Whitesburg KY

Patience is a virtue, but Cats must grow up soon

We continue to wait for this version of Coach John Calipari’s “kiddie corps” of potential superstars to grow up, as patience is starting to grow thin with some around University of Kentucky basketball circles.

Not me, I have the patience of a vulture and I strongly suggest Big Blue Nation and some media friends of mine who cover UK take a deep breath and chill as well.

It’s kind of humorous when you dissect the three losses closely and see that if this team just shoots 75 percent from the foul line we’re probably not having this conversation. Yet, if you ask most any respected college basketball analyst, he or she will have UK slowly wilting into oblivion.

Personally, I’m not completely buying into this “lack of effort” talk that Coach Cal and a few others are throwing around. Why? Because one of the most telling signs of a basketball team that is soft in the energy department is getting beat on the boards. Last time I looked, UK was outrebounding its opponent at a 487 to 351 clip through the first 11 games, averaging 44.3 rebounds per game for UK to 31.0 rebounds for the opponent.

How many times have you heard a coach, especially Cal, say rebounding is simply effort?

The other talk about this team underachieving seems to circle around selfish play, especially from the guards. My question is this? Is it selfish play or just a misunderstanding of the coach’s philosophy? Maybe UK just needs to curtail its mindset of attacking the basket religiously on every possession and bring some old-fashioned set plays into the offense to feature the skill sets of some of these supposedly special players.

Whatever the answer is to these three hiccups UK has had early this season, the problems can be worked out over the next three weeks, as UK will put in many more minutes practicing in the Joe Craft Center than playing on the Rupp Arena floor. This is the time of year a college coach loves and players loathe. The 20 hour-per-week NCAA practice rule will not be in effect because the semester is over.

While the winter break from classes is on, UK has only two scheduled games between Dec. 15 and Jan. 8. That leaves 24 possible practice days filled with gut-wrenching suicide wind sprints. The short history of Cal’s tenure at UK reflects this time of year as being the crossroads of each season of his special Final Four teams.

Let’s hope this year plays out similar to those previous Final Four team, because a few more losses before February and we’ll be approaching that fine line where the NCAA selection committee can create havoc when selection Sunday rolls around in March.

We all know how the NCAA feels about UK in general and Coach Cal in particular. If the Wildcats don’t want to leave the committee with any wiggle room, the ship must be righted ASAP.

Never seen UK play live? Get your ticket now

If you’re looking for that ultimate Christmas present for a special person in your life or a family member, look no longer. With the UK students on holiday break the next few weeks, several great ticket opportunities are available for those longsuff ering Wildcat fans who have never witnessed a UK game in person at historic Rupp Arena.

The Belmont University game on Dec. 21 at noon and the Mississippi State game on Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. offer plenty of ticket opportunities in several sections.

For those looking to purchase two or more tickets together, you are probably looking at a section in the lower- to mid-upper level sections, but if you don’t mind sitting alone there are several single tickets available in the lower level of Rupp Arena for these two games. However, you should call the UK ticket office immediately at 800- 928-2287 or 859-257-1818 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or go online anytime at www.ticketmaster.com.

The UK women’s basketball team also has a big game coming against Duke University on Dec. 22 at Rupp Arena.

Columnist Ira Combs lives at Jeff in Perry County, where he operates Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. with his brother, Harold.

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