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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Let Our Role Players Play Like Role Players


Sometimes I think people just need something to complain about.  When your team is 14-2 and beating opponents by over 20 points per game, when you have stars at 4 of your 5 starting positions, when a #1 seed seems likely, when the team is incredibly fun to watch.  But being a fan means being miserable I guess because the main point of discussion I hear far too often is UK’s struggles at the 4-spot (formally power forward).  And I am not arguing that Derek Willis, Wenyen Gabriel, and Sacha Killeya-Jones have been good this year.  Willis has been good in minimal spurts, Gabriel has been non-existent on the floor far too often, and SKJ is basically not in the rotation.  They haven’t been good.  But here is my question:


Are we so accustomed to success at UK that we can’t accept only have FOUR superstars in the starting lineup and not five?  And why does having a weaker spot on the floor then translate to UK being so vulnerable in the NCAA Tournament?  Do not ALL teams have weak spots in their starters and much more than one.  We have 4 guys who would be All-Americans on most teams but because they are sharing the ball they likely won’t be.  No other team in the country has that.  Just those 4 guys produce this every game:

Monk: 21.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg
Fox: 16.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 6.4 apg
Briscoe: 15.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg
Adebayo: 13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 apg
COMBINED: 67.3 ppg, 19.2 rpg, 13.5 apg 

That kind of production alone could make UK competitive in most games.  Throw in the reserves at the guard spots and Humphries and you get another 13 ppg, 8 rpg, and 3 apg.  So the 4 stars plus bench averages a combined 80.3 ppg, 27.2 rpg, and 16.5 apg.  That wins games without any production from the 4-spot.  Even still, WE HAVE GOTTEN SOME PRODUCTION FROM THOSE GUYS!  They are not producing zeros on the stat sheet.  Willis is the 5th leading scorer on the team with 7 points per game.  Who was the 5th leading scorer on each Cal team?:

2010: Darius Miller (6.5 ppg)
2011: Deandre Liggins (8.6 ppg)
2012: Marquis Teague (10.0 ppg)
2013: Ryan Harrow (9.9 ppg)
2014: Willie Cauley-Stein (6.8 ppg)
2015: Willie Cauley-Stein (8.9 ppg)
2016: Derek Willis (7.6 ppg)

There aren’t any stars there.  Maybe WCS at best.  So why do we have to expect some kind of star production from Willis?  He needs ROLE PLAYER production and that is exactly what he is giving you.  None of those guys above gave UK consistent performance.  They all were inconsistent players.  Every single one of them.  So expecting Willis or Gabriel to be some consistent producer is unrealistic.

Now, you might say: what about defense?  I agree.  Teams can truly attack the 4-spot right now.  But again, believing that all 5 guys on the floor at all times will be great defenders is absurd.  Devin Booker was a terrible defender.  Tyler Ulis had his struggles on that end.  All guys have weaknesses and we have to have perspective on what we are going to get from people.  For some reason, too many fans are unreasonable right now on what we are going to get and should expect from the 4-spot.  We have role players on the roster playing like role players.  We should accept they are doing their job and it’s ok if they are not stars.  I think we have enough of those already.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

24 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Let Our Role Players Play Like Role Players

  1. Big Kat
    8:05 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Good post.

  2. MattRice
    8:13 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Thanks for reminding me about Ryan Harrow….

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:16 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

      I also thought this..haha, I was going to make a point about Teague scoring the most and that being the championship year, then I saw Harrow was right behind him and that eliminated that!

  3. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    8:14 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    True role players provide something consistently (I think of Bruce Bowen for the Spurs…defense & corner threes). Willis/Gabriel/Humphries do not.That is what I believe the main concern is with even calling them role players. I consider the Hawkins/Mulder tandem a better definition of role players. One provides more offense, one provides more defense. I wish that were true of Willis/Gabriel but it just isn’t.

    • ukjaybrat
      8:21 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

      my thoughts exactly

    8:15 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Dare aI say it; I agree with BTI.

  5. ukjaybrat
    8:20 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Role player doesn’t mean they suck. it means they have a job to do. only willis has a job and he is not doing it well (lately). wenyen and skj do not serve a role. unless that role is taking up space on a bench.
    derek’s role should be spot three point shooter, but he is having trouble filling that role.

    Marquis Teague was the starting point guard on a national championship team. that’s not exactly an example of a role player

    WCS was defensive player of the year that could guard any position on the floor on a team that was a couple days away from going undefeated. also not a great example of a role player

    Ryan Harrow was on a team full of role players. so although he is a good example. the fifth leading scorer mantra doesn’t really stick here either.


  6. 3 fan
    8:22 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    I agree. A combined 10 points from your 5th starter and entire bench against Vandy? Who cares?!?!

    • 3 fan
      8:23 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

      They can’t play defense and only one rebounds? Who cares?!?!?!

  7. 3Goggles
    8:40 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    I agree with most of this, but you are wrong about Booker and Ulis. They were both capable if not good defenders. Ulis was a complete pest to ball handlers and Booker was a much better than advertised defender.

