That the Southeastern Conference coaches named Kyle Wiltjer the league’s Sixth Man of the Year activated Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s sense of humor.
“They didn’t take the vote in the last week,” Calipari quipped Tuesday.
Wiltjer made five of 23 shots (two of 14 from three-point range) in last week’s games against Georgia and Florida.
“I’m happy for him,” Calipari said of the Sixth Man award. “Maybe that will inspire him to step up his play again.”
Wiltjer made only five of 30 three-point shots in a six-game stretch early this season, then busted out with a 7-for-9 swish-fest against Lipscomb. After a 6-for-20 streak, he hit five of 12 in a victory at Ole Miss.
“I’m doing fine,” he said when asked of his recent misfires. “I don’t think of it as a slump, I just come in every day with the same mentality, just working hard and getting extra work in to build my confidence. I just come every day in practice to play the game I love and work hard every day.”
Calipari has noted how Wiltjer must contribute as a rebounder and defender so perimeter shooting doesn’t dictate his ability to contribute.
“That’s extremely important because even if I’m not making shots, I can stay in the game,” he said. “I’m just focusing down on it and building my confidence.”
The SEC coaches named Nerlens Noel the league’s Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. The all-Freshman team included three of his teammates: Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress.
Florida’s Billy Donovan was voted SEC Coach of the Year while Georgia sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was selected the SEC Player of the Year and Florida strongman Patric Young as Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
The first All-SEC team included Trevor Releford of Alabama, Erik Murphy of Florida, Johnny O’Bryant III of LSU, Phil Pressey of Missouri, Jordan McRae of Tennessee, Elston Turner of Texas A&M, Caldwell-Pope and Noel.
The second team had Marshawn Powell, Arkansas; BJ Young, Arkansas; Kenny Boynton, Florida; Mike Rosario, Florida; Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss; Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss; Laurence Bowers, Missouri; Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee; and Young.
The SEC All-Freshman Team included Michael Frazier II, Florida; Charles Mann, Georgia; Craig Sword, Mississippi State; Gavin Ware, Mississippi State; and Michael Carrera, South Carolina.
The SEC All-Defensive Team had Scott Wilbekin of Florida, former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey of LSU, Reginald Buckner of Ole Miss, Releford, Patric Young and Noel. UK’s Kemba?
Calipari likened UK to UConn of 2011. That prompted a question: who is UK’s version of Kemba Walker?
“Maybe it’s Willie (Cauley-Stein),” Calipari said. “Maybe Willie becomes the most dominant big guy in college basketball. He makes the difference in every game, and everybody else does what they’re supposed to do.”
Cauley-Stein took pride in four UK players being named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
“People were questioning if we were good enough,” he said. “Whether we should be here playing for Kentucky. Questioning our abilities.”
Hood at ‘4?’
Calipari lauded the effort exhibited by Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson.
“I may even play Jon Hood at ‘four’ some,” he said.