By LARRY VAUGHT
What if Immanuel Quickley surprised most of us and decided not to keep his name in the NBA draft and came back to Kentucky for a junior season? Could he come back and be UK’s primary point guard and show NBA scouts/coaches that he can handle that role?
“He could,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
However, Calipari was a lot more interested in touting the remarkable improvement Quickley made as a sophomore that led to him being named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
“I’m so proud of of Immanuel, and I told the team this: On his wall, on his mirror in his bathroom in the lodge, his goal for this year was to be a starter. Was to be a starter! From that, he became (SEC) Player of the Year as voted on by the coaches, who had to play against him. Player of the year in our league,” Calipari said.
The coach then got back on the point guard issue and noted that Jamal Murray only played point guard about 15 percent of the time at UK and has done fine in the NBA. He estimated Quickley played point guard five to eight percent of the time last season because UK had Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey, two projected first round NBA draft picks, playing point guard.
“The other two guys in front of him were better in pick-and-rolls and creating shots for their teammates. They weren’t a shot creator like he was, so the team used that strength and exploited that in him,” Calipari said.
“But he couldn’t guard a year ago. If you remember, he couldn’t stay in front of anyone. Now all of a sudden he became one of our best defenders and he would be in the huddle saying, ‘I got so and so. Let me guard him,'” Calipari said.
“Again, yes, would we be a better team, him being a point guard on this team coming back? Yes. But that’s not why he should make a decision. His decision is, is this the right time? Am I ready to succeed in that league? Am I mentally ready? Which I know he is. Am I physically ready? Yeah. Have I mastered my skills the way I need to?
“That’s the decision he would have to come back to. I think, again, one of the great kids that i’ve ever coached. One of the most grounded young men that I’ve ever coached.”