In the wake of the NCAA’s decision to move the start date of the 2018-19 →
Basketball Season Coverage
By Drew Franklin on ©January 15th, 2018 @ 12:12pm
The Jarred Vanderbilt question came up during Kenny Payne’s press conference today, and though Payne’s answer was thorough, we did not learn anything new.
“We’re leaving it up to him,” Payne said, reiterating what John Calipari has said many times already.
“First of all, I think when you talk about a kid coming off an injury and getting healthy, there is a mental thing there that he has to get over. ” Payne added, when asked to elaborate. “It’s been a long time since he’s played basketball. He’s going to have some aches and pains. He has to be able to practice and get through those aches and pains, and feel comfortable. He’s getting to that point. I don’t know if he’s there yet. Coach Cal doesn’t know if he’s there yet. But I do know he’s getting to the point where he is feeling more comfortable. Hopefully it’s soon.”
Payne also said, “It’s wrong for adults to force a kid to do anything when they don’t feel like they’re ready yet. Coach Cal is never going to do that to a kid. That’s not what we do here.”
Kentucky starting point guard Quade Green missed the last two games with a back strain, and it sounds like there is a good chance he’ll be out at least one more when UK travels to South Carolina tomorrow.
Kenny Payne said today that Green still hasn’t practiced, but he is getting close to a return.
“He has not practiced yet,” said Payne. “I think he’s any day now. I don’t even know if he’s going to practice today, but I know he’s getting close.”
“He’s been watching and observing, and hopefully he’s seeing a different side of the game that he didn’t see from playing, that he can watch and see exactly what we’re trying to get our guards to do.”
If Green doesn’t rejoin the team today, it’s hard to imagine he’ll play against the Gamecocks.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 15th, 2018 @ 11:12am
The Southeastern Conference finally came to its senses and named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the SEC Freshman of the Week.
With Quade Green out, Gilgeous-Alexander stepped into the starting lineup in Kentucky’s wins over Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. He played 39 minutes in each of those games, while leading the Cats in scoring at 19 points per game in the two wins. He also dished out a team-best 5.5 assists per game and shot 61.9 percent from the field.
It’s Gilgeous-Alexander’s first time winning the award, but probably not his last.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
The NCAA is set to discuss a rule change that would effectively start free agency in college sports.
According to Jon Rothstein, the NCAA will meet soon to decide on a potential rule change regarding immediate athlete transfer eligibility, where players with either a 2.7 or 2.8 GPA would be allowed a one-time transfer without sitting out a year.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 14, 2018
The rule would also impact graduate transfers, as a school taking on a graduate athlete must provide the scholarship for the entirety of the graduate program.
Rothstein reports that if the rule is passed, it would go into effect on August 1, 2018, just in time for next year’s college basketball and football seasons.
John Calipari has signed just one graduate transfer (Julius Mays) in his time at Kentucky, but this would likely force him to hit the transfer market hard. Mark Stoops would be looking for immediate-impact guys, similar to JUCO transfers we see year after year in college football. This rule change would cause the college sports world to flip upside down, for better or for worse. Major transfers would be happening left and right.
What do you guys think? Good or bad idea?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
When Devin Booker committed to Kentucky out of high school, most fans expected him to be a two or three-year player for the Wildcats. He was a five-star, top-20 sharpshooting prospect, but his supposed lack of athleticism and defensive struggles led to most believing he would nothing more than an offensive spark off the bench as a freshman.
When he finally suited up for the Cats, he certainly ended up being that spark off the bench, and then some. His shooting success from beyond the arc was crucial in Kentucky’s undefeated regular season and run to the Final Four, and he was selected as the No. 13 overall pick in the NBA Draft as a result.
For Kentucky four-star signee Tyler Herro, the storylines are adding up in a similar way. National recruiting services list the 6-5, 195 lbs. guard out of Greenfield, Wisconsin anywhere from the late-20’s to early 30’s in the nation. After a scoring explosion to start his senior year, many recruiting experts believe he will end up as a top-15 five-star talent in the final rankings.
With similar scoring abilities, could Herro end up being the next Devin Booker at Kentucky?
After last night’s 42-point outing in his return from injury, it’s hard not to notice the similarities.
Check out the highlights:
And earlier in the season, when Herro dropped 45 points in front of fans chanting “overrated,” among other comments:
These two ridiculous outings are just two of four 40-plus point games on the season, along with three other 30-plus point games.
