Calipari ‘can’t imagine’ Washington playing against Wofford


Kentucky head coach John Calipari addresses the media at a press conference on Friday, Mar. 22, 2019, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Kentucky will take on the Wofford Terriers in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday Mar. 23. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Kentucky head coach John Calipari didn’t give a definitive answer about whether sophomore PJ Washington will be out Saturday against Wofford, but he suggests the Cats will likely be without him. 

Washington, Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder, suffered a sprained foot in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament against Tennessee and it was announced early Thursday that the forward would play in the team’s first game against Abilene Christian, which didn’t end up posing a major issue for the Wildcats. Friday during the team’s press conferences, Calipari said he “can’t imagine” Washington playing against Wofford. 

“I know this, he really wants to play, but I also want to feel comfortable that if he gets on the court that there’s nothing he can do to himself, and the doctors have pretty much said that,” Calipari said. “So it’s just, ‘okay, when is it healed enough that he can go?’”

Calipari also credited Wofford for their talent and added how tough it’ll be if they have to go without Washington in the game.

“I called this, I knew we’d be playing this team, and my team knew, because I told them before, we would be playing Wofford because you and I know how hard this game will be, especially with PJ out, how hard a game it’ll be for us,” Calipari said.

Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans compares the situation to when senior forward Reid Travis was out with a knee sprain, saying his team has been comfortable in their rotations for a while now. He says it gives himself and bigs Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery “a better shot to show everybody what they can do.” Travis adds that because of Washington’s injury, guys are having to step up and become more comfortable in different roles. 

“He’s day to day. I’m just going to let them coach us. I wouldn’t say we are getting used to playing without him. He’s a big part of what we do and our success,” Travis said. 

As March Madness continues and Washington’s health is on their minds, the Wildcats’ main focus is getting a game plan and staying focused for their matchup against Wofford. The Terriers recorded their first ever program NCAA Tournament win on Thursday against Seton Hall, and in the process, senior sharp-shooter Fletcher Magee nailed seven 3-pointers, breaking the all-time record for threes in D-1 history. 

Although Wofford’s season campaign has largely pegged them as a “three-point shooting team,” Terriers head coach Mike Young wants the world to know that they are much more than that. 

“I’ve said it a thousand times, and I believe it with every fiber of my body, we’ve got a really, really good team,” Young said. “We do have a lot of guys that can crank it. We also have a young man in the post in Cameron Jackson that can score on a lot of people, an he’s done it repeatedly throughout his career… You know, I hate to get into all this, but we are ranked nationally for a purpose.”

Magee, who averages just over 20 points per game, emphasized that he doesn’t want his team to lose focus or sight of their path in front of them, despite playing a powerhouse school like Kentucky. 

“We want to stay within ourselves, play our game, and we feel that if we do that, we can be right there and we can compete with them,” Magee said. 

Kentucky’s Richards is extremely confident in his team’s ability to move past Wofford on Saturday, saying the Cats have a size/length advantage and “they’re not really as athletic as all three of us (Travis, Richards and Montgomery).”

“Their bigs are really skilled around the basket, they know how to move on the floor, but we’re just better than them overall, I think, so the advantage is our way, in my opinion,” Richards said. 

Calipari didn’t disagree, but laughed and says he wants Richards to prove what he says on the court.

“They said Nick was in there saying that our bigs are quicker—what are you doing, Nick?” Calipari joked. “But that’s okay, because like if you speak, now what? You back it up. So I love his confidence. Now I want to watch you do it.”

The Cats are slated to take on the Terriers at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida.