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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Players First Program Reveals Its Biggest Problem


From the very moment that John Calipari took the job at UK, one mentality and one mentality only has dominated the culture around the program: PLAYERS FIRST.  It has been a rousing success too.  That motto and with Calipari behind it, combined with the legacy of the UK program and passion of the fanbase, has led to the greatest run of talent in UK history.  Having great talent has then equated to great amounts of winning on the court. Plus, up to this season, having that high level of talent has not correlated into any serious ego problems off the court.  Some guys have flamed out and disappointed on the court, but we haven’t had any real issues off the court.  That is, until this season and the Jarred Vanderbilt issue.  I think the Players First culture is entirely to blame for this problem.

If we were unclear about the actual status of Jarred Vanderbilt and his injury, you probably couldn’t say this.  But Calipari himself has said that Vanderbilt is ready to go.  He’s medically ready to go but we still don’t see him on the court and nobody can seem to explain why.  Vanderbilt is basically holding Cal hostage on when he will or won’t play.  That’s not a healthy quality in a program, in my opinion.  Of course at the end of the day, only Jared Vanderbilt (or any player) can say yes or no on if they will play.  UK (or any school) wouldn’t look good to threaten to pull the scholarship or kick off any kid who is healthy but won’t play.  But I am not sure this problem exists at a school that doesn’t tout itself and promote at all times that it is Players First.

Now let’s be honest: Players First brings in the high levels of talent that UK has gotten over the years.  So that’s the positive.  But the negative is that these players are not really as concerned with the University of Kentucky basketball program as much as themselves and their future.  You might argue that is the case at every high major basketball program but I would counter with at Kentucky, it is amplified.  In my opinion, it should be a 50-50 deal.  On the one hand, of course you should be concerned with your future above all else.  But on the other hand, the University of Kentucky is paying you to attend their school to further help that future.  I believe you owe them an honest effort for that payment.  I don’t think Jarred Vanderbilt, based on all recent reports and comments, is giving an honest effort that UK deserves.

At this point, let me be clear.  For the 90% of players that have come to UK under John Calipari, they have found the balance.  Almost all the guys have come to love the program, play hard for the program, and respect the program.  That has been proven by how much these NBA superstars still rep Kentucky and come back to games all the time.  The Players First mentality has been 90 percent good.  But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect and I think we now see what the drawback is.  When the right set of circumstances occur, the almost selfish nature of promoting Players First can bite the program.  This team is very close to being very good.  A guy like Vanderbilt, or what we think his talent can be, could be the guy to push this team over the top.  Maybe we’ll still get to see that supposed talent before the season is over but clearly something strange is going on here and you have to have your doubts on if he’ll ever play and if he does what impact he could possibly have.

The program has essentially been created around the concept of the player and his development mattering more than the team and winning in the short term.  The idea is if you bring in enough top talent and develop them individually, the winning will come naturally.  But now we have a healthy player sitting on the bench while his teammates have ridden a roller coaster of a season without him.  Does Jarred Vanderbilt actually care about how this season plays out?  Doesn’t seem so to me.  And you have to admit, when players are told that they should consider themselves always first, you can begin to see where that mentality came from.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

48 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Players First Program Reveals Its Biggest Problem

  1. jonthes
    10:02 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    We don’t know the situation exactly. Too many assumptions in your piece.

    • runningunnin.454
      10:08 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      That’s BTI’s job….swing and miss.

    • Look Out Fireworks
      10:11 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Agreed, this article is a little off base in my opinion.

      Maybe Vanderbilt was waiting on Cal to talk to him? Both waiting on each other and no one speaking first…

    • Bryan the Intern
      10:12 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Calipari literally said he is ready to play.

    • runningunnin.454
      10:15 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      PHYSICALLY…..strike two.

    • Look Out Fireworks
      10:17 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Maybe Vanderbilt truly doesn’t think he’s ready to go.

      I find it hard to believe that in 2017, with the NBA culture how it is and a down year for the draft, that a skilled player would intentionally sit himself out. Especially at UK, one of the most coveted programs in all of sports, where such an action would certainly be revealed.

