A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky guard Sahvir Wheeler learning to adapt, grow in redefined roll with Wildcats

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

In the middle of his senior season, Sahvir Wheeler is learning to accept his redefined role at Kentucky.

The team’s primary point guard for the past two seasons, Wheeler has came off the bench during three of the past four games and played significant minutes in the Wildcats’ 69-53 win at Vanderbilt Tuesday night. Wheeler finished with four points and added five assists.

After sitting out Kentucky’s 63-56 win at No. 4 Tennessee on Jan. 14 with a shoulder injury, freshman Cason Wallace has taken over playmaking duties for the Wildcats in a revamped starting lineup featuring Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe. The current starting five has a 4-0 record going into Saturday’s showdown against No. 9 Kansas in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.

Sahvir Wheeler looks for a lane to pass through against Yale earlier this year. (Photo by Les Nicholson, Kentucky Today)

“Those guys who’ve been playing the past couple of games are the guys who’ve been winning games,” Wheeler said. “That’s the group that went and popped Tennessee.”

To his credit, Wheeler has ignored critics and learned to adapt to his new role.

“At the end of the day we’re at Kentucky (and) I’m playing with some really good players,” he said. “Sometimes that’s OK. You gotta learn to live with that and learn to grow from it and be mature about it, because those guys deserve to play as much as anybody else.

“Those guys are fighting in practice, working their tails off, paying attention to details, they deserve that. Today it was just my turn to kind of give us some energy. I did that, but you got to give all of the credit to these guys cause they were the ones who were in there when I wasn’t.”

His teammates, including Fredrick, praised Wheeler’s performance against the Commodores.

“He comes in every single day with the leadership mentality, and he’s been ready to go and he was ready (at Vandy),” Fredrick said. “He’s gonna continue to do that. You know, he’s our guy. We have tremendous faith in Sahvir. That’s just the kind of guy he is, every day he brings it. Great in practice, today he was the reason that we got up so big … he was that ignite we needed today.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari also was pleased with Wheeler’s outing.

“I kissed him, I said ‘I’m about ready to cry,’” the Kentucky coach said. “I know what he’s been through. You don’t. Some people out there that threw stuff at this kid. You don’t know what it does. Everybody respects who he is as a player and respects that he’s taken on another role. And he’s being an all-star at that. It didn’t change anything about his game. He gets to watch the game for a few minutes before he steps in.”

Celebration planned for 1996-98 teams

Kentucky will have a celebration for three of its best three teams in school history next month.

The Wildcats will honor the school’s three teams from 1996-98 with a reunion on Feb. 18 at Central Bank Center. A reunion for members of those three teams, including coaches, players and managers will be held on Feb. 17. Kentucky will take on Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Feb. 18.

The 1996 squad, coached by Rick Pitino, won 25 straight games and capped the season with a 34-2 record and the school’s sixth national title. The “Untouchables” defeated Syracuse 76-67 in the national championship game.

A year later in 1996-97, the Wildcats went 35-5 and reached the finals again before losing to Arizona 84-75 in overtime. After Pitino left for the Boston Celtics in 1997, Tubby Smith took over the reins and guided the “Comeback Cats” to a national title in his first season in 1997-98. Smith guided Kentucky to a team 35-4 record in his first season at the helm.

Those three teams combined for 104 wins and 11 losses.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment