LEXINGTON, Ky – With Ashton Hagans stuffing the staff sheet, Tyrese Maxey receiving national attention and Nick Richards evolving into one of the best big men in the country, it would be easy to overlook just how good Immanuel Quickley has been for Kentucky.
Over the last four games, all wins for Kentucky, Quickley has been the spark off the bench. He is averaging a team-best 18.8 points per game during Kentucky’s four-game winning streak, including the three best scoring performances of his UK career (18 Louisville, 19 Alabama, 23 Missouri).
“Trust in God, he has been giving me a lot of confidence,” Quickley said following the win vs. Alabama. “I’ve been putting a lot of work in, extra hours in the gym since we don’t got school. It has just given me a lot of time to get in the gym early or late at night to really work on my game.”
The Havre de Grace, Maryland, native has been hitting big shots for the Wildcats, most recently a clutch three-pointer late in the Wildcats win vs. the Crimson Tide.
Nursing a 71-67 lead, John Calipari designed a play out of an inbounds set with 1:01 left. Calipari, recognizing the Alabama defender was protecting the paint, instructed Quickley to throw the ball into Richards and pop to the corner for the open shot but Calipari second guessed himself and called timeout.
“I ice you, I ice you,” Calipari said of his decision to call timeout. “You’re my guy and he still makes it.”
Quickley said the timeout didn’t bother him and there’s no reason why it should have. He has been making everything the last four games, knocking down 14-of-23 three-point shots (60.9 percent).
“He’s a confident kid, and what he does, he spends so much time in the gym, he expects to make them,” said Calipari. “The kid lives in the gym. He’s kind of like Tyler (Herro), he’s like Shai (Gilgeous-) Alexander, those guys. He’s just like them.”
The biggest reason for Quickley’s confidence and improvement is his familiarity with everything and being back as a sophomore with experience.
“I’ve said that multiple times, I’m so glad I came back,” said Quickley. “Even at the start of the season coming back into my sophomore year, not even basketball-wise, but it’s great because now I really know where all my classes are, I know time management, I know when I need to be places and just simple things like that. I’ve just gotten more comfortable on and off the floor, which is beneficial to me and my teammates. I’m able to look out for everybody.”
Before a missed three-pointer in the second half, Quickley had made eight three-pointers in a row – the last two vs. Missouri, all three at Georgia and the first three vs. Alabama. That second half miss was his only of the day as he finished 5-of-6 from long range.
“With him shooting like that, it’s a completely different team,” said Alabama head coach Nate Oats. “If he shoots 5 of 6 from three, I am not sure who is better than that in the country. You know, he goes 5 of 6, there is probably a reason he played 34 minutes tonight.”
But how hot is Immauel Quickley right now?
“Steaming hot,” he said. “If you touched me, you might burn.”