    • BallDontLie
      10:20 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Jonthes, it’s called rants and ramblings. It’s opinion, and mostly based on assumptions. Yet, that doesn’t mean the assumptions are wrong. May be way off about Vanderbilt but it’s an interesting take about players first and one that can’t be completely discounted off hand.

    • Rembrandt
      10:39 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      People should be careful what they wish for. This article seems to be a teaser piece, written to reach out and touch fans already uncertain about Cal’s recruiting style. It is really silly. Jarred Vanderbilt is a tall kid with a confidence problem. Cal has had more success here than any other UK coach since Rupp. Cal is an innovator who utilizes the trends of the times to our advantage. He understands how to communicate with young athletes. “Players first” is a recruiting tactic, just like “positionless basketball” is a recruiting tactic. Cal has forgotten more about being a college basketball coach than anyone here will ever know.

    • krautdog
      12:04 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Well said-I trust in Coach Cal!

    • unbridled
      5:07 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      I trust in coach cal completely. Not so sure I trust in Jared Vanderbilt though. Coach cal is calling him out for a reason. I’m guessing someone other than coach cal has vanderbilts ear and is giving him some bad advice. Coach cal is letting him know it.

  2. Catcasey1
    10:08 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    This is as strange as it gets.. He can’t be helping his stock in the draft doing this

    • unbridled
      5:08 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Agreed and I think that’s why coach cal has made the comments he has.

  3. cdc_uky
    10:23 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    I live in Louisville. On one the the sport shows, I think it was Marques Maybin who said on air that he was hearing Vanderbilt’s people were advising him not to play. I realize that certainly doesn’t make it a fact but I thought it was worth sharing here.

    • UKPROF
      11:03 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Vanderbilt’s “PEOPLE”!? Does anyone know who these ‘people’ are? PEOPLE advising him NOT to play would not be doing him any favors. I really can not think of a reason not to play unless he was still injured, and that ‘excuse’ has been officially ruled out. He is only hurting himself by choosing not rejoin the roster. Maybe he wants to leave Lexington? Who knows?

  4. tncatrn
    10:23 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    This could be the most idiotic article I have ever seen posted on this site and I have read pretty much all of them. What EXACTLY does Jarred Vanderbilt gain by sitting out the entire season that would deem him selfish and unwilling to help his teammates? He becomes more and more out of game shape which hurts him in the combine therefore the draft if he is thinking of going pro this summer. He hasn’t shown pro scouts ANYTHING that would make his stock rise by sitting on the bench. We have NO clue what is going on behind the scenes with this situation other than the usual Cal speak which is vague and not forthcoming (I would be the same were I him). To say this is an issue with the “players first mentality” is completely off base and frankly off putting by a staff member of KSR. One person above said swing and miss but I think it more likely he was hit by the pitch in the head if BTI thinks this article is representative of the situation or Jarred Vanderbilt. BTI just comes off like an @$$hole here.

    • crazycatfan65
      10:48 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Sounds like your the a$$hole who cant seem to read and understand the title of the thread. “Rants and Rumblings”, its his opinion and thinking. This article makes several good points that most here cant seem to get. As for your “getting more and more out of game shape” is a bigger pile of crap then this article because he’s practicing with the team, hes posted several videos of him working out by himself and with a trainer so hes not out of shape. Vanderbilt is considered a top 20 draft pick NOW, without even playing a game yet this year. Has anyone stop to think that maybe he’s sitting out and waiting for the draft to avoid more injuries because he is starting to be known as fragile since this isn’t his first injury. Remember he missed most of his junior and senior year because of foot injuries.

    • BallDontLie
      10:55 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Tncatrn. For the sake of argument, if he comes back and plays poorly/gets reinjured, would that hurt his draft stock. Just because his not playing isn’t necessarily helping his draft stock doesn’t mean that playing automatically would. Being 18 and having a fan base urging him to play and also having his family and friends in his Here, he’s in a tough spot, I wasn’t ready to deal with all that when I was his age.

