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Nine Things to Watch For as Kentucky Basketball Takes the Floor at GLOBL JAM Event


Credit: Kentucky athletics

In theory, it’s a quiet time of year for college basketball. It’s the heat of the summer. March is a long time away.


Sure, there is always portal news. Bob Huggins snuck back into the headlines. Recruiting is always on the minds of coaching staffs and fan bases. Peach Jam just ended. Offers are being extended and campus visits being scheduled.


Games? Travel itineraries? TV schedules? That is not on the radar as college basketball is about to be on hiatus with no games until early November.


Well, that’s not true. One of the sports marquee programs - the Kentucky Wildcats - will be representing USA Basketball in the four-team 2023 GLOBL JAM Tournament that starts on Wednesday, July 12 and concludes with a gold and bronze medal games on Sunday, July 16.


So, yes college basketball fans. There are games to watch this week.


Of course, AaronTorresOnline.com will have coverage for you. Please follow along all week as we cover the Cats. Below, we have a “What To Watch For” preview that will intrigue and inform you whether you are a passionate card-carrying BBN Kentucky fan (or hater) as they play four games over five days in Toronto, Canada.

GLOBL JAM DETAILS (yes, that is the correct spelling…)


Who:


Four teams will play in a round-robin format, playing three games in four days, leading into bronze and gold medal games. The four teams are Team Canada, Team Africa, Team Germany, and Kentucky representing Team USA. Team Canada will be coached by former Toronto Raptor assistant coach Nathaniel Mitchell.


What:


The Globl Jam advertises itself as a world-class, five-on-five, under 23-year old international basketball showcase. The event is in only its second year of existence. Baylor represented Team USA last year (more on that later)


When:


Pool Play starts on Wednesday, July 12 and concludes with gold and bronze medal games on Sunday, July 16.


Where:


All games will be played under FIBA rules at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Canada.


TV Details:


All the games will be televised in Canada on their SportsNet service. In the United States, the National Association of Basketball Coaches just announced last week that CBSSportsNet will be the television partner for this year's event. NOTE: Thursday’s game vs Team Canada will be tape-delayed due to a prior commitment with a soccer game. The other games will be shown live.


TEAM USA/KENTUCKY’S SCHEDULE:


  • July 12: Team USA vs. Team Germany, 1:30 p.m. ET

  • July 13: Team USA vs. Team Canada, 8:00 p.m. ET (Note: tape delay July 14 at 12:00 a.m. ET on CBS Sports Network)

  • July 15: Team USA vs. Team Africa, 1:30 p.m. ET live on CBS Sports Network

  • July 16: Gold Medal Game (if Team USA is playing), 8:00 p.m. ET live on CBS Sports Network (Note: If Team USA/Kentucky is in the bronze medal game, that will be played at 1:30 p.m. ET and not be televised)


WHAT TO LOOK FOR IF YOU ARE A KENTUCKY FAN (OR HATER)?


As all Wildcat fans know, Kentucky is looking to hang banner number nine in school history, the last one coming in 2012. With nine being the benchmark for the 2023-24 season, and every season for that matter, let’s look at nine things to look for in these exhibition games.


1. Will Cal coach?


In past summer road trips, John Calipari let each assistant take the head coaching seat while he watched from the sideline, announcer's booth or the skybox. This year may be different. Mainly because Kentucky is representing Team USA and will be wearing a different shade of blue with USA across their chests in game competition. Calipari has even alluded to the fact he may coach some or all of the games in media opportunities leading up to the showcase.


2. How do the freshmen look and what are their roles?


While they have known each other for several years on the AAU circuit, the heralded class of incoming freshmen - DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard and recently added Jordan Burks and Joey Hart have had minimal on-court time to jell and develop team chemistry. Kentucky will also be without the services of five-star center Aaron Bradshaw, who will miss the showcase with a foot injury.


Follow our Kentucky specific Twitter account - @TorresOnUK


We all know they are talented. Does one stand out above the others? Do they have on-court chemistry after having been the top dog (shall we say Cat) on their respective high-school teams? Do Burks and Hart play themselves into serious playing time consideration?


All reports are that they have practiced well and been unselfish. How does that play out against more mature teams will be one thing to watch closely. It won’t be perfect, nor should it be in July, which is why this event is a huge plus heading into the 2023-24 season. They are getting a head start against older teams in real-game situations. This can only help come SEC play and when it matters the most in March.


