Misconception

Kentucky has no inside attack. They are strictly a perimeter team which shoots threes. I even saw their centers shooting threes in games so obviously they have no inside game. And on defense, put a big man up against Kentucky and he'll destroy them inside.


The Facts

Kentucky is a team which early in the Rick Pitino years shot a large number of three-point shots (see threes). But Kentucky, during the Pitino years, has also had a number of inside scorers including Reggie Hanson, Jamal Mashburn, Rodney Dent, Mark Pope and Antoine Walker.


Rebuttal

Kentucky's wide-open style of play leads some to overlook their inside play. In my opinion, the style makes the inside game more effective as it is harder for teams to double down when there are shooters spread across the three-point arc ready to make any defensive deficiency pay. Every year, Kentucky is becoming a team which works from the inside-out, i.e. they work the ball inside and then throw the ball out to the perimeter for the open three pointer. (see offensive schemes). As mentioned above, Kentucky has had some decent inside players. The interesting aspect is that each of them has had varying success with the three-point shot (excluding Rodney Dent and Andre Riddick). This may confuse some fans, however the fact that you have a decent three-point shot does not automatically negate your inside skills. Mark Pope was a prime example. He had a fairly standard low-post game but under Pitino, he also shot a good three-point percentage (making 17 of 46 his senior year). Walter McCarty was a reed-thin 6'10 player who had some excellent skills on the court and a deep shot. Despite this, he had some of the most memorable power dunks of anyone in college basketball during his career. My favorite moment was a game against Alabama during the 1994-95 season. McCarty had the ball at the free-throw line, dribbled down the left side of the lane, took off about five feet from the basket and dunked over shot-blocking specialist Roy Rogers, backwards !

Beginning with the 1996-97 team, Kentucky developed two classic post players. Jamaal Magloire is a quick leaper with good mobility for a man his size. Nazr Mohammed was a project, arriving at Kentucky at over 300 lbs. He was not highly recruited by major schools but Pitino liked the instincts he saw in the overweight player from Chicago. Nazr was thought by experts to be better served going to a school with a half-court system and a slower tempo. Nazr, however, realized that if he was to make it big in basketball, he needed to push himself much harder than that, and felt UK was the ultimate place to accomplish his goals. His freshman year, Nazr played on the JV team specifically designed to provide him, Oliver Simmons, Jason Lathrem etc. playing time. During his time at UK, Nazr worked on his footwork, changed his diet and pushed himself to lose weight and replace it with muscle. Beginning his sophomore season, Nazr came in at a much leaner 240 pounds. He was able to move much better on the floor and perform feats such as nifty moves behind his back with the dribble and up and under moves around the basket. During the 1997 National Championship game against Arizona, Mohammed was an important force in the middle and kept Kentucky in the game. During the 1998 national semifinal game against Stanford, Nazr intercepted a pass near mid-court and streaked down the court for a power dunk. There is still a lot of potential improvement in Magloire and Mohammed, and they're both extremely young. It just shows that Rick Pitino and now Tubby Smith are very capable of developing big men, whether they're given obvious talent to work with (Magloire) or not (Mohammed).

As for defense, Kentucky showed during their 1996 championship run that they can shut down big men with an extremely quick double down defense. Tim Duncan was held to one shot attempt during the first half of the UK-Wake Forest regional final game. Marcus Camby, of Massachusetts, was taken out of the national semi-final game for extended periods due to Kentucky's defense.


Return to Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page.

Jon Scott