We are one month from Big Blue Madness. Do you know who your Wildcats are?
This year’s Kentucky men’s basketball team is almost entirely new with eight incoming freshmen and only one returning player who saw significant minutes in the Cats’ run to the Elite Eight last season.
Yet, Coach John Calipari’s reputation and another No. 1 rated recruiting class have many preseason prognosticators placing UK in their top 10s, predicting another team that could contend for the national title.
So, who are the Cats? Here’s a quick look at this year’s team.
Key returning players
Metrics: 6-9, 205-pound sophomore forward
Hometown (school): Manchester, N.H. (Wilbraham & Monson Academy)
One thing: Gabriel returned home to Massachusetts and began some intense personal training along with his brother Mabor. In a month, T1 Training touts that Gabriel added 2 inches to his vertical, increased his max bench press by 15 pounds and could do 17 more pull-ups than he could when he walked in the door.
Another thing: Gabriel, born in Khartoum, Sudan, was highly touted out of high school and was considered a top-15 recruit by most services. A sister played basketball for Boston College. His brother Mabor played for a couple of smaller schools and is trying to catch on with a pro team.
Metrics: 6-10, 221-pound sophomore forward
Hometown (school): Chapel Hill, N.C. (Virginia Episcopal)
One thing: Accepted an invitation to Great Britain’s national training camp this summer. His mother, Ley, was born in Great Britain and he has dual citizenship.
Another thing: He was Junior Rank All-American in football as an eighth-grade quarterback. He gave up football his sophomore year.
Metrics: 6-10, 250-pound redshirt sophomore forward
Hometown (school): Auckland, New Zealand (Rangitoto College)
One thing: Played for New Zealand in the 2017 U19 FIBA World Cup, leading the team in points (13.8) and rebounds (9.2) per game.
Another thing: The son of a world champion lumberjack father and a basketball playing mother, Wynyard does both and considers his axe his most prized possession.
Metrics: 6-4, 182-pound freshman guard
Hometown (school): Menifee, Calif. (Roosevelt)
One thing: Outside shooter who hit 94 three-pointers his senior year helping lead his high school to its first state title.
Another thing: Baker most fears not reaching his full potential. His father played at Cal State-Northridge. His sister Anyia played at Grand Canyon.
Metrics: 6-5, 198-pound redshirt freshman guard
Hometown (school): Queens, N.Y. (Putnam Science Academy)
One thing: Diallo enrolled early and practiced with last season’s team as a redshirt. He famously kept Big Blue Nation waiting right up to the midnight NBA declaration deadline before announcing he would turn down what could have been a first-round NBA Draft selection to suit up for UK.
Another thing: Earned a bronze medal along with UK teammate PJ Washington and Coach John Calipari at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup.
Metrics: 6-6, 180-pound freshman guard
Hometown (school): Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (Hamilton Heights)
One thing: Consensus top-50 prospect of 2017 class and ranked as No. 31 overall by Rivals and Scout, he chose UK over Syracuse, UNLV, Kansas, N.C. State, Florida and Texas.
Another thing: His mother, Charmaine Gilgeous, ran track at Alabama and in the 1992 Olympics for the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Metrics: 6-0, 180-pound freshman guard
Hometown (school): Philadelphia (Neumann-Goretti)
One thing: He’s fond of the nicknames Q, Q-Boogie and Day-Day.
Another thing: His most prized possession is the gold medal he won with the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 national team.
Metrics: 6-9, 215-pound freshman forward
Hometown (school): Tampa, Fla. (Tampa Catholic)
One thing: Coach John Calipari celebrated Knox’s surprise commitment to the Cats by dancing on a hoverboard. Knox made his commitment on Kentucky Derby Day, which was late in the signing period.
Another thing: His father, Kevin Knox, was a Florida State wide receiver and part of the 1993 national championship team.
Metrics: 6-11, 240-pound freshman forward
Hometown (school): Kingston, Jamaica (The Patrick School)
One thing: He has his own website at http://iamnickrichards.com/ where he answers questions and encourages people to submit videos on social media on his 30-day workout challenge calendar.
Another thing: Richards also played soccer and names Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo as his favorite athlete.
Metrics: 6-9, 214-pound freshman forward
Hometown (school): Houston (Victory Prep Academy)
One thing: Vanderbilt has five siblings. His sister Jene played basketball at Texas-San Antonio.
Another thing: Ran track in high school, winning district titles in the 100 and 200 meters.
Metrics: 6-7, 236-pound freshman forward
Hometown (school): Dallas (Findlay Prep)
One thing: His full name is Paul Jamaine Washington Jr., but he’s dropped the periods and the junior to be called by his nickname PJ.
Another thing: Both parents, Sherry and Paul Washington Sr., played for Middle Tennessee State in the early 1990s.
Metrics: 6-0, 176-pound sophomore guard.
Hometown (school): Franklin Lakes, N.J. (MacDuffie School)
One thing: Names “SpongeBob SquarePants” as his favorite TV show.
Another thing: His Massachusetts high school team beat Wenyen Gabriel’s team in 2016. Calipari made five three-pointers and scored 17 points in the game.
Metrics: 6-2, 183-pound junior guard.
Hometown (school): Pittsburgh (Mount Lebanon)
One thing: David is a third-generation basketball player. His father and grandfather played for Pitt. His dad, Joe, played there when Calipari was an assistant.
Another thing: David spoke of sitting on the Kentucky bench instead of possibly starting at a smaller school last year. “There are times I miss playing all the time. But then I look at the big picture, and I know I made the right choice.”
Metrics: 6-3, 195-pound redshirt junior guard.
Hometown (school): Cynthiana, Ky. (Transylvania University via Harrison County)
One thing: After playing in 25 games as a freshman for Transy, made transition to walk on at UK where he made six appearances last year
Another thing: Came to Kentucky “to get the degree I want (computer engineering) and also be a part of the Kentucky basketball program, which is really like a dream come true," he said last year.
Big Blue Madness
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 13
Where: Rupp Arena