various times in the scrimmage.
As Richards heals, Calipari likely will use a three-guard lineup, with Maxey, Hagans and Quickley in the backcourt.
“We could play three guards and be fine,” Calipari said. “I mean, Immanuel (Quickley), obviously Ashton (Hagans) and Tyrese (Maxey), I mean, you’ve got three (six-foot) three-ish kind of guards who have some toughness to them, so you can do it. The issue becomes shot blocking and how we are playing behind those three.”
Last week, Brooks started alongside Richards, EJ Montgomery, Hagans and Quickley and finished with eight points and five rebounds. Calipari said Brooks has “really improved” but wants to see more progress.
“There will be things I’ll pick up (on defense),” Calipari said. “Most of it’s stopping on defense, not being able to come up with the rebound. Defensively, it’s not my man, so you’re not helping us like you have to.”
Brooks agreed with his coach and thought he played “decently” last weekend.
“(I’ve) still a lot of stuff I’ve got to work on — staying in front, ball handling and rebounding,” he said. “I didn’t have enough rebounds as I thought I should have, so there are some things I’ve got to clean up.”
Quickley is one of the veterans willing to help Brooks and the rest of the freshman class.
“I’ve just been trying to pass on what I’ve learned to guys like Keion (Brooks Jr.) and our other new guys,” Quickley said. “I try to help them in any way I can and I’m still learning everyday, too.
“I think they played pretty well today too, I’m sure a couple of them were a little nervous with this being their quote un-quote first game, but I think they’ll be even better next game and continue to get better throughout the season.”
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Gametracker: Kentucky State at Kentucky, Friday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.