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What’s up with Sacha Killeya-Jones’ playing time?

Calipari speaks on why the sophomore forward is rarely seeing the floor these days.

Vanderbilt v Kentucky Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Sacha Killeya-Jones can’t seem to find a way onto the floor for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The sophomore forward had become a key piece in UK’s rotation for much of the season. In UK’s first 23 games, he logged double-digit minutes 20 times, including 13 games of 15-plus minutes.

But in UK’s last eight games, Sacha hasn’t logged more than seven minutes, and those were in blowout wins over Arkansas and Missouri. During that span, he’s averaging 5.5 minutes per game when he does play (missed Texas A&M loss for grandfather’s funeral, then didn’t log a minute in loss at Auburn).

What’s making this worse is that while Sacha isn’t playing, embattled freshman Nick Richards continues to start and play more, despite being a liability more often than not.

That’s not to say Sacha hasn’t had his struggles, but he’s still done enough to see the floor more than six minutes a game.

So, what exactly is the issue?

During his Tuesday appearance on the SEC coaches teleconference, John Calipari gave an update on Killeya-Jones and why he’s rarely seeing the floor now.

”He’s doing fine. He’s doing fine,” Calipari said of Killeya-Jones. “A lot of times, it’s the guy in front of you. It has nothing to do with you. You just gotta be ready for an opportunity. I think he’s doing fine. He’s way better as a player.

“But, Jarred (Vanderbilt) and PJ (Washington), even Wenyen (Gabriel), when he’s making shots and Nick (Richards) — he’s got guys in front of him that are doing pretty good and deserve minutes too.”

Another reason why Killeya-Jones is playing less is the emergence of UK’s best lineup: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt. That’s the lineup proving to be the most effective for UK, and that’s being used far more often now than earlier in the season.

When one of those guys comes out, it’s usually Wenyen Gabriel or Hamidou Diallo coming in, so it’s hard for minutes to come by for any other UK big, including Richards. But Richards has averaged 14.5 minutes over his last eight games, more than double what Killeya-Jones.

While Richards has shown a lot of potential, it doesn’t feel like he’s much, if any better than Killeya-Jones, at least enough to get twice as many minutes as the sophomore. Richards has just one made field goal and no blocks over his last four games while averaging 2.5 rebounds per game during that span.

But these are the decisions Calipari is paid millions to make. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back to bite UK later.