Thoughts and notes as KSR makes its way to the Bahamas

At a time in which sports are at their lowest point of the year — no disrespect to baseball, but it is what it is — Kentucky basketball is here to save the day. A four-game exhibition trip for the Wildcats in August, nothing better to get us to football season in the fall, followed by basketball in the winter.

Oh yeah, and they’re doing it in the Bahamas — at a brand-new, state-of-the-art resort to help soak in the paradise, no less.

I’m making my way down to Nassau now, with Dr. Michael Huang — KSR’s superstar photographer — set to arrive around the same time this early afternoon. We’ll be your eyes and ears at Baha Mar Resort where the Wildcats are taking care of business on the court and goofing off away from it. The team is already getting after it in the water park, which features all the water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers a person could ever need.

What’s the expected fan turnout? As I board this connection flight in Philadelphia, there are at least a dozen Kentucky fans on this plane decked out in UK hats and t-shirts. I’m tempted to start a “Go Big Blue” chant, but don’t want to get put on the no-fly list when I’m three hours away from paradise. We’ll get one rolling as we land and plenty throughout the week.

The team arrived Monday, where we got our first bit of news from the week: CJ Fredrick will play on limited minutes, giving fans our first real look at the sharpshooting guard out of Cincinnati.

He played in Kentucky’s open scrimmage, knocking down a few 3-point attempts while moving well up and down the floor. Coming off a season-ending hamstring injury, it was a strong step in the right direction. Now, we get to see him in a live game setting against professional competition, even if it’s in a limited capacity. Whispers inside the Joe Craft Center indicate the kid is in the Doron Lamb, Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, etc. level of elite shooters to come through Lexington. Time to see it in action.

Beyond waterslides and boat rides, Fredrick’s availability is the first bit of news to come out of the team’s trip to the Bahamas. Kentucky is set to practice at 2 pm ET — an open practice to fans, if you’re around Baha Mar looking for something to do this afternoon — which I hope to attend if customs cooperates and I can get a ride from the airport to the resort in time. Unlikely considering I land in Nassau approximately 20 minutes before practice starts, but we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I get lucky.

If not today, the four-game trip is sure to produce plenty of news to get us through the home stretch of the offseason. In case you missed it, here’s the schedule, with all four games broadcast live on SEC Network.

  • Wednesday, August 10: 7:00 pm EST vs. Dominican Republic U22 National Team
  • Thursday, August 11: 7:00 pm EST vs. Monterey Tech (Mexico)
  • Saturday, August 13: 6:00 pm EST vs. Carleton University (Canada)
  • Sunday, August 14: 12:00 pm EST vs. Bahamas National Team

Coming off an impressive open practice for the team last week, I’m most interested in seeing Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves on the floor, my two MVPs from the five-on-five scrimmage. Toppin looked like a brand new player from what we saw last season, knocking down jumpers and looking to attack off the dribble for scores at the rim. Reeves looked the part as a day-one contributor, a major development, especially considering he is coming from Illinois State in the Missouri Valley. His ability to break down defenders, create for himself and score at all three levels is a game-changer for this offense, especially after losing the likes of TyTy Washington, Kelan Grady and Davion Mintz this offseason.

Another player I’m watching closely? Cason Wallace, who has quietly emerged as Kentucky’s anticipated go-to offensive threat in crunch time, sources tell KSR. He knocked down a stepback 3-pointer in Oscar Tshiebwe’s face at the buzzer to close out the open scrimmage, a continuation of his strong production and consistency to open his time in Lexington. He’s gained quite a bit of respect from teammates early, with coaches pushing the five-star freshman to be more vocal and take on a bigger leadership role as a result.

How will he respond when the games begin? We’ll get our first look this week.

Beyond the games themselves, there was also some buzz about rap superstar and #LaFamilia member Drake roaming the Kentucky sidelines as an assistant coach this week in the Bahamas. The buzz was very real, with UK working with him on a one-week contract to join the team at Baha Mar, sources tell KSR.

Unfortunately, though, the program was unable to find a workaround with Drake’s brand new Nike sub-label, NOCTA, standing in the way. With the Wildcats set to partner with the rap superstar and his new apparel brand, it was a conflict of interest with name, image and likenes.

It also didn’t help that Drake got sick with COVID-19 in the last week and had to adjust his own personal work schedule as a result.

Kentucky tried, though. And the program is continuing to find ways to separate itself as the premier brand in all of college basketball, exploring every possible avenue to do so. Expect to see other popular names and faces around the facilities and at games moving forward. The brand is strong.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Expect a week of countless updates and random thoughts from the Bahamas. Follow along on Twitter (@JackPilgrimKSR) to stay in the loop from start to finish. It’ll be a heck of a week.

Fingers crossed I get to open practice before doors close. Go Cats.

KSR is excited to partner with Condado Tacos at The Summit at Fritz Farm for our Bahamas basketball coverage. KSR will be on the scene at Baha Mar Resort as the Kentucky Basketball team plays four games to get an early start preparing for the season. The Bahamas trip won’t be all basketball so follow along for all the fun events at the resort as well.

Stop in to see our friends at Condado to try some of their summer features like the Mango Guacamole or Chicken Bacon Ranch taco. Yum! They’ve also got Happy Hour deals like $6 house margs Monday through Friday from 3-6pm. We love tacos at KSR so the partnership with Condado was perfect to fuel our crew for the big week of Bahamas coverage. Thanks Condado!

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