On the season, Kentucky signee Tyler Herro is averaging 29.3 points with games of 42, 34, 43, 31, 43, 38 and 42. Also has 30 made 3s in 11 games.
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) January 14, 2018
For comparison’s sake, check out Booker’s 40-point night in front of John Calipari at the Marshall County Hoopfest:
As a senior in high school, Booker averaged 32.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. He was incredibly underrated for the vast majority of his high school career before making a major jump in the ratings midway through his senior year. The Missouri Tigers and Michigan Wolverines were deemed the favorites in his recruitment until John Calipari came in and snagged him late in the process. He broke the hearts of local fans, but made the best decision for himself by becoming a Wildcat.
In his third year in the NBA, Booker is currently averaging 25 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game for the Phoenix Suns, and many consider him one of the top young scorers in the league. This year, Booker became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to record over 3,000 career points, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. Oh, and he scored 70 points in a game last season, just the 11th time and sixth player in NBA history to accomplish that feat.
To start out Herro’s senior campaign, he’s averaging 29.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.3 steals per contest. He committed to home-state Wisconsin back in September of 2016, and then re-opened his recruitment in October of 2017. John Calipari got in contact almost immediately after, paid him a visit nearly two weeks later and offered a scholarship on the spot. Ten days later, Herro came to Lexington on an official visit, and four days later, he signed on the dotted line. He broke the hearts of local fans, but made the best decision for himself by becoming a Wildcat.
With a killer scoring instinct, pure shooting form, and underrated athleticism, it’s hard not to have heightened expectations of the Kentucky signee. After reading some top recruiting analysts rave about Herro, that only adds to the excitement.
247 Sports’ Evan Daniels: “Tyler Herro is one of the best all-around scorers in the 2018 class. He’s built a reputation as a shot maker from distance, but he’s much more than just a good shooter. Herro is creative with his dribble and a crafty driver.”
247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer: “Herro has a bouncy athleticism and the upside to be a versatile player. He has one of the best pull up jumpers in the midrange in the class. Herro will also be a player that you have to respect from beyond the three-point line.”
247 Sports’ Brian Snow: “Herro is someone who can really score the ball. He is a high-level shooter who is fairly adept at getting space for himself off the dribble.”
What is Tyler Herro’s legacy going to be at Kentucky?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 5:00pm
After five-star center Moses Brown finished with 21 points and six rebounds with John Calipari in attendance this afternoon, the 2018 prospect told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that he was about ready to make a final decision.
“I’m going to make a decision real soon,” he said.
The Kentucky coaching staff has been going back and forth on offering Brown a scholarship, and he said that was a big reason for him delaying his decision for so long.
“That really was my whole purpose in waiting it out, I just wanted to see how they played,” he said of the late decision. Now I’m pretty certain on what I’m about to do.”
When asked if the Wildcats were still in contention, Brown seemed hesitant, and then flat out said Kentucky wasn’t involved.
“I still have yet to take a visit to Kentucky and they haven’t offered me yet so,” he said.
Asked if they weren’t really involved, Brown said, “No.”
When is a decision expected?
“Maybe by the end of next month I should have committed,” he said.
With Coach Cal on hand, maybe he makes one last run at him to sway his decision by offering a scholarship. If not, is he that confident in Nick Richards and/or PJ Washington returning? Could he be banking on James Wiseman reclassifying to 2018?
Regardless, it sounds like Brown never quite showed enough to seal the deal for Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff.
Next man up.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
After pulling out a victory against Vanderbilt in Nashville last night, John Calipari hit the recruiting trail to check in on some popular five-star prospects.
Evan Daniels reports John Calipari was in attendance to watch 2018 five-star center Moses Brown, where he finished the day with 21 points.
Kentucky's John Calipari is watching 2018 big man prospect Moses Brown (https://t.co/r4wcBekft1) at the Hoophall Classic.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) January 14, 2018
With Zion Williamson set to make a decision, and Clemson considered the favorite, Brown’s situation is very interesting. He has yet to receive an offer from Kentucky, despite publicly pleading for one. The coaching staff reportedly sees him as an extremely raw project player, and may be waiting to see who leaves from the current team before making a decision on him.
If Williamson heads elsewhere, and options remain limited, their hand may be forced to offer and accept a potential Brown commitment. If they wait too long, Brown could grow tired of waiting and head elsewhere, leaving Kentucky with even fewer options.
