LEXINGTON — Two minutes and 39 seconds into the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball Blue-White scrimmage Tuesday night, freshman forward James Young went up for a jump shot from the corner.
The 6-foot-6 Young had made a layup in the opening seconds of the scrimmage, but our first chance to see Young’s highly touted jump shot came at the 17:21 mark.
I’ll never forget it, because even before the ball left Young’s hand, his body language looked so comfortable, and his form so smooth and natural, that I couldn’t imagine him missing.
And he didn’t miss. The ball went through so softly that it barely ruffled the net.
Later in the game, when Young got winded, he didn’t look so smooth. But for nearly 30 minutes, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a shot like Young’s.
Young’s shot made Ray Allen’s shot look rough around the edges.
Young finished with a team high 25 points, on 11 of 16 from the field (3 of 5 from three-point range).
“James Young is what he is ... that’s what you saw today,” UK coach John Calipari said.
Calipari was clearly just as impressed with other aspects of Young’s game, such as defense. And the numbers back up Cal’s enthusiasm. Young had seven steals, along with three assists, three rebounds, one blocked shot and four turnovers in 34 minutes.
“Forget about scoring the ball and getting to the rim,” said Calipari of Young. “He can really defend. He comes up with balls and steals.”
“I just had fun running up and down the court,” Young said. “It was fun to play a full game with everyone.”
The Blue team won, by the way, 99-71, but that doesn’t mean much because four players — Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and Dominique Hawkins — played for both sides.
The other “oh wow” highlight for the crowd of 15,035, though we just saw glimpses of it, was the ability of — all together now — the beast, 6-9, 250-pound Julius Randle.
Randle is clearly strong, but he’s also quick for his size, and he appears to be unselfish.
Randle had 21 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes. He was 8 of 13 from the field and 5 of 5 at the free throw line.
“He wasn’t getting the ball early, and he just played, and eventually he started getting it,” Calipari said of Randle.
The other eye opener was, arguably, wiry freshman forward Derrick Willis, who poured in 21 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes.
“He has no conscience whatsoever,” Calipari said of the 6-9, 205-pound Willis. “He just lets it go. He played well.”
Freshman center Dakari Johnson got off to a slow start, but finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman guard Aaron Harrison also had a nice game, adding 19 points, six assists, four steals and just two turnovers in 35 minutes.
His twin brother, Andrew, played just 10 minutes because of a nagging knee injury. Calipari said he hopes Andrew will be back at practice Thursday, but no word on when his knee will be 100 percent.
Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein had 15 points and seven rebounds; freshman forward Marcus Lee had 10 points and eight boards, and freshman guard Dominique Hawkins 11 points, two rebounds and three assists to round out some of the leaders.
“He belongs,” Calipari said of Hawkins, the newcomer from Madison Central.
While noting that his team has “seven or eight guys” capable of knocking down 30 points on a given night, Calipari cautioned not to read too much into anything at this early stage.
“If we’re going to be what we want to be, we have to be a better defensive team,” Calipari said. “And I’m just starting to zero in on defense. We haven’t done any pick and roll defense, and you could tell. I’m telling you, from the 18th to this date, we just started defense. I did not do defense prior to that.”
Next up for the Wildcats is an exhibition game against Transylvania Friday night at 7 at Rupp Arena.