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Its Time For a Change

Its Thursday night and there is very little news on the UK scene. Patrick Patterson’s decision to cut off his afro can only be talked about so much, so thoughts move ahead to this weekend and the Kentucky game with Delaware State. These next two games are both likely wins, but they are still critical for the tone they will set for the rest of the non-conference season. With that in mind, it is time for Billy Gillispie to pull the trigger and make DeAndre Liggins the starting point guard. Over the last two games, it has become clear that as much as we may root for Michael Porter and hope him to have improved during the off-season, he simply isnt ready to lead a team on the level that Kentucky hopes to play at this year. Because of that Liggins should take the reins and become what we all know him to be……the Point Guard for the forseeable future at UK.

The current inhabitant of that position, Michael Porter, is arguably the most scrutinized UK player since Saul Smith. He has been the de facto starter at UK for most of Billy Clyde’s tenure and with the team under his control, there have been a great number of struggles. When Gillispie has been asked about Porter at Point Guard, he always comes back to the “if you earn it in practice, you play” explanation. And based on what we have seen on the actual court, Michael Porter must be one hell of a practice player. In the actual games, he has struggled to bring the ball up the floor, had numerous turnovers and been a liability on the defensive end. As such, he has often been the face of UK’s struggles to most fans. During the North Carolina game, as Ty Lawson had his way with Porter on both ends of the court, it became clear to even the “I never criticize anyone” Dick Vitale…..the time has come to make a change at point guard.

The other options at the spot arent necessarily sure things. DeAndre Liggins has shown some flashes of greatness. His ability to take the ball to the basket is immense and he has potential on the defensive end. Some (including me) wonder if he is a true point guard, but whether he is or isnt, he will be a great player at Kentucky. As for the other main option, Kevin Galloway, one wonders what has happened with him at this point. If Kevin has been unable to see the floor in these two games, when Point Guard play has been such an issue, one wonders what his role will be with the team in the future. But even with these difficulties and uncertainties, one thing is clear…..Porter is not able to get the job done as the starting point guard.

So what would be the rationale for leaving the more experienced Porter in over the inexperienced Liggins? Well one might argue that the younger player may make more mistakes. However it is hard to imagine that more mistakes may come from the position than are now. PG has been a constant turnover machine, and it isnt likely that will change soon. I would rather let someone like Liggins get the reps, make the mistakes and try to get better….than to see the same mistakes made, mostly due to a lack of ability. If we assume that PG is going to produce a lot of turnovers (a safe assumption for the rest of the year in my view), then why not put someone there who can add to the other realms of the game…..solid defense and the ability to penetrate to the basket. Liggins can do that, Porter cant. Errors are going to come, but only one player has the potential to reach a higher ground and that is DeAndre.

Earlier this year, Billy Gillispie lamented that he hadnt put Jared Carter in a position to succeed. That same mistake is happening now. Because of his continued starting role, Gillispie is not putting Michael Porter in a position to succeed. He simply doesnt have the ability to be a high level Div I point guard. He could be a serviceable backup or role player, but by forcing him to guard the other team’s best PG at the beginning of games, he gets put in a hole where his limitations are shown and where mistakes will be made. Thus Porter makes mistakes that are not due to lack of effort, fans get upset and the team struggles. In hockey terms, Porter’s “+/-” ratio is horrible, but it is mainly because he is forced to play against players that are above him. Put him in with the second unit and in reserve and he could shine, with much less pressure on him. It is time for Gillispie to give him that chance.

Ultimately, all fans want the same thing…..to see UK succeed. But a close second to that is a desire to see the UK players do well. Billy Gillispie has a plan with his players that he cultivates with sincerity and it is difficult to question his expertise. But in a similar vein to the Mark Coury experiment last year, this one simply doesnt seem to work, and in many ways is even worse. While Coury played only a handful of minutes every game, Porter is an important part of the team’s rotation. If he is going to continue in that role, he needs to do so in a manner where he can be effective. That is most likely to happen if Gillispie takes a step back from his normal approach, allows Liggins the time to flourish (and make mistakes) and makes him the starting point guard.

More all day, including a KYE on Delaware State, a look at the college basketball world and some news on Maui…..

Article written by Matt Jones