About 250 fans watched the UK players play pickup games in Memorial Coliseum for about an hour on Saturday afternoon.
While remembering that former UK star Kyle Macy said pickup games meaningless as a significant gauge, here are some first impressions made:
— It’s easy to tell that UK will be more athletic and in better physical condition this coming season. The players appeared fitter and more athletic overall. We were wondering if junior college transfer Josh Harrelson was a hulking player. He’s not. While not a high flyer, he moved around the floor nimbly and showed good hands. He caught everything.
A.J. Stewart, wearing a stylish black undershirt, appeared slimmer and fitter.
— Jodie Meeks is healthy. Despite the Internut, er, Internet talk of needing crutches, Meeks played and did well.
— Besides Harrelson, other new guys who made an impression were DeAndre Liggins (drew cheers with a behind-the-back pass that netted a dunk), Kevin Galloway (animated player who can handle the ball and appeared to enjoy the challenge of guarding Liggins) and Matthew Pilgrim (sitting out as a transfer from Hampton) and Donald Williams (he played, so we can suppose he’s on the team).
— Pilgrim was an intriguing presence. He’s got some guns on the order of 357 magnums and isn’t afraid to pull them out of the holster. He was a physical presence, never more so than taking a Liggins lob and dunking with one hand. If Saturday is a reliable indication, he’ll need the transfer year to work on his perimeter game.
— High school players Jon Hood (Madisonville) and Elisha Justice (Shelby Valley near Pikeville) played. Hood, who has committed to UK, fit right in. He took a fastbreak pass and dunked, later curled near the foul line and swished a jump shot. His play drew an audible reaction from fans.
As for Justice, he scored on an assertive baseline drive over Harrelson. Since he looks only about 5-10, the play got a reaction. We may be wrong on this, but we believe Justice is a junior and uncommitted.
(Note: There may have been other high school players there. We recognized Hood and Justice.)
— The afternoon’s biggest fan reaction came when applause greeted the site of Patrick Patterson, who walked onto the court with about 18 minutes left on the clock. He acknowledged the cheers, then took a seat. Meeks came over and playfully waved his arms as if fanning Patterson with a palm leaf. Presumably, Patterson did not play because of the off-season surgery on an ankle.
Those fans in attendance must have liked what they saw. When the pickup games ended, the fans applauded for about 15 seconds. Then after the UK players huddled at center court for a moment and then headed for the locker room, the fans applauded again for another 15 seconds.