When it comes to preseason preparation, familiarity breeds not contempt but complication.
That was the message expressed by two Kentucky players Wednesday when asked about Friday’s opportunity to play a different team.
The exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan comes after weeks of the UK players competing against one another.
“It’s always harder playing against your teammates,” freshman Bryce Hopkins said. “They know all your moves.”
Kellan Grady, the transfer guard from Davidson, echoed his teammate.
Of playing an opposing team, he said, “Hopefully it’s a big difference in our favor. When (UK Coach John Calipari) calls a play in practice, the other team knows what play is going to be run.
“Fortunately for us on Friday and the rest of the season, we’ll have that advantage (of the opponent) not knowing all our schemes.”
As for what insights the first of two exhibition games can provide, Hopkins said, “I would say chemistry is the biggest thing. Who jells. Basically figure out how we play with each other.”
Grady spoke of Friday’s game being something of a novelty for the UK team.
“Just being able to play against somebody else, that’s going to be new for us,” he said. “There’s always adversity in the game. We’ll see how we respond to that. Go through a lull of missed shots (for example). There’s just natural adversity throughout every game no matter who you’re playing. So, I think all that would be a good collective test for us.”
The game against Kentucky Wesleyan will be the first opportunity to see a starting lineup and a player rotation. Although Calipari said this preseason that lineups and rotations should be fluid given UK’s expected double-digit depth.
When asked about the rotation for Friday, Grady said, “the best answer to that is we have a deep team and a lot of capable players. At every position we have size, athleticism, defensive ability and shooting.
“Guys that compete the hardest, defend the most (and) rebound the most are the guys that will see the most (minutes).”
‘About the team’
Grady spoke confidently of playing time not being divisive.
“We feed off each other,” he said. “The competitiveness and spirit between us has been awesome. There are no guys here that are for themselves. It’s all about the team.”
Realism in Rupp
Hopkins and Grady gushed about the experience of playing in Rupp Arena, even in last week’s Blue-White Game, which Grady referred to as “a ‘real-ish’ game.”
Said Hopkins: “It was crazy. I used to watch stuff on TV. How crazy (fans) get when you score a bucket, I can’t wait.”
Added Grady: “It was awesome even though we were playing against each other. Big Blue Madness was amazing, but it wasn’t really a game type of environment. It was more of a fan event.”
Kentucky is ranked No. 11 in the preseason Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, which was announced Wednesday.
As with The Associated Press media poll, Gonzaga is No. 1. The Zags received 29 of a possible 31 first-place votes. UK was No. 10 in the AP preseason poll.
UCLA received the other two first-place votes and is No. 2.
The 31 coaches who vote include former UK Coach Tubby Smith, who now coaches for High Point, Alabama Coach Nate Oats and Murray State Coach Matt McMahon.
Kevin Fitzgerald and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for the SEC Network.