Davion Mintz will return to Lexington this weekend to rejoin a Kentucky Basketball team that looks very different than the one he left when the school year ended. Four guards were added to the roster while Mintz was going through the NBA Draft evaluation process, moves he told reporters he knew John Calipari needed to make after last season’s backcourt struggles.
“I think it’ll be great, honestly. Going into my process, I didn’t judge it too much. I knew that we needed the roster additions the coaches made this year, so that was a part of our team where we kind of struggled last year so I knew we had to make some additions in our backcourt, so that didn’t surprise me at all.
“This process for me this summer was solely about me, just finding and understanding the route I wanted to take. So, I had great communication with the coaching staff and knew beforehand that this is what was going to go on. I think it’ll be great. Like I said, a lot of talented players back there, a lot more shooting so I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Between Mintz, who finished last season as Kentucky’s starting point guard, Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler, and five-star freshman TyTy Washington, Calipari now has several options for a primary ball handler. Even though he hasn’t joined the new guys on campus yet, Mintz likes what he’s seen on film and is looking forward to building chemistry.
“I’ve been there,” he told Jack Pilgrim and Shawn Smith on KSR. “I’ve already proven my skillset and the things I can offer and for me, I think us all together, it will mesh pretty well. I like the things I’ve seen within their game and I think putting that all together, especially with the coaching staff that we have this time, it’ll work out just fine. I think collectively, with guys trying to fit into what we already have and me coming back, I don’t see any problems with that. I think it will be extremely exciting.”
When asked which player he thinks will help him elevate his game the most this upcoming season, Mintz went with a member of the frontcourt.
“Definitely Big Oscar [Tshiebwe]. Being able to be a big presence on the inside, give us the element that we didn’t have, someone to set hard blows on screens, getting the guards up off of us as we try to free ourselves to get to the basket. Honestly, even having him for the short summer that I did have him, running into his screens hurt, honestly. It’ll be fun to see the opposing team have to go through that.”
Mintz also singled out Jacob Toppin and Keion Brooks as players he’s heard have taken a big step forward this summer.
“Watching guys and hearing the feedback I’ve been hearing about how Jacob has improved his game and obviously Keion, just watching some of the things and having conversations with him, looking forward to that. Guys that have been working to help space the floor, open up penetration lanes, being a threat from the perimeter, I’m super excited to see their improvement as we take on another year. Obviously, new guys coming in, I’m excited to see what they can do and how they’ll help, but watching guys that you’ve been with improve over the year, I think that’s one of the special parts about it.”
This will be Mintz’s sixth season of college basketball, and therefore sixth new roster. He said the amount of experience on this squad actually reminds him of his first season at Creighton and should help Kentucky avoid some of the issues it had last season.
“I think it’s very unique. It kind of reminds me of a team my freshman season when I first went into college. We had a lot of upperclassmen. Not to this degree, where you have guys coming from a lot of places, but I think that experience factor is gonna be huge and it’s going to pay off for this team. It was extremely different from last year where we had a lot of new guys coming in. Although these are new guys, these are guys that have seen different things throughout their time and played at high levels already so I think that it will be extremely fun. I think it will be extremely competitive and I think it’s just going to be a good culture to be a part of as we go down that road and try to win a lot of games.”
While he was weighing his own future, Mintz kept tabs on the team via social media, and can already see the bonds forming on and off the court.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to be around the guys in person but from stalking the Kentucky social media page, I’m super impressed with their ability to mesh and it seems like they’re bonding super quick. Aside from skillset, just looking at the off the court activities they’ve been allowed to do this year, it just looks great, the atmosphere. Just the guys being able to bond and already feel like a brotherhood, that’s really what’s impressed me so far. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a lot of different skillsets being meshed in one team. I don’t know, it just looks like the place to be right now.”
Needless to say, after a late start, he’s ready to jump right in.
“I’ll be headed back this weekend,” he said on KSR. “This will be my sixth college team, so just meeting new guys and being able to see and bond with new groups of people, that’s the greatest part about it. Making new relationships. Just seeing their skillset, a lot of the new guys already bonding, having fun, enjoying their presence, I feel like I’m going to fall right in and I’m ready for it. Looking forward to meeting those new guys in person.”