Whether Kentucky wins the national championship or goes home after the Sweet 16, John Calipari says this season will be one of the most rewarding of his career. On The Jim Rome Show this afternoon, Cal said getting the youngest team in college basketball to surrender their egos and play as a group hasn’t been easy, but moments like Hamidou Diallo’s breakthrough vs. Buffalo make it all worth it.
“I’ve done this a long time. You would think the greatest reward is the win over — no. No. It’s seeing a player that was down in that rabbit hole, he was so bad he couldn’t see straight. He had terror. He had anxiety. He couldn’t sleep. His life flashed before him and he slowly got out of that hole and started to play and had a breakthrough. When Hami walked in our locker room after the last game, the team put him up on their shoulders they were so happy for him. Same thing happened to Kevin Knox, who was struggling. He goes to West Virginia and goes for 30 [points] and they went crazy for him. This is a process. You can’t skip steps.”
I think that calls for another viewing of the Hami locker room video:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 17, 2018
Hami’s breakthrough is exactly why Calipari is refusing to give up on another player that’s struggling: Nick Richards.
“I stick with guys. Hami, they were saying he shouldn’t be starting, why are you playing him? Because he deserves an opportunity, he’s working hard. Now, if a kid doesn’t work, that’s not on me. Right now, Nick Richards — we have to have Nick Richards playing better. And you know what? I’m still starting him. Is he better than some of the guys that aren’t starting? No. Right now, they’re playing better than him but I’m starting him to give him his opportunity. Get out there and bust through this. I can’t do it for him. I can’t think for him. I can’t perform for him, but I can give him an opportunity, love him and hug him and tell him we’re all here for you, but you’ve gotta do it.”
Calipari’s next statement belongs on an inspirational poster in the Joe Craft Center.
“This has been a rewarding year, maybe one of my most rewarding because I had a team of young kids that went from the look of terror, the look of fear, anxiety to a look of joy.”
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 19, 2018