LEXINGTON, Ky. — Two things happened Monday: Kentucky basketball assistant coach Kenny Payne churned out so many good quotes and newsworthy items that we’re still writing about them, and beat writer Kyle Tucker got tired of people trashing a teenager, Jarred Vanderbilt, for hesitating to play on his thrice-injured left foot.
Host Curtis Burch and Kyle cover all of that and more on the latest episode of Wildcat Country, your daily Kentucky podcast presented by SEC Country. The rundown:
- Payne praised sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel for his effort and fight. He’s made several hustle plays off the bench for UK this season, the kind of plays freshmen might not make — and the kind of plays that win games. The kind of stuff “we need every player to do,” Payne said.
- Payne said the staff has not given up on freshman 7-footer Nick Richards, that he’s well trained and a good player, but he’s fallen into the familiar trap of thinking too much. The staff is trying to help him through it, although that doesn’t mean leaving him on the floor to keep making the same mistakes. He’s averaged just 13 minutes in five SEC games.
- As a Louisville alum and member of the 1986 national championship team for the Cardinals, Payne’s name keeps popping up as a possible coaching candidate at U of L. He is Kentucky’s highest-paid assistant ($800,000 annually starting next year) and top recruiter. But he said Monday it’s unfair to Louisville interim coach David Padgett to talk about that — and that he has a great job at UK.
- Payne also gave the most thorough update yet on 5-star freshman Vanderbilt, whose skills he raved about and whose delay in returning to the court he understands. There is a mental hurdle still to clear, which many frustrated fans don’t seem to get (or care about). This is where Kyle goes on his long rant about how people should treat a young athlete in this situation.