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John Calipari not “playing favorites” but he did like Johnny Juzang’s rebounding

Johnny Juzang (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Not only did freshman Johnny Juzang finally get back into a game and play eight minutes Wednesday in Kentucky’s 71-68 loss at South Carolina but he was also in the game at crunch time.

He was just 1-for-4 from the field — he followed his own miss. But he did not have a turnover and did grab five rebounds.

Kentucky coach John Calipari apparently liked what he saw.

“He missed the shot and stuck it back in. But he had the courage to go get it and go again. Second thing Johnny did is in eight minutes he got five rebounds. So now you say, did he earn more minutes?” Calipari said.

Well, did he?

“I mean, it isn’t who I like, dislike. I love all these guys. It’s not like I’m playing favorites. What I said to a couple guys, ‘You are what your stats say you are. You are what your stats say you are. And so I don’t want to hear I can do this, I can do that. You are what your stats say you are.’”

Fair enough. As I have always heard, the ball don’t lie in basketball and Calipari is looking at stats to help make his decisions.

Juzang was just glad to be recovered from a virus that not only kept him out of practice but also isolated him from the team for about a week.

“I was sick, so I missed those games and stuff like that, and I was coming back from that. So it’s nice to be out there playing again,” he said. “I missed a good amount of time. So I’m just trying to work myself back in the rotation so I can contribute.”

He sees an opportunity to possibly play more even though UK has three talented guards in Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans.

“I wouldn’t say I’m adding any pressure on myself, but I think there’s definitely opportunity for sure. Just keep doing what you’re doing, play hard,” he said.

He came to Kentucky with a reputation as a terrific shooter. In 13 games he’s 23 of 62 from the field — 37.1 percent — and only 4-for-16 — 25 percent from 3-point range. He is 6-for-6 at the foul line.

Juzang says his shots are “feeling good” even if they are not going in.

“I’m shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. I’ve been in the gym nonstop. I’m feeling super confident, building my own confidence,” he said Friday. “The shots are feeling great right now, I’m shooting with a ton of confidence, but they’re not falling, so that’s a little frustrating. But, I’m not worried about it.”

Kentucky fans are just like they are about UK bouncing back from the disappointing loss at South Carolina.

“You’ve just got to move on to the next one. Can’t let that energy, that loss, sit too long. You’ve got to get ready for the next one,” Juzang said. “So, it’s a fresh game and you’ve just got to go out there and compete and learn from our mistakes.”

He’s seen enough to know Arkansas will be a “tough environment” on Saturday. 

“They’re a real solid team. So, we’ve got to go in and compete from start to finish and can’t let off at all,” Juzang said.

6 comments

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  1. Well, you are what your stats say you are. What a concept.

    I don’t think Calipari’s allocation of playing time over the years has been true to this fundamental premise.

    1. You are right Professor

      1. Much ado about nothing……… Every coach does it and so do the fans. I can go back and remember where a coach would give PT to someone and the fans would be up in arms. Heck I remember last year on this website it was said that Terry Wilson should run back punts. LOL. Coaches have favorites and fans have favorites. I heard this same stuff last year with Nick Richards and the proof is in the performance. We are not in practice so we have no idea. Not to mention Cal has given a lot of guys the opportunity this season and none have delivered consistently. He is looking for the fifth or sixth guy. It may not be about favorites it could be that he is looking for someone to step up. But hey what do I know.

        Much ado about nothing……………….

        KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK GO BLUE OR STAY HOME

    2. Really? Cal is playing the people who give him the best chance at winning seems to me, and always has IMO. That is what he says too. He sees them every day too. The ones whose stats don’t prove that are not logging a lot of min, and never have in the past either. A good example of this currently is E. J. Montgomery, who surrenders much of his playing time with Sestina and Brooks, but should be tearing it up as a veteran, and you would think, as a team leader. Juzang played better at Ark, but needs to play a whole lot better starting with tonight’s game against UGA in order to see more significant playing time moving forward. The odd man out now seems to be Whitney, who I think has the talent and size to play the four spot, but again he must earn his min. I say play the ones who practice well, and contribute in solid play come game time. Cal seems to be doing just that.

  2. You’re right Professor. Coach falls in love with a couple of guys every year who just don’t deserve that love. Juzang has to play solid D, rebound, avoid TO’s and fouls, and give an assist here and there, and limit his shots until he starts making some to justify his PT, or at least you would hope that would be the case.

  3. All you people who want to critique our HOF Coach all the time, let me ask this. How long have you been coaching a Div. 1 team in a power five conference? Recruited top classes every year for 10 plus seasons? How many teams have you taken to a final 4, or won a national championship with, and with several different teams? How about just “relax” “give it a break” and let the season play out. Support the team win or lose, and see what happens? It makes life so much easier. Complain at the end of the season if you must. Some of you guys think you know more than you really do IMHO. I’m not mad at nobody but the devil. Big this was a win against a good Ark team on the road. Some gave the impression it couldn’t be done, wow! GO Cats!!!

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