Calipari’s inclusion of Collins against Alabama pays dividends


Kentucky Wildcats forward Daimion Collins (4) dunks the ball during the University of Kentucky vs. Robert Morris basketball game on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jackson Dunavant | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Unsurprisingly, basketball is always on the mind of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. 

“What wakes me up is I’m thinking basketball, it’s going through my head,” he said.  

Some of Calipari’s early morning thoughts turned out to play a huge role in No. 5 Kentucky’s 66-55 victory against Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.  

“I don’t know what woke me up in the middle of the night saying ‘lob, lob, lob,” Calipari said.  

The lob would end up leading to the success of freshman forward Daimion Collins against the Tide.  

In just nine minutes, Collins would score 10 points and collect six rebounds, giving the Wildcats a much-needed boost away from home. 

Standing at 6-foot-9, Collins supplied the height and length necessary to cause problems for the forwards of Alabama in the paint…and slam down a couple of those lobs.  

“I watched enough of [Alabama’s] tape, they collapse,” Calipari said. “So, you have [lobs] if you have a guy to throw it to.”  

The action for Collins was his first game playing meaningful minutes since Jan. 4 against LSU, where he totaled nine minutesfailing to record a point or rebound.  

“Everybody here in the whole program knows what Daimion can do,” TyTy Washington Jr said. 

In 23 games, Collins has appeared in 19 of them, playing doubledigit minutes just seven times.  

After his performance on Saturday, Calipari feels he has no choice but to give the big man his turn in the rotation.  

“He now has just forced me to figure out how to play him,” Calipari said. “You got to play 15 minutes a game. Now it’s on me.”  

Collins had not played multiple minutes in a game since Jan. 19 against Texas A&M, where he scored two points and recorded a steal.  

Despite this, Washington knows that the big man has been putting in the work behind the scenes, waiting for his number to be called.  

“He’s been spending extra hours in the gym,” Washington said. “Every time I go in on late nights, he’s always in there, so I knew that this day was going to come, he just got his opportunity to play.” 

The Kentucky rotation had been whittled down to eight, but the emergence of Collins suggests that Calipari and the coaching staff are going to have to bump that number up by one.  

“You need all the weapons you can have,” Calipari said. 

If not for the ever-thinking basketball mind of Calipari, who knows when Collins would have been given his chance to shine.