In an age of fake news, Kentucky Coach John Calipari will give his players and the Big Blue Nation the fake assist.
After UK defeated Mississippi State on Tuesday night, Calipari said he would be redefining the basketball assist. Basically, any pass will count as an assist. The idea will be to foster more passing.
“I’m trying to make them willing passers, OK?” Calipari said in his postgame news conference. “So let me tell you how you get an assist. You get a normal assist. You pass it to somebody and score.
“You ready for this assist? You pass it to somebody and they miss the shot. Still giving you an assist. You pass it to somebody and they get fouled. Still giving you an assist.”
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Warming up to the idea, Calipari spoke of hockey assists, which go to the player who passes to the teammate who makes the pass that sets up the score.
“There’s a hundred ways now to get an assist. But to get an assist you must start by passing the ball. … Any pass you make is going to be an assist, now.”
Each extra pass makes Kentucky a better team, he said.
When asked how he can sell players on prizing an assist as much as they do points, Calipari said, “When guys are doing great passing, you’re hugging them. You’re telling them. And when a guy gets 22 (points), you don’t even mention it. You don’t even say anything.”
UK players smiled when asked about Calipari’s re-defining of assists.
“He gave us, like, 30 different ways to get an assist,” Kevin Knox said.
“I hope I can get some assists,” Knox said. “I’ll be passing a lot, and hopefully some other guys can make some shots so I can get some assists. Like (Calipari) said, Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) can’t be the only one. Other people have to step up and get assists.”
When Kentucky lost at South Carolina, PJ Washington had only two rebounds in 33 minutes of play.
When Kentucky lost to Florida, he made only three of 10 shots and scored six points, thus snapping a streak of five straight games in double figures.
“I was trying to be more aggressive,” he said after he scored a career-high 22 points against Mississippi State. “Trying to bring more energy. And I feel I did a great job of that.”
Of course, Washington was involved in the controversial ending to Kentucky’s loss to Florida. Florida blocked his shot in the final seconds with the replay suggesting Washington was fouled.
“Oh, he definitely hit me in my face,” Washington said with a smile. “It should have never got to that point. We shouldn’t have had a lot of turnovers. And that’s the reason we lost.”
Handicapped by a belated debut at midseason, Jarred Vanderbilt continued to look like a player who needs time to get comfortable. He seemed to force the offense, making one of seven shots.
“I’m going to meet with him and just say, ‘What do you want me to do to get you involved offensively?’” Calipari said. “‘What are you comfortable doing?’ Because he had seven rebounds in 11 minutes. Guys, he’s got to play.”
Through three games, Vanderbilt has grabbed 18 rebounds in 38 minutes.
He’s also made five of 17 shots.
“We haven’t figured him out yet,” Calipari said. “But I’m going to meet with him and spend some time with him and try to get better at what I’m doing to get him involved offensively so he can stay on the court.”
Washington saw great potential in Vanderbilt.
“Jarred can do anything,” he said. “He’s a facilitator. He can play one through five. He’s strong. He can rebound. He rebounds pretty well. … I mean, he’s just a great player. It’s hard for him to find his niche right now.”
Coaches vs. Cancer
Coaches and staff will make a fashion statement in games this week. It’s Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week.
The fashion statement is intended to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer. It’s hoped to be a visible reminder about the importance of nutrition and physical activity as a way to reduce the risk of cancer.
Calipari took off his sneakers at halftime.
Vanderbilt, which plays at UK next Tuesday, announced the loss of senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis for the rest of the season.
Fisher-Davis sustained a season-ending injury to his right shoulder in the first game against UK on Jan. 13. He has scored 1,219 points, which ranks 30th on Vandy’s career list, and made 269 three-point shots (sixth on Vandy’s career list).
When UK won 74-67 at Vandy, Fisher-Davis made two of six shots (zero of three from three-point range) and scored nine points.
In two games against UK last season, Fisher-Davis made five of 18 shots (two of 14 from three-point range) and scored 19 points.
It was the first UK game for Gabriella Rubado of Paintsville. It was also her 10th birthday.
Her mother, Gwen, said Gabriella’s dream is to be a UK cheerleader some day.