If news breaks that Calipari extended an offer to Brown this weekend, be prepared for another addition to Kentucky’s 2018 class.
Jeff Borzello reports Calipari will also watch 2019 five-stars Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine, two top-ten talents, this afternoon.
John Calipari and an assistant just arrived at #HHClassic. Uncommitted five-star Moses Brown playing right now, five-star juniors Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine in the next game.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) January 14, 2018
Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader says the UK coaching staff will stick around to watch 2018 signees Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, along with 2019 No. 1 prospect Vernon Carey.
Kentucky coaches at Hoophall this weekend. Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson both play early tomorrow, along with #1 junior Vernon Carey. https://t.co/AER5Im8U59
— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) January 14, 2018
Pretty big weekend for finishing up the class of 2018 and laying the foundation for the 2019 recruiting class.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 1:00pm
Last night, the No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders took down No. 2 West Virginia in Lubbock, TX, the first top-ten matchup in United Supermarkets Arena history.
Despite being favored in the game, Texas Tech fans stormed the court to celebrate the 72-71 victory, and the Mountaineers apparently weren’t very happy about it.
A West Virginia player punched a fan on the court, and two more Mountaineers got into a shoving match with a few other fans in attendance.
Take a look:
A West Virginia player threw a punch at a fan after the Texas Tech crowd stormed the court pic.twitter.com/rVfA0J2uRv
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 14, 2018
Here’s another angle:
I guess Wesley Harris #21 and @sagaba50 #50 from @WVUhoops were a little bitter after tonight’s loss to @TexasTechMBB Swinging at fans on the court 🙄 @Big12Conference @espn #wreckem #gunsup #ttu #wvu pic.twitter.com/cpTdNolmVX
— Steven Gutierrez (@stevenjee10) January 14, 2018
Sophomore forward Wesley Harris was the individual who threw the punch, and sophomore forward Sagaba Konate and Louisville-native D’Angelo Hunter appear to be the other two individuals involved. There is no word on whether or not they will face disciplinary action.
With their game against Kansas coming up tomorrow night in Morgantown, followed by matchups with Texas, TCU, and then Kentucky, any significant suspensions would be crucial to the team’s depth during this tough stretch of games.
On that note, in what world does the No. 8 team in the nation rush the floor as a favorite? We saw the backlash of fans interacting with players on the court during the UK vs. Indiana game back in 2011, as John Calipari now refuses to play in Assembly Hall as a result.
If I had to put money down, I’d say Bob Huggins isn’t too pleased with this situation in the slightest.
By Maggie Davis on ©January 14th, 2018 @ 10:00am
Good morning, friends! Yesterday was a nail-biter for the BBN, but luckily, the Cats found a way to win in Nashville, coming out on top 74-67. We had plenty of content about yesterday’s win on the site following the game (if you missed any of it, go ahead and click here) and, as always, we’ll continue to bring you the latest throughout the day. But for now, here’s what you need to see to start your morning.
A Quick Recap
Although Kentucky entered the matchup against Vanderbilt as just a 2-point favorite, it was still surprising to see the game against the Commodores (now 1-4 in the SEC) come as close as it did. The repeated absence of Quade Green, in addition to Tai Wynyard and the ever-allusive Jarred Vanderbilt, continued to hurt the Cats. Luckily, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander once again steadied the ship, leading all scorers with 22 points. He added four rebounds and six assists in his exhausting 39 minutes.
Kevin Knox returned to his early-season dominance, contributing 17 points and committing just one turnover. And although he played 28 minutes against the Commodores, he truly came alive in the final four minutes of the game. His jumper with 3:48 remaining pushed Kentucky to a 61-59 lead, followed by a successful free throw that sealed the deal for the Wildcats. Wenyen Gabriel and Hamidou Diallo followed up with scores of their own, sparking a 10-2 run for UK with a minute left in the game.
But the unbelievable moment of the game came with just 30 seconds remaining. Diallo committed a potentially-catastrophic mistake, fouling Riley LaChance while he was shooting from behind the three-point line. But Diallo got lucky, as he was bailed out by LaChance’s costly error: going 0-3 from the line. The senior is hitting 89 percent from the free-throw line this season, but against Kentucky, he was 0-4.
