Could Kentucky’s backcourt be ‘one of the best you’ve ever seen’?
If you think moving the three-point line to the international distance next season is no big deal, you’re not alone. More than one Kentucky player feels the same way.
Immanuel Quickley actually has experience with the longer distance. He played on USA Basketball’s U17 and U19 teams in competition that included the international distance.
“It’s not too big a deal,” he said Friday. “Honestly, if you put the work in, I don’t think shooting from anywhere — NBA, FIBA, college — should really be a problem.”
In those 13 games with the USA Basketball teams, Quickley made 13 of 37 shots from three-point range. That was 35.1-percent accuracy.
Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that the line will be moved from 20 feet, nine inches to the international distance of 22 feet, one and three-quarter inches starting next season.
“Not a problem,” EJ Montgomery said. “I’ve been shooting NBA threes all summer. So I’m kind of getting used to it. And I shot it well in the workouts (for NBA teams in the pre-draft process). You know, if the rules change, we’ve got to adapt to it.”
Ashton Hagans suggested an upside to the longer three-point distance.
“It’s just going to prepare us for the NBA range more,” he said. “So you’ve just got to work on it.”
Hagans and Quickley cited another potential benefit. They agreed with the premise the NCAA offered for moving the line: It will spread defenses, thus creating more driving lanes.
Among players returning from last season’s Kentucky’s team, Quickley made the most three-pointers (30) and shot the best percentage (34.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
The competition is not stiff. The only returning players who shot threes were Hagans (14 of 51, for 27.5 percent) and Montgomery (two of 10, for 20 percent).
“Honestly, I didn’t think I shot that well . . . ,” Quickley said. “I’m capable of shooting a lot better. Honestly, I just want to keep improving on it. We’re definitely going to need it with the kind of guys we got.”
By that, Quickly said he meant Hagans could collapse defenses by driving into the lane and then look to pass to the perimeter. And Nick Richards, Nate Sestina and Montgomery figure to look to pass out of double teams in the post.
Hagans said he might be in the gym as late as 1:30 or 2 a.m.
Might another player be in the gym even later?
“Probably Brad (Calipari),” Hagans said as he shot a glance at the son of UK Coach John Calipari practicing shooting Friday afternoon.
The younger Calipari put his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal and reportedly will visit Hartford soon. But might he return to UK’s team next season?
“We’ve been talking to him,” Hagans said with a smile. “We’ve been telling him it’s going to be a lot different.”
Then Hagans added, “You know, we just want the best for him.”
In recent workouts, UK’s incoming freshmen made a good first impression on Quickley.
“Really shocked,” he said when asked about the freshmen. “Athletic. Can do a bit of everything. And they’ve got a lot of dog mentality about them as well. So it’s going to be fun.”
When asked about any individual freshman that stood out, Quickley mentioned Keion Brooks.
“Keion impressed me,” he said. “Really athletic. Can score. Can shoot. Pretty much a bit of everything.”
Here’s something any fans with unrealistic expectations about a national championship could cut out and post in a prominent place.
A media person asked Quickley if there was pressure “to get one done” this coming season.
“Uh, not pressure because we kind of had the same thing last year,” Quickley said, “and everybody knows how hard it is to win a championship. You’ve got be good, but you’ve also got to get lucky. One or two shots in the tournament or a free throw can end your season.”