By: ASHLEY SCOBY
This weekend I got the chance to work for ProCamps, the company that organizes John Calipari's Fantasy Basketball Experience. I was able to go to all the events the fantasy campers were treated to, including dinner at Coach Cal's house, fantasy basketball games and the Alumni Game Saturday
Those participating in the John Calipari Fantasy Experience got not only the chance to live the life of a UK basketball player for a weekend, but also get a sneak peek at the 2012 version of the real UK basketball players. Coach Cal ran individual workouts for his team that the campers (and I) could observe, giving everyone a better idea of what to expect from this year’s team.
First up were the bigs: Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel and Kyle Wiltjer for 30 minutes. The next half hour was reserved for the guards: Julius Mays, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin. Here are my observations/thoughts on each:
Willie Cauley-Stein: There was quite a bit of worry over Cauley-Stein’s commitment because he wasn’t a top-20 recruit coming out of high school. And let’s face it: that’s what Kentucky fans are used to. But I don’t think Cats fans will be disappointed with this guy. During the workouts on Friday, he was moving like someone much smaller than he is. At one point, Calipari yelled to WCS, “Do you know how much that looked like a guard? I love it!” I tweeted Friday that Cauley-Stein’s play reminded me of the old “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” saying. He’s light on his feet and quick for how big he is (6’10, 215), but he had some nasty finishes at the rim. He and Noel really did their best to tear down the goals at the Craft Center, and Cauley-Stein was keeping right up with Noel when they went one-on-one.
Nerlens Noel: Speaking of the freshman phenom that everyone is expecting Noel to be, he didn’t disappoint during this workout session. He moves extremely well on offense – one particular spin move that he performed against Wiltjer had all the campers in front of me open-mouthed and audibly “ooh”ing. Noel is a phenomenal athlete and it showed in this workout; he was definitely the best out of the three, even though Cauley-Stein and Wiltjer still held their own.
Kyle Wiltjer: The biggest question mark for Wiltjer this season will be how well he plays on defense – it was the biggest concern for him last year, and it was a focus for improvement heading into this year. And I do think he has improved: He was keeping up with Noel and Cauley-Stein when the guys would go one-on-one, and I think his footwork has improved. Offensively, that hook shot of Wiltjer’s is still deadly. He simply does not miss it.
Julius Mays: Mays has been kind of the mystery man, as he was a late arrival to the 2012 recruiting class, and was not as well-known as Noel, Poythress, etc. He has a smooth form behind the arc, and he was easily the best shooter on the court during these workouts. The thing I noticed the most about Mays, however, was his inability to give up on a particular drill. If he knocked over a cone during one of the footwork drills, he would immediately start the process again. I didn’t see him put his head down once (not that he had much reason to), and he seems like a real workhorse on the court.
Alex Poythress: This guy will be a stud. Poythress worked out with the guards, but most of the fantasy campers I talked to were thinking more along the lines of, “Can’t this guy play every position?” He didn’t have the best shooting day on Friday, but it remains to be seen whether that’s due to poor form, or if he was just having a bad day. In layup drills, he simply hopped up and threw down dunks because he could. By the looks of it, he’s a very versatile athlete and will be able to play multiple positions. There was one sequence where a manager would put his hands on a player’s shoulders and push back as hard as he could while the player dribbled two basketballs and sprinted as hard as he could towards the opposite end of the court. Poythress was an absolute monster at this exercise.
Archie Goodwin: The word that comes to mind after watching Goodwin play is “smooth.” He has a smooth shot, he moves down the floor smoothly and his ball-handling is of the same variety. Driving to the basket came easily for him, but he also was able to hit several shots from the elbow and behind the arc. He will be a really exciting player to watch.