Going forward, Oscar Tshiebwe will not be the only person responsible for warning Sahvir Wheeler about an impending back screen.
“Now, we have the entire team responsible and (assistant) coach Chin (Ron “Chin” Coleman) that if he’s picking up full court to let him know that someone’s there,” UK Coach John Calipari said Friday. “I told Coach Chin, you get a technical and run out on the floor if he doesn’t hear (the alert). I’d rather you get thrown out of the game than him get hit again.”
Wheeler has twice been shaken up by running blindly into a back screen while pressuring an opponent bringing the ball upcourt. It happened at LSU, where he sustained a neck injury that caused him to miss two two games, and again at Auburn.
Wheeler said he has been subtle in adjusting.
“I was still pressuring,” he said of UK’s game against Mississippi State on Tuesday. “But every once in a while, I was kind of peeking behind my head to make sure there was no one there.”
In previewing Saturday’s game against Kentucky, Kansas Coach Bill Self called Wheeler “the best 94-foot player in the country, hands down. One of the few guys who can pick up 94 feet and (also) pick up the pace offensively.”
Calipari downplayed the significance of Kentucky and Kansas vying for the most all-time victories.
“Till you told me, I didn’t know,” he said. “We’re trying to win every game.”
Calipari said he only knew he got his 800th college coaching victory against Mississippi State because one of his daughters told him.
“I’m not doing this for numbers,” he said. “I’m trying to put a program together that everybody would be proud of.”
Love for Louisville
When asked, Calipari expressed sympathy for Chris Mack, who no longer is Louisville coach.
“I feel bad for he and his family,” the UK coach said. “Coaching is a hard profession. We’re all 30 days from bankruptcy.”
Calipari voiced confidence that U of L will return to basketball prominence.
“My guess is in another couple years, they’ll be right there,” he said.
Kansas’ leading scorer is Ochai Agbaji. The 6-foot-5 senior guard is averaging 21.2 points.
His name is pronounced OH-cheye (rhymes with “eye”) Uh-BA-gee.
Agbaji (the “g” is silent) was not a heralded recruit. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said Agbaji was not rated among the nation’s top 400 prospects coming out of a Kansas City high school and considered a likely mid-major college player.
Fraschilla said Agbaji is an example of a player who improved over a period of years to the point of being among “legitimate Naismith Award candidates” as national Player of the Year.
Fellow ESPN analyst Jay Bilas saluted Agbaji’s improvement.
“It’s beyond what I think anybody could have expected,” Bilas told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Like, he hasn’t been very good. He’s been great. . . . He’s been clutch. He’s been efficient. He’s added to his game. He’s not just a jump shooter.”
Kansas big man David McCormack said he has known Oscar Tshiebwe since their high school days. He called it “my optimal matchup. . . .
“When playing against a bruiser, you can be physical. You don’t have to worry about small tick-tack fouls. It’s kind of a relief.”
The two have spoken recently about the game and matchup, McCormack said.
“Saturday is going to be fun,” the Kansas big man said. “No brother-in-law ball. We’ll definitely be playing at 100 percent.”
The game is a sellout. But that should not be attributed to Kentucky as the opponent.
Kansas has had a sellout for more than 300 consecutive home games. The streak dates back to the 2001-02 season.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas noted the many Hall of Famers that can be associated with Kansas basketball.
“Whether it’s as a player, an assistant, a head coach . . . ,” he said. “I mean, it’s (Adolph) Rupp and (Dean) Smith. And you can go down the line. And then it’s also (Bill) Self and (John) Calipari.
“And that’s pretty compelling.”
Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and sideline reporter Holly Rowe will call the game for ESPN.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” show will originate from Allen Fieldhouse. It will be the first time the show has been on a college campus since 2020.
The show airs at 11 a.m. EST with host Rece Davis and analysts Seth Greenberg, LaPhonso Ellis and Bilas.