Since last season ended, Kentucky Coach John Calipari has repeatedly said that the program needs to upgrade its facilities. “It’s not the gold standard,” he said recently.
But two UK players speaking to reporters Friday made that sound more like a solution in search of a problem.
When asked what he thought of UK’s facilities, Antonio Reeves, who transferred from Illinois State this offseason, said, “Uh, my first impression was wow. I can’t believe how (there’s) so many resources.”
Sahvir Wheeler, who transferred to Kentucky from Georgia last year, echoed that sentiment.
“This is state-of-the-art facilities already, I think,” he said before adding, “but that is a little out of my department.”
Facilities were not part of his decision to transfer to UK, Wheeler said.
“I came here for the opportunity to play for a Hall of Fame coach and to be able to win and compete for a national title,” he said before adding, “To be able to play against the best in practice as well in games.
“If you’re coming for facilities, that’s great because we do have some really nice ones. But that’s not why I chose here or Georgia.”
No red meat. No pasta. No rice for a half month. No bread for a whole month. Not eating after 8 pm No more snacking. No more ice cream at midnight.
While acknowledging that gaining weight when idled by injury hurt his performance last season, Wheeler spoke of gaining an advantage this offseason by losing weight thanks to a change of diet.
“I’m in a great space physically and mentally,” he said. “I feel cleaner. … I feel I have more energy.”
Pork? “I never ate pork a day in my life. …,” he said. “I don’t even know what it tastes like.”
A moment earlier, he joked, “I’m not on Weight Watchers or anything like that.”
“I’m even faster,” he said. “I’m even more explosive than I was last year.”
Shaedon Sharpe, who became a none-and-done player for Kentucky by only practicing last season before entering this year’s NBA Draft, made a positive impression.
“An NBA player,” Wheeler said. “Shaedon can do everything.”
That included contributing off the practice court, Wheeler said. “Shaedon is a great teammate. If you come here, you’re a great teammate. And that is what he is first. He was the first one to celebrate with us. When someone did something bad, he was also the first one to pick us up. … It never felt like he wasn’t part of the team. … When he came in December, it felt like he was there the whole year. That’s how good of a teammate he was.”
As for Sharpe’s basketball ability, Wheeler said, “On the court, freaky athlete, super athletic. He can handle it. He can shoot the ball. Any scenario coming up, pin downs, catch and shoot, create shots for himself, and he’s unselfish. And he’s not as good a passer as me (chuckles) but he’s definitely unselfish and he’s willing to make the right play. So, I’m happy for him.”
Literally a brother
UK and other college players often promote team cohesion by referring to teammates as “brothers.”
For Wheeler, that has been literally true so far this preseason.
“I have a little brother with me right now who’s staying with me, who’s been with me for the last week and a half,” the UK point guard said. “Letting him kind of experience what it takes to be at this level. I feel like I’m leading him then without me even knowing it’s him. Watching practice, knowing he’s there watching practice. I’ve got to make sure I’m on my A-game not only for him but for the rest of my teammates. Every day is a learning experience and I’m enjoying it, I really am.”
Lincoln Wheeler is the UK player’s 14-year-old brother.
When asked if his brother was having a great experience at UK, Sahvir Wheeler said, “Definitely. He’s having fun. He’s been at some of our workouts. He’s hung out with us as a team and when we’re in the Lodge. I even got him a ticket to the Rod Wave (and Friends concert at Rupp Arena last Friday). … It’s been really fun. I’ve been trying to make the experience as fun as I can for him, and I know he’s appreciating it. I flew him up for his birthday. He spent the day with me on his birthday and I know it has been great.”
Kansas surpassed Kentucky in terms of all-time victories last season. Kansas has 2,357 victories going into next season while Kentucky has 2,353.
“I attribute that to the year before I got here,” Wheeler playfully said. “When they had nine wins, (Kansas) wouldn’t have caught up.”
Wheeler downplayed the notion of most all-time victories being a motivating factor when Kentucky plays Kansas in next season’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Although he said the topic of most all-time victories “went viral” last season, Wheeler suggested Kentucky’s 80-62 victory at Kansas might hang heavier in the air when the teams play in Rupp Arena on Jan. 28.
“They’re going to come with some vengeance because of what we did to them at the Phog last year,” he said of the Jayhawks.