It’ll be a little more than a year before Immanuel Quickley suits up for his first game as a Kentucky basketball player, but a couple of current Cats got a sneak preview of the five-star point guard over the summer.
UK freshmen Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington were Quickley’s teammates on the USA Basketball U19 squad earlier this year — a team coached by John Calipari — and the two Kentucky players came away impressed by Quickley’s game.
The 6-foot-3 prospect from Maryland started all seven games at the FIBA U19 World Cup, averaging 6.7 points and 2.4 assists in 18.3 minutes per game. The even-keeled point guard had the best assist/turnover ratio on the team and was behind only Diallo and Washington in the plus-minus category.
Diallo told the Herald-Leader at last week’s UK media day said the future Wildcats point guard — who he calls “Quick” — is a special talent.
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“Quick is a great player,” Diallo said. “He’s tough. He can shoot the ball. He’s a great point guard, and he’s very athletic. People don’t know that about him, but he’s athletic. He has sneaky bounce.
“I feel like he’s going to be a great player, and once he gets up here and starts working — the sky’s the limit.”
Quickley had arguably his best game with Team USA on the final day of the tournament — the Americans’ third-place-game victory over Spain, just a day after a stunning and disheartening loss to eventual champion Canada in the semifinals.
He scored 11 points in just 15 minutes against Spain, making all three of his three-point attempts, going 4-for-5 from the floor and getting Team USA out to a quick start.
Calipari sat with Quickley, who had not yet committed to UK at that point, at the post-game press conference and voiced his admiration for the performance.
“It’s a hard game,” Calipari said that day. “You lose that game yesterday and really got outplayed, outcoached, everything, and you come back and play like we played. This guy here, Immanuel, played out of his mind. He came like, ‘OK, that’s done, bounce back, let’s play.’ This is a very hard game to play in.”
Diallo got to know the point guard better during the nearly two weeks of training camp leading up to the World Cup games, and he was impressed by the demeanor of Quickley, who turned 18 years old the day before USA tryouts began.
“He’s definitely a leader,” Diallo said. “He wants everybody around him to win, and he’s very emotional on the court. He has a lot of energy.”
Washington, the leading scorer on the USA squad, also saw those leadership abilities.
“He’s a great point guard,” he said. “He does what he’s supposed to do — he gets everybody in their spots. He can shoot it, he can drive, he’s a floor leader. And I’m just excited to see him play next year.”
Quickley will be able to officially sign with Kentucky starting Nov. 8, and he’ll come to Lexington next year to contend for the starting point guard spot going into the 2018-19 campaign.