    • Look Out Fireworks
      10:55 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      And everyone but you seems to agree it’s a bad, misinformed, ill-thought idea.

    • Skeps
      1:17 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Well then I’m glad the kid took up a valuable scholarship that other kids would be dying to get. Glad the players NBA dreams are priority one with the fans. I long for the days when Kentucky fans were still Kentucky fans and didn’t put UK at the bottom of the totem pole. Thanks guys.

    • unbridled
      6:41 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      I agree that this isn’t an indictment of the “players first mentality.” It may very well be a reflection Jared Vanderbilt and the people advising him that aren’t named John calipari. This situation is amiss. Coach cal goes through exhaustive measures to protect his players. He has recently called Vanderbilt out for one reason or another. People who act like coach calls comments to the media mean nothing….are clueless.

  5. hal9944
    10:24 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Cal literally said he’s physically ready but not mentally last week. Also said he wants his first game to be at home. (Which we havent had one yet since he’s stated he was physically ready.)

    Why is everyone jumping to conclusions, and putting negativity energy into the situation?

    If you pay any attention to the games, jarred has been the biggest cheerleader and supporter on the bench! Not once has he seemed uninterested during the games..GIVE THE GUY A BREAK AND QUIT PUTTING WORDS INTO HIS MOUTHS! Quit with the negitivity! Whats the point? GTFU

  6. ScoopLemond
    10:25 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Thinking way too deep/negative into this bti. a very negative view of this situation. I feel Cal has earned the right to run the program how he sees fit. Vanderbilt is 1 case. You don’t know how he feels about the team & school. No one in the program is talking bad about him. He may not be ready mentally but that is his decision to make. He is not hold anyone hostage. I hope he plays this year but if he needs more time so be it. GO CATS!

  7. kenny
    10:26 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    I think even if it was a “Kentucky first, cats forever” program the decision would still be Vanderbilt’s. I don’t know of any program that would tell a kid you have to play.

  8. Dee
    10:48 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    BTI I am one of your biggest fans and most staunch supporters. However I believe you lost your way in the forest on this one. I understand where you were trying to go with this article…. but it is filled with such negative assumptions to prove a negative that it loses focus.

    Think about the potential harm this article could do? Someone reads it… takes it for gospel or out of context… now a young man who has been dealing with injury that coach Cal has been behind the entire time has to deal with the insane 1% cayt fan. Do you not think that Cal would handle a player who “refused” to play? Could perhaps the player isn’t mentally ready for a road start?

    Yet you have planted a seed in the fans mind that JV has no heart, no integrity, dare I say… no honor.

    With Cat fans… we can handle anything… but when a player quits (no heart, no honor)… the player has broken an unbreakable code….

    This article is like today’s media. Using negative assumptions to push an agenda with no accounting or thought on the repercussions of their writing.

    • Kat4Life
      11:04 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Well said Dee

    • Skeps
      12:47 pm January 16, 2018 Permalink

      Here we go again with the hurt feelings excuse. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they can handle an article that addresses legitimate concerns that people have.

  9. Jimi40
    10:51 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    He is a Diva AND…..AND….

    He is on scholarship and his coach is saying he is ready to go.

    If he were on a academic scholarship and didn’t go to his classes and participate, he would lose his scholarship.

    If he doesn’t play by 1-20 against Florida & i was Coach Cal, i take that option away and you leave next year. Either transfer or go to the NBA G league because he isn’t getting drafted with his me 1st attitude.

  10. Kat4Life
    11:00 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    C’mon guys……the facts are we have absolutely NO idea why he is not playing. The kid may still have issues that have not been voiced publically, or more likely he will make his debut at home, in front of the Rupp faithful. We are jumping to a lot of conclusions…….I think he will play soon, and be a very nice second-half/tourney contributor.

    • unbridled
      6:45 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      …..but we have John calipari’s opinion of the situation. He’s challenging Vanderbilt.

