Most Valuable Cat—By John Huang
As Kentucky marches through the highly forgettable and/or regrettable SEC portion of their schedule on the way to post-season play, it’s time to dole out the award for the most valuable player to date. Remember that I’m NOT asking you who is the most outstanding player on this highly talented team, but rather who is the most valuable individual to the team. If the Wildcats were to lose just one player for whatever reason, who could they least afford to lose?
De’Aaron Fox would certainly be a worthy candidate. His speed and playmaking ability would definitely be missed, but I think the Cats have an adequate replacement in Dominique Hawkins. There would be a measurable drop-off for sure. However, the senior from Richmond provides enough experience, talent, and court savvy to at least keep Kentucky in the hunt for the missing Fox.
It’d be hard to argue against Malik Monk as MVP. Where would the Cats be without his 3-point shooting and acrobatic dunks? I said at the beginning of this season that outside shooting would be an Achilles heel of this team, so Monk’s absence would obviously be cause for further concern. However, also consider that this team hasn’t shot it from 3-point range all that well anyway and they’ve continued to pile up the victories. Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and Hawkins could be a “Monk by committee.”
How about Isaiah Briscoe? The sophomore guard has improved his shooting and overall game by leaps and bounds. He provides the necessary leadership on and off the court. He’s a matchup nightmare for most opponents Kentucky faces. Some consider him a “glue-guy,” consistently holding the team together. Others say that he’s the “heart and soul” of this team, or “the straw that stirs the drink.” There’s a valid argument for considering Isaiah as team MVP.
With all due respect to Fox, Monk, and Briscoe, the obvious MVP choice for this version of the Wildcats is Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. If Kentucky’s recent 88-81 victory over Mississippi State in Starkvegas is any indication, the 6’10”, 260-lb freshman center is really the only reliable big man in the Wildcat’s rotation. With Bam on the bench for most of the evening in foul trouble, the Wildcats struggled—especially on defense. Despite Coach Cal’s earlier remarks that Isaac Humphries is way better this year than he was last year, the reality is that the 7-footer from Down Under is still not good enough to handle the paint down under in anything more than a backup role. It’s tough when you’re a bit slow of foot and have problems finishing one-footers around the rim. It’s even tougher when you’re a McDonald’s All-American like Sacha Killeya-Jones and you rarely even get off the bench. Cal says, “Maybe Tai’s (Wynyard) our man.” Seriously? I don’t think so. In other words, if Bam goes out for whatever reason, Kentucky’s hopes for a championship run go by the wayside. Let’s just cancel the rest of the season and start preparing for next year. Without Bam, UK has no chance. He’s the MVP.
He also happens to be one of the hardest workers on this team. “I’ve been working on everything,” Bam told me after one of the recently completed Camp Cal practices. “I’ve been working on my foot work, and my jump shots, jump hooks, my whole arsenal… When I go out there, I just give it a hundred percent.”
Still having doubts? Listen to what Coach Cal had to say about his star pupil. “He is really good,” Cal gushed. “He bounces. He stays in the stance. He can guard every position…By the end of the year, he will be that guy. That is my prediction. I asked the guys yesterday, in a group, because I brought him up a couple of times, I said, ‘Look, I am not trying to throw him in your face, but who is the hardest worker we have in the gym?’ And the group, they all pointed to Bam. And I said ‘There you go. My point is made.’ That is why he is making strides that are just crazy.”
There you go. Case closed. “By the end of the year, he will be the man.” I say he already is the man. With apologies to everyone else, Bam for MVP.
This blog posting was originally submitted as a UK Basketball Column for Nolan Group Media publications.
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