UK Basketball: Vargas deserves more playing time, Calipari says
Kentucky center Eloy Vargas has ¿gotten better,¿ according to coach John Calipari and probably has deserved more minutes than he¿s received recently due to the play of senior Josh Harrellson. (Victoria Graff)
“The one thing I haven't done is played he and Josh together, and I wish I would have more because the way Eloy is playing right now, he and Josh both deserve more minutes. Josh, I can't take away his minutes, but Eloy deserves more minutes,” said Calipari. “And if I was comfortable enough playing them both together, he would be getting more minutes.
“He went into the Princeton game and really helped us. He went in the Florida game and really helped us. He went in the Tennessee game and really helped us. He's really done good, and I'm proud of him. He's another one that hasn't gotten the minutes. Part of the reason is the guys you're playing behind are pretty good. But he's done well.”
Vargas is averaging just 1.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 8.1 minutes per game. He has 23 blocked shots in the 35 games he’s played, but he gave UK some solid minutes in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and NCAA tournament.
Vargas could find himself playing crucial minutes at 9:45 p.m. Friday when UK plays Ohio State in the East Regional in Newark, N.J. The No. 1 Buckeyes have one of the nation’s premier players in freshman center Jared Sullinger.
Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua recruited Vargas, who spent one year at Florida before transferring to Miami Dade Community College. He thinks Vargas just needs time.
“It is a process for any junior college kid that comes in. It takes time,” Antigua, who sometimes speaks to Vargas in Spanish to emphasize his points, said. “You have to learn how hard you have to work, then you have to get in shape. Then you have to get confidence and that is where he is at right now. A lot of his improvement has come from seeing how Josh (Harrellson) has worked and he’s there every time Josh is. He’s right in the middle of it and it has helped him.
“I think it is a hard process. It’s a different level coming from a junior college to high level basketball. It just takes an adjustment period for almost any kid. We always talk. We try as coaches to keep encouraging and pushing him and telling him what we see. But it is up to him to do the work.”
Here’s what Vargas had to say about his play while the Wildcats were in Tampa, Fla. last week for NCAA play:
Question: Do you feel like your play improved late in the season?
Vargas: “The coaches have been telling me I have played more better than I did before. I try to play harder to help my team than I did earlier. I do have more confidence. At times early I kind of let my ego get in the way and I was afraid to make a mistake. Now I just go in there and don’t think about anything except playing hard.”
Question: Was it hard to understand just what your best role on this team would be?
Vargas: “It was at first. Then I had a lot of things on my mind, too. Now I just play.”
Question: Are there more things we can see from Eloy Vargas next year after a full offseason to improve?
Vargas: “For sure. The summer will be great for me. I can come back and play more minutes and do more things.”
Question: Did not being here last summer when you were finishing junior college classes hurt you more than you realized at first this season?
Vargas: “It probably did. I missed the three games when they went to Canada (for exhibition play). If I had been here and gone on the trip, it probably would have helped me a lot.”
Question: What things do you want to work on during the summer?
Vargas: “I have to work on my lower body and get it stronger and get more quicker to jump higher. That’s what I really need. I think my offense is pretty good. I just have to concentrate more on what I am going to do. This year I have concentrated on defense and trying to help my team more than offense because we have a lot of people who can score. I just go into games and try to get rebounds and block shots. If I get an offensive rebound, then I put it back up.”