By Dalton Ray —
Just before men’s basketball tips off against rival Kentucky, we reached out to the Kentucky Kernel’s sports editor Chris Leach to get to know the Wildcats more.
Question: Kentucky fans are well known for having high expectations. How has the fan base taken the 9-2 start?
Answer: I don’t think they’ve handled it well. I don’t think they’re upset with the record, but I think they’re upset that they haven’t looked like Kentucky teams in the past because of the youth. If they were able to beat Kansas or UCLA, I think the fans would be more understanding of this process, but the fact that Kentucky has lost most of their games against top-50 teams has fans worried for the Louisville game and March.
Q: Kevin Knox seems to be the star of this team, what kind of player is he? What are some of his weaknesses so far?
A: He kind of reminds me of a Kevin Durant is Knox were to develop into an NBA superstar. He’s a 6-foot-9 freshman who plays like a guard and is capable of knocking down a deep shot. I’d say his weakness though is settling for jump shots. Coach John Calipari has been on Knox all season wanting him to drive the ball to the rim, and he’s gotten better, but Knox still settles for dumb jump shots from time to time.
Q: UK appears to have a lot of role players, which player can step up and be the biggest difference maker for UK excluding Knox and Hamidou Diallo?
A: If Calipari could choose player besides Knox and Diallo to have a good game, I bet he’d choose Nick Richards. Richards has been inconsistent this season, but the one game he put it all together against Fort Wayne, he was Kentucky’s best player on the court. Both times Kentucky was beat, they didn’t win the rebounding battle, and if Richards can step up and play to his potential, rebounding would be one less thing Calipari wouldn’t have to worry about.
Q: What is the best and worst thing about this team through 11 games?
A: The best thing about this team is their length. Most of the players have long limbs, and are capable of stealing or blocking any shot if they get into good position. The worst thing is their youth and lack of experience in big moments. None of these players minus Wenyen Gabriel have played in a Louisville-Kentucky game, and it kind of worries me to see how the new team will fare in such a high-stakes game.
A: I don’t think Calipari is focusing on much besides figuring out how to guide this team towards success. Calipari has said numerous times that this is the toughest task he’s been presented with, and has invested a lot in righting the ship for this team. Calipari has also said he doesn’t expect this team to be a contender till March, so I don’t know if their fix is coming in December.
Q: Who wins and why?
A: I still think Kentucky wins this game. With the home crowd, plus the down year for Louisville, I see Kentucky pulling away in the second half after a closely contested first half. Kentucky wins 81-74.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal