We’re going to learn a lot about this Kentucky team in the next few weeks, but John Calipari knows one thing for certain: they will not reach their potential unless Kahlil Whitney takes a major step forward. Calipari spent most of today’s press conference talking about the freshman, who he says is the key to Kentucky’s success.
“I’ve told the team, we’ve got a ceiling unless he plays for us. We don’t have anybody like him. He’s the one. But if other guys are playing better than him, I’ve got a responsibility to everybody and what he hasn’t done yet is figure it out. And he will. He’s a great kid. He’s trying. We did some stuff today, they’ve got to talk more. You’ve got everybody rooting for him, he’s just got to go play.”
Calipari is encouraging Whitney to follow Tyrese Maxey’s example in Georgia Tech game and focus only on defense instead of offense.
“I even told him, don’t be afraid to be Tyrese [Maxey]. Go guard their best player, shut him out and go 0-9. Don’t be afraid to be Tyrese. And then they say you’re Player of the Game. You were 0-9 but you’re Player of the Game. Don’t be afraid to be that. And then the other stuff will happen.”
Calipari has been harping on his guys to “fight and finish” the past few weeks, and based off his comments today and on the coach’s show last night, that message is now directed at Whitney.
“Kahlil’s got to play at a level he’s capable of playing for us to be what we need to be and everybody knows it, everybody’s watching it. And it may take time. So what if it takes him a month? Who cares? They’re only going to watch him at the end of the year and at the end of the year is when this stuff really counts. It’s taking him more time than I thought it would.”
Cal used Keion Brooks as an example of a player that’s now having success on the court because the staff made him play against Nick Richards in practice. Cal says he’s doing the same thing with EJ Montgomery and Tyrese Maxey, whom he’s pitting against Ashton Hagans, but Whitney’s issues are the ones keeping him up at night.
“So you’re trying to get all these guys and in the interim, you’re trying to get Kahlil going. You stay up at nights, how do I help him break through? Is there anything I can do? Some of it is just experience. Some of it is reps but not at the expense of winning and losing. You know what I’m saying? He needs reps, he needs to go through this but we also gotta win games so it’s a push and a pull.”