UK notes: Vargas asserts himself

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 23, 2010 

In the fading minutes of Kentucky's 89-52 victory over Winthrop Wednesday, backup center Eloy Vargas rebounded a missed shot. He bulled (sort of) his way to a put-back basket while contact contorted his body.

The Rupp Arena crowd roared as the willowy big man continued to flex a bit of muscle. A big grin spread across UK Coach John Calipari's face.

"Maybe he sees some light now (about) how he's got to play," Calipari said. "He finally performed.

"And, believe me, confidence is demonstrated performance. It's not what I say (or) what I want him to do. It's you've got to demonstrate it to yourself and your teammates on the court. And he did it today."

After UK's last game, Calipari said Vargas grabbed rebounds in traffic for the first time. Against Winthrop, he scored a season-high eight points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked a season-high three shots.

"He was like a wow," fellow big man Josh Harrellson said. "I'm glad he played like he knows he can."

Bench production

Calipari started Doron Lamb in place of Terrence Jones to start the second half. In the first half, Lamb hit six of six shots and scored 17 points while Jones made only two of nine shots.

"I'm going to start these other guys that have been playing better than you," Calipari said as if talking to Jones. "You come off the bench and now start performing. It puts things in a different light."

Calipari saluted Lamb's ability to come off the bench and be productive. "Doron has mastered it," the UK coach said.

Miller needs toughness

Calipari again noted how Darius Miller needed to be tougher.

"Two plays ... epitomize what I'm talking about," the UK coach said. "He drove right and the guy kind of nudged him and he almost fell into the bench. He didn't hit you that hard.

"And then the second one was, he drove middle, and he came to a great (stop), and lost that ball. Now those are the plays, man, that you've got to be tougher than that."

Cal lauds team GPA

In touting the team's grade-point average for the fall semester, Calipari questioned whether reporters would compare the GPA to that of other programs. A story about the team GPA in the fall semester of 2009 noted that it was last among all UK teams and worse than any Southeastern Conference men's basketball program that shared its average.

"Over 2.8," Calipari said of the team GPA he expects from the just-completed fall semester. "Could be as high as 2.9.

"I'm not sure (reporters) will write how it compares to other programs."

UK has said it will not release the team GPA until January.

Kanter a Cat next season?

The father of Kentucky freshman Enes Kanter told The Sporting News that if the NCAA reduced its penalty to a one-season suspension, his son would return to play for Kentucky next season.

In an exchange of e-mails posted on Wednesday, Mehmet Kanter said that he had never discussed with his son the option of entering the 2011 NBA Draft.

Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled Kanter permanently ineligible because he played three seasons for a professional team in his native Turkey. UK is appealing that ruling.

"Enes would do anything to play and help UK, his teammates and fans," the elder Kanter wrote. "In the last two years, one thing me and Enes never discussed was him being pro. He didn't mention to me about NBA or draft and I guarantee you as a father — if that's the NCAA's decision, Enes will be a sophomore next year in UK."

Kanter is widely projected as a lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

The Web site Draftexpress projects him as the fifth player chosen, while has him as the eighth player taken.


■ Calipari saluted Jamal Mashburn, whose freshman scoring record was topped by Doron Lamb. "He changed the direction of this program," the UK coach said of Mashburn's arrival in 1990. "By him making it cool to come here, it flowed from there."

■ When Vargas hit a heavily contested post-up with 5:45 left, Kentucky led 80-50. In the last 383 games, only 22 times had Winthrop surrendered 79 or more points. Seven of those times required an overtime.

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