By LARRY VAUGHT
Certainly John Calipari must have his reasons for not playing redshirt freshman Dontaie Allen, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Pendleton County.
However, those reasons continue to be hard for many UK basketball fans to understand because of Kentucky’s offensive struggles. The Cats have not scored more than 64 points in their last six games — all losses — and are averaging only 64.9 points per game this year.
Allen didn’t play Saturday in the 62-59 loss to Louisville even though a few days earlier Calipari said he was “rooting” for Allen.
“I told Dontaie today to be ready for your chance,” Calipari said after the loss. “If I don’t think Terrence (Clarke) can go, I am going with you and it is going to be your opportunity. There were two times I thought about putting him in. One in the first half, which I wish I would have because then I would have been able to play him in the second half. If I don’t play a guy in the first half and it goes on, you know …”
Kentucky shot only 34 percent from the field in the loss and missed 12 of 17 3-pointers. Four of the five 3-pointers were by Mintz. Brandon Boston and Terrence Clarke both missed all three 3-pointers they tried and Devin Askew was 1-for-5.
Why not play Allen, a prolific scorer in high school?
“He is going to have a chance. It just wasn’t tonight. I coached the game to win. That’s all I did,” Calipari said.
Kentucky fans wonder how Allen could be any worse than what they have seen from a 1-6 team that has trouble scoring. Maybe Allen would help, but it’s hard to see how he could hurt. It’s also logical to assume Calipari sees a bigger upside long term with Clarke and Boston, both projected first-round draft picks.
But why not give Allen a chance and see if maybe he could help UK get a needed win now?
Calipari’s first question after the Louisville loss was about Allen. At the end of a long answer, pay attention to what Calipari said.
“I don’t play favorites. You guys (in the media) know me here. If you’re going to help us win, I’m going to play you. If someone else is better than you, they get the first opportunity. If they’re not playing well, and you get an opportunity, and you don’t play well …,” Calipari said.
“The top seven (players), they get more room to miss shots and make mistakes. That’s just how it is. Since the game was invented, that has been what it is. If you’re one of those top five or six, you get more room.
“You’re eight, nine or 10 –- you’re going to get chances, but not as much space as those others because they’ve earned it in practice, they’ve earned it on the court, and that’s what we do.”
Social media speculation has swirled concerning the possibility Allen might transfer. He had offers from Louisville, Western Kentucky, Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, West Virginia, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech.
Some close to Allen have told me they do not see him leaving. Remember, he accepted Calipari’s scholarship offer almost immediately. Playing at Kentucky was his dream.
My guess is that no one hates all this speculation and the spotlight on this subject more than Allen. What he wants is a chance to play, not attention. When he gets the chance, only Calipari knows.