This is the second in a series of profile stories on the Kentucky men’s basketball team.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Immanuel Quickley has changed and that transformation has been evident during preseason workouts.
“Immanuel (Quickley) is not even the same player,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I had someone come in and watch us practice and say, ‘he's not even the same guy.’”
Following his freshman campaign, Quickley was one of the first players to announce his future intentions and those plans didn’t include declaring for the NBA Draft. He wanted to come back for another season and a conversation with Calipari affirmed his decision.
“We talked about where I stood for the season,” Quickley said. “He thought I had a pretty good season. He just wanted me to come back and pretty much round out all the parts of my game. I feel like I have a lot of opportunities this year to show that.”
Quickley’s transformation has included his overall game on both ends of the court. Last season, Quickley played in every game and scored 12 points and made three shots from long range in a win over Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville last season. He tallied 30 points in a three-game period last January, but wanted to make another leap during the off-season.
“I’ve been working on my body, changing a lot of parts of my game, just working to be the all-around best player I can be,” he said. “That’s why you come to Kentucky, so you can play and practice against the best. My mindset has changed. Like last year, playing against guys like Tyler (Herro), Keldon (Johnson) and PJ (Washington) and all them, my confidence has increased. Knowing I can play against them, I know I can play against anyone.”
He has shown that behind the scenes and a big reason for his obvious improvement has been because of a rise in his confidence level.
“(My confidence has grown) a lot more aggressive offensively and defensively, (and I have) a lot better feel for the game,” he said. “Little things like that have helped me a lot this year.”
The coaching staff has noticed, especially Calipari, who said Quickley “seems to be that guy right now (and) he's building his own confidence.”
“I can't give him confidence,” Calipari said. “I can help him gain confidence, he's got to build it himself. Then you got to get into games and you got to have demonstrated performance. You got to do something in the games that convinces you, not me, that I got this. So but he's done great.”
Calipari said Quickley’s recent change for the good is reminiscent of PJ Washington’s elevation last season. Washington changed his mindset, which led to a substantial improvement on the court.
“He's in a different frame of mind,” the Kentucky coach said. “It's kind of like when P.J. (Washington) came back. P.J. came back, it's not that he just came back, he came back with a different mentality. He came back with a change of how he responded and how he saw things.”
Quickley is already looking forward to Kentucky’s season-opener against Michigan State at Madison Squad Garden.
“It’s going to be crazy. MSG is the mecca for basketball, last year just playing was a crazy game,” he said. “It’ll be crazy just to know that place is going to be sold out, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.