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Calipari says Maxey is one of the best players in the country. Now, he has to play like it

Tyrese Maxey has shown off some impressive skills this season; he’s shown he makes key plays down the stretch and thrives in big moments and underneath bright lights. He scored 26 points in his very first collegiate game and earned 27 points in the Cats’ overtime victory over Louisville. Against Georgia on Tuesday night, Maxey recored just seven points, while adding five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes.

According to Coach John Calipari, it was “just okay,” and that’s happening far too often for the coach’s liking.

“Tyrese, it was one of those games. He gets it about every third game. It was just okay,” Calipari said. “I mean, I think he’s one of the best players on the court who just played okay.”

For someone like Maxey, who is averaging right around 14 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, Calipari is right. Tuesday’s outing against the Bulldogs was just okay, and that ‘mediocracy’ simply paved the way for more minutes (and bigger plays) for Maxey’s teammates coming off the bench, namely Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang.

“I said, look: if someone’s playing well, they’re staying in and you have to accept it,” Calipari said. “When you get your chance, go in there and perform.”

On the other end of the court, Anthony Edwards finished the game with 16 points, three assists, one rebound and five turnovers in 33 minutes. All of his points came in the second half before ultimately fouling out, but Kentucky’s defense, overall, did a good job of defending one of the nation’s best players.

Maxey was originally assigned to guard Edwards, but then John Calipari saw something he didn’t like: a laugh.

“The reason I did it is down there [Edwards] scored on Tyrese [Maxey] a couple times, and Tyrese laughed with him like they were in an AAU game. Didn’t even go near him. Immanuel, [now] you’ve got him. And if you don’t have him, then Ashton has him,” Calipari said. “And that was why, because this ain’t for funsies. He’s trying to kill you; you’re trying to kill him.”

Coach Tom Crean was quick to compliment Quickley for his efforts after the game, including the sophomore’s ability to limit Georgia’s best player.

“Quickley is a tremendous player… He’s quick, he’s active, he’s agile, he moves, he can really guide, he’s got great feet, he’s got great hands, he’s got great quickness, and you add the size on that, and that is a prototype big-time guard,” Coach Crean said after the game. “Anthony [Edwards] gets a lot of attention. The key is that they did a really good job [defending him].”

Coach Crean – and John Calipari – see that mentality and that effort level from Quickley. Now, Calipari wants to see from his freshman guard, too.

“He’s just got to understand we only have so many games. How many games do we got left? 13? [Yes]. So we got 13 games left. You can’t let a game pass,” Calipari said. “All day you’re preparing to play great. And you’re not just playing, you’re trying to play great. I’m not just exchanging baskets. I’m competing; I’m coming up with balls….But it’s something that we shouldn’t have to talk about.”

Still, he’s optimistic.

“But he’s fine. I mean, look, he’s one of the best players in the country – all I’m saying is play that way,” Calipari said. “That’s who you are, go play that way. No one is holding you back. We’re putting you in a position to score baskets; we’re putting you in a position to guard people, block shots, rebound. Go do it.”

If the Cats want to finish off the season strong and eventually make a run in the NCAA Tournament, he’ll have to do just that.

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)