UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: UK displaying record-setting balance

UK coach John Calipari talked to Darius Miller (1) and Marquis Teague, center, on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 during the first half of the University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee basketball game in Knoxville.   Photo by David Perry | Staff
UK coach John Calipari talked to Darius Miller (1) and Marquis Teague, center, on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 during the first half of the University of Kentucky vs. University of Tennessee basketball game in Knoxville. Photo by David Perry | Staff HERALD-LEADER

Kentucky went into this weekend's play with six players averaging 10 or more points. Which means ... ?

What does that mean? It's rare. Never happened in the storied history of UK basketball.

Gary Johnson, the NCAA's longtime guru of statistics, said he was unaware of another team that finished a season with six players averaging double-digit points. Alas, the NCAA does not keep track of such happenstance.

Kyle Macy, a member of Kentucky's 1978 national champions (one of a handful of UK teams to finish a season with five players averaging double-digit points), said fans should enjoy the diversity of scoring while it lasts. He suggested that Southeastern Conference play might cause the averages of one or more UK players to slip below 10. Almost on cue Saturday, Darius Miller's average dropped to 9.8 after a four-point performance at Tennessee.

In part, that's because conference teams bring a heightened ability to scout and prepare.

"Games aren't as high-scoring," Macy said. "Teams start to grind. There's a slower tempo. Averages can drop."

Going into the Tennessee game Saturday, the double-digit scoring averages belonged to Doron Lamb (14.6 ppg), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (13.2), Anthony Davis (12.8), Terrence Jones (11.8), Marquis Teague (10.9) and Miller (10.1).

UK Coach John Calipari saluted the many double-digit scoring averages as a sign of team play.

"Because we have unselfish players," he said. "... 'If I score 20, I do. If I need to score 20, I will.' "

Calipari also criticized what he called a "talking head" who downplayed UK players' ability because no one had an eye-popping scoring average.

"What?!" Calipari said. "So, basically, you don't know anything about the game of basketball. You can't watch a player. You have to look at stats."

Red Auerbach came to mind. The founding father of the Boston Celtics derided statistics as a meaningless gauge of a player's worth.

Here's what three players who were on UK teams boasting five double-digit scoring averages said about multiple averages:

Larry Conley, a member of Rupp's Runts:

Modern scouting and coaching can nullify a single big scorer much more effectively than during the time of the Runts. Therefore, multiple scorers make for a more difficult task for defenses.

"It's a real help if a guy can come in and throw up six or eight points," Conley said. That guy on this UK team would be freshman Kyle Wiltjer.

But with multiple scorers, who is the "go-to" guy in the clutch?

For the Runts, it was either Louie Dampier or Pat Riley.

"Because they could shoot the (stuffing) out of it," Conley said.

Mike Pratt, a member of the 1967-68 team that had five double-digit scoring averages:

"How we got that is, we played very fast," he said. "More possessions."

More possessions equal more scoring opportunities.

This UK team creates extra possessions with defense and blocked shots, Pratt said.

The 1967-68 team's three top scorers were all sophomores. But instead of ushering in an era of diverse scoring, Kentucky evolved over three seasons into a team more and more centered on Dan Issel for scoring.

"We just went to him more, and he became more confident in his success," Pratt said.

■ Macy, the point guard who orchestrated the many scorers for UK's 1978 champions:

"It means you have a lot of weapons," he said of UK's six double-digit scoring averages. "I'd think it'd mean something. It speaks to the talent level."

Macy noted how well UK used its weapons in the championship run of 1978. The bench providing a spark against Florida State, Truman Claytor and Mike Phillips leading the way against Miami, Macy having a good day against Michigan State and, of course, Jack Givens and Rick Robey playing well against Duke in the championship game.

The pressure to produce never rested with an individual player.

"If you were not having a good night, you didn't have to keep shooting," Macy said. "Other players had confidence (to score)."

GPAs

Congratulations to UK scholarship athletes for posting a collective 2.979 grade-point average in the fall semester of 2011. UK released the team grade-point averages on Friday.

A few observations:

■ The overall GPA actually dips slightly to 2.932 when walk-ons are included. That refutes the notion that coaches cynically add walk-ons as a means to inflate team GPAs.

■ Let's hear it for estrogen. Of UK's 20 sports, the top six GPAs belonged to women's teams: tennis, cross country, golf, track, softball and swimming/diving. The best an all-male team did was No. 9, men's cross country at 3.19.

That continues a familiar pattern of female athletes outperforming men in the classroom. Noted athletics observer Murray Sperber has linked this pattern to the attention male athletes can pay to professional sports careers.

