What is the only thing better than one 6-foot-6 shooting guard with an impeccable shooting stroke and an unstoppable ability to score?
Kentucky basketball’s opposition will be forced to prepare for the shooting guard duo of sophomore Aaron Harrison and freshman Devin Booker during the 2014-2015 college basketball campaign.
The Harrison twins will lead the backcourt for the Wildcats once again, with Aaron manning the two guard position. Harrison will look to resume his magnificent play from last March, a month in which his legendary performance alone would have certainly been worthy of an NBA draft selection.
But Harrison will not be a member of an NBA team next November. Like twin brother Andrew, Harrison was informed there was no guarantee he would have been selected in the first round. Harrison was likely told his play was too inconsistent and that he lacked quickness and defensive ability.
Harrison’s situation is similar to that of many college students. When an aspiring, undergraduate pre-medical student applies for the medical school of his dream and is told he is inadequate, that he lacks the skills to succeed at a higher level, the student has two options. He can view the criticism as the ultimate truth, collapse and relinquish his dream, or he can let the critique fuel him, improve and apply again the following year.
After Aaron Harrison’s dauntless display in March and April, when he cemented his legacy as the most clutch player in the history of the NCAA Tournament, it is clear rejection from the NBA and losing in the championship game will create an infuriated, passionate Aaron Harrison 2.0, one who is determined to be accepted into the graduate school that is the NBA.
The Big Blue Nation knows Harrison will be equipped with an even stronger work ethic, improved jump shot, and the experience of a 40-game season, but who is this new all-American backup shooting guard?
Devin Booker is from Moss Point High School in Mississippi and is one of the best shooters in the 2014 class. Booker could be the consistent, dagger-three drilling two guard the Wildcats have missed since the Doron Lamb days. Like Lamb, Booker is an incredibly accurate shooter, but unlike Lamb, Booker will tower over the opposition.
Standing 6-foot-6 at the shooting guard position is certainly advantageous. Booker can back down smaller defenders in the post or simply shoot over them. Consequently, Booker’s dominating height also means matchups with quicker guards could be a struggle. Like Harrison, Booker does not possess freakish quickness, but he is a smooth handler of the basketball, has a deadly step-back jump shot and the righty is the strongest off-hand finisher to adorn the Kentucky jersey since John Wall.
Booker’s release is picturesque, whether he fires a spot-up shot or steps back off the dribble. Booker can catch and shoot or create his own jump shot by the use of sheer force or basketball intelligence.
I cannot reiterate Booker’s accuracy enough. Booker can catch fire and get on the kind of hot streak former Wildcat Jodie Meeks provided for Kentucky basketball, and that is far from an opinion. After the first 11 games of his senior year, Booker was 21 for 21 from downtown.
Booker can light up the scoreboard for the Wildcat second unit next season, providing the bench points that were absent last year.
Or, (plot twist!) Booker could beat out junior Alex Poythress, who may be better suited as the sixth man, for the small forward position because of his size and scoring potential.
Or, (second plot twist!) Booker could see limited action, provide a spark during the NCAA Tournament and return for a sophomore season a la Marcus Lee. This is unlikely, given the points Booker could provide for a Wildcat team that lost 39.2 percent of its scoring with the departure of James Young and Julius Randle.
If Booker somehow cannot hang with this five-star studded Kentucky basketball team, the Wildcats still have the man who demoralized more teams with last-second three-point field goals than Adam Vinatieri.
Harrison’s increased college basketball experience will be beneficial, but I predict a focus on strengthening the facets of his game NBA scouts feel need improvement will be Harrison’s top priority this summer.
Harrison will improve his game even more, because the NBA draft is not the only goal he and his all-American teammates have in mind.
The Kentucky Wildcats will be loaded with prospects. The team will have ten prospects who could be selected in the NBA draft in 2015, including prospects who were part of the NCAA Tournament runner-up squad.
However, the most tantalizing prospect for the 2014-2015 season is the capture of the ninth championship banner.
To view the Kentucky point guard preview, click here.