John Calipari has followed John Wooden’s lead by saying he’d rather have talent than experience. But ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Tom Crean say experience should not be discounted even in a time when freshmen play significant roles.
Speaking on a teleconference Wednesday, Bilas said of experience, “It think it’s a huge deal. Younger players are playing against more younger players than they did years ago. But you would still rather have experienced talent than inexperienced super talent.”
Of course, Kentucky is more the latter. UK’s 11 scholarship players include eight freshmen, two lightly used sophomores and a third sophomore (Wenyen Gabriel) whose role decreased in the latter stages of last season.
Bilas cautioned against ruling out Kentucky as a championship contender.
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“It doesn’t mean Kentucky’s not Final Four good with a chance to win it,” he said. “They are.
“But I think you tend to favor when you get to the end of the year, you tend to favor the more experienced teams.”
Bilas pointed out that Calipari’s Final Four teams, including the 2012 national champions, featured a mix of heralded freshmen and experienced veterans.
Crean pointed out the obstacles associated with a freshman-dependent team. He listed several factors that have the biggest impact on success and take the longest to achieve.
“You’ve got to make other players better,” he said. This is done by setting screens, making scoring cuts, talking on defense, moving without the ball.
“Those things not only take time to learn, but they take a lot of mental toughness to carry through.”
It takes time for freshmen to understand the kind of effort necessary on every possession, Crean said.
“Young players, especially talented young players, have the ability to coast by on talent when they’re fatigued,” the former Indiana coach said. “Because they’ve always been able to get things done.”
This Kentucky team might not have, say, three of the top eight picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, Crean said. So learning roles might have increased importance.
For an example of how Kentucky must give consistent effort on every possession, Crean pointed out how Morehead State outrebounded UK in an exhibition game last week.
“When it’s going smooth, when it’s going great, they’re making shots, it’s a lot easier to get that (necessary effort),” he said. “But that’s not always the way it is. And it takes time.”