Since becoming head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, John Calipari has become known for coaching teams loaded with freshmen. Coach Cal has taken advantage of the so called “one and done” rule more than any coach in the college game.
The 2014 version of the Cats is no different. In fact, over the last four games, Calipari has switched to a starting lineup made up entirely of freshmen. Former McDonald’s All-Americans Julius Randle, James Young and Andrew Harrison are among the standouts for Calipari’s fifth Kentucky squad.
However, in Saturday’s 69-59 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Calipari turned to a pair of his veterans to provide a spark to the team. Seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson both played season-high minutes in the contest, and each made enough plays to pull Kentucky through a sluggish effort in Starkville.
Hood, who had played in only seven games all season until Saturday, played 13 minutes, and came up with a couple of big plays. Hood hit a three-pointer, just his second of the season, and had a key offensive rebound to keep a possession for Kentucky.
Polson’s contributions don’t necessarily show up in the box score. In his 30 minutes of action, the senior scored just two points, but did grab three rebounds and hand out an assist. He also played good defense, coming up with two steals. But Polson’s primary contribution was running the team and organizing the offense on a day when Aaron Harrison clearly didn’t have his best.
While freshmen are going to continue to dominate the minutes and the stats for the Big Blue, getting big contributions from players like Hood and Polson is icing on the cake for Calipari. And what the Kentucky coach hopes is that the freshmen see the passion and hard work that these two seniors put in during Saturday’s game, and that it might translate to their talented rookie teammates.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.