Calipari now counting ‘untraditional’ assists to encourage passing


Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander congratulates freshman forward PJ Washington after a basket during the game against Mississippi State on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 78-65. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Roman West

John Calipari has found an untraditional way to get his team to move the ball, by counting “untraditional assists.”

After Tuesday night’s game, Calipari shared this new method of how to keep track of who’s moving the ball.

“You pass it to somebody and they miss the shot. Still giving you an assist,” Calipari said. “You pass it to somebody and they get fouled. Still giving you an assist. If you’re a big man and you outlet the ball and that guy leads to a break, I’m giving you an assist. If you throw it ahead and someone else throws it to somebody else for an assist. I’m giving you an assist.”

Calipari said that almost any good pass can be counted as an assist in his mind. But this new way of tracking assists isn’t only to see who’s moving the ball, but to also see who isn’t.

Calipari said there are some guys in the locker room who are playing 28 minutes with a total of one “untraditional” assist. He believes that the players must make these passes to do what they want to accomplish.

“Every extra pass we make, we become a good team, a better team,” Calipari said.

The leader of the assists tonight was guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He had six of the team’s 11 official assists, and Calipari also made note he had around 18 of the new, untraditional assists.

“We share the ball a lot better. It helps us get good shots,” Alexander said about the new assist model.

The assists were able to increase the Cats’ shooting percentage from their last outing against Florida. The team finished the game shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, up from 40 percent against the Gators.

“He’s giving us like 30 different ways to get an assist. He’s challenging us to get assists, so he gave us some new ways to get assists,” said a smiling Kevin Knox. 

Knox said his name was on the board in the locker room for how many “untraditional” assists he had in the game, although he didn’t even pay attention to his count. The assists were able to get him good looks, though, finishing the game with 19 points on 5-6 shooting including 4-4 from behind the arc.