The morning of the first exhibition game here, Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro received a text message from a former Kentucky hero: Rex Chapman.
“Good luck, things like that,” Herro said of Chapman’s message. “Go out there and compete. Don’t worry about scoring. Let the game come to me. So, I mean, it’s good hearing from a guy like that. I’m excited he has my back.”
Herro scored 16 points in helping Kentucky beat the Bahamas Select Team 85-61 Wednesday. It was heard on press row that Herro’s performance was Chapman-esque.
“I’ve only seen little highlights of him because that was back in the day,” Herro said of Chapman’s UK playing days 30 years ago.
Chapman’s advice has extended beyond the Wednesday morning text.
“He said, it’s a crazy place,” Herro said of Chapman’s depiction of life as a Kentucky player. “I’m not sure what that meant . . . He said just live in the gym. Put your head down and work hard. . . . Just compete every day is one thing he said. Stay away from the parties. Stay away from the women. Just stay in the gym. That’s the only thing he told me to do. I appreciate that.”
UK Coach John Calipari downplayed the Herro-Chapman comparison.
“I think Rex thinks he’s the next Rex,” he said with a smile. “But I just want him to be Tyler Herro. Just be who you are.
“You know, Rex had a heck of a career here, and has a heck of a following even today. Tyler is different. Rex was a real high-flyer. Tyler can get up and do that, but Rex was unique. Rex ended up being special. Maybe in time that will be the case (with Herro), but, right now, let him just be Tyler.”
Herro shot confidently, especially with pull-up jumpers from mid-range. He acknowledged that the trend in basketball is toward three-pointers or drives to the basket.
“It’s a lost art, right?” he said of the mid-range shot.
Calipari has emphasized “lane touches,” Herro said, and attacking the basket.
Calipari said he liked how Ashton Hagans “added another bit of toughness.”
He also liked how Hagans and fellow freshman Immanuel Quickley pressured the opponent’s ball handler.
“It’s pretty active,” he said of the tandem’s defense.
Calipari said Keldon Johnson was among players who “pressed a little bit” to make things happen.
He also said that too often players let a missed shot or reversal affect the next play.
At one point, Calipari left his seat seven rows from the court and came to the bench.
“For one reason,” he said. “To tell Quade (Green) ‘you better keep shooting the ball.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want you to change your game because you can’t make a shot.’”
Green made one of 11 shots (missing all six from three-point range).
Kentucky made only two of 20 three-point shots.
“I don’t know,” Calipari said. “I just saw they were 2-for-20. So maybe they get it out of their system. But this should be a pretty good three-point shooting team. But we’ll have to see.”
Watch your head
Basketball in a ballroom brings to mind a question: Is there an NCAA rule requiring a minimum height the ceiling must be above the court?
Answer: There is such a rule, which NCAA associate director of public and media relations Christopher Radford cited in an email.
“The ceiling and anything hanging from it (other than the basket) should be at least 25 feet above the playing court, and higher if possible,” the rule reads.
The Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Resort barely qualifies as legal. The ceiling is 26 feet above the court, said Rachela Tirelli, a spokesperson for the resort.
For perspective, the ceiling in Rupp Arena is about 100 feet above the court.
UK’s agenda for its day off Friday includes a ride on an aptly named boat — a catamaran. The excursion into the Caribbean will include snorkeling over a coral reef.