John Calipari has been the Kentucky Wildcats head coach since the 2009-10 season. Since that season, he has missed the NCAA tournament just twice. One of those seasons came in the 2012-13 season. Kentucky missed the NCAA tournament that year after Nerlens Noel tore his ACL. The 2nd none tournament appearance came last season. After last season Calipari made some changes to the roster and coaching staff.
Two significant changes Calipari made to the coaching staff was hiring Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman as assistant coaches. Both of them are coming over from Brad Underwood’s staff at Illinois. Antigua was an assistant coach for Calipari from 2008 to 2014. He recruited Karl Anthony-towns, Nerlens Noel, Terrence Jones, and Trey Lyles to Kentucky. While at Illinois, Antigua recruited Kofi Cockburn, Andre Curbelo, and Andres Feliz. Chin Coleman doesn’t have the eye-popping resume that Antigua does. Illinois was Coleman’s first power five assistant coaching job. At Illinois, Coleman impressed he recruited Adam Miller and Brandin Podziemski. Those names aren’t the reason Calipari hired Antigua and Coleman. Antigua and Coleman were hired because they recruited guys that filled out the roster well at Illinois. Those two focused on getting players who will stay on the roster for two or three years.
Addressing problems the team had last year was the approach Calipari and his new staff took this offseason. Last year’s Kentucky Wildcats team lacked shooting, playmaking, scoring, and leadership. Kentucky addressed those problems by getting Sahvir Wheeler, C.J. Fredrick, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Kellan Grady in the Transfer portal. Each of these players brings things Kentucky lacked. Sahvir Wheeler is an outstanding playmaker, and Wheeler averaged 5.8 assists in his two years at Georgia. C.J. Fredrick brings shooting; Fredrick shot 46% from three-point range in his two years at Iowa. Tshiebwe has proved he can score during his time with West Virginia. He averaged 10.6 points per game with the mountaineers. Grady is also a proven scorer. While at Davidson, he averaged 17.4 points per game in four years.
Having Four upperclassmen being key contributors isn’t normal for a Kentucky Wildcats team lead by Calipari. Typically Calipari best players on his former teams were freshman that would leave after one year. Having upperclassmen will allow incoming freshman TyTy Washington, Daimion Collins, and Bryce Hopkins not to be relied on as much.
The 2021-22 Kentucky Wildcats will look completely different from last year’s team. On paper, this Kentucky team is filled with talent on the roster and coaching staff. We will have to wait to see how this team meshes together on the court.