When the Wildcats got down on Saturday to Baylor there was no one to look to for support or a shoulder to lean on for John Calipari’s young freshman.
Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had Darius Miller.
Heck, every player since John Calipari has started coaching at Kentucky has had Darius Miller.
This team hasn’t been lucky enough to have a veteran presence to lean on when shots aren’t falling or when nothing is going right.
Andy Katz writes just how important Darius Miller was to last year’s championship team.
As I walked toward the press room at the Superdome, I heard a beep from an approaching golf cart. I paused, swerved and barely avoided a collision as the vehicle cruised through the venue’s corridors following the national title game. Kentucky senior Darius Miller sat on the back of the buggy with the championship trophy in his arms and a “Man, this feels good” smirk on his face.
The headlines rarely captured his full effect. Calipari’s collection of NBA-ready freshmen was the focus of the buzz surrounding the program. Not even future pros Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb defined last season’s Wildcats as much as Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague did.
Those youngsters, however, recognized their elder. In the buildup to the Final Four, they talked about winning one for Miller, the glue guy who’d arrived in Lexington as a wide-eyed teenager and left as a man.
Isaiah Austin has plenty of veteran players to turn to on the court at Baylor. Fellow freshman Nerlens Noel? Not so much.
Against Baylor on Saturday, the new Wildcats needed a Miller-like presence as the fog thickened on the program’s lofty preseason prospects. It was their second consecutive loss against a team with more experience and poise.
As Kentucky fumbled in the final minutes, Nerlens Noel looked at his equally bewildered teammates for answers. But without the veterans — Lamb and Jones had reached the Final Four in 2011 — that tend to ease the transition for talented young players even in this one-and-done climate, they were all lost.
John Calipari has said he doesn’t want this team to be his, but until someone steps up and takes leadership, it is either sink or swim time for the young Wildcats.