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Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not be easy player for Kentucky to contain

Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) high-fives fans after the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Georgia won 62-54 in overtime. (AP Photo/The Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds)

Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) high-fives fans after the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Georgia won 62-54 in overtime. (AP Photo/The Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds)


Georgia won’t apply the same intense, in-your-face defensive pressure that Arkansas did or push the ball in transition nearly as fast as the Razorbacks did Saturday when they beat Kentucky by 13 points. However, Kentucky will face one of the Southeastern Conference’s premier players in sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope when it plays at Georgia Thursday.

“I’ve been very impressed with how he’s playing. He’s definitely playing like an all-league player,” said Kentucky assistant coach John Robic.  “He is a big guard with great size. He’s able to score in a variety of ways. I would label him as he has a pro’s jump shot because he gets great lift when shooting the ball. It looks like it’s going in every time he shoots it.

“He’s able to post up smaller guards in their system with the way that they play. He’s scoring 30 percent of their points, so he’s a key figure in them. He has elevated his game from his freshman year to his sophomore year. You can tell he’s really worked hard at it. They’re playing the same way; it just seems like he’s playing with a very high confidence level right now.”

Pope averages a team-high 18 points per game for Georgia (14-15, 8-8 SEC) and also leads the team in rebounding (6.9 per game) and steals (62). He’s a 44.1 percent shooter from the field, including 37.8 percent from 3-point range.

Caldwell-Pope is one of just 11 players in all of NCAA Division I that have scored in double figures in each of their team’s games. He’s the only SEC player to accomplish this feat and one of just five from the “BCS” leagues to do so. Caldwell-Pope had 25 points and nine rebounds in a 78-68 win over Tennessee Saturday that snapped the Vols’ six-game win streak.

“He is real good. I had heard people talk about how good he was. I went into that game (with Georgia) saying he is good and went out saying, ‘No, he is really good,’” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “Great demeanor. He is big, good with the ball, good without the ball, shoots on the move, passes. If he was greedy and tried to shoot 25 times, he would be the leading scorer in the conference, but he is trying to win and not play selfishly. It’s fun to watch him play.”

Martin said even when teams stack a defense to stop him, he can still score.

“He is a 6-7 guard that is a jump shooter. He can really, really shoot the basketball. He can jump up over a 6-2 guard from 15 to 17 feet and get a clean look. Those are the guys that are hard to defend,” Martin said.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Pope is one of those rare players that can take over a game.

“For a sophomore to do that tells you what kind of player he is. He is one of the better guards in our conference. He can score, pass, is very athletic and has a very good basketball IQ,” Anderson said. “He is a big guard who can rebound, too. He’s just more well rounded, more seasoned this year.”

Tennessee coach Cuonza Martin is a Caldwell-Pope fan after watching him help Georgia beat Tennessee twice this season, something that had not happened since 2001.

“He is a big-time player,” the Tennessee coach said. “Whenever he advances to the next level, he is going to do it for a long time. I really enjoy watching him play. He has a tremendous pace to his game. He makes shots, but he’s very efficient with the ball. I thought he was a good player last year as a freshman, but he’s better now. He does a good job defensively. He is not one of those guys who scores and hides on defense.”

Cuonzo Martin said he is a “go-to guy” on offense because of the diversity in his play.

“He makes shots. He makes big plays. He moves without the ball. He’s not a guy that just dribbles. He cuts and moves,” the Tennessee coach said. “He scores in transition. He gets steals. He gets to the free throw line. You are not going to stop the guy because he is so effective in other areas. He’s not a guy hunting his shot or forcing shots. He plays within the offense.

“He’s not a guy that dominates the ball. He can catch and shoot. He gets the ball in his hands and makes plays. If (defensive) guys are around him, he finds guys driving to the rim. He does a good job making plays for others.”

Georgia coach Mark Fox says Caldwell-Pope’s unselfish attitude and all-around play make him difficult to stop from scoring.

“He is a very complete player. There are a lot of things he can do. Every night he usually plays well because you can n ot stop the guy from doing everything,” Fox said. “He may not shoot well, but he will rebound and play defense. It might not be the night he shoots it in, but he will get steals. He is usually able to make a lot of really good plays. He has matured as a player and got more efficient. I think this year he is understanding there is a different level of mental attention needed to be a great player.”

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  1. Ben

    KY team needs that fire and dedication in them. We have the talent, but what is so frustrating is that most of our players have an attitude of entitlement! Nothing is ever given to you in this world, you have to work hard and earn it. These last few games are all this team have to prove that they are worthy to wear the jersey. I will always support our team! Time is running out for this team to prove that they are not the worst team in my lifetime of 58 years. Not by record, but their attitude on the court.

    It is so hard to go from one of the best, to one of the worst in the matter of a year. We will soon learn if this is a team with no heart.

    1. larryvaught

      Huge game thursday night, Ben. NO doubt that. And agree now it is all about heart and will to win

      1. Kokamo Joe

        Larry: Is it likely that this team can find it’s heart and fight this late in the season?
        And that begs a question: If it is March and this team has not jelled or reached it potential , do we place all the blame on the players or the coach…or both? Then, can we be sure that ALL OR MOST of future freshman dominated teams will be winners?

    2. Kokamo Joe

      Re: Entitlement
      My remarks are not especially directed at this year’s UK freshmen, but to the best recruits who go to college.

      Suppose that when you were in the 7th grade people began to tell you how good you were. Suppose your middle school coach started to talk about staying in the 7th grade another year even though you were easily passing all of your courses. Suppose that next year you were bigger and stronger than other kids because you had already gone though much of puberty and they were starting…any you could dominate them. Suppose you were told by your AAU coach that you were something special. Suppose that in the 8th grade college coaches started to watch you play and a man with special interest began to advise you. Suppose that in the 9th and 10 grade your AAU team went from coast to coast and played other teams and you began to stand out. Suppose by the 11th grade you began to be recruited by UK or other top teams in the country. Suppose you were placed on numerous all star teams in the 12th grade and the college coaches were in a feeding frenzy. HOW COULD YOU NOT HAVE A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT? You have been told that you are God’s gift to the basketball world and now you have to listen to a coach chew you out? Could be a problem with any great freshman any where.

      1. Karen Sprinkle

        Nice post, Joe. It takes a truly special individual to push through all that and make the adjustment to team play. I’m sure the first time that Coach Cal really gets after any of the new players they are quite taken aback.

  2. kentuckygolfnut

    This team has shown to date, it doesnt have what it takes to make a long run of wins, too complacent and too much press is creating discord I believe among the players, take away the tv, news and sports and let them play and see what they can do…I hope the come to play against Ga, but the record speaks for itself, if it is a tight one, they are in trouble, if the CATS can build up a big lead in the 2nd half they may be able to hang on. Then they turn around quick for Fl, and who knows what will happen there

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