By LARRY VAUGHT
Before Kentucky’s season started, former UK All-American Mike Pratt had a warning — or bit of advice — for fans about the team’s point guard play.
“So much is about confidence. That’s why some guys develop slower than others,” said Pratt, the analyst for the UK Radio Network. “If you look at (John) Calipari point guards, John Wall started slow and you could see his confidence build.
“On the championship team, do we remember how Cal moaned about (Marquis) Teague and him not getting it done. About the first of the year, he relaxed and got it and became a quality point guard. The (Harrison) twins started slow and at end of the season UK went to the Final Four.”
Pratt went on then to say Quade Green reminded him of former UK point guard Tyler Ulis — who didn’t shoot well, struggled with his decision making at time and would leave his feet to make passes early in his freshman season.
Pratt pleaded then for UK fans to give Green the same “adjustment period” that other UK point guards needed.
“That will always be a critical position for Calipari. Don’t push panic button if Green does not look like he is getting it done. He will develop with time. Just be patient,” Pratt said.
That was in early November and Pratt has turned out to be a prophet.
After Sunday’s win over Illinois-Chicago, Green is averaging 11.7 points 3.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. He’s hitting 50 percent from 3-point range.
“Still not going to be John Wall but I think he has a chance to be a good college point guard,” Pratt said after Sunday’s win. “He is now understanding a little bit more of where his shots come from and I think he is starting to understand who his teammates are as to where he should throw them the ball.
“He still makes some high school passes but he is growing into it. Cal does not leave any margin for errors with his point guards and it puts a lot of pressure on you. But the kid is a tough little booger.
“I think he is about where I think he should have been. He got a little bit embarrassed against Kansas but they had experienced guards. I think he is growing. If he eliminates some casual passes, he is playing pretty good.”
The biggest concern seems to be on defense. He doesn’t have the length of freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexader or the quickness of former UK point guard Tyler Ulis, who now plays in the NBA. He has just one steal in seven games.
Pratt says Green will never be confused with former UK defensive stopper DeAndre Liggins but can be a solid defender if he learns how to use angles to his advantage.
“He is used to rushing right up on the ball handler from high school and being able to guard him. You have to take angles like a linebacker trying to tackle a running back that has turned the corner. If you don’t take the angle, he blows right by you,” Pratt said.
“If you go right at the guy with the ball at his present position like Quade has done, unless you can smother him with your size and quickness which he can’t … you have to figure out where this guy is going and when he makes his first move you have to make that angle cut. It’s all about the angles and you learn that from experience after getting beat a few times and they show you on tape. If you continue to grow, you become a much better defender and I think he’s going to be. Just keep being patient.”