■ Men's basketball posted a 2.71 (a 2.57 for scholarship players only). That's a big improvement from the 2.025 of John Calipari's first semester as UK coach (fall of 2009). The 2.71 tied for 16th-best among UK's 20 teams.

■ Football was 20th with a GPA of 2.43. That was 2.35 for scholarship players only.

■ Overall, 13 UK teams posted a GPA of 3.0 or better.

■ How does UK basketball's team GPA compare to other programs? Louisville's team GPA was 3.16. Indiana's was 3.08. As noted earlier, U of L said that 14 of its 17 players had GPAs of 3.0 or better.

In the SEC, Florida had a 2.88, Georgia a 2.64 and Mississippi a 2.14. Vanderbilt only releases its GPA for a school year. In 2010-11, the Commodores had a team GPA of 2.638.

Mississippi State does not release its team GPA. But the school did note that freshman Rodney Hood made the Dean's List (requiring a 3.5 or better).

Crowded house

Normally, the Kentucky media corps at road games is four outlets. But because Tennessee and Vanderbilt are within easy driving distance, the media contingent swells like a blowfish.

With guidance from UK, Tennessee and Vanderbilt officials must make decisions on how many reporters to permit into the arena to work the game and how many to deny a credential.

Tom Satkowiak of UT said he put a 10-team cap on NBA scouts in an effort to meet media demand for a seat at the Vols' game against Kentucky. Each NBA team got one seat.

"I also converted an auxiliary courtside table typically used by my media-relations staff into working media space for Saturday's game, as well," Satkowiak wrote in an email. "... I was able to approve 29 UK media members. That left 16 who I did not have space for."

He also denied two other Kentucky-based outlets who sent requests for credentials independently of UK.

To further meet demand, Satkowiak asked three senior UT administrators to give up their usual seats in the media area. This allowed for three more reporters to work the game.

As for Vandy, spokesman Andy Boggs recalled last season's game in Nashville in which he issued credentials for 15 media outlets in addition to the UK radio team. He turned down seven outlets.

Boggs also turned down two photographers because of limited space, but he gave them general passes.

High turnover

During an appearance on Tim Brando's radio show last week, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams noted the high turnover of coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Williams said that in the last three seasons, nine of the 12 ACC men's basketball programs hired new coaches.

The only coaches who had worked at their ACC schools longer than three years were Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Leonard Hamilton at Florida State and Williams.

In the SEC, the story is much the same. Eight of the 12 schools had hired new men's basketball coaches in the last four years: Auburn (Tony Barbee). Tennessee (Cuonzo Martin), Arkansas (Mike Anderson), South Carolina (Darrin Horn), Louisiana State (Trent Johnson), UK (John Calipari), Georgia (Mark Fox) and Alabama (Anthony Grant).

Wish list

UK Coach John Calipari appeared earlier the same day on the Tim Brando radio show.

When Brando asked about UK's depth, Calipari noted how the Cats did well with limited reserves last season. The same was true for his last team at Massachusetts, he said.

People he termed "old-timers" tended to think many more than six or seven players was unneeded extravagance.

"I wish we had one more guard," Calipari said. "But we don't."

Numb to numbers

Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist failed to score double-digit points in three straight games going in to Tennessee. To which he shrugged.

"That doesn't mean anything," Kidd-Gilchrist said Friday. "Doesn't mean anything in my book."

He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Vols on Saturday.

UK's best?

UK Coach John Calipari recently noted that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might not be the team's best shooter or best passer or best ball handler. But Kidd-Gilchrist might be the Cats' best player.

"I don't think I'm the best on the floor at all times," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I think Terrence (Jones) is most of the time. I just look up to him."

Not so easy

First-year Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was not an instant success as a college head coach. His first team, Missouri State, finished with an 11-20 record in 2008-09.

"I was trying to find my way," he said. "I know some guys have all the answers. It's not easy at all."

Motivation

Gene Keady, who coached Cuonzo Martin at Purdue, agreed with a reporter's premise that his former player was remarkably straightforward and candid. No sleight of hand to motivate.

"I found honesty and enthusiasm are the two best motivators," Keady said.

Kentucky-esque

Before Tennessee played Duke in the first round of the Maui Invitational this season, guard Trae Golden downplayed the notion of being unnerved by such a storied program.

"Duke is just another game," Golden told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "Why would we be in awe of them? What's really the difference between Duke and Kentucky? We play Kentucky every year."

Happy birthday

To Mike Scott. He turned 45 on Saturday. ... To Richard Madison. He turns 47 on Monday. ... To Dirk Minniefield. He turns 51 on Tuesday. ... To Shagari Alleyne. He turned 28 on Saturday. ... To Jay Shidler. He turns 54 Sunday. ... To James Lee. He turns 56 on Tuesday.

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