By LARRY VAUGHT
With injuries that have caused a significant lack of depth for Kentucky at times this year, coach John Calipari already has six players signed to join his 2020-21 team.
Injuries to Dontaie Allen, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley and Dontaie Allen have caused each player to miss games this year — Allen has yet to play even though he has started practicing this week. Plus, Ashton Hagans has played through nagging pain most of the season.
Calipari remembers when Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins were the 11th and 12th players at UK — and both are now playing professionally in Europe.
“But they understood they were 11 and 12. It doesn’t mean they weren’t coached. It means the opportunity to get into the game, they weren’t getting in until 10 other guys got in, and they knew that,” Calipari said.
“It’s hard. Who’s that guy? When you come to Kentucky, one of the things that is a positive is that kids learn, ‘Hey take on this culture.’ They get there faster, they move faster and they perform at a higher level.”
Calipari also constantly reminds everyone that not every player progresses at the same speed.
“PJ’s (Washington) path was two years. Willie’s (Cauley-Stein) path was three years. Darius’ (Miller) path was four years. I mean, they’re different,” the Kentucky coach said. “The curse is, if you go to Kentucky, leave after a year. That’s just not how it is. You might. You may play yourself into it.
“You may be working so hard in that gym – Tyler Herro, Shai (Gilgeous-)Alexander at 7 o’clock in the morning – that you will yourself to this stuff. Brandon Knight. You may be that guy. But if you think it’s just, if I just play games and it’s going to happen, it won’t.
“It takes you more time then. If you’re not going to get into the best shape of your life, it’s going to take you more time. So you get to be around me for two years. What’s the problem?”
So does this mean Calipari will make sure he has more scholarship players on next year’s roster than he does this year? He won’t say yes but it sure seems he’s making it clear that’s exactly what he’ll do if he just finds the right fits that he likes.