Dakari, Keep Doing What You're Doing!

02/13/2014 10:03 PM

Four games ago, Head Coach John Calipari decided it was time to have a starting lineup of all freshmen. This might sound a little like the days of coach Steve Fisher and his Fab 5 lineup at the University of Michigan from 1991-1993. And, there are similarities. In the last few seasons, not counting the abysmal year last year, Calipari has had freshman-heavy lineups and they have been very successful. This season, for some unknown reason, the young Wildcats of Kentucky have struggled mightily.

With what possibly could go down as the greatest group of talented freshmen in the history of college basketball, Calipari has had struggles no coach ever wants. Every coach expects their freshmen players to struggle with the adjustment to Division I basketball. But not Calipari. Not with kids THIS talented. And, not this late in the season. Coach Cal has had to baby them, give them tough love and everything in between to try and bring the “real” player out of these kids. It may sound like I am downplaying this season and the success they HAVE had so far, but I am merely pointing out facts.

Now back to my original thought. Four games ago, Coach Cal decided he wanted a starting lineup of only freshmen. Since then, the Cats are 4-0 and seem to be playing the best, not always consistent, basketball of the season. The main catalyst in the young Cats’ improvement is the young, 7-foot, 265-pound bruiser from Brooklyn, Dakari Johnson. The knock on Dakari coming from high school was that he was a below-the-rim big man, a 7 footer that couldn’t get a lot of elevation and has to bully his way in the post to score. We have all known this since the minute he stepped onto the national scene of major high school basketball.

With the emergence of Dakari, the team has seemed to raise the level of their play ever so slightly. Is this team still inconsistent? Do they still struggle to score against zone defense? Do they still frustrate fans with their lackadaisical defense sometimes? And on and on, yes the answer is an overwhelming YES! But, because of Dakari’s pure love of the game, this team has seemed to feed off him when he is in the game. He brings a certain toughness that you want a “bruiser” to bring to your basketball team. This team has struggled to be tough, deal with another team’s toughness and a lot of the players on this team flat out haven’t consistently shown toughness on the court.

With just seven games left in the season and quite possibly the most important game of the season on Saturday, these Cats need to quickly form their identity. I truly believe that as long as Dakari is on the court and pushing people around like stick figures, this team will have a chance against any opponent in America.

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