John Calipari takes blame for Sahvir Wheeler’s turnover struggles against Texas A&M


Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) looks back at a loose ball during the UK vs. Southern basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 76-64. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

Despite walking away with a 64-58 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday, Kentucky tied its season high in turnovers record with 17.

The 17 turnovers tied the previous record set against Albany in late December, with the Wildcats going on to win that game 86-61.

Kentucky point guard Sahvir Wheeler accounted for a bulk of the turnovers, recording eight. The total set not just his season high, but the team’s season high for single-player turnovers in one game. 

Wheeler is averaging 3.25 turnovers per game, including against LSU, where he left after just four minutes with a neck injury and recorded one turnover. In his last two games since returning, Wheeler is averaging 5.5 turnovers per game.

Excluding the win over the Aggies, Wheeler only has two games this season with five or more turnovers, with those being the season opener against Duke (7) and the win over Albany (5).

While Kentucky won both of its games with the high number of TO’s, it’s worth noting that Wheeler has had two of his three worst ball-security games in those wins.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari spoke about Wheeler in late November, specifically about his turnover numbers at Georgia. Calipari was asked if the numbers bothered him when Wheeler expressed interest in transferring to Kentucky, with Wheeler averaging 4.4 turnovers per game in his final season with the Bulldogs.

“I told him, ‘You’re not turning the ball over four times a game here, you know that, right?’,” Calipari said. “If it’s important to the coach, it’ll be important to the player. If it’s not important to you, it won’t be important to them.”

While he has not averaged four turnovers per game at Kentucky, Wheeler’s 3.25 average is not far from it, leading some to ask if there’s reason to be concerned about the point guard.

Calipari instead took some of the blame for Wheeler’s performance, citing his game plan as part of the reason for the offensive struggles.

“First of all, I did a really bad job in this pick and roll stuff for Sahvir, and made him look bad,” Calipari said. “We’ve got to be better prepared for what we’re doing and talk them through [what we’re doing].”

Calipari also harped on a point he’s made frequently in recent times, saying the players should not be expected to perform to their highest degree in every game, and that it’s only natural for athletes to have off-nights.

“I loved that a couple of guys didn’t play well [and we still got the win],” Calipari said. “That’s okay. They’re not machines, they’re not robots. Other guys stepped up and played well.”

Wheeler, despite the poor number of turnovers, led Kentucky in scoring against A&M, being just one of two players to record a double-digit point total, finishing the game with 12 points.

 Leading the team in scoring, albeit on a poor offensive showing, offers validation to Calipari’s claims that fans should point to his initial offensive scheme making Wheeler look bad as opposed to the star himself. 

The Wildcats return to action this Saturday, Jan. 23, on the road against No. 2 Auburn. With Kentucky’s road woes still in effect, the game is looking to be the hardest test of the season for UK. Wheeler will likely be a starter for the 17th time this season, with his turnovers being a possible point of emphasis.

That game is set to tip-off at 1 p.m. and will air on CBS.