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Kentucky coach John Calipari seeking a consistent rotation as Cats prepare to open exhibition play

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

When Kentucky opens its two-game exhibition schedule against Transylvania Friday, John Calipari will be looking for a degree of separation ahead of the team’s season opener against Duke in less than two weeks.

“It’s got to start happening and I may start one group of five and then maybe three different guys in the second half,” Calipari said. “(I) may do that for a couple times just to feel this out and see what it looks like. But it appears as though we got 10 guys that can play, but they’re going to be guys that separate themselves into playing more.”

In order for that to happen, Calipari said the players will have to step it up a notch in practice and take care of their own game when to competing for playing time. Six players logged 35 minutes or more in the blue-white scrimmage last weekend, paced by freshmen Tyler Herro and EJ Montgomery, who each played all 40 minutes. Nick Richards, PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Ashton Hagans all played for 35 minutes or more in the contest.

“You got to take somebody’s minutes here,” he said. “And if someone’s better, they’re going to play more. Just how it is. It’s not communism. We’re not on the same page. And it challenges everybody to perform.”

Kentucky’s PJ Washington drives against Reid Travis during the team’s exhibition game last weekend at Rupp Arena. The competition is making the Wildcats better. (Kentucky Sports Report LLC/Jeff Houchin)

Although he scored 32 points to lead all scorers in the team’s annual blue-white game last weekend, Calipari is expecting more improvement from freshman guard Tyler Herro.

“I think that’s for every player that he coaches,” he said. “He just is always trying to make them better. I think I did take, of the four shots I missed, I think two of them were pretty bad shots. They could have been better early in the shot clock, but I feel like he’s always trying to make everybody better. That’s why we’re happy to have him as a coach.”

Kentucky freshman forward EJ Montgomery, who also had a solid performance in the intra-squad scrimmage, said the competition in practice has proved to be beneficial.

“We compete every day in practice and we have to go hard in practice to get each other better,” Montgomery said. “(I’m) just bringing it every day. Just going out there and not thinking too much about the game. Just (being) myself.”


Kentucky will compete at New York’s Madison Square Garden when it takes on Seton Hall at noon on Dec. 8 in the second Citi Hoops Classic.

“This is a great opportunity to play a strong team in a historic venue,” Calipari said. “We love coming to New York and look forward to seeing the Big Blue Nation in full force. We are excited to partner with Citi to being a great basketball game to our fans (in New York City).”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard agreed.

“Our program has a rich tradition of competing at Madison Square Garden, and our team, especially those who grew up in New York, understands why it is such a terrific privilege to play at The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Willard said. “We’re looking forward to working with Citi on what should be a great game against a great opponent.”

Gametracker: Transylvania at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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