By LARRY VAUGHT
Think back to August when Tyler Herro was being compared to Rex Chapman, Jeff Sheppard and a lot of other former University of Kentucky former star players.
Both coach John Calipari and Chapman said to slow down then. Don’t put that pressure on a player just because he led UK in scoring at 17 points per game and shot 44 percent from 3-point range in four exhibition games.
Of course, the praise didn’t fade away.
Kentucky Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt talked about watching Herro torch the nets from 3-point range during a transition drill. Teammates raved about his scoring ability. Calipari even said he might be a better DEFENSIVE player than Keldon Johnson, one of the best defenders in the 2018 recruiting class.
“Life has been really good here,” Herro said before the season started. “I have a lot of fans asking for autographs and pictures but that’s good. I could never really go anywhere without somebody knowing me once I got to Lexington but it got worse after the Bahamas.”
He was the lowest rated player in UK’s recruiting class even though he was a top 30 player. However, his Bahamas performance put the expectations higher on him than any other UK freshman when the season opened.
He had 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the 34-point blowout loss to Duke. While the numbers looked good, most came after the game was out of hand and UK’s best 3-point shooter was just 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
In the second game against Southern Illinois, he didn’t score. He missed his only two 3-point shots and did not have an assist. He did pull off three rebounds.
So is he taking bad shots or just not making good shots? That’s what I asked Calipari.
“Probably both. I thought the open shots he had he didn’t take,” Calipari said after the Southern Illinois game. “And then he had one where he bounced it and tried to shoot it and then the fade away late. I’m telling him, you got to have the shot before you catch the ball. Before you catch it, you know you got a shot.
“In high school you catch it and you say, ‘Do I have a shot?’ And then you bounce it and just shoot it or do whatever, you’re the best player on the high school team. As you move in this sport, most of your shots are before you catch it and if some of it is, boom. Because he can shoot, you know and then he drives for layups or does the things he does. He’s still not there yet.”
After all the praise that was heaped on Herro before the season, including some by Calipari, the coach insisted he’s glad Herro has been struggling going into tonight’s game against North Dakota.
“I’m happy he’s going through this. Deal with it. You’re not, this isn’t just easy, it’s hard. Every game we play teams are going to come in here and play and they’re going to give us a good game,” Calipari said.
“Every kid that we bring here thinks this is going to be easy and that there’s a magic wand called Kentucky. You put the uniform on, you made it. Nope. You got to take what you want. You have to take it. And you have to be about your teammates. You can’t be about yourself here.”
That’s not criticism of Herro, or any player. It’s just a UK basketball fact.
“Stuff’s hard here. And you can’t just do what you want to do. Well, you don’t understand my game. I do. I do understand your game. I’m trying to get you to play a way that you look good and we win,” Calipari said.
The good thing here is that Herro would not want it any other way. He’s willing to learn. He’s team-oriented. And he knows he’s going to make shots. Don’t worry about confidence. Opening the season 1-for-8 from 3-point range won’t make him quit shooting.’
He may still need to learn how to get ready to get his shot or when to take it. But when he does take shots, he’s going to believe he will make them. And when he does make them, Kentucky is going to be a lot, lot better than when he doesn’t because he gives UK a dimension no other player will.