Let me start off this post by saying I don’t write this believing that this is really a big issue. It is the summer though and this thought popped in my head about next season and I think it is somewhat an interesting topic to bounce around on a lazy Monday. There is no doubt that Senior Day in basketball has become more and more of a non-factor since Calipari took over. In fact, it is likely that on Senior Day 2016, the roster will not have a senior. But next season, there will be 3 seniors on roster. Unlike this year when 2 little-used SCHOLARSHIP players were the seniors in Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, next year those 3 seniors will all be walk-ons: Brian Long, Tod Lanter, and Sam Malone.
Combined those 3 guys have played just 52 minutes in their UK careers and scored 8 points. And there is no shame in that. They’ve got to experience 2 or 3 years of some amazing basketball already and practice that I have no doubt made them very good basketball players. But, they are on the roster for being extra bodies in practice. I am sure they would admit that.
But at Kentucky, seniors almost always start on Senior Day. Hood and Polson started last season, with Polson playing 19 minutes and Hood 6 minutes. And each had an impact on the game hitting 3-pointers. Lanter, Malone, and Long are 0-3 combined from behind the arc in their careers. And hey, this year Alabama was senior day and the conference title was well out of reach with Florida coasting to the title. But next year, keep this in mind:
Florida will likely be the opponent on Senior Day
The teams alternate who plays at home first and on the road second each year. But on years where Florida has come to Rupp for the 2nd meeting of year, that meeting has been Kentucky’s Senior Day in 7 out of the last 8 possible years. And seeing as those 2 teams are going to be the heavy favorites to win the league again next year, they almost certainly be the final SEC game of the year in Rupp Arena.
So what is Calipari to do? If the conference title is up for grabs in that game, should he start Long, Lanter, and Malone? And if you think he should start those guys (which I do), how long do you keep them in the game? Here is Calipari’s history of playing seniors:
2010: Krebs, Stevenson, and Harris all started and played 5:22 of game action AGAINST FLORIDA. They left the game leading 7-3. Harris would play 1 minute more and Stevenson 3 minutes more later in the game.
2011: Harrellson was the only senior that year and played 36 minutes against Vanderbilt on senior day.
2012: Darius Miller played 34 minutes against Georgia. Eloy Vargas started the game and played the first 4:19, leaving the game with UK winning 7-2. He would go on to play 16 minutes.
2013: Julius Mays was a regular starter. Twany Beckham was available as a senior but did not start or play AGAINST FLORIDA.
2014: Both Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson started against Alabama and played the first 4:22 of the game, leaving with UK up 6-4.
Like I said, I think Calipari should start all 3 guys on Senior Day in 2015. Long and Malone will have been in the program for 4 years and Lanter for 3 years. I think they’ve earned the right to play for the first segment of the game, until the first TV timeout. They will have 2 other All-Americans out there with them and if those past instances show us anything, it’s that having those rarely used players on the floor has not hurt the Cats in the past.
With that said, I am not sure if Cal will be able to pull the trigger and play them. He did play Krebs in 2010, but that was the only walk-on he had to start, although Harris and Stevenson were not seeing the floor much either. But then in 2013, Twany Beckham did not get the start or get to play against Florida. And Calipari warned that may happen before that game. So, we have seen mixed decision from the coach in the past.
What do you think? I say yes, let them play. I am sure there will be many who would argue otherwise. Let’s hear it in the comments section.