LEXINGTON – January 7, 2022 – KEITH TAYLOR
Kentucky may be without its starting point guard Saturday.
Sahvir Wheeler, who suffered a neck strain on a screen in the Wildcats’ 65-60 loss at LSU on Tuesday night, will unlikely play against his former teammates when Kentucky hosts Georgia.
“The neck is still bothering him, so it will be day-to-day,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who didn’t expect Wheeler to practice on Friday. “I know he wants to play against Georgia. And he’s not doing it out of spite. He just wants to play games. But, you know, it’ll be day-to-day.”
If Wheeler isn’t able to play Saturday, TyTy Washington will likely take over at the point guard, while Davion Mintz will split time with Washington.
“Everybody knows that the guy that stirs the drink for us is Sahvir,” Calipari said. “But you’ve got two guys that can play that position that run our club. I told him, ‘You’ve got to sub yourself before TV timeouts. You can’t try and play every minute.’ Yesterday he was really good, and we’ll see what happens for us. If he’s that guy if Sahvir cannot play, the ball will be in his hands more.”
In Tuesday’s loss at LSU, Washington took over for Wheeler as the Wildcats (11-3, 1-1) nearly escaped with a win before a late collapse enabled the Tigers to take a six-point victory in Baton Rouge. Calipari’s focus in practice this week has been establishing late-game clarity with his squad.
“(We’ve tried to) make it a little clearer for these guys so there is no confusion — ‘This is how we’re doing this. Last four minutes, this is what we’re doing in these kinds of games,’” he said. “Because, to be honest, three games, we’ve got a chance to win with four minutes to go, and the three games we lost we kind of did the same thing. So, that comes back to me.”
Although Georgia (5-9, 0-1) has struggled, Calipari doesn’t think it will be an easy contest for his squad and said Tom Crean’s team is capable of pulling off an upset. The Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats 63-62 last year in Athens.
“They had Texas A&M beat,” Calipari said. “They had the lead with six seconds to go and a kid makes a pull-up 3, not a screen, not a screen down and screen away play, the kid just came down and jacked a 3 and it was guarded, and he makes the 3 at the buzzer and that’s how they lose. And Texas A&M is 12-2. … it’s a good challenge.”
Heralded prep start Shaedon Sharpe joined the Wildcats on Thursday, but don’t expect him to make any kind of impact this season, Calipari said. He indicated he has no immediate plans to play Sharpe, but added unforeseen injuries and other circumstances could change his status with the team in the future.
“He’s a ways away from playing games, and it may be a year from now,” Calipari said. “And they all know. I talked to them. We don’t have a plan for him to play this year. Maybe he does, but that is not the plan, and it never has been. Now, I never said it because I wanted everybody to go crazy, all the other places. ‘Well, they may have him.’ But, the reality of it is we never had a plan.”
Calipari has a history of holding out his mid-year transfers but prepares them in practice for the following season. Oscar Tshiebwe enrolled last winter and practiced with the Wildcats but didn’t make any game appearances last season.
“If I don’t think he’s ready to be put in a game, I’m not going to do that to him,” Calipari said. “I’m trying to protect all of these kids. I kind of explained that to him in my vision for how you need to play. In most cases it’s I want you to be aggressive, I want you to do what you do best, but I also want to protect you. So, with him, you’ve got to get in unbelievable shape, he’s not even close to that.”
Gametracker: Georgia at Kentucky, 6 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.