Calipari’s return postponed as Mercy drops out of Bluegrass Showcase

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Brad Calipari won’t be making a return trip to UK this week.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Detroit Mercy won’t be playing in the Bluegrass Showcase this week and Brad Calipari’s return to the Bluegrass has been postponed.

The Titans dropped out of the four-team event Wednesday because of COVID-19 protocols and a positive test within the program. Brad Calipari, son of Kentucky coach John Calipari, was scheduled to play the Wildcats Friday night, but postponed the contest, which could be rescheduled by the Gazelle Group later in the season.

“This thing (the virus), we don’t control it, it controls us,” John Calipari said earlier Monday.

Earlier Monday, Calipari gave an update on his son, saying he was proud of the way he prepared himself during the off-season.

“I’ll tell you what, what he’s done discipline-wise — his diet,” the Kentucky coach said. “What he’s done (with his) training. He went up to South Dakota and trained on his own. Like, he said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And he stayed in the hotel and washed his own sheets. He loves his team. He loves Mike (Davis). He said their team is better.”

Things changed on Monday night and the Titans will have to wait at least another week to open the season.

“We believe the decision to cancel our games and not travel is best for everyone’s health and safety,” Detroit Mercy athletics director Robert C. Vowels Jr. said. “We have had no positive tests with both our men’s and women’s basketball programs since we started our testing requirements in early October. Our student-athletes, coaches, and staff have done a great job abiding by all the guidelines put forth, but with the rise in positive cases across the country, it, unfortunately, was able to get inside our program.”

Vowels added he’s “hopeful that it is isolated to one individual.”

“We will take the time this week to make sure everyone stays healthy and tests negative and hope to start our season next week,” he said.

Kentucky opens the three-day event against Morehead State on Wednesday night and is scheduled to play the University of Richmond at 1 p.m. Sunday.

EX-CAT EVANS PASSES AWAY

 Former University of Kentucky letter winner Billy Evans passed away Saturday at the age of 88.

Evans played for the Wildcats from 1952-55 and was a member of the freshman squad in 1951. The Berea native scored 716 points and grabbed 549 rebounds in 83 games at Kentucky. He played at Berea High.

He played alongside former Kentucky standouts Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos. Evans averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in his final season with the Wildcats.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t put me in the same boat with Hagan and Ramsey, who were All-Americans, but life was all better for me for having played basketball there,” Evans said in an oral history interview produced by the university.

While with the Wildcats, Kentucky went 77-6, including a 25-0 mark in the 1953-54 season.

“Billy Evans is among the great players from our commonwealth who helped build the tradition of University of Kentucky basketball,” said Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart. “His legacy as an all-around athlete and a winner always will be part of our history. Our condolences are with his wife, Nancy, and his family and friends.”

Evans was drafted in the fifth round of the 1955 NBA Draft by the Rochester Royals and won a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics and the 1959 Pan American Games. He was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in the charter class and his jersey hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters.

“It’s special,” Evans said of his jersey retirement. “I don’t go around to everybody and say, ‘Look up there,’ but it’s an honor. I’m happy to be there.”

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John Calipari isn’t worried just yet, but after watching a scrimmage Sunday, the Kentucky coach has every reason to be concerned going into Wednesday’s season opener against Morehead State in the Bluegrass Showcase.

I’ve got two feet and two hands on the panic button,” Calipari said Monday. “If I was worried about (the University of) Richmond right now, I would have my head pushing it down, too.”

Calipari hopes the preseason rut has his team anxious for the season to begin, a process that has taken longer because of the ongoing pandemic that has placed a dose of uncertainty on the upcoming season.

“I’m just hoping that they needed to play against somebody else and they just got tired of each other. Because if not, I’m going to have to be the most patient soul on the earth when we start the season like 0-6,” he said.

Kentucky guard Davion Mintz agreed with Calipari and is hopeful the Wildcats “got the kinks out.”

“We wrecked the car yesterday just to get it back rolling for Wednesday,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where I feel like it has to happen, and it was a humbling experience. I think we’re just fine. I think we’re tired of playing each other. That was like the biggest problem for the flaws yesterday.

“I think we’re just really excited to get out there and play other people. I mean, it’s been the same faces for I don’t even know how many months now. We’re right there at the finish line. We’re just ready to get it going.”

Olivier Sarr added the Wildcats “didn’t bring energy from the jump” which led to a dismal practice session.

“The second team really punched us in the mouth from the get-go,” he said. “It took us time to react. Stay organized. A lot of mistakes are going to happen, but we’ve got to stay locked in.”

Overall, Calipari has been pleased with a revamped roster that features just one player — Keion Brooks —  who played significant minutes last season. Brooks is listed as day-to-day as he recovers from a leg injury he sustained in practice last month.

“We’ve got good kids,” he said. “We’re asking guys to do stuff they’ve never done before, which means they’re going to be a little uncomfortable. Asking them to create habits they’ve never had before, which means they’re a little bit uncomfortable.”

Calipari’s biggest disappointment has been his team’s lack of blocks in the post, which had left the Kentucky coach puzzled, considering the team’s roster features 10 players who are taller than 6-foot-6, including Sarr, who is listed as 7-foot.

“We have shot blockers — we just don’t block any shots,” he said. “I don’t understand it, but we don’t. We have length but we’re not really good defensively right now, and I think a lot of it is team defense.”

In addition, Calipari said the team’s demeanor has been somewhat of a disappointment during preseason workouts.

“(We) can’t have body language (and we) can’t have meltdowns,” he said. “You’ve gotta be with these guys and really locked in. Yesterday showed us that we have that in us. Oh my gosh. Let’s hope we got it out (Sunday), because if that becomes who we are, whew, going to be rough.”

Gametracker: Morehead State at Kentucky, 6 p.m. Wednesday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.