clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Growing Pains are Painful

It has been tough watching this new team of Wildcats trying to become a team

Growing pains are, in a word, painful.

Let’s be honest, the last three wildcat games have been extremely difficult to watch and each has revealed some truths that hurt in the early season. This new edition of the Kentucky Wildcats are just not a good team - yet. Not only are they a team desperately seeking to find some sort of chemistry, but they are not a good team that is playing extremely bad.

There have been a few bright spots in this new season. Isaiah Jackson has been a force. In the 79-62 loss against Georgia Tech his 9 points and 12 boards were solid. Brandon Boston Jr. has scored in double figures in each of the first four games. Terrence Clarke had a career high 22 points and made some badly needed 3 pointers in the point total against Tech. Those players remind us that this season is just getting started and we have a long way to go.

As the team hits the practice floor this week one of the themes they will hear over and over again is that they have to learn to take care of the ball. If you don’t you will get beat – and they have proven that to be true. 21 turnovers against Georgia Tech ended up as points that were more than enough to make the difference in the final score. This led John Calipari to remark, “If you are a turnover guy, I can’t play you.”

There are a lot of lessons waiting to be learned for this team and we are going to have to watch them figure it out. They will, Coach Cal finds a way to take these young elite athletes and over time will form them into a team. But there is some heartache and pain along the way that we have to endure as we watch.

One of the things that Coach Cal has repeated is that “it is not fair.”

He is referring to the fact that the early days of the schedule is finding UK playing against Power 5 schools and rosters that are loaded with veteran players. The Cats step onto the court with young, inexperienced, and mostly freshman learning to play at another level. However, I think it not fair to say it is not fair. That’s a phrase that most parents won’t let their children use, so it is best left off the court as well. Kentucky has a long history of playing opponents who have looked at the Wildcat roster of athletes and been in awe. They have thought or whispered “it is not fair” because the Kentucky teams are so talented and so good. Once the ball goes up in the air, the game is on, and you have to go out and take it. No matter who you are lined up against, no matter how much experience or inexperience is on the floor. We are Kentucky, we are Built Different, and so it is unfair to say it is not fair. It is fair – we just aren’t playing fairly well…yet.

Based on our past history, we can be confident we will get there. Cal reminded us that what we have seen is “either a setback or setting us up for something we need to do.” What we are seeing now are the growing pains that need to happen on the road to learning to play at another level. There is no one better to take this group of exceptional athletes and help them learn new habits than the man at the helm of program. Even now, you can rest assured that the emphasis is being put on getting better, learning more, and doing it day after day after day. In the days ahead he will find a way to spark and ignite that unique talent that brought them to Kentucky, and eventually they will blend together as a team. But getting there…well, it can be painful. If you can feel pain, you know you are still alive and one of the reasons it is painful to watch now is because we already know how much talent is on this team. There is some pain relief on the way – we would just like it sooner than later.