    • ukjaybrat
      9:06 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

      yeah he wasn’t terrible. he was just worse than the other people on the floor. was he abused in the Wisconsin game? yeah, but he also was switched guarding a guy much bigger than him most times.
      and that’s what we remember most.
      in other games, he was – again not the best – but like you said… capable

  8. chrisg18
    8:44 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    This is 100% true (they are role players), except that they are not filling their role. Their role is to play defense, rebound, and hit the occasional open shot. They are not doing any of those 3 things at a consistent level, and when it comes to defense and rebounding, it is a minority. So yes, you are right. They don’t need to be stars. They are role players. But they are not filling their role at the moment.

  9. EdC
    8:51 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    If they aren’t stretching the defense, defending well or getting rebounds then they aren’t fulfilling their roles very well in that position.

    Remember when UK finally lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago? On the offense Willie was a role player. His job was to set screens, get rebounds and maybe a basket now and then from those rebounds. On the offensive end he got as many rebounds as I did in that game. Do you think he did a good job in his role in that game?

    Role player doesn’t mean no impact on a game. The role is to have an impact. That is why they are on the floor at all.

    You said: “Are we so accustomed to success at UK that we can’t accept only have FOUR superstars in the starting lineup and not five? ” I’m not hearing anybody say they should be superstars. I’m hearing that they need to do their job. A zero stat line and allowing straight line runs to the basket isn’t doing their job.

    You said: “And why does having a weaker spot on the floor then translate to UK being so vulnerable in the NCAA Tournament?” When a player who is supposed to be stretching the floor doesn’t that allows defenses to collapse and therefore a vulnerability. When they don’t defend and let straight line drives through, resulting in someone having to help and leaving their player open it is a vulnerability. When they don’t rebound or even get rebounding position it is a vulnerability.

    Now some questions for you.

    Should a coach or their teammates accept that a full ride player deemed UK quality have a zero stat line and not play solid defense or get rebounding position?

    Should a player just say “Oh well all teams have weaknesses so why work to play better defense and get rebounding position?”

    Do you really think Cal is just saying these things over and over to be saying something?

  10. runningunnin.454
    8:57 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Derek has been a disappointment; late last year, he was scoring, rebounding, running the floor, even showing NBA level athleticism. And, this year he’s a senior….don’t know what’s in his head; but, it seems to be a matter of effort and energy. Always liked him since he was a freshman, and I hope he turns it around.

  11. Willis Wolf Tattoo
    9:28 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    This post is focused on the 4 but I am more worried about the 5 spot to be honest. Bam has been better since the UCLA game but Isaac has to give us more quality minutes. I heard all summer how he is a different player but based on his play recently he has regressed. He defends well and rebounds but his offensive post play needs to improve ASAP.

  12. RogerW
    10:12 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Great post BTI. Unlike most, I usually enjoy your post. Often times, I don’t agree with a lot of what you say, but I enjoy the post none the less as it is clear that you actually put some research in. As far as Derek is concerned. As far as I am concerned, his numbers aren’t really bad or even subpar. He plays less than 20 minutes a game. Based on his averages at 20 minutes a game, if he were playing 30 minutes a game (starter minutes), he would be averaging 10.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1.5 blocks, and 2.4 steals per game. He would be doing this while shooting 48% overall, and 68% from 2 point range. I guess when it comes to Willis, the main thing we need from him is defense and that is his biggest shortcoming.

    • STEVE!
      1:26 pm January 12, 2017 Permalink

      Good analysis, except that I think if Willis was playing better, he would get closer to 30 minutes and have the chance to be a 10 ppg player.

  13. Jiminy Crickets
    11:03 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

    when you give up more points than you produce, you are a liability. Willis may score 6 points, but his guy gets 12-15. I hate to say it, but Willis is a head case. Last year he sucked, and calipari called him out for “the worst defense possible”. He wanted to quit, but then his new girlfriend talked to him and he played like a guy that could find a spot on a NBA roster.
    Just before last year he almost quit because “I just dont like basketball anymore”. His biggest problem is the same as it has been since the day he arrived here….EFFORT. Dude looks like hes sleepwalking out there, especially on defense. Somebody get him a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or whatever, but this guy needs to get his priorities straight. If we didnt see him play fantastic last season, we wouldnt be so aggravated at him this year. This is all mental, he has all the physical ability he needs to play at higher level.

    • Willis Wolf Tattoo
      11:51 am January 12, 2017 Permalink

      Almost seems like Disappearius 2.0. There were SO many games in 2012 where Darius Miller didn’t produce but in the tourney he filled the role assigned when they needed him to. I expect Willis to do the same offensively but if he hasn’t improved on defense by now he probably isn’t going to. I would focus on Gabriel’s offense more at this point.

  14. katmandue2you
    12:05 pm January 12, 2017 Permalink

    Cal has half a season to tweek and twerk and “get this right”. Hopefully Willis steps up. Tyler Ulis was SEC defensive player of the year no way I use him as an example of a defensive liability

  15. bosshogg24
    1:13 pm January 12, 2017 Permalink

    The only two players playing up to expectations are Monk and Fox even Bam is under performing! Most don’t earn what they eat, no effort, no motor!