Coaches, players know Cats need Wheeler at his best to be successful

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Sahvir Wheeler’s minutes have diminished during Kentucky’s three-game winning streak, but the senior point guard remains a valuable piece of the puzzle.

“For us to reach the heights that we’re capable of reaching, we need a good Sahvir (Wheeler),” Kentucky assistant coach Chin Coleman said Monday ahead of Tuesday’s encounter at Vanderbilt. “If everyone is good, no one player has to be great.

“We know that we need Sahvir to be good for us, and he will be. It’s a long season. He’s not out. I think our staff, our players, everyone knows how much we need Sahvir. I think that he understands that.”

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Wheeler’s teammates also are aware of his importance to the team.

“I know a lot of people are talking bad about him, but this team is nothing without Sahvir,” Kentucky forward Jacob Toppin said recently. “He does a lot for us, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He brings a lot of energy to this team, and he changes the pace of the game on the offensive end. He defends very well, even though he’s small.

“He fights, he’s tough, so all the negative comments about him could go out the window. He’s really important to this team, and we need him in order to do something special.”

Wheeler played just eight minutes in Kentucky’s win over Texas A&M Saturday and was on the floor for 11 minutes against Georgia. Coleman said the senior guard has yet to complain about the recent changes in the lineup that has Cason Wallace running the point.

“He’s happy with the way the other guys are playing, and as long as they’re playing good, and we’re long as we’re winning, he’s OK with that,” Coleman said. “But he’s still a big part of what we’re doing, and that’s not going to change.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari added that Wheeler will need to play for his squad to succeed.

“I’ve played off guards at point many times in my career,” he said. “You’ve just got to play a little different. The reason I like Sahvir, the game is faster, and we need to get something up-and-down. I love having him in.

“Did you see the assist he threw where he got in the lane (against Texas A&M), and he threw it to Antonio (Reeves)? Loved that. He also mixes it up. But I’ve also played with off-guards at point. They’re just different. But in most cases, it gives you one more scorer on the court.”

Tshiebwe honored

Kentucky senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe was named SEC Player of the Week for the first time this season. Tshiebwe averaged 22 points and 20.5 rebounds per game in wins over Georgia and Texas A&M at home last week.

Tshiebwe scored a career-high 37 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in Kentucky’s 85-71 win over the Bulldogs.