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Is all “Veteran Leadership” created equal?

Liggins-Miller-Harrellson

Since Calipari arrived in Lexington in 2009, his modus operandi has been simple: get talent.  Most often, that means he’s gobbling up high school recruits, bringing in number one class after number one class, leaving scraps for the rest of the coaches to glean.  It’s proven effective, and might have changed the landscape of college basketball, but young talent alone, for all its merits, can’t win a championship.  If you look at Cal’s best Kentucky teams, they all have one thing in common: veterans.  Ridiculous freshmen are good, but they need that level head to keep them focused and down-to-earth if they expect to win significantly.

But with this nebulous concept of “veteran leadership,” you have to wonder, is all experience created equally?  And how will that affect next year’s team?

Last year’s team had a championship-winner in Kyle Wiltjer, but almost no one else with any Kentucky experience on the floor at any given time.  The starters were all first-year Wildcats, and the results, unfortunately, showed.

The 2012 championship team, meanwhile, had a trio of leaders, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, and Darius Miller, that had been to a Final Four just the year before.  They were able to lead MKG, Davis, and the rest of the freshman to a title with what seemed like minimal effort.

The two years before featured Patrick Patterson, Josh Harrellson, and Deandre Liggins.  Patterson, interestingly, had never played in an NCAA Tournament game before his junior year, where he sacrificed playing time and shots to help John Wall and Co. to an Elite 8.  Harrellson, Liggins, and Miller were part of the famously infuriating 2011 team that struggled mightily in the regular season only to surprise everyone with a Final Four.

So what does all this tell us?

Last year tells us that you HAVE to have veterans.  But do they have to have significant tourney success?  The 2012 team that won a title was certainly helped by Jones, Lamb, and Miller.  But Wall’s 2010 team wouldn’t have made it that far without Patterson, who had never seen a tourney floor before.

What I gather is this: veteran leadership is crucial, but only if it accepts its new role.  Upperclassmen can’t expect to be “the man” any more than the freshmen can.  If Patterson hadn’t sacrificed, his team would have paid the price.  Had Miller come in and demanded to start, he probably would have.  But coming off the bench paid immense dividends.  The question now is how next year’s vets will treat their new roles.  How will Poythress, WCS, and Wiltjer handle their roles?  Hopefully they’ll follow Patterson’s example, and be happy with fewer minutes, and a more successful team.

So no, all leadership isn’t created equal, but it’s not necessarily tournament success that dictates value.  It’s willingness to give of yourself to help your team, in a way that only the older guys know how to do.

Your move, 2014 vets.

Article written by Corey Nichols

21 Comments for Is all “Veteran Leadership” created equal?



  1. Bobbum man
    8:50 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Barf… Just watched the IU game on big ten network, changed the channel with 13 seconds left though I had a good dinner, trying to keep it down….. You think they’ll make a popcorn box for this?



  2. Duke Blows
    9:11 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Unbelievable why was my comment taken down?



  3. C'on man
    9:19 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Have you started just taking things off for any reason now! I wasn’t even being critical of your post! Hope Matt can hurry back before his school kids destroy his site!



  4. We'll see
    9:20 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Not worried about Kyle (he’s been that role player before) or Willie (seems like he wants to do what it takes to win). Only worry is about Alex… he is going to show the mental toughness when things don’t go his way I stay focused, set a good example and care more about winning than sulking. We shall see…



  5. We'll see
    9:21 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Also, auto correct stinks.



  6. ChrisJ23
    9:24 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    The most ridiculous manner possible, get a life. Been on this site since year one an this writers posts are right on par with what KSR is about. Go pay money if you’re gonna bitch and moan.



  7. brain
    9:27 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    2012 led by Davis and MKG.
    2010 led by Wall and Cousins..
    2011 led by Knight.
    The veterans were important in the background but the Marquee frosh led the way.
    You’re really poorly opinioned.



  8. C'on man
    9:31 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    6) calm down there pal. I never said anything about this post or the writer. I was just responding about having my comment taken off. All I said was the lack of leadership wasn’t the problem last year, it was the lack of a capable PG and go to scorer. Put Shabazz and a PG on last years team and it’s anther FF team!



  9. brain
    9:35 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    @8 Put Shabazz on the team and we’re looking at probation.



