No one expresses the greater confidence Isaac Humphries possesses this year better than Isaac Humphries.
After recalling the more experienced players ahead of him last season and his youth (he didn’t turn 18 until Jan. 5), Humphries all but promised he will help restore an inside presence for Kentucky this season.
“I guess this year’s it’s just me and Bam,” he said, the latter a reference to freshman Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. “Bam and I, we’re going to get it done.”
UK Coach John Calipari has talked about how Humphries is “way better” this year.
“He’s a little more self-assured,” Calipari said, “and I can’t help you with that. … He’s got to build confidence to where his teammates want to throw him the ball. I can’t just say, ‘Have confidence in him. Throw him the ball.’
“Well, it doesn’t work that way. He’s doing that himself, and that’s why you look at him out there and you say, ‘Wow.’”
Humphries, who averaged 1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds as a freshman, acknowledged initial doubt that he was good enough to play for Kentucky.
After an offseason dedicated to conditioning and an encouraging word from former coaches in his native Australia, Humphries no longer questions his place on the UK team.
“In Australia, I was talking to my old coaches,” he said. “They were just letting me know how I was back in the day. And it just really, I don’t know, made me remember why I loved it and all that stuff. And I just got a lot of confidence back and determination.
“Playing here, I feel like I very much belong.”
Preseason workouts bolstered this belief.
“I’ve been contributing a lot more than last year,” Humphries said. “Holding my own and all that kind of stuff. It’s all a confidence thing.”
Calipari likened Humphries to former UK big man Josh Harrellson, who struggled until blossoming as a senior. In his final season, Harrellson was a key contributor on a Final Four team.
Calipari said he first thought of Harrellson as he watched Humphries play “below the rim.”
“Then Josh started dunking balls,” Calipari said. “Well, that’s what this kid is doing now. He does not lay any balls in. He’s trying to dunk every ball.”
After reminding reporters that Humphries is the age of a typical college freshman, Calipari lauded the sophomore’s ability to defend pick-and-roll action.
“If you can guard the guards we’re coming at you with, you can guard anybody we’re playing against,” Calipari said.
Heading into this season, the UK coach wants Humphries to be more of a vocal presence on the court.
Humphries tries to hide his youth by growing a beard. During a preseason interview session, the beard looked fuller and darker than the previous year’s whiskers.
“I haven’t had a bare face in years,” Humphries said. “Because I have the face like a 12-year-old. Without this (he stroked his beard), I look like a 5-year-old.”
Although his size (7-foot, 250 pounds) suggests he was made for basketball, Humphries arrived relatively late to the sport.
“Because basketball is not the No. 1 sport in my country,” Humphries said. “So it wasn’t as obvious as it would be here.”
Humphries was 13 when he took a serious interest in basketball. Beginning in elementary school and continuing until today, he’s delved deeply into music.
He plays four instruments (piano, alto sax, trumpet and drums) and sings.
“It’s just a bit of an outlet,” he said while making sure there’s no question about basketball coming first in his life.
Humphries gained a bit of exposure as a musician last season. Sports networks showed him playing piano at UK’s Fine Arts Building.
His teammates appreciate the musical interludes. “They think it’s really cool,” Humphries said. “They all know me really well now, and they know I’m such a different person and that I have just so many different things I like to do.”
Meet the Cats
Today’s stories on Isaac Humphries and Mychal Mulder are the ninth and 10th in a series of 14 on Kentucky’s 2016-17 men’s basketball players.
Coming next: Sacha Killeya-Jones.