UK Men's Basketball

‘Give Kentucky a run’ is its opponents’ aim in Bahamas exhibitions

Kadeem Coleby, who dunked during a Wichita State game against Cal Poly in 2014, will be playing for the Bahamas National Team.
Kadeem Coleby, who dunked during a Wichita State game against Cal Poly in 2014, will be playing for the Bahamas National Team. AP

One team has a player who ranks 16th on South Carolina’s career scoring list. That’s Team Toronto.

Another squad is billed as the “European Kentucky.” That’s Mega Bemax, which is based in Serbia.

San Lorenzo de Almagro, which is based in Argentina, won its league championship last season.

And the “home team,” the Bahamas National Team, has several players with Division I experience. That includes a player who has competed against Kentucky before.

That said, Bahamas Coach Mario Bowleg did not oversell the idea that Kentucky must play competitive basketball in its four exhibitions games here Wednesday through Sunday. He graded the UK opponents as a “C.”

“Not necessarily their ‘A’ or ‘B’ national teams,” Bowleg said Monday. “But the teams are very good teams. They will definitely give Kentucky a run.”

The University of Kentucky basketball team opened its practice to the media on Wednesday as the Wildcats prepared for their trip to the Bahamas next week.

UK fans will be able to judge for themselves. The SEC Network will televise all of the games.

Coach John Calipari has suggested that Kentucky could lose as many as three of the four games. Not that winning and losing here outweighs the importance of team bonding and extra practices, he said.

UK begins play against the Bahamas National Team on Wednesday. UK fans with keen memories might recall Kadeem Coleby. He started 19 games for the Wichita State team that rolled into the 2014 NCAA Tournament undefeated as a No. 1 seed. Of course, UK beat the Shockers 78-76. Coleby played seven scoreless minutes in that game in St. Louis.

His brother, Dwight Coleby, was expected to play for the Bahamas National Team. He played for the Ole Miss team that nearly beat undefeated Kentucky in January of 2015. He played 27 minutes and scored eight points in the game that turned in UK’s favor when muscle cramps sidelined Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody early in overtime.

Dwight Coleby, who finished off his college career at Western Kentucky last season, will not play against UK here. Bowleg said the chance for a “professional tryout” led him to drop out.

Conversely, the possibility of enhancing basketball futures led Bowleg to add two players who graduated from high school this spring. One is Samuel Hunter, a 6-9 forward-center.

“I wanted to give them the opportunity to play against that high level ...,” Bowleg said. “So (college) coaches can see what really they can do.”

Referencing the television coverage, Bowleg said, “Who knows? Maybe it can open the doors for these two guys.”

A similar exhibition series four years ago served as something of a coming-out party. A team known as Providence Storm defeated North Carolina. Leading the Storm with 17 points and 18 rebounds was a player named DeAndre Ayton, who eventually played as a freshman for Arizona last season and was the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Other players for the Bahamas National Team with NCAA experience include Shaq Cleare, who played for Maryland against UK in the 2012 season opener made notable by Jarrod Polson’s star turn off the bench. Michael Carey, who posted 27 double-doubles in his career for Wagner, also is on the Bahamas roster.

Former South Carolina guard Duane Notice will play for Team Toronto, which will face UK on Sunday in the final game of the exhibition series.

Notice, who grew up in the Toronto area, ranks 16th on South Carolina’s career scoring list with 1,409 points. He was also a regular on the Gamecocks’ run to the 2017 Final Four.

But first comes the Bahamas National Team on Wednesday. Bowleg described his team as “very, very, very” athletic. “Quick to get up and down the floor,” he said.

The Bahamas team also hopes to have balanced scoring from the low post and the perimeter, he said.

With a 32-year-old named Keno Burrows who made 62.2 percent of his shots playing in France last season, Bowleg could have embraced the notion of using experience against UK’s freshmen. He didn’t.

“I wouldn’t say the inexperience of Kentucky,” he said. “But the young guys of Kentucky who we know are very talented. Very, very, very talented.”

UK’s Bahamas schedule

7 p.m. Wednesday: vs. Bahamas National Team

7 p.m. Thursday: vs. San Lorenzo de Almagro

7 p.m. Saturday: vs. Mega Bemax

4 p.m. Sunday: vs. Team Toronto

* All games televised on the SEC Network

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