John Calipari is no doubt one of the best coaches of all time, and there is a reason he is a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. His list of accolades has given him the right to get the benefit of the doubt majority of the time.
I think Coach Cal is great for Kentucky and hope he coaches here for another 20-years, but one thing that has been obvious in his time as the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats: He tends to bury sharpshooters and natural scorers on the bench too often.
In doing so, he has lost some quality role players to the transfer market who have went on to have a lot of success elsewhere.
Some of those names on the list are Charles Mathews, who was an excellent player for Michigan later in his career, as well as Jemarl Baker and Johnny Juzang. Both Baker and Juzang were considered the best shooters in their classes and both rarely got off the bench at Kentucky.
Baker took his talents to Arizona, and on December 14th, he won the Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. So far this season, he is averaging 16.7 points per game on 52.2% shooting. He is shooting 47.6% from three and 88.9% from the free throw line.
In a game recently against Northern Arizona, Baker went for 33-points and was 7/9 from deep. On Saturday, he delivered 29-points and 8 threes against Stanford.
As for this year’s Kentucky team, former Pendleton High School star Dontaie Allen has barley saw any playing time as the team is off to a 1-5 start.
During his 13-game senior season, Allen poured in 42.9 points per game, 14.2 rebounds and had six 50-point games before suffering an ACL injury.
Allen is averaging just under 5 minutes a game this season and didn’t play at all in the losses to Richmond or Notre Dame.
On Saturday, the Cats had a stretch of over nine straight minutes without a made FG. However, the sharpshooting Allen didn’t enter the game until 1:09 to go with the Cats down 9.
Calipari was asked about Allen’s lack of playing time after the game and Cal explained that he needs to let the players ahead of him in the rotation to “be able to miss shots.”
“I could’ve done it today, but I’m giving these guys that are in front of him the room that they need to be able to miss shots,” Calipari said of Allen. “We go in practice and they make shots, but they aren’t making them in the game. It’s not, “I come out every time I miss a shot,” obviously you guys know that’s not true. You try to give them room and encourage them to shoot.”
It seems like that is only true for the one-and-done 5-star players. In the past when players like Mychal Mulder, Baker, and Juzang come in and miss their first shot they are taken out immediately.
“We’ve got guys...I tell them in huddles, “If you don’t shoot the ball, I’m taking you out,”‘ Calipari stated.
That doesn’t seem to apply to everyone.
Calipari went on to note that Allen needs to stay ready to take advantage of his opportunity when it comes.
“What Dontaie needs to do is stay ready so when his opportunity comes...bang! He takes advantage of it,” Calipari stated. “We’ve had it happen before to guys, and that’s what he’s got to do.”
I have no doubt that Allen is going to get a true opportunity to show what he can do. I’m just not convinced that will happen at Kentucky.
Hopefully, he gets a chance and takes advantage of it. However, Kentucky’s history with these players under Cal is not very promising.