Things have gone swimmingly for the Kentucky basketball program since conference play began, a much-needed development following the team’s 1-6 start to the season. The Wildcats have won three consecutive games – two being crucial road victories – and have seen Keion Brooks Jr. return from injury and Dontaie Allen emerge as a go-to scorer, among other positive developments.
With the team slowly finding its groove and coming together as a cohesive unit, the only remaining piece to the puzzle left to fit in is freshman guard Terrence Clarke, who has missed Kentucky’s last three games with an ankle injury.
How will that situation unfold? UK head coach John Calipari isn’t certain quite yet.
In the meantime, he’s told Clarke to analyze games from the sideline and find ways to help the team once he returns to make that transition easier for all parties involved.
“He’s going to have to work his way in. Right now we’re playing pretty good,” Calipari said during his call-in radio show Monday evening. “When he’s on the bench, I said to him, “You have to look at this team and say, “Where can I add something? Where can I make us better? What can I do that we need to have done?” That’s what you need to do. Don’t worry about coaching guys, you can cheer a little bit, but if I’m you, I’m sitting back and watching, saying “Where can I add to this?”‘ That’s what he’s going to have to do.”
Prior to Clarke’s injury, Calipari experimented with the former five-star recruit at the point guard position in hopes of putting Devin Askew and Davion Mintz in better position to score in off-ball roles. With both players improving and growing confidence in recent weeks, along with the the emergence of Allen and improvement of BJ Boston at Florida, it creates an interesting predicament for the UK coaching staff.
The former top-ten recruit will be able to help this team – potentially (and hopefully) significantly – but figuring out where and how to use his talents isn’t immediately clear. But Clarke, who has averaged 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in seven outings, will get his chance one way or another.
“When you look at it, Devin (Askew) is playing is playing as good as… look, this kid’s playing. We’re making extra passes, we’re not turning it over like we were. Look at Davion (Mintz), how’s he playing? Dontaie, how’s he playing? Now BJ (Boston) all of a sudden, he settled in,” Calipari said. “We can play three guards, we can play four, but now you’re looking at Keion (Brooks Jr.), Isaiah (Jackson) and Olivier (Sarr). Everybody’s got to earn their way here, nothing is given. Sometimes you’ve got to wait behind somebody else to get your chance. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) didn’t start the first ten games. I didn’t start Immanuel Quickley at the beginning of last year, we struggled, we figured it out, 10 or 11 games, whatever it was.
“How many games have we played now? 10? It took us time, but at the end of the day, Immanuel Quickley is now the steal of the draft. Shai Alexander, they’re talking about him being a future All-Star. It just took them time, it’s how this stuff works here.”
At the end of the day, cream rises to the top and the best players will be on the floor. Simple as that.
“Somebody may be in front and maybe we’re wrong, but you know what? It’ll work out, it’ll always work out,” Calipari said. “What do they say? The cream rises, it’s how it works here.”