The key to constant effort for Chris Livingston

LEXINGTON — For most of John Calipari’s basketball tenure at Kentucky, it would have been hard to imagine a five-star freshman arriving on campus as an afterthought.

But for new Wildcat winger Chris Livingston, it could be.

from Kentucky projected roster 2022-23 is titled by Veterans with National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwetwo-time Southeastern Conference leader assists leader Sahvir Wheelercareer 46.6% 3-point shooter CJ Frederick and super athlete Jacob Toppin all back. Illinois State Transfer Antonio Reeves averaged over 20 points per game last season. Five-star freshman guard Cason Wallace is considered the team’s top NBA draft prospect and the likeliest option to take on a star role in the backcourt.

Finding room for Livingston in a projected starting roster is tough at the moment, but how quickly he adapts to college basketball could be the difference in Kentucky going from a good team to a elite team.

“For two years, it’s been a lot of ups and downs with his consistency and his engine, but the talent is there, the tools are all there,” 247Sports national basketball analyst Travis Branham said. “He can score. He’s a talented passer… His jump shot has improved.

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The uncertain expectations for Livingston as a rookie are highlighted by a drop in his recruiting rankings over the past year.

In September 2019, Livingston debuted as a No. 3 ranked prospect in the 247Sport Composite class of 2022 rankings, which average the ratings of leading recruiting services. He stayed in the top five for two years.

But instead of moving up the roster as several of the players ahead of him moved on to graduate high school early and enroll in college basketball, Livingston’s rankings plummeted in his senior year. He arrived in Kentucky earlier this month as the No. 11 ranked prospect in the class, according to the 247Sports Composite.

He is ranked 15th in the 247Sports internal rankings. ESPN ranks him 12th in class. Rivals ranks him 10th.

“He’s got all the skills and all the talent,” Branham said. “His production and everything is always determined whether he’s going to play with an engine that day or not.”

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Featured as Akron, Ohio’s Best Upcoming Player from LeBron JamesLivingston played his senior season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Playing for the same prep school that sent Keldon Johnson, Doron Lamb, Rajon Rondo, Ron Mercer and others to Kentucky, Livingston averaged 17.1 points, eight rebounds and two assists per game. He shot 33.3 percent from 3-point range (24 for 72).

At Oak Hill, Livingston played alongside two fellow Top 100 prospects for the Class of 2022 and Duke’s 2023 Five-Star Commitment, Caleb Foster. That experience playing with other top prospects could help him adjust to Kentucky, but Calipari’s track record suggests he won’t respond well to an inconsistent drive from Livingston.

If the Kentucky Hall of Fame coach can push the right buttons to produce a consistent effort from Livingston, he could be the difference maker for the Wildcats.

Livingston is considered a 3-point shooter, but his jump shot could be helped by having a point guard like Wheeler create a good look for him. Fredrick, who missed all of last season with a hamstring injury after being traded from Iowa, and Reeves could have the inside route to third place in the starting backcourt alongside Wheeler and Wallace thanks to their 3-point shooting prowess, but none can match Livingston. other physical gifts.

At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Livingston presents an intriguing option as a small-ball four capable of stretching the ground beyond the arc, but Toppin and second Daimion Collins are favorites to start alongside Tshiebwe in the front area.

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Although he faces more competition for a few minutes than Kentucky’s usual five-star recruits, the presence of those veterans could help Livingston’s development by reducing the pressure for him to turn things around immediately. ESPN still currently projects Livingston as a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft despite uncertainty over his role.

The range of outcomes for Livingston as a rookie is wide, but being able to be patient with such a talented player should be a luxury for Calipari and Kentucky.

“If Chris rises to the occasion like he can, then he’s going to be a productive guy who will score the basketball, who will take a few shots,” Branham said. “He will defend, he will rebound, he will come out in transition. He just has that talent and ability to impact the game in different ways if he’s determined to on any given day.

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.