Antonio Reeves, star of CJ Fredrick at the Kentucky Blue-White Game

0

Having only eight scholarship players available for the Blue-White Game on Saturday night made Kentucky’s annual men’s basketball scrimmage a tough one, but the show went according to plan in Pikeville.

The British team spent the day in eastern Kentucky, as promised months earlier, as part of the program’s ongoing aim to help relief efforts in the region which has been devastated by historic floods over the summer and has attempted to recover over the nearly three months since.

British coach John Calipari addressed the sold-out crowd at the Appalachian Wireless Arena around 6 p.m., telling them that Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler and Lance Ware would all be sidelined from basketball activities due to wounds. Tshiebwe underwent knee surgery just over a week ago, and we already knew he wouldn’t be taking part. Wheeler and Ware’s injuries are not serious, and all three players were with the UK traveling squad for the entirety of Saturday’s events in eastern Kentucky.

Calipari returned to the mic minutes after his first announcement and said there were still long lines of fans trying to get into the arena, so the team went through a few more warm-ups as people settled in. .

At around 6:30 p.m. – with the 6,000-capacity gym nearly full – they put 20 minutes on the clock and began to battle it out.

Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Daimion Collins formed the white team, with extras Brennan Canada and Walker Horn joining British newcomers Adou Thiero, Antonio Reeves and Ugonna Onyenso in the blue team.

There were several highlights in the predictable coasting scrimmage that followed, and Reeves – the team’s leading scorer during his August trip to the Bahamas – was arguably the biggest star.

The Illinois State transfer scored 22 points in 20 first-half minutes on Saturday night, going 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-8 from three-point range, showing off that quick release from depth that will no doubt delight Rupp Arena fans this season.

Calipari announced before the start of the second half that the team would compete for just 10 minutes after halftime – with minimal stoppage time – and then move on to autographs and photos.

Reeves finished with a game-high 27 points, according to official stats, and he was named the night’s most valuable player. He had several streaks where he scored a one-hit flurry of points, including a streak in which he scored 12 points in just over four minutes. He also hit two three-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the first half.

LEX_20221022_UKBandW_3982.JPG
Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves, right, celebrates with teammate Sahvir Wheeler after the Blue-White game at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville on Saturday. Silas Walker [email protected]

“I just got out and I know I can get hot,” Reeves said. “Having the experience I have in college – and playing basketball in general – I just know my game and how I function. …

“Guys know I’m going to warm up, and they’re looking for me.”

Fredrick was another standout of the fray. He missed last year’s Blue-White Game and both pre-season exhibitions with injury, then tore his hamstrings during warm-ups for the UK season opener, this which ultimately prevented the entire 2021-22 campaign.

One of the best three-point shooters in the nation during his two seasons in Iowa before transferring to Kentucky, the veteran guard showed that skill Saturday night, going 4-for-5 from deep and leading the white team with 18 points.

The white team beat the blue team 70-67.

Thiero had 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Team Blue, while Wallace recorded 15 points, went 3-for-6 from deep and dished out eight assists for Team White.

Wheeler announced at halftime that the program had raised $162,450 from the scrimmage, and the entire Wildcats team presented Governor Andy Beshear with a check for that amount for his Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief fund.

UKAthleticsBlueWhite.jpg
Fans filled the stands as the Kentucky men’s basketball team staged their blue-white game at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville on Saturday. British athletics

Update from Oscar Tshiebwe

As Calipari announced earlier in the week, reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe did not participate in any basketball activity on Saturday after undergoing knee surgery nine days earlier.

Tshiebwe is expected to be retained for the entire preseason, with a possible return to the field Nov. 7 against Howard University in the Wildcats’ season opener.

Speaking at the Greater Louisville UK Alumni Club’s Tipoff Luncheon on Thursday, the Kentucky coach said Tshiebwe was “doing well” and was already ahead of his recovery, getting off the crutches faster than expected.

“First of all I have to make sure he doesn’t try to go too fast,” Calipari said. “…It was a procedure of about 15 minutes – he will be fine. But when you invade – even if it’s for 15 minutes – you’re going to get swelling, you’re going to be in pain.

“But they said his tendons and all his joints and everything in his knee – they said they were amazing. So it was good that we did what we did. It was safer than anything, but he’ll be fine. I will say that we train without him. And here’s something for everyone: we’re not as good without him.

Calipari told the SEC media day in Birmingham the day before that Tshiebwe had no more swelling in his knee, just six days after the procedure. The British star took part in the team’s community service activities in the area on Saturday afternoon without using crutches and appeared to be walking without a limp throughout the day.

The Cats’ first major test of the season is scheduled for Nov. 15 against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Who’s next for the UK?

Kentucky will have more than a week off before its next game of the 2022-23 preseason.

The United Kingdom hosts Missouri Western State on October 30 at Rupp Arena, an exhibition that will serve as a homecoming for a few former Wildcats.

MIssouri Western are coached by Will Martin, who was the UK head coach in the 2011-12 domestic league season. Two of Martin’s assistant coaches are former Kentucky players: Jon Hood and Perry Stevenson.

The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

This story was originally published October 22, 2022 8:13 p.m.

Ben Roberts is the University of Kentucky men’s basketball beats author for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He previously specialized in covering basketball recruitment in the UK and created and maintained the Next Cats blog. He is from Franklin County and first joined the Herald-Leader in 2006.
Support my work with a digital subscription
Share.

Comments are closed.