By UK ATHLETICS
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley was the team’s leading scorer and go-to player in clutch situations and for that he was named ESPN’s “Breakout Star” of the 2019-20 college basketball season.
ESPN noted that, “something flipped in late December, and Quickley became not only the go-to-guy for the Wildcats but the best player in the SEC. Along with Nick Richards, Quickley was the spark to Kentucky’s hot stretch in conference play and is the player John Calipari counts on in big moments.”
Quickley is continuing to rack up postseason honors by the day. The major honors he’s won so far include:
- ESPN’s Breakout Star of 2019-20
- CBS Sports Third-Team All-America
- Bleacher Report Third-Team All-America
- SEC Player of the Year (Coaches)
- All-SEC First Team (Associated Press/Coaches)
- USBWA All-District IV Player of the Year
- USBWA All-District IV Team
- Three-time SEC Player of the Week
Quickley’s season will go down as one of the greatest development stories of the Calipari era. The Maryland native played in all 37 games during the 2019 Elite Eight season, but he did so primarily from a reserve role. After starting seven of the first eight games of the season, Quickley came off the bench the rest of the season and averaged 5.2 points per game with 30 3-pointers in 18.5 minutes per game.
One of four key returners on the 2019-20 squad, Quickley was expected to play a much larger role this season, but no one predicted he would be the SEC Player of the Year. He wasn’t picked for any preseason all-conference teams or player of the year watch lists.
Quickley’s steady approach and belief in what coaches call “the process” proved everybody wrong. He scored in double figures in 26 of the 30 games he played in and topped the 20-point plateau in eight. Overall, he averaged a team-high 16.1 points per game and was Kentucky’s best scorer and go-to option down the stretch.
The 6-foot-3 guard made a team-high 62 3-pointers — including making a 3 in 28 games and 11 straight to end the season — and shot a team-high 42.8% from behind the arc after a slow start.
The sophomore ended the season on a career-best 20-game double-figure scoring streak, the best run since Monk scored in double figures in 30 straight games during the 2016-17 season. During the 20-game stretch, Quickley scored 20 or more points eight times and made three or more 3-pointers seven times, including a career-high eight at Texas A&M.
Quickley won SEC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks in late February/early March, becoming the first Wildcat in school history to win SEC Player of the Week consecutively (dating back to the 1984-85 season). He won three times total this season.
During the 20-game stretch of scoring in double figures, Quickley averaged 18.6 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game and 50 3-pointers while shooting 47.2% from long range. He poured in a career-high 30 points at Texas A&M and sunk a career-best eight 3-pointers to become the first UK player with 30 or more points since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 on Jan. 30, 2018, vs. Vanderbilt. He’s also the first player with back-to-back 25-plus-point games since Monk from Feb. 25-28, 2017. The eight 3s tied Monk, Jamal Murray and Eric Bledsoe for the most 3-pointers in a game during the Calipari era.
What those stats don’t fully reveal is just how clutch Quickley was. He became Kentucky’s go-to scorer late in games, breaking the will of more than a handful of opponents with daggers from beyond the arc and clutch free throws.
Two of the best examples were at LSU and at home vs. Florida. He scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which included making all five field-goal attempts and dishing a pair of assists. At home vs. Florida, he scored 22 points in the second half, including 20 of Kentucky’s 28 points when the Wildcats fell behind 40-33. He finished with a game-high 26 points vs. the Gators.
Over the course of UK’s eight-game winning streak in February, in the second half alone, Quickley averaged 14.9 points, shot 56.4% from the field, 57.7% from 3-point range and 93.3% from the charity stripe.
Quickley made 92.3% at the free-throw line, which ranks second in school history, just behind Tyler Herro’s school record set in 2018-19 of 93.5%. That mark ranked first in the SEC and third in the nation. He enjoyed four different stretches of 17 or more consecutive makes (with a high of 24 straight and was 30 of 31 at the free-throw line this season when it was a two-possession game at any point with 3:00 or less to go or the game is in overtime.
Mirroring his even-keel approach, Quickley was Kentucky’s most consistent performer in hostile territory. He averaged a team-best 19.1 points in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 29 3-pointers (on 59.2% shooting) in UK’s 10 true road games.