Nick Richards’ continued struggle
After an energetic opening few minutes, Richards once again struggled in yesterday’s victory. In fact, he did not even see much action. The reason? Rebounding. In his 12 minutes, the big man settled for just three boards. After the game, Coach Calipari defended his decision to pull Richards early in the first half due to his lack of rebounding.
“I told him after the game, guys, if I stick you in and tell you to rebound, and the first play [you don’t], walk to the bench. Walk to the bench. You don’t have to look to see if I’m taking you out. You know why I’m taking you out. You have to rebound.”
In a game where Richards clearly had the size advantage over the Commodores, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity and did not find that assertive, killer attitude we’ve all been waiting for. For a guy who’s nearly 7-feet tall, he appears to shrink under the basket, and opposing teams will always find a way to exploit that weakness. If he wants to re-earn his minutes going forward, Richards has to start muscling under the basket and grabbing those rebounds with two hands.
Up Next: Women’s Basketball
Now it’s time for the ladies of Kentucky Basketball to follow suit: UK Hoops will play Vanderbilt on the road tomorrow. Tip-off is schedule for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.
After dropping eight consecutive games before defeating Florida last Thursday, the Cats (9-9 on the season, 1-3 in the SEC) are looking to start a winning streak. The Commodores are sitting at the bottom of the conference (0-4 in the SEC), giving Matthew Mitchell and his team the chance to get back on track with a victory.
Sorry Drew, but the Tennessee Titans were absolutely dominated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last night. The Pats came away with the 35-14 victory, silencing the Titans who spent the week talking about finally getting their opportunity to hang with the AFC elite. The Tennessee offensive line struggled tremendously, allowing QB Marcus Mariota to be sacked a Patriot playoff record eight times.
The victory advances the Patriots to their seventh consecutive AFC championship game. Like the Pats or not (I prefer not), that’s a pretty impressive feat.
Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles fought past the Atlanta Falcons, securing a 15-10 victory. After being dubbed as the underdog, the Eagles decided to accept their position and run with it. Seriously.
Lane Johnson did his postgame interview in the dog mask 😂😂
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 14, 2018
West Virginia Falls
Bob Huggins and his No. 2 West Virginia team were brought down at the hands of No. 8 Texas Tech. The Mountaineers fell 72-71 after losing the 11-point lead they held in the final 13 minutes of the game, thus snapping their 15-game winning streak and ending their hopes of an undefeated season.
Senior Mountaineer Jevon Carter led all scorers with 28 points.
Now let’s see if West Virginia can manage to stay off-balance until Jan. 27 when they take on UK. My guess is probably not (“everybody’s Super Bowl,” and all that), but a girl can dream.
Well, that’s all I have for now. Have a great morning, and Go Cats.
Kentucky is now 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference and 14-3 overall after traveling down to Nashville to beat Vanderbilt, 74-67, on Saturday. The Cats played with only seven scholarships available for a second straight game; and for a second straight game, they made the plays down the stretch to escape with a tough victory.
Ten takeaways from the W:
Riley LaChance choked at the foul line.
Of all the storylines from the game, the one that sticks out most is Vanderbilt’s reliable senior missing three consecutive free throws while down four late in the game. LaChance is an 89-percent shooter from the stripe and he was gifted a trip to the line to potentially cut his team’s deficit to one. If he makes those, who knows how everything plays out? Maybe Vandy wins it in the end. But he didn’t, and Hamidou Diallo’s inexplicable foul (after UK’s inexplicable turnover) is forgotten. Diallo owes LaChance a thank you card — as do I for other reasons, of the gambling nature.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander solidified his spot as the best player on the team.
I don’t think it’s up for debate any longer: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the best player on Kentucky’s roster. He led the team in scoring once again with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, plus four rebounds and six assists, in 39 minutes played. It was assumed Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo would be the two most important players on the team, but Gilgeous-Alexander is that guy. He’s always been the best defender, and now he’s the best weapon on offense too.
Wenyen Gabriel is the unsung hero once again.
Gabriel did what he does in every game: he scrapped, clawed and battled to come up with some of the biggest rebounds, loose balls and defensive stops in the game. The shot wasn’t falling again in this one, but he’s not going to leave the court when he is doing everything else.
“Wenyen was ridiculous again today,” Coach Cal said on his postgame show. “His energy and him going and battling for balls and what he does… I told the kids after the game, he was unbelievable.”
Nobody on the team has listened to Calipari’s toughness message more than Gabriel. He’s a fighter and a hustler, and he’s getting more and more confidence in himself with his good play.
