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John Calipari looking for “some separation” among nine players good enough to start

Keldon Johnson, left, battles with Tyler Herro daily in practice. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky plays Transylvania in its first exhibition game Friday night and is less than two weeks away from starting the regular season against Duke in Indianapolis.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Thursday that he probably had nine players who could start and that he’s looking for “some separation” in Friday’s game.

“Some guys have got to. We’re scrimmaging more now for that reason. I’m stopping them still too much right now. You got to have separation. You got to have two, three or four guys that are playing a little bit more than the other guys, but it’ll be good to see,” Calipari said.

“They’re competing. We had a player that’s competing against another guy. He got up early to go to the gym and he went and knocked on the kid’s door and said, ‘Come with me. Why don’t you come on over?’ That’s where we’re trying to go with all this.

“It’s like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Did I start him early? How many games did he not start to start the year and by the end of the year, one of our, if not the most, effective players we had. So really early on I’m just going to be checking. I may start a group in the first half and a different group in the second half. I may do that for a while until we figure out who’s who.”

The Kentucky coach said that P.J. Washington and Reid Travis had shown signs of separation but that Nick Richards has also played well.

“Who has anybody like a Nick? There are none. He’s it. Just trying to get him to catch it in the lane. Then, if I tell you that, probably there’s got to be a point in the game – a certain number of minutes – that those three have to play together. ‘Figure it out, Coach.’ Then I have to figure out how I do that,” Calipari said.

“I’ve really enjoyed this because they just – ‘Tell us how you want us to play.’ They come every day and they’re trying. They’re showing us stuff every day that they can do. They’re learning and growing. Anybody that’s watched me coach – yeah, they make me who I am.

“If you want me to be hard and nasty, I’ll go to whatever point I have to go to get you to do what you have to do for yourself and our team. This team, it’s kind of like you tell them once and they get it.”

1 comment

  1. I don’t think you can put Travis, Herro, or Richards on the bench except for foul trouble or to rest. Washington may be in that group as well.

    Then there is the next group in my view that must be in the rotation of 8: Hagans, Green, Montgomery, and Johnson. That leaves Quickley and Baker fighting for a spot in the rotation and more playing time.

    A good problem for a coach to have.

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