  10. C'on man
    9:43 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    9) Your probably right. I was just talking about strictly on the court, but you right. If he had choose UK he probably would have been just like Kanter.



  11. Wildcat Faithful
    9:56 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t see Cal having many teams with the mix of talent and maturity he had in Year One with Patterson or the National Championship team with Miller and Co., the only real experience will come from sophmores who decided to stay an extra year, along with a few less talented four year players and walk-ons, and maybe an import 5th year senior if needed. With that said, I still think it’s enough to compete for a NCAA Championship every year – but until the one-and-done rule is changed, that will be what we see.



  12. mirv
    9:58 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Your thinking about it too much. The best team wins the championship. Period



  13. C'on man
    10:02 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Amen number 12! Experience only matters when talent is equal!



  14. C'on man
    10:04 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Am I the only one who remembers what it was like before the one-and-done rule. It might not be perfect but it’s a lot better then it used to be!



  15. Says me
    10:21 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    brain is using his. The leaders on Cal’s 1st 3 teams were the freshmen. The best way to lead is to be physically and mentally ready for college basketball, then kick ass on the court. Goodwin and Poythress weren’t, and thus couldn’t. Randle and the Harrison twins are, and will. It’s nice to have some guys with experience, but UK succeeding at the highest level is going to depend on the freshmen.



  16. rick
    10:37 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Does anyone else notice how much Calipari has aged since the picture?



  17. C'm on man
    10:43 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    16 he’s aged a lot. They should make a post showing the coaches before UK and after. Pitino and Tubby both aged a lot as well! Tubby more so then the others. Pressure cooker job for sure!



  18. jimlowe7
    10:52 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    If Liggins’ shot was 2 inches longer we would have beat UCONN in 2011 and Butler in the Final for #8. He went from all defense and hustle to a reliable scorer that season – never saw two guys get so much better in one season before as him and Harrellson. Thought the 2013 team might “jell” late like them but it got worse instead. Cal needs to bench head cases PERMANENTLY from now on.



  19. WeAreUK
    11:31 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    #11 is basically spot on. We talk about how great our veterans have been in their willingness to take a back seat to star freshmen. Well, that’s exactly why they are veterans and not in the NBA. If they were hungry competitors who refuse to lose or let anyone beat them for a spot on the floor then they would probably be in the league and not still in college. Players like Darius, Patterson, Wiltjer, and Poythress are more laid back, quiet players. I’m not saying the star freshmen were selfish and don’t make sacrifices, I’m just saying they aren’t going to let anyone out play them. Players like miller, Wiltjer, poythress, etc, are okay with stepping back a little. That’s their personality and that’s part of why they take longer to develop or why they aren’t stars. You need both kinda of players which is why we’ve had success. But pretty much every valuable veteran is going to be from the same mold, very talented, but not an alpha male. I love talking UK basketball and can’t wait for the fall! Go Big Blue!



  20. Mark
    12:10 pm June 9, 2013 Permalink

    Hummm #20, I am not sure what this site was like before but I found it from Spamswildcat page. I really enjoy reading peoples comments. Even some of the haters are amusing. Really liked reading #11 and #19 here. The only thing I might add is this. Maturity? I felt Davis became a man in one year. Yes, Miller was solid and provided leadership but by the end of the season, Davis was ready to lead. I think each player is different and they develop and mature at different rates. TJ was one of my favorites but he needed another year to mature. Cousin’s was ready for the NBA but he needed to grow up a bit. Archie, not sure what to think about him? He is not the kind of player to take a back seat but man he needed to get better at shooting from outside and harness some of those emotions. And Ryan Harrow just couldn’t take the pressure. I think the team coming in. The Twins,Johnson and Randal seem very mature for freshmen. I think WCS is ready to lead. I can’t wait to watch these guys play. Go Big Blue!!



  21. bart edwards
    2:29 am June 10, 2013 Permalink

    19– Your Alpha Male freshmen are what give us catastrophic collapses like we had with John Wall against West Virginia, son. Veterans always lead you in crunch time, son, not the Johnnies Come Lately.
    Corey, if you were surprised that the 2011 team went to the Final Four, you weren’t following that team very closely. I’m not sure any of the fans I know were surprised by it. I don’t know what you’re talking about. They just kept getting better and better.