UK Men's Basketball

Blue-White game will fine-tune 'platoons'

Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) over Marcus Lee, during Big Blue Madness  on Friday October 17, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) over Marcus Lee, during Big Blue Madness on Friday October 17, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Kentucky's abundant talent makes John Calipari joke about coaching two teams this coming season. He'll literally have that chance Monday night when UK plays its annual Blue-White game in Rupp Arena.

The Blue-White game, which will be televised by the SEC Network, will be the first dress rehearsal for a Kentucky team that features nine McDonald's All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, proven contributor Dominique Hawkins and promising forward Derek Willis. It gives Calipari a chance — under pseudo game conditions — to work on one of his major objectives: creating effective units out of an array of celebrated players.

"Trying to settle units and then coach those guys," Calipari said at the Southeastern Conference Media Days last week. "I'm trying to get two units cohesive versus trying to jumble in nine or 10 guys, which I do think is too many."

Calipari said he had consulted with other coaches including Jay Wright of Villanova, about using a nine- or 10-player rotation. "Most of them think I'm crazy," he said.

Hence, the idea of platoons.

Often this preseason, Calipari has spoken of a platoon system of substituting five players at a time. Kentucky tested that approach during its six exhibition games in the Bahamas in August.

Guard Aaron Harrison acknowledged that a UK roster bursting at the seams puts questions about playing time on the minds of players.

"Of course, you think that coming in," he said at SEC Media Days. "You just have to be mature about it and understand we're all here to win."

A Blue-White Game provides ample playing time for everyone. The regular season presents the coach with a much more difficult challenge.

During this preseason, there has been speculation about Kentucky having enough talent to produce two NCAA Tournament teams. Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy did not argue with that suggestion.

"I'd suppose with the quality and talent top to bottom, you could make up three," he said.

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