Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Calipari Says Opponents Must Adjust to Platoon System, Too
John Calipari is still experimenting with a platoon system in which he plans to give up to 12 guys regular minutes this season.
But one clear advantage he believes his No. 1-ranked Kentucky team will have is this: opponents will have to adjust to the platoon more than his own players will.
“The good news is that other guy we start playing against is going to have to figure out what these 10 guys or 12 are, and how one unit plays versus how another unit plays, what are they doing in pick’n rolls, what are they doing on post-ups, this group plays one way, this group plays the other way,” Calipari said after Kentucky’s Blue-White Scrimmage Monday night in which freshman guard Devin Booker went for 22 points and freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns of St. Joe’s-Metuchen in New Jersey went for 20 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. “The issues I’m going to have, the other coach is going to have, too.”
Calipari has already addressed that the challenge for this team will be ignoring the outside “clutter,” or outside influences like media, friends and family who are questioning how many minutes each player gets. He’s already turned it, smartly, into an us vs. them situation.
Still, it remains to be seen how it all plays out as Calipari tries to find minutes for four talented freshmen — Towns,Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis — alongside Andrew and Aaron Harrison and experienced frontcourt players like Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress.
Asked how he would apply the platoon system in games, Calipari confessed, “I don’t know yet. I got to get in games and do it.”
Still, he has a legitimate point that opposing coaches are going to have headaches trying to matchup with a team featuring nine McDonald’s All-Americans and multiple future NBA first-round picks.
“There are going to be issues that we’ll have that I’m going to have to deal with, and there are going to be issues that other coaches are going to have that he’s going to have to deal with,” Calipari said.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who spoke to the Wildcats about the “clutter” issue, and a veteran NBA scout both agreed that the platoon could cause headaches for opposing coaches.
“Harder for opponents to match,” Bilas said. “Cal can always shorten his rotation if he needs to, but there’s no team that can match UK’s depth of talent, 1 through 12.”
One NBA scout concurred. “Harder for teams to deal with. [Kentucky] has great energy and always has a fresh, talented body to put in the game.”
We shall all get a glimpse of the platoon early since Kentucky takes on Kansas on Nov. 18 in the Champions Classic.
The Wildcats also play Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville in December.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.