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John Calipari concerned with mental health of athletes amid pandemic

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It should be a point of emphasis for every coach around the country.

Kentucky v Utah Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Three Kentucky Wildcats were chosen during Wednesday’s NBA Draft. Emotions were all over the place as many draftees celebrated with their families. Some elated, some relieved, others very surprised to hear their names.

John Calipari spoke to Paul Finebaum on Thursday about his concerns for the toll on the mental health of athletes this coronavirus is taking.

“Here’s what I took from it and it made me be more alert from my team,” Calipari said. “Have you ever seen the emotion from players being drafted including second-round picks? I’ve never. Crying. Emotion. And I think they had to wait seven months before they were drafted.”

Calipari has always emphasized the fact that Kentucky’s program puts players first. He reaffirmed that sentiment during his conversation with Finebaum.

“Can you imagine the anxiety? Can you imagine the thoughts going through a young person’s mind? Well, it brings me back to my own team. All of us better have psychologists, sports psychologists. We better not overlook what our kids are going through mentally.”

Calipari is known for trying to stay ahead of the curve when using rules (one-and done) to his advantage and responding to the needs of players and their communities (McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative), so it should not be a surprise that he is trying to recognize the issue of mental health and support his players during this tumultuous time.

No one in the history of college sports has gone through what these athletes have gone through,” Calipari said. “The pressure of playing, the anxiety of playing, they’re not mentally — they’re still young people. And then to go through this pandemic. Hats off to them and all my respect. That’s why we have to play — for them!”

There are so many hoops to jump through and issues to consider heading into this college basketball season. We are all hoping we get to watch these Kentucky Wildcats play for our own enjoyment and to chase title number nine, but Calipari makes a great point that playing this game is everything for some of these guys, and we should hope and pray things work out on the court for their sake.