It will be no accident if a new and improved Quade Green plays for Kentucky this coming season.
“My game changed up a lot,” he said this preseason. “I went to training for my body. Got faster. I just got more confidence. That’s what I had to do: gain more confidence in my game than last year.”
Green attributed his greater fitness to running, conditioning, sit-ups and weight lifting. “The usual,” he said.
Green attributed his increased desire for improvement to how Kentucky’s 2017-18 season ended. Of course, the Cats lost to ninth-seeded Kansas State in the Sweet 16 round.
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“The end of the season woke me up,” Green said. “End of the season woke me up. Real bad.”
Actually, Green added a moment later, Kentucky’s entire season was a surprise.
“How the year ended, how it started, how it was going, it wasn’t going how I expected it to be going,” he said. “So, this year, I had to put in my time this summer. Had to put that work in.”
In addition to reworking his body, Green said he changed his mental approach. Going into last season, he envisioned himself as the next player in UK Coach John Calipari’s long line of standout point guards.
“Point, point, point, yeah,” he said. “Now, it doesn’t matter. We have a bunch of guards that can handle the ball.”
Freshmen Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley may share the point guard role. And as if to close the door on Green as a point guard option, Calipari suggested during UK’s trip to the Bahamas that the NBA would consider Keldon Johnson a better point guard candidate.
This makes Green an “off guard,” which was how he contributed last season after Shai Gilgeous-Alexander assumed the point guard role.
Of his role this coming season, Green said, “I think it’s the same way as last year. Playing off the ball. Making plays for other people. Going downhill. If it’s a pick-and-roll, I know how to operate a two-on-one situation. So just things like that.”
As a sophomore, Green also sees himself as a leader. When asked which player would be UK’s leader, he said, “I’d say I am. I am, and PJ (Washington). The most vocal leaders. And Reid (Travis).”
Of course, Calipari has had a long line of standout guards at Kentucky. Green mentioned John Wall, Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight as players who excelled in the coach’s system.
Eric Bledsoe might be the example Green intends to follow. Bledsoe moved to “off guard” to allow John Wall to assume the point guard role. Of Calipari, Green said, “He wants me to score the ball.”
Devin Booker coming off the bench in his one season for UK also made an impression.
“It’s just how Coach (Calipari) wants you to play for the team,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to sacrifice. Put your pride to the side and help the team win.”
Green envisioned the competition with Hagans and Quickley benefiting all three players and, of course, Kentucky.
“Like I said, ‘Put your pride to the side,’” he said. “This is practice. Everybody’s going, and you got to work. You don’t want anybody to kill you every day in practice. You better put some work in. You better make a difference.
“It’s way more competitive than last year. Way more.”
About this series
This is the eighth in a series of 13 stories featuring members of the 2018-19 University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. Watch for all 13 in the coming days in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com.