Kentucky basketball is now half way through year five of the John Calipari era. He took over during the 2009-10 season after leaving Memphis. Calipari entered Lexington and brought along the Nation’s number one recruiting class that Included John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledose and Daniel Orton.
Now, we all have become very familiar with the number one classes Calipari has compiled like the one above. It is impressive to say the least and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon but with that, it somewhat over shadows his bench year in, year out, that is why I am going to take a look into the bench of his past UK teams versus this years UK team.
I will categorize this by using the players with the least amount of starts per season. And we all know Calipari has said he prefers a smaller group of guys playing but should he be set on that. Let’s look.
Starting with my favorite team under John Calipari, 2009-10. Year one showed us a bench of Orton who we mentioned along with Darnell Dodson, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson, Jon Hood, Mark Krebs, Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris.
As a combined seven, those guys totaled 19.3 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. The stats show Calipari went with four main guys as they all averaged over eleven minutes off the bench. Stevenson saw just over seven with Harrellson, Hood and Krebs seeing minimal action.
Season two, 2010-11 showcased bench that had Doron Lamb, Eloy Vargas, Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Stacey Poole. As a combined five they averaged 15 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Coach Calipari elected to go with mainly six players total that year, one-off the bench. That guy being Lamb a majority of the games. Vargas did see just under eight minutes but his production was very minimal.
Year three, championship number eight for the Kentucky program, year three under Calipari was a fun one. The bench had numbers in Brian Long, Darius Miller, Eloy Vargas, Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood, Sam Malone and Twany Beckham.
Combined, those seven guys averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Most to all of that damage came from Miller who saw over 26 minutes per game and Wiltjer who saw over eleven. Vargas again averaged just over six minutes with the others seeing minimal time.
This once again shows John Calipari had to play thin due to his bench depth. Just year one was he confident or prepared enough to use his bench.
Last season, 2011-12 that most Kentucky fans would rather forget again had numbers but was thin. Brian Long, Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood, Kyle Wiltjer, Sam Malone, Todd Lanter, Twany Beckham and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Out of the eight bench players, they combined to score 23.5 points and grabbed 15 rebounds per outing. Of the eight, Cauley-Stein, Polson and Wiltjer were the three who saw minutes, other guys minimal scrap time. This was the third of four seasons Calipari has only used 2-3 guys off his bench.
Present day, we seem to be going back to year one route, more numbers not just in warm-ups but seeing quality minutes. We remember after the NIT loss last year, Calipari promised he would never only have six, seven guys, that he vows to always have a bench. Well, he seems to be attempting to change that today.
Currently, this years team has Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, EJ Floreal, Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Marcus Lee. Out of the eight guys, they combine for 19.4 points and 13.3 rebounds per game through 15 games.
The main guys off the bench so far have been Poythress, Hawkins, Johnson and Lee who all play over 7.5 minutes per game. This meaning John Calipari has been playing nine guys generally with a tenth at time as Polson does see quality and worthy time.
With all of this being said, Calipari started this season playing seven guys but over the last month he has moved more towards 9 and now 10. Keeping this trend up the remaining 3 1/2 months would make this years bench his most used while at Kentucky.
This in my eyes is the route Calipari needs to go and he is obviously doing so. This years class was filled with his one and done type recruits AND 3-4 year players. Be scared NCAA, a new but same smart John Calipari is coming for you.
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