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After yet another injury, Calipari explains why he doesn’t fill out his roster

Nate Sestina’s fractured wrist is the fifth injury to this Kentucky team this season, sixth if you count Dontaie Allen’s continued rehab from a torn ACL suffered in January. With Sestina out for approximately four weeks, Kentucky is down to eight active scholarship players, begging a now familiar question: why doesn’t Calipari fill out his roster?

When asked about it today, Calipari said all of the injuries from the past few seasons have him rethinking his strategy, but finding talented players who will accept limited roles is easier said that done.

“It does. I just — when I had eleven and twelve [scholarship players], it was Derek [Willis] and Dom[inique Hawkins] and they understood. Now they’re both playing professionally. Both of them are playing professionally. But they understood they were eleven and twelve. It doesn’t mean they weren’t coached. It means the opportunity to get in the game, they weren’t getting in until ten other guys got in and they knew that.

“It’s hard. Who’s that guy? When you come to Kentucky, one of the things that’s the positive is that kids learn, they take on this culture, they get there faster, they move faster and they perform at a higher level. The other part of this is, everybody expects it to be on the same pace for every kid and it’s just not. PJ [Washington]’s path was two years. Willie [Cauley-Stein]’s path was three years. Darius [Miller]’s path was four years. They’re different.”

On the flip side, Calipari pointed out that several players everyone expected to be around for more than a year sometimes end up being one-and-dones.

“The curse is, if you go to Kentucky, you leave after a year. That’s not how it is. You might. You may play yourself into it. You may be working so hard in that gym — Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, seven o’clock in the morning — that you will yourself to this stuff. Brandon Knight. You may be that guy, but if you think it’s just, ‘If I play games, it’ll happen,’ it won’t. It takes you more time then. If you’re not going to get in the best shape of your life, it’s going to take you more time. But, so you get to be around me for two years. What’s the problem?”

I get Calipari’s point, but to me, it just sounds like another challenge for a man who loves them — especially if the one-and-done rule goes by the wayside as expected.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

27 Comments for After yet another injury, Calipari explains why he doesn’t fill out his roster



  1. eyebleedblue
    3:05 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    His own son left for playing time. Tough tightrope to manage, year after year.



  2. Thank You Coach Stoops
    3:08 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    It’s almost like we should offer the best kid in the Commonwealth of Kentucky each and every year. Almost.



    • Han
      3:38 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      Invariably, when they’re sitting on the end of the bench, people complain either a) that they aren’t playing enough, or b) why didn’t the scholarship go to player X who’s balling at another school and “was ours if we offered.”

      I still do wish we could get more of those kids to come and sit at the end of our bench, but most of the ones willing to do that aren’t going to contribute much until their 3rd or 4th year, if at all. Still better than having an empty bench, but it’s not like we’re going to have 5-stars, or even necessarily 4-stars, in that 10th, 11th, 12th schollie.

      I doubt he ever offers the 13th to anyone, though, after missing on Stokes mid-season because of not having a schollie open (and it hurt even more that Poole decided to transfer that year but not early enough to have that schollie for Stokes).



  3. DelrayCat
    3:10 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    Cal’s word salad non-answers make me think he has a future in politics.



    • nocode96
      3:15 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      What exactly about his response isn’t a direct answer to the question? He literally explained exactly why he doesn’t do something and you call that verbal salad and a non answer? Methinks it has more to do with him not giving the answer you want. Most of the rest of us can take his comments and easily see the question was directly answered, why can’t you?



    • BowdenQB4ever
      6:38 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      @NoCode96 He said some kids take longer to develop, some kids leave after 1 year. Those things are both true, but it doesn’t go into the “why” at all. I love Cal, I’ve enjoyed his tenure, but the churn is getting tiresome and the March results have taken a clear and precipitous drop since 2015. A large portion of the fan base is clearly reaching their breaking point.



    • Cletis75
      8:15 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      Bowden, he did answer the question! He said it’s hard to find a player worthy of a scholarship to accept being 11th or 12th on the depth chart. It takes a Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins type that understand and willing to accept that role! Not a lot of players around willing to make that sacrifice when there is plenty of playing time at other schools. It was plain and easy to understand if you’re not looking for a different answer!



  4. IrishCat
    3:26 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    Finding guys like Derek and Dominique is easier said than done, but I’m starting to think it’s as important as landing multiple 5 stars each year to win championships in a one and done system. I’d like to see recruiting priority put on having 2-3 of those guys in the program at all times. Cal could produce almost as many future coaches as future pros, and use that to recruit 4-year players who can contribute. I ultimately trust in Cal, but why not??



    • az1006
      3:36 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      We’ve had those so-called 3-4 year players here. They either transfer out, or they end up playing themselves into the first round after a year or two. EVERYBODY said Tyler Ulis was a 4-year guy. EVERYBODY said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was at least a 3-year player. EVERYBODY said Tyler Herro was a 3-4 year player, at-best a 2-year guy (and those are just the first examples to come to mind). Obviously you know how all those turned out. If it were so simple to just have a 3-4 year player at the end of the bench all the time, I’d venture to guess Cal would do it. It just isn’t.



    • Han
      3:40 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      Baker was supposed to be one of those guys, too. Matthews could’ve been. Lee and SKJ and Green all transferred out when they weren’t one- or two-and-done.

      Now he’s immediately eligible at Arizona.



    • IrishCat
      4:14 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      Again, I didn’t say it was easy, just necessary for continuity. In my opinion.



    • 4everUKBlue
      4:28 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      az and Han both make good points, I think Cal laid it out pretty good and easy to understand. There are a lot of “fans” who think they’re smarter than Cal and if they were they probably wouldn’t be bankers, lawyers, docteurs, professors or bakers, they would be coaching a div I basketball team.



