VAUGHT: Gillispie may have a softer side

Maybe there really is a softer, gentler side to Billy Gillispie than what we see on game day. His players have been telling anyone who will listen that there is that side to Gillispie, but most of us have not seen it.

However, perhaps I got a glimpse at the side during UK's win over Mississippi thanks to A.J. Stewart. Obviously, I've been among those who have wondered why he has not played more and often have asked Gillispie that — and not received any great answers in return. But that's fine.

So when Stewart got in the game the fist half with UK rolling to a big lead, I thought this might be the game where he got extended minutes. Of course, he almost immediately fumbled away a perfect pass from Derrick Jasper on the fast break that would have resulted in an easy score. But instead of bringing Stewart out of the game, Gillispie recognized how hard he had ran the court and applauded his play. Teammates Ramon Harris and Ramel Bradley were quick to smile and encourage Stewart to keep playing hard.

About three minutes later — yes, he was still in the game that long — the move paid off. Stewart caught a much more difficult pass in traffic, turned and threw down a dunk to make it 31-8.

His smile was worth a million dollars. So was the one Gillispie had.

No, Stewart didn't get to play in the second half because of Mississippi's comeback. But the confidence Stewart gained from not being yanked out of the game had to be a huge boost to him — and also showed me that Gillispie does have a method to his coaching plan. Maybe that small instance of not pulling him out will wind up being a turning point in Stewart's career.

All I know is that it impressed me to see Gillispie give him a second chance and then watch Stewart take advantage of the opportunity.

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