Last nights heartbreaking loss featured the Cats letting the game slip away in the final minutes as they hung their heads and seemingly gave up. It was clear the team didn’t have the fight to get back into the game after letting their late lead slip away with Baylor coming up with hustle play after hustle play to close the game out. So what was the reason for the Cats final minutes meltdown? If you ask Coach Cal he will tell you the blame falls on him this time…
“I played the guys way too many minutes. I was trying to get out of the gym. It was a big mistake. They’re not able to play, that’s a high school. That’s an AAU thing. I’m staying on the court 38 minutes. There’s no way and that’s not their fault, I’m the one that played them that many minutes. These guys shouldn’t be playing more than 28-30 minutes. Any of them because they can’t play any more minutes.”
So how does Coach Cal reduce the minutes of his most vital players? Maybe a little bit of court time for Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and even Jarrod Polson. Here are the very limited minutes each are playing.
-Dakari Johnson-10.1 minutes per game
-Marcus Lee-7.6 minutes per game
-Derek Willis-3.4 minutes per game
-Jarrod Polson-4.4 minutes per game
Cal has five players averaging over 26 minutes per game in Randle, Young, WCS, and both Harrison twins while a plethora of talent sits on the Kentucky bench as observers. From there comes the question of how Cal can use the bench to relieve the starters without missing a beat.
Dakari Johnson-Dakari Johnson is a big body that poses an issue for any team down low. Of course his athleticism isn’t ideal but he was a top ranked recruit for a reason; he can play some basketball. Cal could utilize his size down low to give WCS a little more rest for each game and possibly have more success offensively with Johnson.
Marcus Lee-Lee could be used to come in and bring energy, which is something this team has lacked overall. When Lee is on the court he leaves everything on the defensive end and looks for the opening around the rim on offense. Marcus Lee was a top 25 recruit as well and could help this team significantly if given the chance.
Dominique Hawkins-Cal said earlier in the season that Hawkins is the closest to what he wants from his players. If that’s the case, Hawkins must start to see more minutes. He plays aggressive defense and does have the ability to score. Dominique could be more aggressive on the offensive end but with his role and this team’s roster that isn’t needed. The team needs energy and Hawkins provides that on the court.
Derek Willis-Derek Willis could very well be the most underutilized player of this Kentucky team. In what little game time we have seen from Willis, he has produced. To this point, Willis has played only 17 minutes scoring 14 points. Not to mention that Derek Willis never played a minute in four of Kentucky’s nine games. Willis showed us in the preseason he can score in bunches and could relieve James Young and open up the floor for Randle with his shooting. Derek Willis is too skilled for only 3.4 minutes per game.
Jarrod Polson-Jarrod Polson was looking to compete for the backup point guard role in the beginning of the season, which Aaron Harrison seems to have assumed. But Polson brings something no other point guard on this team does with experience and maturity. Polson has seen many big games and has learned how to handle the pressure in certain situations. Plus Jarrod competes at all costs when he is on the hardwood. Of course he doesn’t have the athleticism of the twins or Hawkins but his basketball IQ and understanding of Cal’s system makes up for that.