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An offseason of adjustments continues with Kentucky basketball’s exhibition opener

·3 min read

Kellan Grady scored 2,002 points in four seasons for Davidson before transferring to Kentucky.

Freshman Bryce Hopkins will play his first college game Friday when UK plays an exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan.

Despite those disparate basketball backgrounds, Grady and Hopkins can find common ground in how this preseason has been about adjustment.

Grady acknowledged an initial uneasiness as part of his transition.

“First couple weeks of September were an adjustment for me,” he said Wednesday.

Grady said his overall goal was consistency.

“Don’t let missed shots faze you or affect you or keep you from continuing to take the shots,” he said.

When asked about the step up from mid-major to high-major college basketball, Grady pointed out that Davidson played marquee opponents in the non-conference portion of schedules. For instance, Grady played against such programs as North Carolina (twice), Wake Forest (twice), Purdue, Virginia, North Carolina State, Texas and three Southeastern Conference schools: Vanderbilt (twice), Auburn and — ahem — Kentucky in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Still, Kentucky practices presented the need to adjust to a quicker pace and enhanced athleticism.

“Which requires quicker decisions, quicker reads . . . ,” he said. “It took me a couple weeks to just settle in and be more efficient as a shot maker and a decision maker.

“I’ve definitely found my niche now and settled into that the last month (or) six weeks.

“All of us should be ready (for the season).”

The adjustments Hopkins made came on and off the court.

He spoke of gaining 8 pounds “of muscle” and trimming his percentage of body fat when the players had time off to go home. He said he arrived at UK weighing 228 or 229 pounds. Now, he said he weighs 222.

As for changes on the court, the 6-foot-6 Hopkins said that he has sought to improve as a defender and become a more consistent shooter.

The latter effort involves a throwback to UK basketball’s last national championship. Hopkins said he gets in extra shooting each morning. This has prompted John Calipari to mention how Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played a key role in what became known as “the Breakfast Club” during Kentucky’s 2011-12 season.

Hopkins said he tries to be in the gym by 8 a.m. He shoots for about an hour before heading to his first class.

Others who participate in the extra shooting each morning include Jacob Toppin, Davion Mintz, assistant coach Ron “Chin” Coleman and sometimes fellow freshman Daimion Collins, Hopkins said.

“I can see improvement,” Hopkins said of his shooting.

When asked what his personal goals were for this season, Hopkins said, “whatever it takes to get a ‘W.’”

Hopkins described his role as based on effort. “Staying low on defense, get rebounds,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on.”

As for Grady, he expressed gratitude for having something other than a seamless adjustment to a new basketball reality.

“I’m glad I went through two or three weeks of growing pain,” Grady said. “(I had to) settle in and trust the process.

“Now, I’m grateful for that time period.”

Friday

Kentucky Wesleyan at No. 10 Kentucky

What: Preseason exhibition game

Where: Rupp Arena

When: 7 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

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