3. Who plays the majority of the time at point guard?


Dillingham may be the truest point guard on the roster, but he is likely to come off the bench with Wagner being the lead guard. Does Sheppard get some minutes at the point guard? This event gives Cal and his staff a chance to see how they operate in non-practice situations.


Also, we haven’t even mentioned Justin Edwards, who is listed as a guard, and key returnee Antonio Reeves. There is talent galore, especially in the backcourt, for Kentucky. These games will give Calipari a much better view moving forward as to how best utilize the roster, especially if Bradshaw were to be out for longer than expected or pulls a Shaedon Sharpe and never appears in a game. Calipari will want to win since they are representing Team USA, but an event like this allows Kentucky to try different rosters, starting lineups, late-game substitution patterns.


4. How do the returnees - mainly Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyenso - compare to last year? Can they be major contributors?


Up until Tre Mitchell transferred in and Antonio Reeves returned, Thiero and Onyenso were Kentucky’s only returning players. They scored a total of 86 points and grabbed 79 rebounds last season. Obviously, Reeves and Mitchell will be vital cogs in the Wildcat season, but Kentucky will need marked improvement from Thiero and Onyenso to be as versatile and deep a team that is needed for postseason success. These games will allow them an opportunity to show how much they have improved and if they deserve more minutes once the season starts.


5. What is Tre Mitchell's role going to be?


Mitchell was a late addition - as in real late - as in only 15 days ago late - when he committed to Kentucky on June 26 after leaving West Virginia following the Higgins “resignation”. Mitchell brings versatility, athleticism and experience. He has played 102 games at three different stops in his college journey (UMass, Texas, and West Virginia). He has started 92 games, scored 1398 points and collected 587 rebounds. He barely knows the system or his teammates but his experience will be a huge help right of the gate and this tournament will help his learning curve immensely.


6. How will the Kiddie Cats team fare vs veteran competition?


Kentucky’s freshman class was the top-ranked one for a reason. But they have mainly played against competition their age. The other three teams in this event will feature older professionals who are used to the FIBA style of play. This factor will play an even more important role as the event reaches its conclusion as there is only one day off in the 5-day showcase.



7. Who takes the shot when it’s late in a possession or end of game situation?


This will be fascinating to watch. Wagner, Dillingham, Edwards, Sheppard and even Reeves and Mitchell have all been their team’s go-to guy to get a bucket late when needed. Having a lot of options is a blessing. There will be plenty of opportunities for that in these games. Who steps forward as that guy in Canada? If you are Coach Calipari, you hope it’s multiple guys.


8. Is this the UK roster that will take the floor at Big Blue Madness?


The logical answer is yes. But grad transfers can enter the portal upon finishing their degree this summer and summer school is still in session. If Kentucky shows some weaknesses and the right player enters the portal or a Class of 2024 high school senior all of a sudden re-classifies and decides to play college this season, Kentucky may look to add another domino to fill a void if that situation presents itself. How this team fares (not wins or loses) may decide if the roster is the one that goes to battle starting in November.


IS THERE A WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GLOBL JAM?


Glad you asked! Yes there is! It takes place at the same time and location, and ironically, another college team from Kentucky will be participating. The Louisville Cardinals are representing Team USA!


CONCLUSION


How will Kentucky fare at this tournament? No one knows. That includes Coach Calipari. They could go undefeated. They could lose all four games. Logic says somewhere in between will be the end result.


Last year, Baylor was much more experienced and went 1-4 in this event, including 0-3 in round-robin play. They won their semi-final game before falling 77-73 to Brazil in the gold medal game. Baylor entered the Big 12 tournament ranked 10th in the country and reached the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.


One thing is for certain. Kentucky will be the youngest team and the team that has played the fewest games together (that’s none) at the 2023 Globl Jam Tournament.


However, it will serve as a great litmus test for the young Cats to jell and bond over a week of games. In many ways, it’s a no-lose proposition. Regardless of the win-loss record, Kentucky, its players, coaching staff, and fans, will find out a lot this week at the Globl Jam.


A no-lose situation is not something synonymous with Kentucky basketball. But, that’s what July overseas basketball is all about.


Enjoy the games, college basketball fans. The next one that counts for real will be in early November, over 100 days away.


Follow Stephen on Twitter - @SKirckII


Follow our Kentucky specific Twitter account - @TorresOnUK



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