  5. az1006
    3:33 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    It isn’t like Cal didn’t try…He tried hard to add Kerry Blackshear, Jaden McDaniels, Vernon Carey…They chose other schools. He had two players transfer out last year in Quade and Jemarl Baker. Granted, their absences aren’t the real issue, but that’s two fewer scholarship players than was expected. Fact is, you just don’t have guys coming to a place like Kentucky to sit the bench for 2 or 3 years and wait their turn. Dom and Willis were exceptions, and it wouldn’t be as simple as “offering the best player in the state every year.” Even if you do that, there’s no guarantee they’ll come here, and they may not be good enough to play at this level anyway.

    There’s also going to be that faction of the fanbase that doesn’t care. Cal could have a full compliment of 13 scholarship players, and if the 12th or 13th guy had to fill in for an injured player, they’d complain about how bad that player was, and how Cal’s team has no depth. It’s easier said than done to just have a talented player ready to fill in from the 11th or 12th spot, and that’s exactly what Cal alluded to.



    • WKY Cat
      3:45 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      It’s a result of Cals philosophy. Other top programs don’t have this problem.



    • az1006
      3:50 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      They might. We just don’t pay as much attention.



    • BuzzedBaker
      4:11 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      There aren’t any other top programs that play the one and done game as fiercely as Cal. Coach K chases some one and done but also goes after plenty of 4 year guys. The difference is that Cal is honest with these kids… all of his former players have attested to that. Several coaches and media types have alluded to the fact that coach K is not as honest. We can dupe kids into coming here and fill the bench or we can be honest and make due with a stacked short bench. I like my coach.



    • 4everUKBlue
      4:38 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      I’m with you on all points Buzzed, well said.



    • 4everUKBlue
      4:42 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      WKY that sounds strange coming from someone who call other commenters “know it all fans”. Ever look in the mirror?



    • WKY Cat
      6:03 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      4whatever you’re the biggest ass on here. ALWAYS quick to comment against anyone even if they make sense. I stand by my factual statement. Now go get back on Cals rod and pleasure him.



    • 4everUKBlue
      6:31 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

      WKY sorry I hit a nerve with the truth. You called other people know it alls when you’re one your self, that’s all I’m saying sorry to hurt your feelings and if telling the truth makes me an ass then so be it, at least I’m not a fuking hypocrite. Oh and you must be a fan of pleasuring another man, have fun with that.



  6. Han
    3:42 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    Hopefully he pads out the roster next year (after we add another two bigs) with a JuCo or lower Grad Transfer who just wants the experience of playing at UK, on top of the top recruits and maybe a top-tier grad transfer.



  7. Lip Man 1
    8:54 pm November 27, 2019 Permalink

    Cal is an exceptional recruiter, given that fact (and most everyone agrees that it is a fact) he shouldn’t have ANY trouble convincing two or three kids who are better than walk on’s to join the program.

    In fact as I was told by one of the Herald Leader writers Cal DOES NOT WANT to recruit a full bench because he’s more concerned with the following years recruiting class and guys not wanting to come because they may not get as much playing time if there are a few more decent bodies around.

    So Cal simply doesn’t go that route.

    OK…now he’s paying the piper for it.



  8. silverfox62
    10:01 am November 28, 2019 Permalink

    Here’s my gut feeling about Coach Calipari ‘s comment. His philosophy is unselfishness and sacrifice is the key that makes the team great in March. He is admitted that it is harder to find talented players who are willing to accept that philosophy. Therefore he doesn’t have a full roster. How much harder is it going to be if the pay for play rule takes effect? Players playing for their name on the back of the Jersey instead of Kentucky on the front. Will this create more or less unselfishness? The whole 1st round draft scenario is already creating this problem. I think Coach sees the writing on the wall.



  9. silverfox62
    10:11 am November 28, 2019 Permalink

    In addition to recruiting, I bet Mr. Basketball of KY and the MVP of the state tournament would love an opportunity to play for the Wildcats. And would play as hard and unselfish if not more than anyone else. It’s comes down heritage and being KY “crazies” as Coach likes to refer us as. The other thing this will do is Put Butts In The Seats at Rupp which has become an issue. Bottom line is KY fans want to see KY boys given an equal chance to excel an be a part of KY Basketball. Some of the most excited and passionate fans have been when homegrown KY athletes played and were a part of the team.



  10. notFromhere
    1:37 pm November 29, 2019 Permalink

    I want that job.

    The one where you make a ton of money to coach a full team in front of a rabid fan base, and yet you don’t want to play good competition for the fans to see, don’t even try to fill your roster or use your entire bench, get to complain about not having enough players to practice, fly all over the country but don’t recruit the kids that want to play for your program, and can lose to a 27pt underdog at home.

    How bout you?

    Tired of hearing “we’ve got a young team” when it’s his choice to have a young team. Tired of “we don’t have enough players” but we only want such and such, and he forgets who is on the bench when the starters and stars aren’t playing well.

    Coach. Stop making excuses



  11. notFromhere
    1:40 pm November 29, 2019 Permalink

    Weird that guys want to transfer rather than play for a coach that won’t give them 5 min in a game where the top 7 players are struggling at best.

    He says the guys cant develop if they aren’t playing, but then won’t play his bench until they’re up by 20 with a minute left. Meaningful minutes are there for developing players, but he doesn’t want to have to deal with it. No one will make him coach when he doesnt want to…



  12. notFromhere
    1:42 pm November 29, 2019 Permalink

    He conveniently forgets how he got to the finals at Memphis and won a title at UK. He had a bench. A team