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Keith Taylor: Poythress, Booker impressed with UK newcomers; Coach K heaps praise on Cousins

Several former Kentucky players are back on campus this week to take part in John Calipari’s Pro Camp.

Among the returnees participating in the camp include Devin Booker, Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Karl-Anthony Towns, who is scheduled to make an appearance Thursday.

 Devin Booker took part in UK's Pro Shooting Camp last week (Vicky Graff Photo)

Devin Booker took part in UK’s Pro Shooting Camp last week (Vicky Graff Photo)

In addition to interacting with campers at the Joe Craft Center, the former players also have had the opportunity to compete in pick-up games with Kentucky’s current squad and Poythress has been impressed with the talent Calipari has assembled.

“They’re going to be pretty good,” Poythress said. “Me, Tyler (Ulis) and Devin (Booker) played pick-up with them the other day. They’re going to be real good. Real athletic at the positions. Isaiah (Briscoe) is really bringing some leadership, so if he knows how to handle his troops they’re going to be really fine when it’s said and done. Really impressed by them.”

Poythress singled out guard Malik Monk as one of the team’s top newcomers.

“Malik (Monk) stood out to me,” Poythress said. “He’s real athletic and real gifted offensively — stuff like that.”

As for his own future, Poythress said he’s optimistic he will land a roster spot with an NBA team next season.

“I’ve gotten feedback,” Poythress said. “A couple of teams have called about camp invites. I’m not sure I can say which teams because I haven’t signed anything yet, but things are looking optimistic, so that’s good.”

Praise for Ulis

Booker, who played one season with Ulis at Kentucky, was surprised Ulis didn’t go higher in last month’s NBA Draft but is happy Ulis has rejoined him in Phoenix. Booker said Ulis was the “biggest steal in the draft” last June.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Booker said. “If you turn on TV and watched him play last year you see he belonged in the NBA. He has a bright future ahead of him. I’m proud to be his teammate again and I think it’s going to be really fun in the future.”

Talented but not the best

Booker, who played on Kentucky’s Final Four team that finished 38-1 two years ago, said the Wildcats fell short of reaching their ultimate goal of winning a national championship.

“Obviously, the 2012 team has the national championship, something that we wish we would have had,” Booker said, “But, I always say we were the most talented team. I always say we were the most talented team in college basketball history. Not the best team, because the best teams win championships, but the most talented team.”

Bragging on Boogie

Former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins will be competing for Team USA in the Rio Olympics, slated to begin Friday. During preliminary contests for the upcoming games, Cousins has impressed the coaching staff.

“All the coaches were really pleased with DeMarcus and how he played,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “His attitude is tremendous because he wouldn’t keep coming back to be a part of Team USA if it didn’t mean something to him. We recognize that. He was in good shape. He played well. He was talking on defense. He was our leading rebounder (in Friday’s scrimmage) and he can pass out of the low post. He gives us a ‘big’ that is different than Anthony Davis.”

Cousins and Team USA open Olympic play against China in Group A competition at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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