The first question John Calipari was asked Wednesday night concerned what he told the University of Kentucky basketball team after it lost at Georgia on a last-second shot.
“I need someone to talk to me, because I’m discouraged,” Calipari said a few minutes after Georgia escaped 63-62. “What I just saw, the way we finished the game — the shot selection at the end, missed free throws, turnovers, just throwing them the ball for layups. We gave them 20 points on turnovers just throwing them the ball. I’m discouraged.”
Actually, Georgia scored 25 points off UK’s miscues. That in part was why UK lost its ninth game of the season, falling to 4-9, 3-3 in the SEC.
The mental health and overall tenor of UK’s team has been much discussed as it worked through a 6-game losing streak, put together a 3-game winning streak, and now has lost its third straight game.
This isn’t about analytics, but how UK might be responding to being in a proverbial bubble since the team arrived in in October in Lexington to try and get ready for the basketball season.
“I keep coming back to we’re in a bubble here,” Calipari said the day before the Georgia game. “The problem is we’re in a bubble here. But that’s why we’re safe. The other side of it is we’re in a bubble. We rented out a movie theater. You and I know that’s dangerous. Having them come to my house. I didn’t have staff or managers come. We’ve done it three or four times. If one of our guys gets it, we’re going to end up having to shut down because we’re doing stuff to bring them together. We’ve had some meals out.”
UK has tried to bring some normalcy to a program that has thrived on having a couple of months before a season starts to get some player bonding and team building in.
Calipari also knows he and his staff are not qualified to deal with the mental health issues that could happen during this COVID-19 outbreak.
“We brought in the sports psychologist and he spent two or three days with the kids,” Calipari said. “It’s just a different — I’ve had more coaches say, we’re all sensitive to how we approach what we do this year more than any other year, and the kids are a little more fragile across the country because of this. They’re missing what being on a college campus is, what being in a college program, having fans, they’re missing all of that.”
All the disruptions and shutdowns COVID has caused across the country has affected the mental outlook of millions of people in America.
BBN fans have been particularly frustrated with this team.
“All this stuff, there is a frustration out there, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s unacceptable where we are right now. Unacceptable,” Calipari said. “On the flip side, I can’t do this in a normal way that I would, which is, I would be a little harder. I would be a little louder. I would be a little more aggressive. I would be a little more quicker to things. Wouldn’t worry how they’re feeling. Well, you can’t do that.”
Davion Mintz is a graduate transfer who has been starting for the Wildcats at guard. He realizes how difficult this different season has been for the assorted younger players in UK’s program.
“It’s tough because you’re bringing guys, these young guys coming in, and some guys don’t have the advantage of being in college for four years already,” Mintz said. “I can’t imagine how I would have felt at 17, 18 years old. It’s different. It’s tough.”
Keion Brooks Jr.said Wednesday that the team is frustrated because what it does in practice has not been carrying over in game performance.
“This stuff is hard,” Brooks said. “You got to give us a chance and these players a chance to finally break through.
“This year, with COVID and stuff like that, no excuses, but, it’s difficult to get acclimated and adjusted to one another when you don’t really have that time. We got to keep believing in one another, believing in the coaching staff and keep pushing, because we work hard every day.”