UK Men's Basketball

Calipari's guarded optimism entails more assists and fewer turnovers

Kentucky basketball player Quade Green spoke with the media at at the Joe Craft Center on June 14.
Kentucky basketball player Quade Green spoke with the media at at the Joe Craft Center on June 14.

Coach John Calipari envisions more playmaking and three-point shooting for Kentucky next season. Why? Because he believes UK will have more players with the skill of a point guard.

“Last year we were short on guards ...,” he said on a teleconference Monday. “We had more turnovers than assists most of the year. That’s just unusual for one of our teams based on the fact most years I’m playing three point guards. Three guards you can consider point guards.

“Last year, a lot of times, we had one (point guard) on the court.”

Calipari suggested something of a catch-22 existed last season. “We were a better-skilled team when we had two (point guards),” he said. “But we weren’t as dominating when he had two.”

Of course, the two were Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green.

Green returns next season as part of what’s shaping up to be a crowded house in the backcourt. Calipari counted three “legitimate” point guards next season: Freshmen Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans, plus Green.

Calipari suggested that would improve upon an assist-to-turnover ratio last season that barely exceeded one-to-one (489 assists, 481 turnovers). That marked the second-worst ratio for a Calipari-coached UK team. The all-freshman backcourt of the Harrison twins and James Young in 2013-14 — remember the much-hyped “tweak” going into the postseason? — had more turnovers (481) than assists (446).

In each of the following three seasons, Kentucky had more than 100 more assists than turnovers.

And in terms of ball-handling and decision-making, Calipari saw UK’s capabilities next season extended beyond Quickley, Hagans and Green. Freshman wing Keldon Johnson “could be the big guard who starts your offense.” Jemarl Baker and Tyler Herro could also make plays.

All the guard play could make the three-point shot “a true weapon,” Calipari said.

UK averaged only 14.8 three-point shots last season, which marked the fewest in the Calipari era.

“Someone said you should have shot more threes,” Calipari said. “We probably would have missed more threes then. It just wasn’t what our strength was.”

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