Kentucky Coach John Calipari waited barely four minutes before inserting freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist into the victory over Transylvania Wednesday night. That apparently was too long.
"He was the difference in what happened," Calipari said of Kidd-Gilchrist. "He did what I knew he would do."
Kidd-Gilchrist lived up to his billing: a keen competitor with no off switch.
"I would say, looking at today, he's a starter because you have to have him start the game," Calipari said of UK's early 11-4 deficit. "Can't start the game like we did today."
Perhaps earning a starting position in his debut left Kidd-Gilchrist unmoved.
"It doesn't mean (anything)," he said with a shrug. "I just want to win the basketball game. And that's it."
Calipari credited Kidd-Gilchrist with sparking UK's victory. In Doron Lamb's word, the Cats were "lackadaisical" against Transy. Kidd-Gilchrist was anything but, as evidenced by 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a block.
"He's going to be everything," fellow freshman Marquis Teague said. "High-level energy. We feed off him."
When asked what fueled his seemingly unquenchable fire, Kidd-Gilchrist alluded to his uncle, Darrin Kidd, who died the day the player signed with UK, and his late father.
"That's my everything," he said of the men he honored with a hyphenated last name. "That's my soul and heart, right there."
Basketball has a long history of teams that used a player off the bench to provide a spark. Former UK All-American Frank Ramsey first made the role notable as the original "Sixth Man" of the Boston Celtics.
When asked why he did not envision using Kidd-Gilchrist in that manner, Calipari said, "Because you can't start a game down. We should be a good starting team. Then you go to your bench."
The game experience wowed Transy forward Ethan Spurlin.
"It was amazing," he said.
Spurlin, a junior from Stanford, noted how Transy stuck to its game plan for a while.
"We did things that we wanted to do," he said.
When asked if he were nervous, Spurlin said, "I actually was nervous two hours before the game. Once we started, I was too worried about them scoring (to be nervous)."
Transy Coach Brian Lane took delight in Spurlin's performance. Spurlin finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
"He was competing," Lane said. "I think he upset (Terrence) Jones a couple times. ... Doing things physical. I'd be shocked if he didn't have a tremendous year this year."
Spurlin downplayed any notion of irritating Jones. But the Transy player did say, "I wasn't going to be intimidated."
UK's chief compliance officer, Sandy Bell, said that exhibition games count as part of a season's worth of eligibility for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The NCAA allows freshmen to play in exhibitions without the clock starting on a season of eligibility.
If sophomore Stacey Poole were to transfer, he would have to sit out at his new school through the fall semester of 2012. Then he would have the rest of 2012-13 and two more seasons of eligibility.
Poole's father, also named Stacey, said he advised his son to sit out the exhibition.
"Take a breather," the elder Poole said. "Take a step back. It's an exhibition game. Nothing major."
On Tuesday, the elder Poole said he planned to come to Lexington this weekend to talk to his son about his basketball future. The younger Poole played sparingly as a freshman in 2010-11.
Calipari deflected a question about Poole's status.
"We don't have any roster changes," he said. "So there's nothing to talk about right now."
Lane wore a microphone. He also allowed a television camera into his locker room.
His TV show, which airs Saturday mornings on WKYT in Lexington, will include an inside look at the game from Transy's perspective.