Surprise Cat is UK legend’s favorite player on this year’s squad

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

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Jack Givens was part of Kentucky’s 1978 national championship team that was sometimes criticized for being too intense and not having enough fun because of its quest to win the national title.

Givens, the 1978 Final Four most outstanding player, already has picked his favorite player on John Calipari’s 2023-24 team — sophomore Adou Thiero.

“He is my favorite and it goes back to last year,” said Givens. “Getting to watch practice is a blessing and I like to see guys who compete when the TV cameras are not on. I like guys who compete when they are just in the gym and the coaches screaming. He is that type of guy.”

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Thiero has added weight/muscle to where he could probably play anywhere from point guard to power forward this season. Calipari even said during UK’s four games in Toronto in July that Thiero might be able to defend the post in certain situations with his length, athleticism and size.

“I am glad to see he is stronger and bigger. A lot of times a player will put on muscle and lose a step (of quickness) but he seems to have gotten even quicker,” Givens said. “Those quick moves and quick decisions are what enables him to get a timely offensive rebound.”

Givens understands how talented UK’s overall roster is but thinks Thiero is going to be a regular in the rotation.

“The little things he does is what keeps him in the lineup and is going to make it hard not to have him on the floor for a large part of the game,” Givens said. “He has been a joy to watch because of his improvement.

“He did not shoot well (in Canada). Last year he shot the 3 in practice and games very well. Maybe it’s his increased upper body strength that affected his shooting a little, but with time he will get that back to add to all the other little things he does.