A new look is coming for Kentucky basketball.
Welcome to AirCal
What is AirCal? Glad you asked because here at The Sea of Blue Research Center (OK, that is not a real thing – but hang with us here) we have been looking at diagrams, plays, schedules, statistics, and rosters and we are doing a little bit of off season planning as we think about the new look Kentucky Wildcat basketball team we are going to see next year.
Coming off of what is one of the worst seasons in the history of UK basketball, we have all watched with anxious anticipation what John Calipari was going to do in the off season. It didn’t take long after the abrupt and merciful end to an extremely rough year that Coach Cal went to work and the changes started to happen.
The transfer portal, the recruiting class, the returning players, and new coaches have all been a part of what has been a sweeping change in the Kentucky program. An honest look at what was wrong allowed him to maneuver and build on what was right. Now as the summer begins and the team has begun to assemble on campus, we are moving toward a highly anticipated new season.
Instead of Kentucky being in the conversation of the elite teams last season, we heard names like Baylor, Gonzaga, and (yikes-gulp) Alabama. In watching those teams play you could see lineups that featured three or sometimes even four shooting guards, that were always a threat to fire from anywhere on the floor. Their success only served to highlight one of the glaring Wildcat weaknesses last year – the inability to shoot and score points.
Which brings us to this year, this new season, with a new roster, and a new look.
Perhaps with this new look we will see a new stylish offense, one that we are going to name AirCal.
Why AirCal? Because right now, unlike any UK team in a long time. The Wildcats are loaded with shooters who can handle the ball. They are a blend of veterans and newcomers that if they can gel as a team will give the Cats more firepower from the outside than we have seen in … well? …. A long, long, long time!
C J Fredrick, Kellan Grady, Dontaie Allen, Ty Ty Washington, Sahvir Wheeler, and at the time of this article – the possible return of Davion Mintz form the heart of the AirCal Corp. Having this lineup of long range bombers gives Kentucky firepower that can light up arena skylines with net snapping missiles that were nowhere to be found last season.
These players, tucked into a hybrid Dribble Drive offense, will have a chance to attack the rim and finish strong. But when played to perfection, the Dribble Drive works best as the middle collapses to stop the drive only to let the ball handler kick the ball outside into the hands of a jump shooter that is ready to light it up. This frustrates defenses as they get scorched both inside and outside. The blend of veteran players, new additions, and court savvy basketball IQs will be able to find and fill the open spaces, which often caused the Dribble Drive to sputter and often stall in the previous year.
But this AirCal offense isn’t just a Dribble Drive extravaganza. Slashing through the middle, moving the ball, launching long range jump shots means that there is always action happening around the rim. This new look Wildcat squad has some incredibly strong bigs that have to eat also. Oscar Tshiebwe, Lance Ware, Damion Collins, and Jacob Toppin will have plenty of chances to create havoc and anchor the AirCal attack with strong ground support around the iron.
If this new AirCal offense wasn’t exciting enough, there are two additional players that will find their roles and round out what has the makings of a memorable squad. Keion Brooks and Bryce Hopkins will be an important part of the success of the 2021-22 team. So, boot camp has begun, the long grind of summer is underway, and the grind of the off season aimed and ready to unleash AirCal is on the horizon.
The pieces are in place. Let the battle begin.