DeAndre Liggins, the First Team Leader for the Kentucky Wildcats

Jeff PhelpsContributor IMarch 28, 2011

DeAndre Liggins plays tough defense against North Carolina's Kendall Marshall in the Elite 8
DeAndre Liggins plays tough defense against North Carolina's Kendall Marshall in the Elite 8Chris Trotman/Getty Images

DeAndre Liggins did not play in any of the Kentucky Wildcat's first nine games last year.

He had been a regular player on Coach Billy Gillispie's 2008-2009 Wildcat team, but obviously something just wasn't the way new coach John Calipari wanted. 

No information was given out by Calipari to explain the lack of playing time for Liggins.  He didn't play until the Indiana game where he got in one minute.  After that, he became a mainstay on the team playing 15-20 minutes a game for the rest of the season. 

What the world saw was a whole new DeAndre Liggins. 

His new area of concentration was hard-nosed, smash mouth basketball.  From his stifling, overwhelming defense to his team leadership in the floor burn department, Liggins was playing like a machine that was stuck in overdrive.

Liggins started off the 2010-2011 season in much the same way.  He then found himself in the role of the experienced veteran on a team of freshmen and talented older players who had not found their game. 

Coach Calipari said many times that his team wasn't playing tough enough.  The Lexington Hearld Leader reported that Calipari said, "This team's upside is enormous because individual players are playing 50-60 percent of what they're capable of doing.  I don't think any team in America has got more upside." 

Most people would agree with him at this point.  And the shining example of how to play your role with complete dedication was always DeAndre Liggins.

Players like Josh Harrellson picked up on the hustle of Liggins quickly.  He became another team leader following in the footsteps of the Chicago native. 

The freshmen struggled during parts of the year to really achieve the level of tenacity that Calipari expects and eventually gets from his players. 

Liggins started the year playing with that kind of tenacity.  Like all good leaders, he took what he had learned from Coach Cal the previous year and showed the new guys how it's done.  The results are paying off with a Final Four appearance.

Team chemistry is such a hard thing to get right, but Cal has done just that by using the examples of the players he brought back from DNP roles to stars on a Final Four team.  And Liggins was the first example for this team.  Others followed because that's what leaders do.  They lead.