By LARRY VAUGHT
Sometimes a player can miss a shot and still impress Kentucky coach John Calipari and that’s exactly what freshman Johnny Juzang did at South Carolina recently.
“He missed a shot and the ball came to him and he did not give it a thought and shot,” Calipari said. “He has courage. He’s not afraid to make plays.”
Still you have to make a shot every now and then — something Juzang had quit doing. He had just six field goals in his first 12 games before missing three games due to illness. He had two field goals the month of December but against South Carolina he made a shot. He came back to go 2-for-5 in a win at Arkansas. Against Georgia Tuesday, he was 3-for-6.
He went from playing eight minutes against South Carolina to 17 at Arkansas to 18 against Georgia.
“The issue had been he had not made a jump shot since Nov. 28 (actually Dec. 21 before scoring against South Carolina),” Calipari said. “He has a nose for balls. He seems to be in the right place to make plays. He knows how to get the ball with opportunities to score. He is fighting. We have three good guards in front of him but I am not afraid to put him in.”
Calipari knows guards Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey would all play 40 minutes every game if he would let them. He’s not worried about them wearing down physically from playing too much.
“They are in good shape,” Calipari said. “The question becomes do I continue to make sure I have room for error and build guys up on the bench.”
He’s a big concerned now about senior Nate Sestina who is 12-for-27 from the field in six SEC games with 26 rebounds.
“We have got to get Nate back to where he was,” Calipari said on the SEC coaches teleconference Thursday. “He’s not been playing bad but he does not seem as confident and sure of himself as he was. We have got to figure that out.”
Then there is Kahlil Whitney, who has played just four total minutes in the last two games and just 42 minutes in six SEC games with only one field goal.
“We have got to get Kahlil going,” Calipari said again. “We have got to get a feel for what we need him to do to get playing time.”