Kentucky Athletics

John Calipari on whether Kentucky will use platoons this season: ‘I think so’

2 Comments
source:
Kentucky Athletics

The biggest issue facing the 2014-2015 version of the Kentucky Wildcats is, simply, playing time.

This team goes ten deep, and that’s before you factor in Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, two local guys that could probably start for some 300 Division I teams. John Calipari’s solution to that problem during Kentucky’s six-game swing through the Bahamas was simple: platoons.

Cal broke his team up into two units during the exhibitions last week, with the starters and the players off the bench all playing right around 20 minutes per game. At every TV timeout, more or less, Cal would call for a line change, subbing all five players on the court.

With how deep his roster is — the tenth man on this team is Marcus Lee, who was a top 30 recruit in 2013 and could end up being a first round draft pick after this season even if he plays limited minutes — Cal is able to do that without taking that much of a hit with the talent that he has on the floor. In other words, Kentucky’s second five is probably better than the starting lineups of most teams outside the top 20.

It’s an easy way for him to guarantee minutes to his players, and it may actually be beneficial to get each group comfortable with playing along side the other four players they’ll spend the year playing with. And, theoretically, he could create nightmares for opposing coaches and teams if he has those two platoons playing different styles. Imagine trying to prepare for Kentucky if the first five play zone and the second five run a non-stop, full-court press.

And, based on what Cal is saying right now, it sounds like the platoon system is something he’s giving serious thought to. From the Louisville Courier-Journal’s interview with Coach Cal:

I think so. There may be games it’s difficult to win (doing that). The only ones that are the most important to win are those last six. So, yeah. And I think what happened here was, the greatest thing is everyone had a chance to show they should be playing more or less, they should be playing or not playing. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ve never had an opportunity.’

[…]

I also think that when you two-platoon and you have guys playing 20 minutes, which is plenty of time; the reality of it is three or four more minutes a half (in a normal rotation). Just play harder. You get more done, you’re more efficient. So playing 20 minutes a game, everybody had their time. And I think every guy shined. I don’t think there’s one guy – no one hurt themselves. Some guys helped themselves more than others. That’s just how life is. But no one you look at and say, ‘Man, they’re just not ready. They can’t do this.’ No. Just other guys were better and helped themselves more.

Will it work? Who knows. Foul trouble could wreak havoc with that system, and in the final minutes, I’m sure Coach Cal is going to want to make situational changes based on matchups, who is playing well and who his best players are. In other words, I’ll believe that Cal will keep his second five on the floor in crunch time of a close game when I see him do it.

But I can see him using this platoon system for the first 16 minutes of each half. Frankly, it might be the best way to keep everyone happy. If everyone’s happy, than every one is playing hard.

And with the amount of talent that is on this roster, convincing this group to play hard all the time may be the most important part of Cal’s job this year.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
Leave a comment

Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

Leave a comment

Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Leave a comment

Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
Leave a comment

Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.