Calipari still searching for a Gilgeous-Alexander-like point guard


Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks with freshman guard Immanuel Quickley and graduate student forward Reid Travis during the game against Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Last season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went from being a bench role-player to Kentucky’s starting point guard and a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. 

During the conference and postseason stretches of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander became the team’s go-to player, and often was the one leading team huddles on and off the court.

As always with great players at Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander went pro, leaving John Calipari to develop his next batch of point guards, which hasn’t gone the way he had hoped.

“Shai kind of spoiled us, Shai became like John Wall and Brandon (Knight), and he’s in the NBA doing that,” Calipari said. “Well, we don’t have that guy. He’s not on the roster.” 

Kentucky’s two true point guards, Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley, got off to a rough start in the season-opener against Duke, combining for eight points on 1-6 shooting, two rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.

Hagans, who got the start, played one additional minute compared to Quickley. Hagans played 20 minutes against Duke, which was the second lowest out of any of the starters except P.J. Washington, who fouled out with 9:30 remaining in the game. 

Calipari’s best teams have typically had a talented point guard who also became a leader for the team. John Wall, Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis, De’Aaron Fox and Gilgeous-Alexander are some of the point guards Calipari has coached during UK who have been critical players on their respected teams. 

Even before Calipari’s Kentucky days, point guards like Derrick Rose and Edgar Padilla are ones that came to Calipari’s mind on how he could influence his current point guards to play.

“Do I play my point guards that way, which is more of a facilitator than the guy that’s going and ‘I’m still learning,’ well try to figure it out,” Calipari said.

Aside from the point guards, Nick Richards was also someone who Calipari expected more from in the season-opener. Richards played 13 minutes off the bench and had two rebounds, three turnovers and missed his only shot to finish with zero points.

“I just thought Nick would be better right now, and so okay, what do I do to help him get going? How do I do this?” Calipari said.

The Wildcats will be back in action tomorrow night when they host Southern Illinois for a 7 p.m. tipoff.