UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky freshmen draw lofty comparisons to NBA All-Stars

Russell Westbrook. John Wall. Charles Oakley.

What do those three players have in common?

All three have been NBA All-Stars. And all three attracted comparisons to current University of Kentucky freshmen on Wednesday.

When asked during an ESPN teleconference about the pro prospects for UK’s Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, analysts Seth Greenberg and Dick Vitale held little back.

“It’s hard to say which is going to be the best,” Greenberg said. “Monk is kind of a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. I think Fox is a guy that’s just so explosive in the open floor. I want to say John Wall or whoever. And I think Bam could end up being a Charles Oakley-type player. They’re all going to be very good NBA players.”

Vitale said Fox has “incredible potential” defensively and called Monk’s 47-point game against North Carolina “the best performance ever, ever for me, by a freshman in a major game.”

“I think both kids are going to be multi-, multi-millionaires, baby, big time. I’d like to be their agent, man. I’d love to be their agent.”

Of Adebayo, Vitale said, “I don’t think we’ve seen really anywhere near how good he’s going to be. To me, and I’ve talked to John Calipari about it, I don’t believe he gets enough touches around the basket. I think he’s got to get the ball more inside. He’s got good top-step moves.”

Vitale said the trio possess a unique quality that could take them far.

“I’ve been around as a coach, and I’m telling you, there are a lot of guys maybe that have star potential ability, but they aren’t willing to listen. They aren’t coachable. These three kids respond. They’re not worried about stats. ... Calipari takes them out of the game because he took a bad shot, etc. There was no pouting and sulking. Goes back in, does the job. And to me, that’s a quality — when you put that quality with ability and talent and skills and areas you can’t teach, the quickness, jumping ability, you’ve got something special.”

Can offense trump defense?

Greenberg and Vitale were also asked about whether Kentucky’s offense is explosive enough to carry the team to a national title despite the defensive deficiencies Calipari has noted he’s working with his young team to correct.

“You think about that kind of talent, Fox, Monk, I think they’re the best backcourt in basketball. I really do,” Vitale said. “They’re going to have a chance. I mean, they’re going to guard people good enough — maybe not great, but man, they’re going to put pressure on you with the points they’re going to put on the board.”

Greenberg cited North Carolina and UCLA as teams that have more shot makers than Kentucky, a reason UK will need to shore up its defense.

“The number one thing about Kentucky defensively, they’ve got to figure out how to guard a middle ball screen with Bam because they’re getting tortured with it,” he said. “If you think about the loss to Louisville, they absolutely ran a little false motion, they came up and set a middle ball screen and they just attacked them, and if nothing else they’re going to get him in foul trouble.

“I think that an offensive team per se is going to have a chance to win a championship, but there are flaws in Kentucky’s defense now. Last night, their inability to guard the ball, last night their inability to guard ball screens. They’ve got to get better at it, but you know, he’s starting four freshmen, and John knows what they have to get better at.”

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