As John Calipari says in his new book, many of the best high school prospects come to Kentucky because of his record of developing players for the NBA. Even national championship contention is of secondary importance.
So when Isaiah Briscoe took a nasty fall against Duquense on Nov. 20, his basketball life probably flashed before his eyes. His hopes for a basketball future played a part in sitting out UK’s last two games as he awaited a medical diagnosis to explain why his backside hurt.
“It was a butt bruise is what it was,” UK Coach John Calipari said indelicately Sunday. That discovery cleared Briscoe’s mind and he’s expected to resume his sophomore season Monday night against Arizona State.
“‘All right, now that I know what it is, let’s go! Enough!’” is how Calipari explained Briscoe’s — and probably the UK coach’s — impatience to see Briscoe back on the court.
UK fans might recall that Briscoe got knocked to the court as he rose for a shot in the lane. He stayed on the court for a moment after the fall against Duquesne.
If the foul was excessive, Briscoe can’t say. He has not watched any replay.
“I didn’t want to look at the play, honestly,” he said before adding of his present condition, “I’m good.”
Until the injury, Briscoe considered his start to the season as a success. He made good on his goal of improving as a free-throw shooter (77.3-percent accuracy) while three-point shooting remained a work in progress (one of seven).
Briscoe described the pain from the fall against Duquesne as sustained and debilitating.
He got up after the foul and shot free throws. “After a while, I couldn’t really move,” he said. “The whole right side of my leg, it wasn’t working.”
Briscoe tried to play in the second half. But he quickly realized something was wrong. Not knowing exactly what was unnerving.
“I didn’t know if it was my bone or what,” he said. “I just knew something was wrong back there. I didn’t want to keep playing on it.”
While awaiting for a decision on what was wrong, Briscoe sat out last week’s games against Cleveland State and Tennessee-Martin.
Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley noted that Kentucky “didn’t miss a beat.” The Cats won by 31 and 35 points with freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk leading the way.
“They did good,” Briscoe said. “I’m proud of those guys.
“I was still coaching them from the side. Teaching them. Telling them things. But for the most part, those freshmen are not ordinary freshmen.”
Additionally, sophomore Isaac Humphries, plus seniors Dominique Hawkins and Mulder helped fill the void created by Briscoe’s absence.
Of course, much of the preseason talk was about Briscoe’s leadership. But, as Briscoe said, Fox and Monk are not ordinary freshmen. As such, they would not figure to crumble in Briscoe’s absence.
When asked if the freshman guards needed leadership as much as the typical first-year player, Briscoe said, “They don’t. Honestly, they don’t need much (advice).”
But advice from a fellow player can make a much bigger and more long-lasting impression than from a coach, Briscoe said.
“I think Coach (Calipari) would rather it come from me than him,” Briscoe said. “They probably understand the message more if I tell them. I think (that’s true) with everybody.”
Briscoe said his own experience with Tyler Ulis last season convinced him of that.
“If ‘T’ had told me something as opposed to Cal telling me something, you just feel more comfortable (with it) coming from your peers,” Briscoe said. “From somebody actually out there on the court with you and actually going through the battle with you.
“Don’t get me wrong. Coach still has to coach. But some things are just better coming from a player who’s out there.”
On Monday night, Briscoe will again be out there.
No. 1 Kentucky vs. Arizona State
When: 7 p.m. in the Atlantis Showcase in the Bahamas
Records: UK 6-0; Arizona State 4-2
Series: UK leads 4-0
Last meeting: UK won 72-58 on Dec. 12, 2015, in Lexington
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1