Calipari seeks to help Askew break out of his slump
After seemingly coaxing BJ Boston out of a long struggle to find his five-star stride, Kentucky coach John Calipari is now focused on helping another highly regarded freshman overcome a slump.
Devin Askew is the latest Wildcat to endure a rough stretch during Kentucky's frustrating 5-10 season. The California native has scored just 10 points in his last four games while shooting just 2-for-19 from the field and turning the ball over nine times.
It's been an abrupt halt to the progress Askew had displayed earlier this month when he had reached double figures in four out of six games.
"I believe he's over-thinking everything," Calipari said Wednesday night during his weekly radio show. "I really do. Like, this is pretty simple. Get us started, fly up and down that court, get rid of the ball -- get rid of it! -- and when it comes back to you, make plays.
"But that is not the habit he's had. The habit is to be ball-dominant. Well, on this team, we don't need that guy, and in reality, other than a Tyler Ulis or a John Wall, we really haven't had that guy."
The UK boss said that even a player as talented as Jamal Murray -- now emerging as a superstar with the Denver Nuggets -- had to learn how to make similar changes to his bad habits while at Kentucky.
With the Wildcats taking a day off from practice Wednesday after suffering a tough loss the previous night at Alabama, Calipari met with each player individually to discuss goals for the remainder of the season.
The discussion with Askew dealt with handling pressure on the court and off of it. The young guard, who graduated from high school a year early to join the Wildcats, is taking a hefty dose of criticism from fans that he has likely never experienced before in his basketball career.
"Here's what I said to him (Wednesday), and I'm breaking a confidence," Calipari said. "It's not what happens to you, it's how you respond to it. Do you blame? Do you go under the covers? I mean, look, I'm older. I've been through so much in my life. I'm 54 years old (sic). I've been through a lot. But these kids haven't, and you have to keep reminding them of their response to this... When things get really bad, your response matters even more."
Boston offered his own words of encouragement to his teammate, having dealt with the same pressure and criticism himself before coming out on the positive side with a recent stretch of impressive games.
“I would just tell him tunnel vision, just stay in the gym and keep working hard and to keep his confidence high," Boston said. "Everything will fall into place. I feel like everyone needs those encouraging words when they’re going through tough times.”
Calipari believes Askew will tough it out, so to speak.
"Devin Askew is a great kid. He's not a good kid. He's a great kid," Calipari said. "... He wants to please me so bad, I think he's over-thinking."
Kentucky returns to action Saturday against No. 5 Texas (11-3) in the Big12-SEC Challenge at Rupp Arena.