Calipari respects, disagrees with Kanter ruling



On the first play of the season, UK ran a designed play for Josh Harrellson.

Brandon Knight cut through the lane while off the ball, received a pass at the three-point line and immediately dumped the ball inside to Harrellson at the elbow.

Harrellson spun around and made the shot.

“It was one of our options, and we executed the play pretty well,” Knight said. “He did a good job of sitting down and turning around and scoring.”

While it may or may not have been intended to be a statement play, it could certainly be perceived as one. After all, it was the first play of the entire season and came a day after freshman Enes Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA.

UK head coach John Calipari addressed the decision after the 88-65 win over East Tennessee State on Friday.

“I respect the NCAA’s decision. I don’t agree with it, but I respect the decision because it’s a hard decision,” Calipari said.

Calipari said he felt “bad” because Kanter and his father did all the things they thought would preserve his eligibility.

“No one can argue the point that this kid wanted to be an amateur, and so did his father,” Calipari said. “His dad did all the things he thought were going to make sure his son [Kanter] stayed an amateur. Now, if they did some things they didn’t know were wrong by our rules, maybe. But they didn’t do anything wrong.”

UK will appeal the decision.

“We’re looking at the appeal and thinking that, you know, common sense people will look at this in a common sense way and say, ‘You know what, the kid deserves better than this,” Calipari said.

The team had differing reactions among the players.

“It was sad,” Terrence Jones said. “I told him not to worry about it, there’s still hope. That was pretty much it, I didn’t want to keep bringing it up and keep talking about it.”

Like it is for most fans, the players have entertained the notion of a reality that included Kanter able to play on the team.

“Of course (we wonder),” Jones said. “I built a great relationship with Enes, him coming in me and Doron’s room almost every night. It would be a lot of fun if he was playing.”

Knight recognized the situation was beyond his control.

“We really can’t look at that, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Knight said. “Why even think about it, why even talk about it? It’s out of our hands…While adversity swirls, we’re just trying to focus on what we have at hand, which is trying to get better and win games.”

The decision leaves Harrellson and Eloy Vargas as the only players over 6-foot-8, and their play could be crucial to a team lacking depth and proven talent in the post. The two combined for two points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes against East Tennessee State.

“It’s very important to have the big guys that we do have to step up for us and be the physical presence on the inside,” Knight said.

DeAndre Liggins said the team recognized the difficulty of moving forward without Kanter, but said the team was prepared for it because they have never really had Kanter able to play with the team.

“It’s going to be hard, but I’m sure Coach Cal will find a way,” Liggins said. “It might hurt us, but it depends on us and what we do.”

Without Kanter’s presence in the paint, UK might trap post players more often. East Tennessee State’s Isiah Brown, a forward, scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against UK.

“It’s not that alarming,” Knight said. “We’ll adjust. We’ll get better at playing in the post. We all knew our post defense was something we need to work on, and it’s early in the season. We’ll have time to get better at it.”

There is one positive from the situation, as it stands now. Kanter is allowed to practice with the team again, which means UK will be going up against one of the post men in the country every day.

“Coach Cal said Enes has got to play good in practice, and if we can guard him in practice, we can guard anybody,” Liggins said.

VIDEO: Calipari discusses his take on the Kanter situation at the 8:40 mark.