If you just looked at the scoring column, you’d think Tyrese Maxey is coming off his worst two games as a Wildcat. The freshman was 1-17 from the field and 0-6 from three-point land in Kentucky’s wins over Georgia Tech and Fairleigh Dickinson; however, John Calipari can’t stop singing his praises. Why? Defense. Maxey held Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe, who was averaging 22 points, to only five points. He also collected 13 rebounds and dished 10 assists in that two-game span. With his shot not falling, Maxey told reporters he’s trying to impact the game in other ways, which Calipari calls dying for the team.
“He always talks about how you die yourself for the team. It’s a team sport. Like I said, you don’t have it going every single night. Some nights you’re missing. A couple nights in a row you could be missing but it can never affect your defensive energy. You always have to have that, no matter if you’re scoring or not scoring.”
Maxey claims he didn’t know he was 0-9 from the field until after the game.
“If I’m going to be completely honest with you, no because one, I trust my training. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it and if I feel like I’m going to make a play, I’m going to make it but that’s not what’s going through my head. What’s going through my head right now is trying to do what I need to do to help my team win. Last game, it was my job to shut down their best player and I did and at the end of the game, when Cal says, ‘You were 0-9.’ Oh really? I was?”
“He was proud of himself,” Calipari said yesterday. “He came in, ‘I may not have played well, but I know I guarded that dude.’ He was proud of himself. That’s when you start seeing the change.”
Saturday was the first time Maxey can remember not hitting a field goal in a game. He admitted that would have thrown him for a loop in high school, but his perspective has changed since coming to Lexington.
“No,” Maxey said when asked if he would have been proud of a similar performance in high school. “I’m not going to lie. No, you couldn’t. Until I got here and Coach Cal was preaching about, ‘Die yourself for the team.’ If I went 0-9 for my high school, more than likely we would probably have lost.”
“You can’t really worry about scoring on this team. If it comes, it comes. We have a lot of different pieces so if you don’t have it going that night, it’s okay as long as you can contribute in other ways. Rebounding, passing the ball, and especially playing defense on the other end, you’ll be fine. And have a great attitude about it. I feel like I score pretty well but I haven’t been scoring the last two to three games but I’ll pick it up on defense and that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
That’s an example Calipari wants others — namely Kahlil Whitney — to follow.
“I even told him, ‘Don’t be afraid to be Tyrese (Maxey). Go guard their best player, shut him out, go 0 for 9. Don’t be afraid to be Tyrese. Then they say you’re player of the game (and) you were 0 for 9. You were the player of the game. Don’t be afraid to be that. Then the other stuff will happen.’”