Cats struggling with no clear leader


Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts to Kentucky’s loss against UCLA during the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday, December 23, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kentucky was defeated 83-75. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

As the NCAA basketball season rolls on, UK basketball faces the same challenge they’ve faced since the beginning of the season: No player has taken on a clear leadership role.

In the first few games, the leader seemed to be Kevin Knox, who could put up 20 points regularly to make the UK offense look formidable.

After Knox, Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seemed to take the reins of the team, blowing past defenders with ease off the bench.

Now, head coach John Calipari thinks he doesn’t have a clear leader.

“Right now it’s hard because no one will grab the guys and say ‘you can’t do this or I’m going to tell coach to sit you out’,” Calipari said on Friday. “We don’t have that right now. I was hoping it was P.J. [Washington], but he took a step back. He didn’t have the same spirit… you can’t talk then. You’ve got to be one of the guys.”

In the team’s most recent loss to South Carolina, the forward Washington posted 10 points, two rebounds and four fouls in 33 minutes on the court.

“Maybe it’s Jarred [Vanderbilt],” Calipari continued. “Maybe [Vanderbilt] becomes that guy, I don’t know. We will see.”

In his debut against the Gamecocks on Tuesday, Vanderbilt led the team in assists with three, grabbed five rebounds and scored six points in 14 minutes of game action.

Calipari also said that Vanderbilt was the only player who showed fight and hustled for rebounds, despite not being fully in sync with the game plan due to limited practice time.

After the loss to South Carolina, ESPN’s Seth Greenberg stated that the young Cats were “spoiled.” Without a leader, Calipari wasn’t intent on disagreeing with him.

“When he made statements… they need to be addressed,” Calipari said. “I mean, if you watched us, you probably would’ve said the same thing.”

While the Cats scramble to find a leader, Washington is intent on putting the loss at South Carolina behind him, insisting that the team move on to the next game. Talking about Florida, Washington said that the team just had to “focus on the defensive end and we’ll be alright.”

The Cats will look to find their leader against Florida Saturday night at 8:15 p.m.