UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notes: Lamar coach Pat Knight finally adopts father's strategy

Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer says he is working on strength and savvy to hone his low-post defense.
Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer says he is working on strength and savvy to hone his low-post defense. ASSOCIATED PRESS

When he first became head coach at Texas Tech, Pat Knight was concerned with making a name for himself. Now as Lamar's first-year coach, he's more willing to use the proven strategies of his father, basketball icon Bob Knight.

"The greatest thing about getting fired is you stop worrying about things that don't matter," Pat Knight said Tuesday.

The younger Knight compiled a 50-61 record in three-plus seasons as successor to his father at Tech. He said his concerns about scoring (he had nightmares of his Red Raiders scoring only 20 points in a game) caused his teams to drift from his father's emphasis on defense.

"I just went back to basics," said Pat Knight, who described his coaching style as "as close as you can get" to his father's.

His father will not attend Lamar's game at Kentucky Wednesday night, Knight said. "He's not a big fan of Kentucky," the younger Knight said. As coach of Indiana, he couldn't be, his son said.

But that's where father and son part.

Pat Knight said he grew up "kind of admiring" Kentucky and other IU villain programs; Purdue, Notre Dame and Louisville. "The programs they ran," he said. "How good they were."

Wiltjer 'schemes'

Kyle Wiltjer explained what UK Coach John Calipari meant when he said he'd think of ways to help the freshman on defense.

"Different schemes," Wiltjer said of low-post defense. " ... He just continues to emphasize team defense (and) having each other's back."

Matchups against bigger, stronger players present a particular problem, Wiltjer said. Thus, Calipari's comment about helping the freshman.

"Having team defense to help me out down there," Wiltjer said. "I'm trying my best to get better."

Superior strength, while nice, does not have to be the only answer, Wiltjer said.

"Just using your body ... knowing angles when he doesn't have the ball," Wiltjer said of defending a low-post scorer. "Preventing him from getting the ball."

It's well documented that his father, Greg Wiltjer, helped Wiltjer develop on offense, particularly the hook shot. But the elder Wiltjer did not forsake defense.

"Defending him was a challenge," Wiltjer said. "He's a lot bigger than me."

Heady Lamar

Lamar returns 10 lettermen, including six seniors, from a team that finished 13-17 last season.

"They're not going to be intimidated," Calipari said.

This will be Lamar's third game against a top-10 team. The Cardinals lost at then No. 9 Louisville 68-48 and at then No. 2 Ohio State 70-50 earlier this season.

Lamar has not shot well. In the latest NCAA statistics, the Cardinals ranked No. 266 in shooting (40.4 percent) and No. 290 in three-point baskets (4.3 per). Lamar made none of its 12 three-point shots at Ohio State on Dec. 20.

Lamar shoots free throws often and well. The Cardinals average 27.4 free throws, and ranked No. 35 in accuracy (74.3 percent).

The Cardinals also ranked No. 22 in rebound margin (plus 7.7). Lamar held its own on the boards at Louisville (44-49) and Ohio State (38-40), getting double-digit offensive rebounds in both games.

This game?

Knight, who set a goal of eliminating non-Division I teams from Lamar's schedule, inherited this game. He's contractually obligated to raise X amount of money through guarantees. He said he needed three such games to reach his quota: This season it's U of L, Ohio State and UK.

Former Lamar Coach Steve Roccaforte was an assistant coach at Calipari's staff at Memphis.

GPA

Calipari again complained about his perception that UK's grade-point average got "promoted" when it was poor, but not when it was good. He declined to say what media outlet or outlets he considered unfair. The UK team had a 2.7 GPA in the fall semester.

The UK coach said that so-called one-and-done players should not be automatically considered uninterested in classwork.

"I try to tell them an educated man doesn't get robbed or fooled," Calipari said. Reading enables players to understand multi-million-dollar pro contracts.

"We tell them it's important," Calipari said. "If I can't count on you in the classroom, how in the world can I count on you on the basketball court?"

Etc.

Lamar has lost 21 straight games against ranked teams. The last victory came against No. 12 Louisiana Tech on Jan. 26, 1985. ... Dave O'Brien and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPNU.

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