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Could lack of depth be a problem for Kentucky this season


Could lack of depth be a problem for Kentucky this season?

Kentucky coach John Calipari has not said that, but he did acknowledge Monday that some players are having too play too much and used Archie Goodwin’s play in Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M as an example.

“He did good, then he tired out. He shouldn’t have been in the game. He should’ve been out, and I left him in there trying to finish out the game. So the last five minutes, we’re up four and he just dies on screens, gets beat, couldn’t sustain it. Well, he shouldn’t have been in the game that long. That’s not his fault. That’s my fault,” said Calipari.

“And then probably the same with Ryan Harrow. Trying to play him too much. I played Nerlens (Noel) too much, but I didn’t have a choice because Willie (Cauley-Stein) got in foul trouble. So we’ve got to get a better rotation.We’ve got a lot of things to deal with as we go forward and you’re trying to play your best basketball when you know the other team is going to play their best basketball. You’ve got to try and figure out as we go forward how do we play our best, how do I get these guys to continue to grow.”

Goodwin leaves UK in scoring at 15.7 points per game and in minutes played at 32.1. Senior guard Julius Mays and Noel, who leads UK in rebounds, blocked shots and steals, are both averaging 31 minutes per game. Alex Poythress averages 27 minutes per game and Harrow is averaging 26 also but his playing time continues to climb dramatically.

Still, Calipari says it is too early to push the panic button despite UK’s 10-5 mark and two home losses.

“Willie is still playing well. I think Archie and Ryan are playing fine. I think you’ll have Julius and we’re trying to get Alex (playing better). We’re doing everything we can and when I watched the tape Alex played fine, he just didn’t have enough energy sustained, enough effort that was sustained effort.,” Calipari said.  “When I watched the tape he wasn’t in knots playing basketball. It has nothing to do with shooting, dribbling, doing all that stuff. It has nothing to do with that.

“It’s a simple sustained effort, fighting screens, continuing to play, sprinting the court. That’s what we’re trying to work on with him. He wants it bad. He’s such a great kid and wants to please us and please me, but like I said, it’s all a process.”

Calipari knows players thinks they are playing harder than they ever have and “this dude wants more” from us.

“Now, if it were on a normal situation and he’s a freshman I’m happy. I’m hugging him and telling him, ‘You’ll be alright, just try and play a little harder,’ but we’re at Kentucky, this is warp speed. Everything is on steroids so you’re challenging kids that are 17, 18, 19-years old to be like (Texas A&M senior Elston) Turner, 24 years old. You’ve got to be him,” Calipari said.

“But you decided to come here. It wasn’t me. I didn’t beg you to come here, you knew coming in. I think they’re getting the picture. Hey, we’ve got a ways to go. I’m telling you, the (Tennessee) game is going to be a hard game for us but I’m anxious to see how we respond, I’m anxious to see how tough they play. Those are all good things.”

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  1. Karen Sprinkle


  2. Kokamo Joe

    Of course the short bench is a problem. Calipari has used, for the most part, only a 7 man rotation since he has been here. He has not developed his bench because I assume that he thinks that in order to get his freshmen out and others in, he must give his stars as much face time as possible. He has not substituted except in the last bit of even blow out games. I bow to his knowledge, but I wonder if the Cats would be better if he recruited role players and played them and maybe…gasp…grown..recruit about 3 super stars each year.


    In a way, yes, in another no; IMHO. One, if ALL the players on the court start the game out like gang-busters and get a possible (huge) lead, put some back ups in until the starters get a good break. Second, since the team seems to give up big leads (the few times they’ve had them against good teams), UK is in a catch-22. Or a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

  4. wildcatdon

    Of course there is a depth problem. Anyone that knows anything about basketball can see it..There is very little quality depth..We need a backup at every position and we dont have that..The short rotation has caught up with us this year..If we could have landed Harrell,Lyons and Oriaki,we would be in fine shape but that didnt happen for whatever reason. Did Cal not want to load up this year because of what is coming next year? Did he fear a bunch of guys staying and then he couldnt get all the guys he wanted? Who knows,but we do need more and better players this year and it’s too late now..

  5. RJ

    Depth, or the lack thereof, is always an issue when you have players with as much “leg” time as these guys get. By the time the tournement comes around, they are beat to death. I recall Joe B. Hall once said “if you are not playing 8 players on a regular basis you team cannot extend well into the post season”. It’s just oo tough at that level.

    Yes, there are exceptions and exception teams but they are exceptions not the normal.

    1. Stephen Curran

      I think the players that play know they have no one to replace them at their position so they don’t have to put it out for fear of being replaced. Cal has some players who can come in and spell some of them if he would play them. That’s where the ville beats you by wearing you down and giving more experience to the bench at the same time.

