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By LARRY VAUGHT

With all the hoopla over Kentucky beating Louisville and rising back to No. 15 in the national rankings this week, Kentucky coach John Calipari made it clear on his weekly radio show that he has not forgotten about some players who didn’t play against Louisville.

“Two guys we can’t lose are Marcus Lee and Derek Willis. We have to make sure they are engaged,” said Calipari. “This program needs them and this team needs them.”

Neither freshman played against Louisville. Lee has played 78 minutes in 10 games and Willis 21 minutes in seven games. Lee has 36 points, 21 rebounds and nine blocks while Willis has 14 points and four rebounds.

Senior Jon Hood has also not played since suffering a head injury in practice. Calipari emphasized that Hood is now cleared to play, but he has  played just 18 minutes in four games.

“He is practicing great. Really taking on a leadership role,” the UK coach said. “I am really proud of how far he has come. He is the greatest kid that has come through this program, he really is.”

13 Responses to Calipari: “Two guys we can’t lose are Marcus Lee and Derek Willis”

  • Phillip Barker says:

    I whole heartedly agree coach, so play em!

  • Judi Cole says:

    I think they will get a chance to play in SEC games when we have secure leads. They should be given a chance to prove themselves and progress. We will need their experience next year!

  • Phillip Barker says:

    Oh! Forgot a shout out to Hoodie…he is a “Great” guy!

  • TheProfessor says:

    He will do what he has been doing, as this team’s identity evolves, his rotation will tighten, not loosen. His work with Lee and Willis occurs during practice and in one-on-one conversations with them, not during the games.

  • jim says:

    Coach needs to play them against the weaker teams. No use having a bench if you don’t play them. There aren’t that many top teams in the SEC. Should be plenty of opportunities to play the bench.

  • Rod says:

    Agree with others, hope he gets these kids in some soon against lessor comp. Cal usually tightens rotation as year goes on.

  • Larry Pup says:

    I don’t think guys like Willis and Lee are going to stay happy sitting on the bench as much as they are. These players need playing time to prepare them for the stretch run and NCAA tourney. More depth is a good thing.

  • Woohop says:

    Actions are proof of promises. Coach Cal plays only 5-7 players…..just like Rupp and Wooden. Lee won’t see quality playing time till next year. Willis will never see quality playing time. Cal’s bias to “take care”of top rated recruits will never change until he abandons his philosophy of recruiting only top rated, self promoting, non team-oriented superstars. What value is a”deep bench of talent” if you never use it. At least Pitino used the bench successfully when he won it all at UK. Pressing defense and breaking offense is doable when a deep bench plays. Won’t happen here. Therefore the risk of bench sitting players leaving is a real risk.

  • KG says:

    The kids signed on with no guarantees from Cal. They knew the situation before stepping foot on campus they don’t seem to be as concerned about their playing time as some fans who constantly harp on it. They will play when Cal decides, end of story.

  • Big Bear says:

    Cal is starting to recruit guys that are going to be in school longer. This is going to get interesting.

  • UKFMLY says:

    Repetition Repetition, Repetition. Playing 8 or 10 guys when the starters are juniors and seniors is far easier than when you have a young team. These guys need to play a lot and often to become the team that we want them to be. I would like to see Willis and Lee play more but I trust Cal’s decisions.

  • Little Baron says:

    Most posts are accurate.

    Cal only plays 7 or 8 and then more like 6 or 7 as he tightens down as the season goes.

    However… I FULLY agree with all those that want to see shot-blocking Lee and 3-pt sharp shooter Willis get some decent minutes. It is ridiculous that Cal has not given any playing time to Willis. We sure needed his 3-pt accuracy AND we needed much better FT shooting in a LOT of games.

    My biggest beef is that Cal says one thing and then does the opposite, with regard to actually giving our DEEP bench any minutes. Polson has only helped & Lee has brought energy & finally Hawkins is getting some minutes (due to others’ foul trouble) and proving his worth.

    This is not to say the deep bench is as talented as the super stars, but we need them ready & experienced when we end up with 4 or 5 guys on the bench early in the 1st half with 2 fouls each or if someone is out a few minutes with a minor injury.

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