Do we give up on Nick Richards?
I don’t know what to make of Nick Richards. The big man started off with more energy than we’ve seen from him in over a month, but then he quickly disappeared before having any kind of an impact on the game. This was the perfect opportunity for him to put up some numbers and find some confidence against a weak Vanderbilt frontcourt; instead he took a seat in the second half and never returned to the game, playing only 12 minutes the entire evening, 11 of which were in the first half. How much longer until we say ‘see ya next year’?
Quade Green needs to return soon.
The Cats survived two huge challenges without their starting point guard, but they can’t be expected to keep doing it. With Green on the bench in street clothes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has had to play 39 minutes in each of Kentucky’s last two games, while Hamidou Diallo played 34 against Texas A&M and then 39 against Vanderbilt. That’s too much to ask of the backcourt, although they’ve handled it well. Come back soon, Quade.
Late game mistakes still a problem.
However, it’s not enough of a problem to cost them the game. As they did against A&M in Rupp, the Cats handed their opponent an opportunity when the game should’ve been out of reach for good. And again the opponent didn’t capitalize as UK was able to close out a victory in spite of freshman mistakes.
We’ll take it.
Hamidou Diallo made a HUGE three-pointer.
Diallo still had his Diallo moments, but he hit the dagger in the corner to stretch the lead to eight points with a little over a minute to go. If not for that shot I’d probably be crushing him for playing too much Hami-ball and that horrible foul on LaChance.
Kevin Knox got back to his old ways.
Knox was second in scoring with 17 points for Kentucky. He made some big baskets when Vanderbilt was climbing back and he was perfect from the line in the game. It seems he’s over whatever bug bit him when he looked lost and unconformable during his minor slump, and it’s great to see him back.
P.J. Washington flirted with a double-double.
Washington had 10 points and eight rebounds against the Commodores, but not enough to earn praise from his head coach because Calipari called it an “off-day” for Washington.
Not a bad off-day, huh?
I have Washington up there with Gilgeous-Alexander in the importance rankings, ahead of Knox and Diallo.
Road wins are good wins, especially this year.
With the SEC beating each other up this season, any road win in the conference is a good one. For Kentucky, they won another hard-fought test in a hostile building, and they did it without their starting point guard.
On to the next one…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 13th, 2018 @ 10:00pm
Before the game, Jarred Vanderbilt went through pregame warmups and even the layup line in his uniform, leading to wide speculation that today would be the day he’d return to the court. That did not happen, and when asked afterwards, John Calipari gave his most puzzling comments yet about the freshman forward, who has been medically cleared to play.
“I don’t,” Cal said when asked when Kentucky would be back to a full rotation. “I didn’t even ask him. I didn’t know if Jarred [Vanderbilt] was going to play before the game. I was doing the board and just acting like he’s not here. If he is, he is. If they are, they are.”
This is where it gets a little weird.
“The problem with being injured if you’re on my teams is, I really spend no time with you. Sometimes — I’m going to say this out loud — I forget names. I even forget who he is because I have to focus on the guys that I’m coaching now. They’ve got to be healthy and ready to go. Jarred has to be the same.”
When asked what Jarred has to do to let Cal know he’s ready, Cal replied that he has to at least come up and talk to him, which he didn’t do today.
“I hope he would give me more than I got today because I didn’t see him all day. I hope. I don’t push kids. They know their pain. They also know their bodies. I’ll tell you what also happens when you’re injured; it’s not physically, it’s as much mentally. And conditioning. Those are the two things that get you. When he’s ready, he’ll be here with us.”
Hmm. Challenge extended?
By Nick Roush on ©January 13th, 2018 @ 9:00pm
On how difficult it is to play with seven scholarship players available …
“I go back to my team I had at Massachusetts when I played five and six guys. One of the great mentors I’ve had in this game, his name was Jack Leaman, coached Julius (Erving) at UMass. He told me I play too many guys. So, in 2010 when Coach (John) Wooden was still alive I called him and I said, ‘Have you watched my team? We’re not an execution team. Do you have any ideas?’ Coach Wooden: ‘You play too many people.’ And he said, ‘I know why you do, because kids will transfer. We played five guys and you earned your space. I played a sixth guy if I needed to. You earn it in practice.’
