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But now twice that warning has not been loud enough, leaving Wheeler to run unprotected into a screener with a weight advantage of more than 50 pounds.
At LSU, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Wheeler missed the last 35 minutes and each of the next two games after colliding with 7-foot, 238-pound center Efton Reid. At Auburn, he was forced to the locker room for a critical stretch after running into 7-foot-1, 245-pound center Walker Kessler.
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Both times Tshiebwe was the closest teammate to the screen but replays appeared to show him too far from the play.
“I did scream at him,” Tshiebwe said after Kentucky’s 80-71 loss at Auburn Saturday. “I scream at the beginning of the game for everybody, but the game, it was too loud. He did not hear again, and he got hurt. I don’t know. Maybe we’ve got to do something else.”
It is no coincidence that Kentucky lost both games where Wheeler was injured. At LSU, his absence was compounded when freshman guard TyTy Washington, the Wildcats’ second point guard option, was sidelined for much of the last 10 minutes by leg cramps. By the time Wheeler was injured in the second half at Auburn, Washington had already been lost to a left ankle injury.
Wheeler managed to return to the court just less than three minutes after his Auburn injury, but while he was in the locker room the Tigers turned a four-point lead into a 10-point one.
Wheeler’s game was eventually ended when he ran into another Auburn defender – this time against one setting a trap on the sideline – in the final minutes. After both collisions, Wheeler looked noticeably dazed while being attended to by trainers.
"A lot of teams are going to try to do those things because of the way Sahvir plays the ball," UK associate coach Orlando Antigua said Monday. "He spearheads our defense with that kind of pressure, so we’ve got to do a better job of protecting him. In an environment like Auburn with how loud it was and at the speed of the game that’s happening, he probably didn’t hear it.
"Oscar said he called it, probably didn’t hear it, but we’ve got to make sure we protect Sahvir if we want him to continue to be the catalyst to our defense the way he has been."
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After the LSU game, Calipari called for the NCAA to ban blindside screens due to the potential for injuries, noting similar plays are considered penalties in football, a sport where players are protected by pads.
Neither of the screens at LSU or Auburn was whistled for a foul as the referee deemed the screener was standing still at the time of the collision.
“Even if a guy went up and he knew he was coming and he wanted to do it with his hands showing, that would be OK with me,” Calipari said. “I don’t think the guy did anything dirty. I think it’s a rule that needs to be changed.”
Any potential rule change will have to wait until the offseason though.
In the meantime, Tshiebwe and Wheeler must find a better way to communicate the impending danger of similar plays in hostile road environments where crowd noise can make it harder to hear. Wheeler declined to discuss the LSU play after he returned from a two-game absence due to the neck injury suffered in the collision, so it is unclear what his feelings on the situation are.
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But after two more collisions at Auburn, there is a reason to worry about a mounting toll on his diminutive frame.
“Worried about Sahvir,” Calipari said Saturday. “I told him in the last four minutes ‘why don’t you just come out?’ He said ‘No, I’m going to finish it.’
“At the end of the day I’m coaching someone’s child. If he can’t play this week and Tyty can’t play this week, they’re hurt, they can’t play.”
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky basketball: Sahvir Wheeler injured again on a screen