Cats should be at full power next week
Posted 7:30 a.m. on Friday, November 11, 2022
Kentucky hasn’t had its full roster intact so far this season, but that will change once Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler and Daimion Collins return to the roster.
All three players are expected to return to the field by next week and will give the Wildcats a boost, especially in the front court. Tshiebwe and Wheeler are recovering from knee issues, while a death in the family has brought Collins home to Texas over the past week.
In the absence of all three veterans, the Kentucky No. 4 picked up a 95-63 win over Howard in their season opener Monday night. Casen Wallace narrowly missed a triple-double while running the team on point and finished with 15 rebounds, nine assists and eight rebounds in his college debut.
“It’s not normal,” Kentucky senior guard CJ Fredrick said. “There aren’t many people in the country who do that, let alone in first grade. He brings such a different dimension to our team. What he’s doing at his age and in his first college game is special.
Jacob Toppin had a double-double and grabbed 11 rebounds in Tshiebwe’s absence at the post, something Kentucky coach John Calipari expects from Toppin and his post players.
“Do you know what I said to him (after the game)?” he said. “‘When you rebound like that and defend like you defended, you can miss shots. He was 5 of 12. He missed a bunch of shots…well, I’ll let you. As long as you bounce back and defend .
Although the substitutes performed well in the opener and two exhibition wins, Calipari will reduce his rotation.
“We’re going to have some guys fighting for minutes because you won’t believe it, (but) you know Oscar is playing. So that means those 28-30 minutes are coming from somewhere,” he said. “Daimion is coming back, let’s just say, even if it’s 20, 25 minutes, it’s coming from somewhere.”
The Kentucky coach has no plans to reinstall the squad system like he did in the 2014-15 season, which Calipari said has hampered recruiting.
“For two years I couldn’t recruit anyone,” he said. “Do you want to go and play 20 minutes? I’m gonna start you off and you’re gonna take all the shots and you gotta go. And I said, I’ve done it once in my career. And I had no choice. I had 10 guys.
Calipari don’t even plan to play up to 10 players this year, but demand a high level of competition in training.
“One of the things I try to do is keep the guys high because they’re going to fight for minutes,” he said.
What will the Kentucky coach be looking for?
“Most of the time it will come down to, are you falling apart defensively? Don’t you bounce the balls? ” he said. “Then I had to play someone else. And you are two or three. So whoever is the best defender, the best rebounder, a guy who is there and we click.
“The best thing about this game, and I believe the next game, is that everyone has minutes to show what they are.”
Gametracker: Duquesne, Kentucky, 7 p.m., Friday. Television/Radio: SECN, British radio network.