“So, these guys should be happy. They got tired. PJ (Washington) didn’t play well. I mean, he got tired. Hami (Diallo) and Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), when they get tired, their decision-making is not the same. But I played two guards 39 minutes a game when I was there at UMass that year. It was the best team I coached – I didn’t say the most talented, even though Marcus Camby may be one of the most talented guys I’ve ever coached. The rest of the guys were really good – I hate to tell you, they were juniors and seniors. They were veterans. But, I played five.
“If you asked these guys, would you rather play half-a-game, or just play every minute, what do you think they’re going to say? ‘I’ll be good. I’ll play every minute.’
On how well Kevin Knox took it to the rim and didn’t settle …
“Yeah, and I told the guys on the bench the first one when he took (it in), I’m going to keep going at him. Whether we lose or not, he’s got to figure this out. The only way they’re going to figure it out is if they do it in a game.
“They have a desire to win and I thought Shai, at the end of the day – PJ struggled, so it was Shai and Kevin Knox. Then Hami makes that big 3 in the corner. But then Wenyen (Gabriel’s) effort, just – you gotta keep him in the game. I thought Sacha (Killeya-Jones) played well, I just went to a smaller lineup and when we went to it we played good, so I just stuck with it. But I thought Sacha did well.”
For yet another game, Nick Richards was nowhere to be found. After a decent start, the freshman big man reverted to bad habits, forcing John Calipari to pull him from the game.
“I told him after the game, guys, if I stick you in and tell you to rebound, and the first play [you don’t], walk to the bench. Walk to the bench. You don’t have to look to see if I’m taking you out. You know why I’m taking you out. You have to rebound.”
Richards was 2-2 from the floor for four points and only three rebounds. Three rebounds from a player who is almost seven-feet tall. As a result, he played only 12 minutes. Richards has only pulled down more than ten rebounds once this season, against Fort Wayne back on November 22.
So what’s the problem? Kevin Knox said Richards is putting in the work in practice, but for some reason or another, it hasn’t translated to the game yet.
“Nick’s one of the hardest workers on the team. If you come to our practices, you see he’s always the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. He’s been putting in the work, we’ve just go to get him to translate it to a game. What Cal wants him to do is rebound, defend, and block shots and just run to the basket. He’s got one of the easiest jobs on the team, we’ve just to get him through it. I think one of his biggest problems is, he’s not getting as many rebounds as Cal wants him to. If he can just get 10 to 12 rebounds a game, I think he’ll be fine. That’s all Cal wants him to do, he’s just not getting it done. He’s going to keep working and he’ll get there soon.”
Richards’ defense hasn’t been much better, which Calipari chalked up to a bad stance.
“You can’t stand stiff-legged and think you’re going to guard somebody. Are you doing that because you’re tired? I don’t know but you’re doing it, and every time, they drive right around you. Why are you doing it? Just bend your legs. You do it every day.”
All of that being said, Calipari said he’s far from giving up on Richards; in fact, he told reporters he woke up today with the game plan to get him the ball early and often.
“I even woke up this morning thinking, we should start the game going right at Nick. That was my thought when I woke up this morning. So, I haven’t lost any confidence in him but he’s got to perform. This is about winning. You leave him in the game and lose? Nope. Not doing it. Nooo. Not happening.”
He may not have flashy numbers like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Kevin Knox but Wenyen Gabriel was a big reason Kentucky beat Vanderbilt today.
Gabriel finished with seven points (3-8), nine rebounds, two blocks, one assist, and one steal in 29 minutes, but his energy extended past the box score. Afterwards, John Calipari said he can’t afford to leave Wenyen off the floor for too long because most times, he’s the only guy showing consistent effort.
“Wenyen’s effort, it’s just — you’ve gotta keep him in the game,” Cal said.
The difference between freshman Wenyen and sophomore Wenyen? Confidence. On one play in the first half, he channeled Josh Harrellson when he swatted Saban Lee’s shot then saved the ball by bouncing it off Lee as he went out of bounds.
The block and spike. What a play from Wenyen pic.twitter.com/23SUSB3zL8
— Charlie Walter (@CharlieWalterTV) January 13, 2018
After the Texas A&M game, Calipari said PJ Washington was the only player exhibiting toughness; today, Cal said he failed to include Wenyen in that rare air.
“Wenyen was the other one,” Cal said. “He’s always done that.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander agreed.
“Wenyen was big for us today and that’s what we all expect from him, the energy he brings. He always plays 100% all of the time and does what we need to win. He did a good job today.”
Yes, he did.