By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — Others might have worried about whether Reid Travis would be back playing for Kentucky after spraining his right knee in February, but Kentucky coach John Calipari never did.
In fact, he insists he didn’t even monitor his daily progress before finding out that Travis would be able to play against Alabama in tonight’s Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
“I never talked to him about it. I knew he was training. I knew he was going hard. I didn’t talk to the doctors about it. I knew that if he wanted to play, which I thought he did, he’ll be back and he’ll be fine. He’s been – he’s trained that way. He lost the weight that way. He conditions that way. He takes care of his body that way. He’s intense that way,” Calipari said Thursday night.
“I expect that there will be some jitters. He hasn’t played for two weeks or longer really, three weeks.”
Calipari said he gets a daily “sheet” to let him know who could practice and who couldn’t and why. Finally it started showing “full” for Travis — meaning he was ready to go full speed.
Calipari says he doesn’t “get in the middle of it” when doctors are evaluating injured players and when someone can return.
“In those situations they know their bodies. I don’t want anybody thinking I’m trying to force a kid so we can win more games. Whatever the docs say and his body – whatever he says I’m going to roll with,” Calipari said. “You just don’t want to put yourself in a position that compromises your relationship with the kids because we’re about them and they know it.
“I mean, he should walk away from this and say, ‘He made it about me. He never pushed me. He never said anything. He never talked to me about it. He let me go at my timeline and my pace. Everybody wanted me for Florida – I wasn’t ready. He never asked me the question. You know I’m ready to go know.’ ”
Calipari said players want to play and compete. That’s why he doesn’t ask questions of the player or trainers/doctors. He also admitted that even if Travis had played when UK lost at Tennessee, it likely would not have mattered.
“They played a revenge game and our young guys didn’t know what that meant. They thought they were just playing another basketball game and that became – when they’re a revenge game it’s, you know. Especially when it was that quick a turnaround. It wasn’t like two months ago; it was days ago. So I don’t think it would have mattered,” Calipari said.