  6. grant

    cal has always said he’ll take talent over experience, wonder if he’d like a little more experience now?

  7. RLH

    Not to question Cal as I know he will work it out, but just a thought. He states that players are tiring out, yet he states they don’t give sustained effort, which both go hand-in-hand. Again it all seems to be depth related or perceived lack of depth. Why not spend some of this “one-on-one time” with Polson & Hood developing depth. Polson gave very good effort in his increased time while Ryan was out and we’re winning. If Ryan is tired, why not let him rest. Jon doesn’t give you Kyle’s offense, but he plays better defense. If we’re on steroids, these two guys should be the “Rock” by now. Again, I know Cal will work it out, but just don’t understand some of the statements at times.


    If this current team made their free throws and rebounded a little better we would have half the losses and be in the top 25. Then this would be a nonissue. Just one man opinion.


  9. King Ghidora

    Cal must be reading my posts. I said this was a problem last week when they almost lost the lead to Vandy. They get tired because they aren’t in good enough shape to go 40 minutes. They’re young and it’s hard to get in that kind of shape if your body isn’t ready for it. Usually a team that plays the entire game will be used to doing it by the end of the season though so I expect this to be much less of a problem by tournament time. The SEC will make you or break you and I can’t see one of Cal’s teams breaking. One thing about it. The way these guys are playing there won’t be a mad rush to the NBA next year. There will be some players coming back which means depth at last even it comes the hard way. I still have hopes that a lot of players will start to really shine before long. Poythress, Goodwin and WCS could all start playing much better. I think Harrow already has. The guy almost has as many steals as he does turnovers. That’s freaky. This team has massive talent. They just don’t have enough warm bodies IMO and they need Wiltjer to be able to play defense so he won’t have to sit so much. Surely he could learn to play inside defense where foot speed isn’t so important. I really want him to do well. He just has to overcome this someway. Hard work generally gets it done but not always. The talent has to be there somewhere. Let’s face it. I couldn’t go out there and play D at this point in my life. Maybe Kyle is just too young. I had a hard time with it until one day I just didn’t any more. My body grew up and my feet started moving better. It got me an invite to play way back when.

  10. John

    I trust our coach.
    He seems to know what he is doing and doesn’t need my advice.

    Depth is nice, but not essential.
    Our coach in his first three season went 102-14 and rarely played more than seven people.

    Now if injuries or something else were to deplete our numbers, then depth becomes essential.

    1. Kokamo Joe

      Look at the roster. Twany Becham is a transfer who has never played. Sam Malone, Tod Lanter, and Brian Long may be fine kids but they are taking up roster space of players who could contribute. Hood and Polson are the current Kentucky flavor players who are only used in emergency situations. Polson has contributed when used and Hood is a shadow lingering in the background. Calipari uses a 7 team rotation and he has done this since he came to UK. Clearly he has choosen not to develop a bench and to depend on incomeing outstanding freshmen. THAT IS HIS SYSTEM AND SO FAR IT HAS WORKED. But in previous years part of that rotation has been some players with experience. This year he does have experience with Wiltjer, Mays, and Harrow but those players cannot match the skill of previous experienced players like Patterson, Miller, Liggins, Harrellson or Vargas.

      I fully expect three or four of these freshmen to be gone after this year. That means that Wiltjer may be the only Kentucky experienced player back next year. We will be getting perhaps the best recruiting class ever next year, but the experienced factor will remain the same. We have now reached the true one and done system.

      I agree. Trust Calipari. But we must realize that this system, although it will work often, it will not work every time.

    2. Kokamo Joe

      Injuries and fouls are a definate issue. These are the dangers of the 7 man rotation. So far Calipari has had no…that is no injuries which has cost playing time for his major players. That is remarkable. What would happen to this team if Noel blows out a knee? What if it had happened to Davis last year? Remember a couple of years ago when Harrellson tore up UL in the Yum Center? One day before that game Buckles, a UL power forward injured his hand keeping him out of the UK game. Had he played the difference in the game could have been different. So with a seven man rotation and no bench, injuries are a possibility which could derail even teams which are whopping up on everybody.

      Fouls are another problem that so far has cause little problem for UK. The Tennessee game is a good example of how fouls can tilt a game. Tennessee had it’s bigs on the bench much of the game. Put Noel and Cauley-Stein on the bench and UK is in deep trouble. So far, Calipari has been very lucky. Some day, a crew just might began to call come of those drives charges, and some of Noel’s blocks fouls and then look where the short bench will leave UK.

      Both of these are maybe things. Neither has ever happened and here is hoping that neither will happen.

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