Throughout the season, Kentucky fans have continuously been frustrated with the lack of passing from this team. We’ve heard some version of this complaint from the likes of everyone from Drew Franklin to Seth Greenberg. Now, we’re hearing it from John Calipari.
In last night’s 78-65 victory over Mississippi State, the Wildcats recorded just 11 assists. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dished out six assists; no other player recorded more than two. But according to Coach Cal, the official, box-score verified assists aren’t the only assists his guys can get credit for. Here’s his description of what now counts as an assist:
“Let me tell you how you get an assist. You get a normal assist. You pass it to somebody and score. You ready for this assist? You pass it to somebody and they miss the shot – still giving you an assist. You pass it to somebody and they get fouled – still giving you an assist. If you’re a big man and you outlet the ball and that guy leads to a break, I’m giving you an assist. If you throw it ahead and someone else throw it is to somebody else for an assist, I’m giving you an assist, too. There’s a hundred ways now to get an assist. But to get an assist you must start by passing the ball.”
In other words, Calipari is encouraging his players to start increasing their passing by crediting basically every pass as an assist.
“He’s giving us like 30 different ways to get an assist. He just wants us to get assists,” Knox said with a laugh. “It’s good for us because it’s making us pass the ball.”
Still, it was an issue last night, and he isn’t happy about it.
“Really? You cannot get an assist? Any pass you make is going to be an assist now,” Calipari explained after the game. “So when you end a game and you have one assist in 28 minutes, what is that telling you? ‘Man, I passed one time in this game.’ Yeah, one time. I’m doing everything I can – pass the ball to each other.”
Last night, several players had a similar stat line to what Calipari described. Washington had two rebounds in 31 minutes; Diallo had two assists in 27 minutes; Knox had one assist in 36 minutes; Green had one assist in 20 minutes.
But, again, those are the “official” stats.
Gilgeous-Alexander had six assists on the game’s final box score. But, according to Calipari, he actually had 18.
“We’re just really trying to share the ball,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s been one of our main focuses over the past couple days: trying to share the ball with each other and get good shots.”
Knox is ready to fully embrace this new method of getting assists.
“I’ll be passing it a lot so hopefully some other guys can get some shots and I can get some assists,” Knox said. “If I pass it to somebody and they pass it and score, I get an assist for it. So I was like, ‘hey, I’ll take it.’ I’m just going to keep passing the ball. Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] can’t be the only one – other people have got to step up and get assists.”
But if Seth Greenberg’s comment that Kentucky’s freshmen are “all about themselves” is correct (and to each their own on that one), then what is the incentive for these guys to pass the ball, rather than racking up points for themselves?
“Just absolutely when guys are doing great passing, you’re hugging them,” Calipari said. “And when a guy gets 22 [points], you don’t even mention it. You don’t even say anything.”