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CJ Fredrick provides fresh insight into Kentucky's offensive struggles

Article written by:On3 imageZack Geoghegan

ZGeogheganKSR

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Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari has publicly leaned on a lack of practice time with a fully healthy roster this season as a driving factor for his team’s early shortcomings. The Wildcats sit on a 3-2 record, with both losses coming in disappointing fashion to Michigan State and Gonzaga in under five days. Multiple players have been in and out of the lineup over the last several weeks: Reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe missed four weeks, starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler sat out a couple of games, and sophomore forward Daimion Collins was briefly away to deal with the sudden passing of his father.

It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that Kentucky has been able to practice with the full team all playing together. After both losses, Calipari made it a point to talk about the lack of practice time. He revealed that his squad could barely run a simple offensive set against Gonzaga, adding with optimism that they’ll come along with more time behind the scenes.

The Big Blue Nation, however, wasn’t exactly buying that theory. Many pointed to the extra practice sessions that were allowed back in the summer ahead of the team’s trip to the Bahamas. That Kentucky team looked dominant in August, although the competition wasn’t anything compared to the actual college basketball season they’ve faced so far.

So, what happened to that version? Well, on Tuesday morning, redshirt senior CJ Fredrick gave us a fresh perspective on the situation. The Bahamas practices were about team bonding and getting to know each other on the floor, while the practices over the last couple of weeks have been focused on introducing an organized offense.

“The difference is, when we were getting ready for the Bahamas, we were just out there learning how to play with each other,” Fredrick told reporters. “We weren’t putting in any of our sets that we run in the season. It was all based off feel and stuff like that. So when we get back and Oscar goes out and then Sahvir goes out, and that time is when we put our sets in. We learn to grind, with three minutes left what we’re running and stuff like that. So when you have Sahvir and Oscar out — two big pieces — it changes a lot of things. I’ve really only practiced with Oscar and Sahvir maybe once or twice.

“And I’m not making any excuses for the losses or anything like that, but it’s just something that’s gonna help us as we go forward.”

This feels like a significant note from Fredrick, and one that makes sense. Heading into the summer, Calipari was acclimating five new faces that have all played rotational minutes at some point this season — six if you count Ugonna Onyenso‘s arrival to UK after the Bahamas trip. In reality, this isn’t anything new to Calipari — he’s been bringing in a fresh batch of guys every year since he arrived in Lexington. Those teams have had a tendency to start slow, too.

An important stretch lies ahead

As we inch closer to Thanksgiving break, Kentucky will have plenty of time to bring the offense along. The ‘Cats will face North Florida on Wednesday afternoon before taking a five-day break from game action. Another four days off will follow that before it’s off to London for a showdown against Michigan.

“It’s gonna be a big learning week for us,” Fredrick added. “First we’ve gotta take care of business (against North Florida) and lock in on that but that’s gonna be a good time to just lock in with each other, play with different groups, learn each other a little more and just really lock in and connect as a team.”

Calipari mentioned this week that the team wants to do more 5-on-5 scrimmaging to help bring the offense along. Fredrick confirmed that on Tuesday.

“I think as a collective group, we wanted to get back to — especially with not all of us playing together as a whole team, just getting back to playing 5-on-5 and making the games a little easier for us and getting back to those practices where we were able to at least get out there and make some mistakes and learn about each other a little more.”

With nearly two weeks of preparation awaiting Kentucky, there should be a noticeable improvement once December rolls around.

You can listen to the entire press conference from Fredrick below, along with everything his teammate Antonio Reeves had to say, as well.

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2022-12-04