Kentucky’s first half performance at Vanderbilt is something I think we’d all like to forget, but John Calipari is using it as an example of what his team must improve on to take the next step. This afternoon, Calipari told reporters he wants his guys to “play for each other,” which I’m interpreting as Cal-speak for getting the ball to Nick Richards more often.
“Alright, [Vanderbilt] made eight threes, we had some bad rotations, we missed five one-footers,” Cal said of his message to the team in the locker room in Nashville. “This is what the score should look like. Now, let’s go and put this ball in [Nick Richards’] hands a little bit and play through him because I don’t think he got the ball enough in the first half.”
“There’s one thing they don’t forget: their own opportunities to shoot the ball,” he added. “They don’t forget those. But sometimes you’ll forget the other guys’ opportunities, and that’s usually why you have a coach who says, ‘Okay, let’s get back in line here.'”
Yesterday, Calipari showed the team a clip from the Vanderbilt game of Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery sharing a moment in hopes of reminding them that this kind of camaraderie doesn’t happen on every team. He also brought up how happy the team was for Johnny Juzang and Keion Brooks in the locker room after the Tennessee game.
“My message yesterday, I showed them a place late in the game where Ashton went over and he and EJ were laughing and Ashton kind of grabbed EJ by the head and they were laughing with each other and I said, ‘Look. This is a team that you care about one another. Play for your brother more than you’re playing for you. Play for each other. You should feel a sense of responsibility in how you play not for you, but for them. Because when you leave us and you think every team is this way, good luck. They’re not all this way.'”
“Do you understand it’s not always like that? So, play for each other. Don’t worry about you. Just know, I need to be respectful of all this stuff and I have to make sure I understand that I’m playing for my teammates as much as I’m playing for me.”
We are officially in the “Brother’s Keeper” phase of the season.