Kentucky basketball: Cats dominate Kentucky State despite injuries, grief

Kentucky Wildcats forward Lance Ware ( Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats forward Lance Ware ( Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 3

It may have been a tough week injury and grief-wise for the Kentucky basketball team but the Wildcats showed it didn’t affect them on the court with a dominating 111-53 exhibition win over Kentucky State.

The Wildcats didn’t look particularly sharp in their exhibition win earlier in the week over Missouri Western State and first-team pre-season Southeastern Conference point guard Sahvir Wheeler left the game with an injury that kept him out of the Kentucky State game.

The Cats are also without the services of returning Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe who is already recovering from surgery. John Calipari admitted Tshiebwe probably will miss the Cat’s opening two regular season games next week. Wheeler’s injury is also not expected to be long-term.

Injuries are something every team deals with more physically than mentally. These are overcome and timetables are more of a given as a recovery time.

What’s not is a grieving process.

On Tuesday Calipari broke the news to his team of the sudden passing of Damion Collins’ father Ben.  Damion, Calipari, and the Wildcats as a whole are working through this as a collective, and clearly by Calipari’s time spent after the game talking about it is more of a priority.

The Rupp Arena crowd offered a moment of silence before the game started.

Calipari may take flack for all the “Cal speak” he delivers, but when it comes to his faith closeness with his players and their families and how he and his wife Ellen open their doors and hearts to the players is unparalleled.

Calipari admitted that he was good until he saw the team and then took him a while to get composed to deliver his message to them.

“And the message, you know, it wasn’t what Ben (Collins) did and it’s not something that someone did to Ben. God took him. The night before he was with Daimion. They were in the gym for an hour and a half. When he got back to the apartment he called his wife. They were on the phone for 20 minutes. When he hung up the phone sometime shortly thereafter he passed away.”

The Calipari’s opened their home to players who needed a place to talk and be together.

“Now, for the team, that first night we had I think six guys stayed at my house and then his mother and sister and auntie came in and cousins. And then we had — they stayed at the house.”

Calipari was also asked about what he told his young sophomore.

“Daimion, he’s very quiet. And I told him grieving and depression, you’re going to get in a dark place. My only thing to him was, if all you’re doing is sleeping and looking at that phone, you’re in a dark place. If you need to talk to players, talk to your teammates. Even if you’re crying, you’ve got to talk to somebody. The other thing is, you’ve got to exercise to get yourself going.”