Youth serves Kentucky well

Trio of standout freshmen proving critics wrong

January 04, 2011|By Shannon Ryan

Kentucky coach John Calipari said he enjoys when basketball fans and analysts realize they underestimated one of his players.

"I want people to watch my players and say, 'I can't believe that young man is playing that way,'" he told reporters on the Southeastern Conference teleconference Monday. "'I didn't know he had that in him.'"

People are saying that about his entire Kentucky team, which lost five players in the first round of the 2010 NBA draftand has freshman Enes Kanter awaiting a decision on his appeal of the NCAA's ineligibility ruling. The Wildcats are off to an 11-2 start, including an impressive 78-63 victory over against Louisville on Friday and a 72-58 victory over Notre Dame on Dec. 8.

With a weak SEC schedule ahead, the Wildcats could roll through the season.

Guard Brandon Knight (18 points per game), forward Terrence Jones (17.6) and guard Doron Lamb (14) — all freshmen — are the team's three top scorers.

Calipari is reveling in how they were undervalued at the start of the season like some of his other top freshmen.

"It takes time for all those guys," he said. "I can remember Derrick Rose, we go to New York and Dick Vitale is saying, 'He's out of control. He's not a point guard.' … And I can remember Tyreke (Evans) down in Puerto Rico having like seven charges and people coming up saying, 'Oh my gosh.' And even Clark Kellogg, who had us at Georgetown, saying, 'I'm not so sure.'"

"But when they get it, when they feel it, then all of a sudden it changes everything for our team, and that's happening with Brandon right now."

Bankrupt on the boards: West Virginia is known for its rebounding muscle. Last season the Mountaineers led the Big East with a plus-6.4 rebounding edge against opponents, with 38.6 per game. But in their 0-2 Big East start this season, West Virginia has been outrebounded by 10 per game.

"The frustrating thing is we didn't rebound the ball," coach Bob Huggins said after losing to Marquette. "We're not very athletic. We've got to get (guards) Casey (Mitchell) and Joe (Mazulla) and Truck (Bryant) to rebound."

'I'll be back': After serving his NCAA-imposed three-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits at a Manhattan, Kan., store, Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen weighed in on Twitter.

"Ain't never ran from nothing in my life so don't think I been hiding just handling my business I'll be back (terminator voice) lol," he Tweeted. "And please don't Tweet me about the situation that happen it's over wit (sic)."

Pullen, a senior who averages 16.4 points, reportedly told a Manhattan radio station that he feels like embattled Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and has something to prove.

News of the week: Mississippi State reinstated forward Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey has decided to transfer after he and Sidney were suspended indefinitely last month for fighting each other in the stands in Honolulu.

"It's time to move on and learn from these mistakes," coach Rick Stansbury said.

Games to watch: Thursday: Xavier at Cincinnati. The unbeaten Bearcats will try to avoid a letdown against their rival.

Friday: Cleveland State at Butler. Cleveland State looks like the big boy of the Horizon League. Can Butler retain its supremacy?

Saturday: Connecticut at Texas. These teams have Final Four potential.

Sunday: Minnesota at Ohio State. The Gophers are off to a rough Big Ten start, but a victory here could turn that around.

sryan@tribune.com

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