Kentucky Quickley

Immanuel Quickley is excited going into his second season with the Wildcats and joins classmate Ashton Hagans in the backcourt. (Keith Taylor/Kentucky Today)

LEXINGTON — It didn’t take Immanuel Quickley long to decide on his future plans following his freshman campaign.

“I kind of knew what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was focused, working on getting better this summer, so I didn’t want to waste any time playing around with the process or anything. I wanted to get it out of the way early. … I was really excited about that decision because I knew I didn’t have to worry about that long process.”

Quickley opted to skip the grind of declaring for the NBA Draft, a decision that Kentucky coach John Calipari agreed with, considering he needed more time and experience to compete at the next level. He also shared a conversation with sophomore classmate Ashton Hagans, who also decided to return for a second season with the Wildcats.

“I talked to Ashton a little bit, but it was kind of me and Coach Cal,” he said. “We had talked about it, and that’s just kind of the decision we came up with.”

Quickley admitted that it “feels good” to be a veteran on the team and is looking forward to providing leadership next season, and he added the competition in the backcourt will make each player better.

“Definitely one of the veterans on the team now, so I’m ready to take on that leadership role,” he said. “It should be good. You know, I’m ready to compete. That’s why you come to Kentucky — to play against the best. The pickup (games have) been really good. Hopefully practice will be even better and just getting the best out of each other.”

He has already noticed a difference in the veteran returnees.

“Me and Ashton definitely, even Nick and EJ, just have to take a different role,” he said. “It kind of happens so fast just like that, going from learning as a freshman to being a sophomore teaching the young guys, so it’s definitely going to be different.”

Quickley will be part of a backcourt that expects to be very versatile with the addition of freshman Tyese Maxey.

“All of us do different things, but we also do a lot of the same things as well. Ashton (on) defense, getting to the rack. Tyrese in pickup games, he’s really athletic, can get in the lane, can shoot as well, kind of like myself. So I think we’ll be able to do a lot of different things.”

Hagans said Kentucky’s backcourt could be one of the best in the nation and Quickly agreed with caution.

 “Ashton is putting pressure on us,” Quickley said with a laugh. “Aston has a lot of confidence, I’ve got a lot of confidence, especially with his defense last year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and so that was huge. We can be really good. We just want to be the best backcourt we can be to try to hold up (the national championship) at the end of the year.”

Quickley likes the idea of having the 3-point line moved back to conform to international rules beginning next season. He added that he usually shoots from the NBA 3-point line and the FIBA distance and opens up more for the offense.

“It’s not too big of a deal,” he said. “Honestly, you put the work in and I don’t think shooting from anywhere ... is going to be a problem,” he said. “This could help us with driving the ball as well and open up the driving lanes (to the basket).”

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