Kentucky’s Blue-White Game on Friday night included an admission from John Calipari. It involved dealing with a roster that could have more than 10 players capable of being in a rotation.
“Do you think I’ve been thinking about it?” the UK coach said in his postgame news conference. “Yes, I have been thinking about it.”
Calipari said his preference would be a rotation of seven or eight players. His speculation at this early stage exceeded this ideal scenario.
The UK coach advised fans to count the number of players who start games this season.
“Of the 10 that played (in the Blue-White Game), my guess is nine will have started a game this year,” he said. “Maybe 10. So, you’ll have your chance. You’ll have your chance to prove yourself.”
Sahvir Wheeler played all 40 minutes. That probably won’t happen again for any player, Calipari said.
“If they can play 24, 25 minutes in a real game, that’s a lot of minutes,” he said.
Calipari said he’d prefer a rotation of seven or eight players. But . . .
Scoring and/or shooting will not determine playing time, Calipari said. The 10 or more contenders can all score.
“What will differentiate the team?” he asked rhetorically. “Who will play more? Who will play less?”
What will separate players will be toughness, rebounding, defense and communication skills, Calipari said.
With all the flash and dash of the Blue-White Game, it could be easy to forget that two of the likely contenders for playing time did not play Friday. They were forward Jacob Toppin and guard CJ Fredrick.
Calipari spoke of the competitive level of practice making players better.
“They’re forcing each other to be uncomfortable,” he said. “Instead of me having to do it, they’re doing it to each other.”
Back to normal
Calipari opened his postgame news conference — the first since the coronavirus pandemic began in March of last year — with a verbal sigh of relief.
“I’ve got to say this: Like, I haven’t seen you guys in a year,” the UK coach said. “And I’m happy to see you.
“Can you imagine that coming from me? They’ll have to drug test me.”
Attendance was announced as 11,678.
Although Rupp Arena was only about half-filled, Calipari grabbed a microphone near midcourt in the final minutes and thanked the fans for making a positive impression.
“It’s great to have you all back,” he said. ”Unbelievable. And to have 10,000 of you show up for a scrimmage against ourselves, are you nuts?”
He echoed that sentiment in the postgame news conference.
“I want to know if anybody in the country can have a scrimmage that you have to buy tickets to and could have that many people,” he said. “Tell me that school. . . . I was so happy to walk out and see that many people. Intrasquad scrimmage?! What in the world?!”
On a teleconference earlier in the day, Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman stressed the importance of playing opponents in assessing a team.
“If someone could grant a wish to a college staff, my wish would be we have more exhibition games, more secret scrimmages,” Musselman said. “Two (exhibition games) is not enough. . . . We need more game-like situations to develop our players. So, this is much, much, much needed.”
Musselman noted that NBA teams play more than two preseason games. “In order to develop your players, you need to be in game-like situations with real refs, and not behind closed doors playing against yourself every day,” he said. “So much, much needed.”
Freshman TyTy Washington wore a bright yellow sweatsuit to his postgame interview session. The letters T.R.A.P. were on his chest. Below were the words: To raise above poverty.
The attire was part of a name, image, likeness opportunity, he said.
“A little NIL deal that I’m doing with my guys from California,” Washington said.
T.R.A.P. is a clothing line trying to raise its profile, he said. In a recent charitable effort, it provided backpacks, shirts and free haircuts for school children in Arizona, he said.
On Friday, Oscar Tshiebwe was named one of 20 players on a preseason watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that Sahvir Wheeler was among 20 players on a watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award and Kellan Grady among 20 on a watch list for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award.
Kentucky has had two previous winners of the position-by-position awards given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tyler Ulis was Point Guard of the Year in 2016. Malik Monk was Shooting Guard of the Year in 2017.
Sydney Carbo, a student in UK’s School of Music, sang the national anthem Friday night.
Before she left midcourt, Jacob Wenrick came to her, dropped to a knee and proposed. She accepted.