By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s not exactly a tweak — or at least I don’t think it is.
But Kentucky coach John Calpari has come up with his own innovative way to try to persuade his players to pass more.
He’s devised a new way to keep assists and explained the system to media members after Tuesday night’s win over Mississippi State.
“We’re keeping assists. I’m trying again to make them willing passers, okay. So let me tell you how you get an assist. You get a normal assist. You pass it to somebody and score,” Calipari said.
“You ready for this assist? You pass it to somebody and they miss the shot. Still giving you an assist. You pass it to somebody and they get fouled. Still giving you an assist.
“If you’re a big man and you outlet the ball and that guy leads to a break, I’m giving you an assist. If you throw it ahead and someone else throw it is to somebody else for an assist, I’m giving you an assist, too. There’s a hundred ways now to get an assist.
“But to get an assist you must start bypassing the ball. Really? You cannot get an assist. Any pass you make is going to be an assist now. So when you end a game and you have one assist in 28 minutes, what is that telling you? Man, I passed one time in this game. Yeah, one time.
“I’m doing everything I can. Pass the ball to each other. Make the easiest pass you can make. Every extra pass we make, we become a good team, a better team. It’s hard, though. When I get it, I’ve got to be a ball stopper. I’ve got to ball fake and a walk. We’re getting better, though. We’re getting better. ”
But can he get players, especially young players, to value an assist total over a point total no matter what system he devises? Can this really make a difference?
“When guys are doing great passing, you’re hugging them, you’re telling them. And when a guy gets 22, you don’t even mention it. You don’t even say anything. You just come in and say, man, did you see how many — like we have it on the board right there,” Calipari said.
“Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) had about 18 (assists). Some guys, literally, had like two. That means you’re not passing. I’m giving you every opportunity to get an assist. ”