By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though the numbers might not show it, Kentucky coach John Calipari has seen signs of improvement from freshman forward Sacha Killeya-Jones.
“Sacha is way better, he just gets in the game and he’s not ready. He’s 17 years old (he actually turned 18 in August). He’s not ready for this,” Calipari said after Sunday’s win over Hofstra.
He was a McDonald’s All-American and had 13 games with 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds at Virginia Episcopal School his senior year while leading the team to a state title. He was a consensus top 10 forward in the 2016 recruiting class and a consensus top 30 recruit overall.
He’s played in nine of 10 games and is averaging 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 9.3 minutes per game. He’s hitting 61 percent from the field. He had a career-high 12 points against UT-Martin and had a career-best six rebounds against Arizona State.
Because he’s not had the success other freshmen have had this year or in past seasons under Calipari, one may wonder about Killeya-Jones’ state of mind. He’s fine.
“He loves UK. He’s working hard every day. He is where he wants to be,” one UK source told me.
Before the season, I asked Killeya-Jones what it was about Calipari that his mother liked during his recruitment.
“When I came here the first time talk to him in person, she really liked coach Cal,” the UK freshman said. “He was really straight up. He said if I came here I would have to fight for everything. He made no promises. My mom and dad both had huge respect for him. They did a good job letting me make my own decision. They never pressured me but they liked Kentucky as much as me.
“Cal was like no one else in recruiting. The facilities are great. You can see where players are going after they leave. The experience is like nowhere else in the country. You come here to play on a great team with great players. You know it is not going to be easy, but that’s why you come to Kentucky to get better.”