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Chris Livingston earns SEC honor; why he’s finally breaking out for the Wildcats

Livingston’s family was in tears after his performance against Tennessee.

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Chris Livingston Drew Brown - A Sea Of Blue

Chris Livingston came to the Kentucky Wildcats this season as a five-star freshman and McDonald’s All-American. Such a player is typically given some room for error from John Calipari, but not Livingston, at least for the first half of this season.

Through the first 21 games of the season, Livingston was plagued with inconsistency and was relegated to playing an average of just 16 minutes per game. In that span, his play did not make a case for more playing time either, averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 39.7% from the field.

However, given injuries to CJ Fredrick, Cason Wallace, and Sahvir Wheeler over the past few weeks, Livingston has carved out a bigger role, leading to his first collegiate double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s 66-54 win over the No. 10 Tennessee Vols.

That came just three days after Livingston scored 13-second half points to lead Kentucky to a Quad 1 road win over Mississippi State.

For his efforts, Livingston was just named the SEC Freshman of the Week.

After Saturday’s game, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes jokingly said, “I am not sure what Calipari was thinking earlier in the year” in regard to the freshman not playing more.

Fortunately, Calipari did give some insight and some context to Livingston’s struggles.

“He (Livingston) cares, like too much. He was listening to too many voices,” Calipari said after the game.

Overcoming those challenges has helped Livingston develop as a player, and he recognizes that.

“I’d be lying if I said I was just happy-go-lucky the whole time,” Livingston said when reflecting on his struggles. “I waited my turn, trusted the process.”

At 6-foot-6 and 220-pounds, Livingston has the physical tools, but he’s now starting to put the rest of his game together. Arguably the biggest piece of that was building his confidence.

“Building confidence. He was doing it in practice, but then you have to have a demonstrated performance in the game,” Calipari said.

Over the last six games, he has been demonstrating what he is capable of on the basketball court, almost doubling his production with 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 56.7 percent shooting. Playing the best basketball of the season, “He’s now that guy,” Calipari said.

No one is prouder of Livingston than his mother Julia and Grandpa Joe, who were in tears after his performance against Tennessee.

“I’ve always known he had this in him,” Julia told Kyle Tucker of The Athletic. “I’ve just been waiting for this moment. It’s surreal because I think back to when he was playing for the Tiny Tots as a 6-year-old. To think how far he’s come and that he’s here doing this, it’s just amazing. I’ve been in tears, thanking God for the opportunity, because I knew it was coming.”

If you attend a game, you may hear a ‘Boyeeeeeee!’ from Grandpa Joe, something he has cheered on Livingston with since he was little. “That way, instead of telling him what to do and making him nervous, I just yell, ‘Boyeeeeeee!’ to give him encouragement and let him know we’re there.”