John Calipari

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Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans out for Florida game due to personal reasons

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Ashton Hagans will miss Kentucky’s regular-season finale at Florida on Saturday.

Wildcats head coach John Calipari and Hagans both confirmed his absence on Twitter. The sophomore guard will sit out the matchup due to personal reasons. During Kentucky’s home loss to Tennessee on Tuesday, Hagans and Calipari appeared to exchange words on the sidelines. The Wildcats blew a 17-point lead and lost to the unranked Volunteers at Rupp Arena to snap an eight-game winning streak.

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Hagans has been a vital two-way presence for Kentucky this season. The 6-foot-3 guard is the team’s leader in assists and a standout perimeter defender. Hagans is averaging 11.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Although Hagans has been a steady presence in the Kentucky starting lineup, he’s struggled with confidence on the offensive end at times this season. Hagans has only scored in double-figures six times over the past 12 games. His high point total in that span is only 12 points. And Hagans has become a non-factor as a perimeter shooter in that span by only shooting 4-for-23 from three-point range the past 12 games.

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Kentucky has been rolling even in the midst of Hagans’ offensive struggles. The Wildcats ran off a strong winning streak and locked up the SEC regular-season title the past several weeks. But if Kentucky is to make another deep run in March, they need Ashton Hagans to be on the floor and ready to go.

The SEC tournament now has an intriguing subplot next week as Hagans will likely re-join the team for the postseason stretch run. It’ll be interesting to see if this time away from the team can help the guard clear his head.

Kentucky’s P.J. Washington ruled out for NCAA tournament opener

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Kentucky star forward P.J. Washington has officially been ruled out of Thursday’s NCAA tournament first-round matchup against Abilene Christian with a sprained foot.

Wildcats head coach John Calipari sounded optimistic that Washington would be able to play in the team’s NCAA tournament opener when speaking to reporters on Wednesday. But Calipari took to Twitter early Thursday to confirm that Washington was ruled out.

Placed in a hard cast for precautionary reasons after seeing specialists, Washington’s health for future rounds remains uncertain. Washington is Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder this season as he’s putting up 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Without Washington, the Wildcats should still be able to get by No. 15 seed Abilene Christian thanks to a deep collection of frontcourt players.

But the sophomore’s health is going to be one of the key storylines to watch this weekend as his availability could have a huge impact on Kentucky’s potential second-round matchup.

Kentucky’s John Calipari calls himself an ‘overrated recruiter’ hours after losing James Wiseman

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari made headlines even after losing top recruit James Wiseman to Memphis on Tuesday afternoon.

After Wiseman decided to stay home and play for high school former coach Penny Hardaway and the Tigers on Tuesday, Calipari spoke with reporters before his Wildcats are scheduled to host Winthrop. According to a report from USA Today Network Tennessee’s Nicole Saavedra, Calipari spoke for over five minutes on the subject of recruiting, while providing the typical Calipari spin. Although Calipari can’t directly mention Wiseman’s name due to recruiting restrictions, he nonetheless made some pointed remarks about Wildcat recruiting.

“I’ve said it all along, I think I’m overrated as a recruiter,” Calipari said Tuesday. “We’ve had kids that made the decision to come here and it’s played out well for almost all of them. But my thing is, I want to be able to sleep at night. I want to make sure I’m telling the truth. I want to make sure I’m sticking with guys.

“I’m not saying that about anyone else,” Calipari continued. “Everyone recruits the way they recruit, but you’ve got good programs and good coaches and that’s why we don’t get everybody we recruit. We’re not the only ones out there trying to get good players and trying to help kids.”

While Calipari has the right to speak about the state of his program and the program’s recruiting at any point in time, these comments only hours after losing Wiseman definitely raise some eyebrows. Mostly because Calipari has an unbelievable ability to force attention back onto himself and his program in spite of a major recruiting loss.

Nobody actually believes Calipari is an overrated recruiter. He’s had the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked recruiting class for 10 consecutive seasons. He has two five-star prospects and one high-end four-star prospect in the fold for 2019. But he knows how to spin things into attention for him and his program, and it’s part of the reason he’s so good at what he does.

Kentucky lands five-star 2019 wing Kahlil Whitney

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Kentucky added to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Wednesday afternoon, as five-star wing Kahlil Whitney pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-6 Whitney ascended into five-star status this summer as he became a national recruit after playing in the Nike EYBL with the Mac Irvin Fire. A natural three-level scorer with very good lift and natural athleticism, Whitney is regarded as the No. 23 overall prospect in the latest national rankings. After some strong performances in July, Whitney’s ranking could rise even more as he’s a potential McDonald’s All-American.

