Before Kentucky played each game in the Bahamas, Willie Cauley-Stein cut sharply. He ran smoothly. He dunked effortlessly. Anyone watching his separate-and-controlled workouts had to be reassured. Offseason ankle surgery would pose no problems for Cauley-Stein this coming season.
This reassurance overshadowed another encouraging development, albeit one of a more personal nature. To notice this, you first had to realize Cauley-Stein was not alone on the court.
Teammate EJ Floreal cut, ran and sweated alongside his more celebrated teammate.
When asked how the workouts helped him, Floreal said, "All the coaches said I improved so much. Jay Bilas said I looked great. So I think it went really well for me. ... It felt like people are finally going to notice. ...
"For somebody like Jay Bilas, who's watched the best of the best back to LeBron (James) in high school or even Kobe (Bryant) in high school before that, for him to say I look good and I'm improving and he's pulling for me, that was really big."
Floreal knows he must do a lot of improving to someday make an impact as a Kentucky player. The son of Olympic-caliber track athletes, he took up basketball relatively late.
His father, UK track coach Edrick Floreal, summed it up. "EJ is a phenomenal athlete," he said this past summer. "He just needs to learn the game."
The elder Floreal noted a telling difference in excelling in track as opposed to basketball. The latter requires much more skill development and repetitive drills. Or, more "reps," to use the vernacular of athletics.
"I tell him all the time, he can come to track and be a star right away," Edrick Floreal said. His son could be "fantastic" in sprinting and jumping events, he said.
"Then again," he added, "Michael Jordan could have been a world-record holder in the long jump."
EJ Floreal wants to be a basketball player. That's why he joined Cauley-Stein's workouts each day.
"Smart idea to get in there," his father said. "He just needs to fall in love with getting reps in and knowing his role."
A dawning realization led EJ Floreal to ask to join Cauley-Stein's workouts. The thought process began when Coach John Calipari proposed the idea of using five-man platoons in the Bahamas.
When Calipari used only two five-man platoons in the first exhibition game, and Floreal was not included, a decision had to be made.
"I decided I didn't want to sit around for a week and change, and do nothing," he said.
Assistant coach Kenny Payne assured Floreal that Calipari would not mind if Cauley-Stein had company in the individual workouts.
"If I couldn't improve on the court, I was going to improve by working out with Willie," Floreal said.
Floreal, whom Calipari awarded a scholarship for this season, is the latest of many Kentucky players who seemingly could mull casting their basketball lot with an elite program rather than increasing the odds of playing by going to a program at a lower level.
"That's never really crossed my mind," Floreal said. "I mean, everybody has a chip (on their shoulder). Mine is I want to really prove that I can play here. I don't want to run from a challenge. ... You don't know when it's going to come, but I think my time here is going to come."
Floreal has seen how the fates can join the man and the moment. Jon Hood at Mississippi State last season. Jarrod Polson against Maryland two years ago.
"You've just got to be ready for it," he said. "That's another reason why I worked so hard in the Bahamas. I just wanted to make sure that even there, maybe somebody just wasn't playing well or got hurt and I had to go in, I was ready."