LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You won’t find too many players more ready to get the upcoming college basketball season going than Kentucky guard CJ Fredrick. The junior transfer from Iowa, who played his high school basketball at Covington Catholic, spent all of last season on the sidelines. He’s ready to get back between the lines.
And the shooting guard who was on the All-Freshman team in the Big Ten at Iowa in 2020 before playing through a lingering foot injury as a sophomore said he’s getting close.
At a camp in east Louisville on Wednesday, Fredrick said he’s been cleared for weight training and conditioning with the team. And after reporting back to campus Tuesday, he has a few other tests to complete before finding out when he’ll be able to play five-on-five basketball again.
He worked all offseason a year ago to get himself ready to contribute, only to suffer a freak hamstring injury in the pregame warmups to Kentucky’s opener against Duke. The injury required surgery and forced him to miss the entire season.
"It was tough," he said. "Honestly, it wasn’t a blessing in disguise, because you never want to be out the entire season. But it really has been a great opportunity for me to get my feet wet. I know what Coach Cal likes. I know what he runs. I'm familiar with the program. So, you know, it's been good for me in that way."
As for his health now, Fredrick said he’s getting close.
"I'm really happy where my health is," he said. "Obviously, I've been a little banged up recently. But I've worked extremely hard all last season just to get my body in really good shape. My goal was to just get — I was a little bit overweight — just get as thin and lean as possible. And I think I've done a good job of that. This summer, I'll try to bulk up and add some more muscle. But my hamstring feels really good. My body feels really good. I'll be working out with the team this summer, doing everything with the team this summer in preparation to play this season. So I'm feeling good. And I'm excited."
Fredrick didn’t come to Kentucky just to have a front-row seat for games but he did make the most of his vantage point on the sidelines. He saw how Kellan Grady worked into the UK offense, how he was able to stretch the defense and the shooting opportunities he got.
Watching all of that was an eye-opener for Fredrick, who was used to a more physical defensive style in the Big Ten.
"Honestly, you know, it was funny," he said. "A lot of the games I was sitting next to Riley — Riley Welch, who was a GA — and we would sit and analytically look at the game a little differently. I'm an older guy now, so I try to learn the game any different ways I can. But I was just amazed, in the SEC, how many open shots I can get. It seems like even Kellan would make some games where he'd hit six, seven threes and they're still, you know, spacing off him a little bit. So that was something that lit up my eyes, you know. It looks like I'll be with playmakers that we have that I could really, really get some open looks. And that's something that really stood out to me. It was exciting to me. And then we do run those floppy actions and down screens and that's kind of what I thrive in. Just misdirection-type stuff, just getting my defender off me a little bit and having a big body like Oscar (Tshiebwe) setting the screen. I think that really will help me a lot. But having playmakers like Cason (Wallace) and Sahvir (Wheeler), those guys can really create some open shots, and the way that some teams in the SEC defend, I can really benefit and be able to help the team out a lot."
You don’t hear a ton of talk about Fredrick in the midst of the comings and goings at UK, but he’s worth remembering, a guard with high-level experience who can be a consistent outside presence, something John Calipari values. While there’s been lots of attention on Shaedon Sharpe, who might or might not have been in condition to play last season but didn’t. Fredrick is a guy who would’ve done anything humanly possible to play but couldn’t.
Fredrick said he’s a different player from Grady but that after talking to Calipari, he expects to fill a similar role.
"I think we have a great balance, some older guys," Fredrick said. "Obviously, we have Oscar and Sahvir coming back, and that's going to help your team out a lot of ways — and Jacob (Toppin). And then, you know, you've got a guy like Damion (Collins), who showed glimpses and can make a huge jump with his size and his length. And then you got a lot of young guys: Cason, Chris (Livingston), Adou (Thiero), you know, guys that are hungry. I think that's the one thing about this team that you'll see this year. It's a lot of guys that kind of have that dog attitude. I think we got a lot of dogs this year. They just are hungry and want to win. And that's kind of what I'm like. So I'm excited to get after it."
Fredrick spent Wednesday working with kids from grades 1 through 8 in the First Satellite ProCamp presented by White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics held at Mid-American Sports. It’s an event Fredrick is free to do as part of a Name, Image and Likeness deal. And he said he was having fun with it.
"To be able to be out here and help the kids and work on their skills, it's fun for me, because I can remember myself in that same position, when I would go to camps and see college guys and look up to those guys," he said. "So it's cool for me to be able to be in this position. ... (NIL) has been huge. It's opened a lot of opportunities for everybody. But, you know, I think a big thing that people don't see is how much fun we have with it. It allows us to do things like this and come out and just have fun with the kids, teach the kids things. It's just a fun way to do it because it can be ours. It can mean a little bit more, doesn't have to be from the university. We can run it. I can come out here and have fun with them and play games with them. So that, to me, it's not all about just making money. It's about giving back. And this gives me an opportunity to do that."
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