  11. a21CATSfan
    11:05 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    It’s amazing the amount of criticism that still revolves around this program and a portion of its’ fan base. Cal has brought Kentucky back to the elite level in college athletics; in his short time here, he has won more regular season AND postseason games than anyone else in the country. He has been to more Elite 8’s and Final 4’s than anyone else in the country. He has a 9-2 (soon to be 9-1) record against his most intense rival, while staying away from ANY scandal. He has had the “best” coach in the business steal his method and every idea he has ever had, while dealing with loads more criticism at every turn. He has became a National Champion and a Hall of Famer since arriving in Lexington, but still can’t get the respect he deserves. All the while having a completely different team every year and having three deep tournament runs single-handedly ended by one referee (‘11 National Championship game, ‘15 Final 4, ‘17 Elite 8). There is no reason for criticism, only praise, respect and TRUST.

    • Skeps
      12:52 pm January 16, 2018 Permalink

      Cal is the one that says he is ready. We’re basing our opinion on his statement. Not sure why you’re defending him if he’s not the one in question. While we’re on the subject,how does posing a question about a concern you have equate to a lack of support?

  12. bbnZach
    11:22 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Can someone fire BTI please?

    • satcheluk
      2:57 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Why would Matt do that? He’s click bait. There’s more comments on this stupid post that most.

    • Skeps
      12:57 pm January 16, 2018 Permalink

      You’re right Kim Jong-un. We don’t get out of line here. People with differing opinions need to be be deported from UK fanhood and cheer for Louisville where Pitino was never questioned.

  13. Ben27
    11:25 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    I think Cal should give him a deadline around 2/1/18 to start playing with the team or wait until next year. If he comes back to late, he could mess up team chemistry. I think this would be fair to all parties involved.

  14. rainman
    11:36 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Same thing last year with Diallo!
    Different reason, same outcome!

  15. rainman
    11:40 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Here is the REAL kicker, Hami is most likely regretting his decision to return right about now! If Jared has the same opportunity, what do you think Hami’s advice would be to him?

  16. chrisg18
    11:41 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Some of you are acting like Cal is totally behind JV with all this. Cal is clearly frustrated with the situation based on his public comments.

  17. rabblerabblerabble
    11:44 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Some flaming-hot takes here.

  18. Smyrna_Cat
    11:56 am January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Maybe we should give up on BTI as a writer. This is silly.

  19. Ninjashock
    12:38 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    So now we’re writing hit pieces on kids who are prioritizing their health over winning basketball games? BTI, you never fail to raise the bar when it comes to absolutely awful articles.

  20. luke_emberton
    12:46 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    there should be a rule that you have to play 30 college games before you go pro because you can get a situation like this a Kyrie Irving or Michael Porter situation where the program gets used by these kids and all of a sudden they’re NBA All Stars making millions and millions of dollars and they didn’t do that for their college

  21. stl_cat
    1:18 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    You are a complete idiot if you think a scholarship is the same as ‘university is paying him to be here and part of this program’

    No. He is not being paid. The NBA is where he’s going to get paid.

    Idiot writer making idiot assumptions about something that none of us know the details on. Maybe he just wanted clicks. Mission accomplished I guess? That’s even more pathetic though.

  22. Duff86
    1:38 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    I’m okay if it’s a wasted scholarship. The kid was injured and he has a opportunity to be drafted. It’s his life and it’s not about wins and losses for UK. Zion alluded to this on TV the other day. That during his injury he learned who really has his back and who doesn’t. The way Kentucky is handling the Vanderbilt situation speaks to the fact that Kentucky has your back and supports what you think is best for your future. As it should be. To force a kid back when he may be gone next year just doesn’t make good sense. I hope Vanderbilt plays but if he doesn’t want to then I’m good with that. I like team with or without him.

    • satcheluk
      3:01 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Agreed. No one knows you and your body/mind better than you. We all want him back, but he needs to play when he is ready. If he doesn’t play then any coach would have the option of encouraging them to find someplace else next year, though I’m sure Cal would love to have him back just like Dialo this year.

    • unbridled
      6:50 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

      Have you guys heard what coach cal has said?

  23. 206Bones
    6:15 am January 16, 2018 Permalink

    If Cal said it, I believe it and that settles it!