Whitney averaged 21.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 20 Nike EYBL/Peach Invitational games this spring and summer as he shot 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. The son of former Seton Hall standout Kelly Whitney, Kahlil will have to improve his consistency while limiting turnovers if he wants to maximize his potential at the next level.

A great grab for Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting haul, Whitney’s commitment helps offset the loss of four-star wing D.J. Jeffries — who reopened his recruitment last week. The Wildcats now have three players in the fold for 2019 as Whitney joins five-star guard Tyrese Maxey and four-star in-state forward Dontaie Allen.

While there is still a long time to go in the 2019 recruiting cycle, Kentucky, once again, looks like it will be in position to compete for the No. 1 overall recruiting class. Although the Wildcats will face stiff recruiting competition from heavyweights like Duke and North Carolina, and potentially newcomers like Memphis and USC, head coach John Calipari and his staff have already reeled in three high-quality players for the future as they’re off to a great start.

Kentucky participates in Samaritan’s Feet program during Bahamas trip

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Per NCAA rules college basketball teams can take an offseason trip once every four years. While much of the focus tends to be on players being in game situations and the team being able to bond off the court, there’s also the opportunity to do for others.

Kentucky, which is currently in the Bahamas, took some time to give to those who are less fortunate. In connection with Samaritan’s Feet, John Calipari and his team took time to bathe the feet of some children and fit them with new shoes.

“The act of washing someone else’s feet and to put shoes on the feet of kids who don’t have any is the ultimate act of servant leadership, which we talk to our guys about all the time,” Calipari said via Samaritan’s Feet. “They’ve been blessed to be put in a position where they can have influence on other people. What creates joy is when you impact others and see it influence them in a really positive way. To be able to teach them that while serving the Samaritan’s Feet mission brings incredible joy for me, and I want to thank Manny Ohonme for working with us again.”

The Kentucky players are learning some key lessons in this; not only the value that comes in doing for others but also understanding the platform that they have and how they can use it for good.

What happens in the scrimmages the Wildcats play in the Bahamas, and how it could potentially help a team with national championship aspirations, will certainly be a focus between now and when the team returns to Lexington. But the participation in the Samaritan’s Feet program is something that will likely stick with them for much longer.

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Kentucky’s John Calipari gives take on potential NCAA live period changes

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With the NCAA potentially making monumental changes to the live evaluation periods as early as next summer, it has left the college basketball world asking a lot of questions about what summer recruiting could look like in the future.

The NCAA has talked about setting up youth development camps in collaboration with USA Basketball and the NBA. The groups will help identify which prospects might be allowed to speak to agents (about potentially going to the pros out of high school) while also setting up camps of prospective college prospects that college coaches would attend.

Since he’s known so much for his recruiting prowess and ability to land high-level players, Kentucky head coach John Calipari gave his take on the potential live evaluation period changes during an appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio on Wednesday.

Calipari seems to believe that dealing with agents, as a college coach trying to recruit student-athletes, could be the most troublesome new development in the potential rule changes as he elaborated on some of those difficulties.

“How do you decide who are the high school guys that should put their names in [the draft] and come out? How do you decide that? Do you want 1,000 tenth graders thinking they’re coming right out? Don’t care about academics? Who now can’t even get into a university? Who’s going to take care of those kids, society wise?” Calipari said. “Are we all just going to say, “Yeah, they were taught, it’s up to them’? They’re 16, 15-years-old. They can’t make logical decisions at that age. They’re all going to be thinking they’re going. How do we make a decision, which 10 or 12 go directly to the league? How do we make that decision? That’s my concern.”

Calipari also voiced his potential displeasure if players were allowed to come back to the school after the draft. Since Kentucky has so many players leaving early for the pros every offseason, this issue directly deals with the Wildcats more than most of the schools in college hoops.

“We’re talking about letting kids go through the draft and then come back to college. Well, what if there’s no scholarships for them when they come back after the draft? Can they go wherever they want? There’s some issues we’ve got to deal with if we’re doing it,” Calipari said.

Despite some of his concerns, Calipari seems ready for the next step in the recruiting world as he’s always been a coach who is a few steps ahead of many of his competitors when it comes to landing top-notch talent. Calipari might have some misgivings about the future, but there is no doubt that he’ll be prepared to adapt once the NCAA decides to make a move. Only time will tell what those moves might be and how Calipari and Kentucky reacts to them.