"They didn't renew his scholarship," James Pilgrim said Thursday. "I don't know if there was a particular reason or not.
It's about numbers. Kentucky was still two players over the scholarship limit for next year if Jodie Meeks decides to return for his senior season rather than going to the NBA. That means Matt Pilgrim, who sat out last year after transferring from Hampton, and Kevin Galloway, a junior college transfer who played sparingly last year, are out.
Kentucky has not officially announced the latest roster causalities. Instead, UK chose to announce who else is in the field -- Cleveland State, Stanford, Virginia, Florida A&M, Oral Roberts, Rider and Sam Houston State -- for the Cancun Challenge Nov. 18-25.
Pilgrim's departure is somewhat of a surprise considering how teammates and former UK coaches praised his play during practice last year. "When Pilgrim steps on the court, he is going to do Kentucky proud. He will help us all daily this year whether it is blocking shots — and he is a great athlete who can jump out of the gym and block shots — or banging down low with bigs or stepping outside on the perimeter," said sophomore Patrick Patterson last season.
"He can do an array of things and that's only going to make Kentucky basketball better. That will help us this year, but in the future he's going to be a great player."
But not at Kentucky. Not in Calipari's dribble-drive offense.
Never mind that he will have to sit out another year and have only one year of eligibility left if he transfers to a Division I school -- the same dilemma Galloway faces. Even though UK can yank his scholarship, he's still not free to transfer and play immediately. If you can explain that logic, you must work for the NCAA. "Kids have got to understand these are one-year scholarships. They don't know if they will keep their scholarship or have to start all over at another school the next year," James Pilgrim said. "Matt will move on and do well. We wish Kentucky the best. We wish the players still there the best. Kids just want to play basketball."
While James Pilgrim is trying to be realistic and accept there are many worse fates in this world than losing an athletic scholarship, he still can't hide all his feelings.
"When they decided not to renew his scholarship, Kentucky lost a great player and great person," he said. "Matt would have laid down his life for his teammates and coaches. But this is just part of life. The basketball will take care of itself. Matt will go play somewhere else and we still want Kentucky to do well.
"The new players coming in all want to play. They didn't know that would put other players out of scholarships. That's not their fault. But somebody needs to re-evaluate about whether this is for kids or not?"
Calipari has done nothing wrong. Coaches can pull scholarships for good reason -- academics, discipline, etc. -- or for no reason other than they have recruited better players. That's what has happened at UK.
For Calipari to win, he has to have better talent than Gillispie left him. That's obvious after watching UK play last year. But for a player to learn in mid-June that he is basically homeless is a difficult situation.
Pilgrim's father is more understanding than most would be even if there have been rumors for weeks that Pilgrim would be released.
"Life goes on. Matt will be fine," James Pilgrim said. "It will pass if you just stay in the race. He has no control over this.
"I just wish he had been told before that all decisions are based on business and not kids. How do you prepare for your future if you don't know you will be allowed back or be gone?"