By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
With the addition of Immanuel Quickley’s name on the list of players that definitely will not be returning to UK next season how important is it for John Calipari to add some experienced graduate transfers to the roster for next season?
To help with the loss of guards Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey and Quickley, Calipari has already secured the commitment of Davion Mintz, a graduate transfer point guard from Creighton, but what about replacing the big men on the roster?
Although neither Nick Richards nor EJ Montgomery have confirmed that they won’t be returning to UK next year it seems a forgone conclusion by most that when the season hopefully starts in late October their names will not be on the roster. If that is true that means UK will have lost Nate Sestina to graduation, Khalil Whitney to transfer and Richards and Montgomery to the NBA.
If that is the case how important is it for UK to pick up a graduate transfer like Matt Haarms, a 7-3 center from Purdue, and could he actually help the Cats next season? Haarms, who will be a senior next season, played three seasons for the Boilermakers and averaged 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds to go with 2.1 blocks in an average of 20 minutes per game. He also shot 63 percent from the floor but only 28 percent from 3-point range.
While those numbers aren’t extremely impressive for a 7-3 center, especially the blocks and rebounds, there are several things that Haarms does well that could benefit the Wildcats next season.
Since UK made the final list of 10 preferred schools for Haarms for next season let’s take a look at what he does well and what areas of his game don’t look so great when matched up with how UK plays.
First of all on the plus side, he is very skilled in the pick and roll game on offense. At 7-3 teams cannot afford to hedge off of him to cover the roll man exclusively or they will get burned for an easy dunk every time. That means if he were to come to UK the incoming group of freshmen guards would have great opportunities to score off the pick and roll which is a Calipari staple. He also has a decent post up game on the low block and can score with either hand. He cleans up misses around the basket but I wouldn’t call that a strong suit of his.
Now for the downside, he is not extremely quick or athletic and would have trouble guarding players in a positionless defense similar to what Calipari likes to run. He doesn’t seem to rebound well due to his lack of quickness around the basket. He can play a physical brand of basketball but not for 32 or more minutes. He runs the floor on the break but is not going to be a player that can consistently get out and finish with an alley-oop off of a pass from one of the ballhandling guards.
Overall, I would say that as a player Haarms could help Kentucky with limited minutes as a big man around the basket on the offensive end in the pick and roll but would probably be a defensive liability with the type defense Calipari likes to play. His limited foot speed and quickness wouldn’t allow him to guard very many players away from the basket.
Overall if Haarms does decide to select UK as his final basketball destination in my opinion he would be a serviceable role player that could increase his visibility in college basketball and with some work might even be able to build off of a year at Kentucky and find a spot on an NBA roster in the future. After all, with all things being said, it’s awfully hard to coach size and speed and he certainly has the size, if not the speed.