UK Men's Basketball

There’s one word you should never say around UK’s coaches. And we heard it last night.

Kentucky’s Nick Richards and PJ Washington paused to celebrate during the Wildcats’ 85-61 exhibition victory over the Bahamas Select Team at the Atlantis Resort on Wednesday night.
Kentucky’s Nick Richards and PJ Washington paused to celebrate during the Wildcats’ 85-61 exhibition victory over the Bahamas Select Team at the Atlantis Resort on Wednesday night. UK Athletics

If you feel the urge to singe tender ears in Kentucky’s basketball program, there’s a word much worse than an F-bomb. It can be called the P-word.

Whatever you do, don’t say UK revived the platoon system of substitution in its exhibition victory Wednesday.

“No,” associate coach Kenny Payne said flatly on Thursday. “Don’t say that word. We are not platooning. Coach (John Calipari) says we don’t want to go through that ever again.”

Of course, UK experimented with platoons during its trip to the Bahamas in 2014. A roster bursting with talent accepted mass substitutions at regular intervals as a fact of basketball life in 2014-15. Victories in the first 38 games made platoons a much-ballyhooed part of UK basketball that season.

But the P-word became a derogatory term when rival recruiters used platoons against UK. Don’t go to Kentucky if you want to play more than 20 minutes a game became a tactic for recruiting rivals.

When asked if the P-word is verboten at UK because of recruiting concerns, Payne said, “Yeah. Yeah. We don’t want to go through that again.”

Assistant coach Tony Barbee was adamant about platoons playing no part in UK’s plans this season even though there were regular mass substitutions in Wednesday’s victory over the Bahamas Select Team.

“No such thing,” he said. “We were just trying to get everybody a feel. It’s too early to be talking rotations or who’s starting and all that. . . . That’s not what this trip is about this time of year.”

One lineup decision that stuck out Wednesday involved the center position. Sophomore Nick Richards started rather than graduate transfer Reid Travis.

Payne and Barbee cautioned against drawing any conclusions.

Calipari made the decision, Payne said before adding, “I think he wanted the veteran guys to get the first look, and we’re going to mix it up as we go. There was no rhyme or reason. Every kid here is going to be evaluated.”

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