TV analyst likes what he sees in UK

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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Jon Sundvold, former University of Missouri All-American and nine-year NBA veteran, has been a men’s college basketball analyst since 1994 and he likes a lot he has seen from coach John Calipari’s team this season.

“Maybe rebounding at times is an issue because they do not have a lot of girth and they could have a hard time against veteran guards who can turn the corner,” Sundvold said. “But what’s great about this team is that it is so unselfish. The mixture of young and old players who are stable pieces is terrific.

“Night in, night out you cannot be sure what you might get from an 18 year old but players 22 and 23 (Tre Mitchell, Antonio Reeves) can carry you through the bumps.”

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Sundvold correctly predicted the SEC would challenge Kentucky to get the Cats ready for the NCAA Tournament and that proved to be accurate when the Cats lost at South Carolina.

“They will be challenged to see if they can handle some things on the road like the game at South Carolina,” Sundvold said. “But they have got a team that is exciting. It is almost old-fashioned the way they pass the basketball. They are a difficult team to zone because of their movement and the number of guys that can rise up and shoot with great depth.”

Sundvold said it seems like every week Kentucky is getting better in a different way.

“The ball does not get stuck with them,” Sundvold said. “They are scary good offensively. They have some defensive lapses at times but they can make passes and make shots.  They are unselfish and if they are in an up and down game they are deadly. They have guys who can handle it and are great foul shooters. A backcourt who can do that and not turn it over is going to seal games at the end in big games.”

However, South Carolina did show the blueprint to beat Kentucky. Another SEC analyst, Dane Bradshaw, believes UK has a “Final Four offense but round of 32 defense” currently.

“On offense if you take good shots that gives you the ability to get back against Kentucky and get your defense set even if you miss the shot,” SEC analyst Pat Bradley said. “Playing a slower half-court offense slowed Kentucky down and Kentucky has to learn how to handle that.”

Walker big on UK defensive line

Sophomore All-American defensive lineman Deone Walker believes UK’s defensive front will be even better during the 2024 season.

“Our defensive line is the most experienced group on the UK team. We want to keep our wheels turning from last year,” Walker said.  “We had a great season and got it going. We got the run stop defense but we really want to get after the quarterback more.

“It is not just me no more. There are a lot of guys we have who can make plays. I can’t get double teamed all the time or somebody else is going to hurt you. It’s pick your poison on how to block us.”

Walker still had 48 quarterback hurries in 2023, the most of any defensive tackle in the nation.

Walker credits defensive line coach Anwar Stewart not only for his play but also the entire unit’s play.

“He stays on you no matter what. He knows where I came from and doesn’t want me sliding back,” Walker said. “He has connections with every defensive lineman on our team and that is one reason I really like him.”

Walker also said there was never a chance he was going to transfer despite the likely huge NIL dollars he could have received from many other schools.

“I am good here. Coach Stew is the coach who knows what I need to do. I love coach (Brad) White. I trust them to play me in the best position to succeed.”

UK in the Olympics

Kentucky basketball likely will be represented at the Olympics in Paris this summer since five of the 41 players included by USA Basketball on its national team roster that eventually will be cut to 12 are from Kentucky.

Managing director and former Duke star Grant Hill picked the 41 players and his five players from UK are Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat) Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers) De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) and Tyler Herro (Miami Heat).

Kentucky should have a player on Team Canada unless NBA superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander decides not to play and he likely will be joined by former UK player Jamal Murray if he opts to play.

And Kentucky also has more firepower on the way as guard Boogie Fland and center Jayden Quaintance, who both signed with UK in November, were named McDonald’s All-Americans. So was Overtime Elite forward Karter Knox who took an official visit to Kentucky in mid-January.

Kentucky freshmen Aaron Bradshaw, Justin Edwards, Reed Sheppard and DJ Wagner were all McDonald’s All-Americans last year and coach John Calipari now has signed 46 McDonald’s All-Americans since coming to UK in 2009.

Fland and Quaintance will also compete in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland on April 13 for Team USA.