- John Calipari's team is once again loaded with talented freshmen, and somebody is going to have to fill De'Aaron Fox's role at point guard.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 23 overall recruit, Kentucky's Quade Green. (Note: Green was ranked No. 22 in the composite before Marvin Bagley III’s reclassification bumped every freshman in the country down a peg.)
What he means for Kentucky’s recruiting class
Both one-and-done members of Kentucky’s 2016-17 starting backcourt came off the board in the first 11 picks of the NBA draft, and accordingly the bar was set high in the search for Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox’s replacements. Green, the fifth-ranked point guard in this year’s class according to Scout, is among an incoming class of seven freshmen (in addition to shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, who redshirted last spring after joining the team in January) who will almost certainly be expected to fill out Kentucky’s entire starting five.
How he fits
Among the Wildcats’ newcomers, Green seems best cut out for traditional point guard duties, with the vision of an elite distributor even as he drives into traffic, searching for the breakdown within an opponent’s interior defense. In those moments look for him to seek out the flashy dish to Diallo or forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Kevin Knox for an open look. He may not be the explosive scoring threat Monk was or the lockdown defender Fox was last year, but with the other athletes Kentucky should have on the floor at all times, there should be relatively few games in which he is asked to approximate either role.
As is so often the case, Kentucky is expected to be in a tier all to itself in the SEC, so long as its blue-chip freshmen come together in time to establish some consistency during January and February. There’s even more turnover than usual this year in Lexington, but Diallo has at least a semester in the program to his credit, and a handful of the Wildcats’ main challengers should also be breaking in superstar freshmen, which may serve to put Kentucky’s inevitable growing pains in perspective. It seems like nearly every Calipari team of recent vintage goes through mid-February trials that either sharpen the roster for tournament play or throw the entire campaign off balance. Non-conference play should set the table for how this young team manages that stretch, whenever it arrives.