John Calipari has spent most of the 2022-23 season trying to find the exact right way to deploy Chris Livingston.

The freshman guard from Akron, Ohio, has been a regular starter but has seen his minutes fluctuate throughout the year. In Saturday’s 66-54 win over No. 10 Tennessee, Livingston reached double-digits scoring for the second straight game — a first this season — and posted his first career double-double.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes joked, “I’m not sure what Cal was thinking early in the year.” When Calipari was informed about Barnes’ comment, he cracked a big smile.

“He reminds me a little bit of Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander),” Calipari said. “Like, really smart. Cares too much. Was listening to too many voices. And building your confidence, he was doing it in practice and then you’ve got to have a demonstrated performance. He’s now that guy. Now, part of it, CJ’s (Frederick) out, but the way he’s playing now, people coming back are going to be fighting for minutes too because he needs to be on the court.

“He’s building his own self-esteem, his own confidence.”

The 6-foot-6 Livingston had 12 points and 10 boards in Kentucky’s win on Saturday. He was a team-high plus-16 during his 37 minutes.

Over Kentucky’s last 4 games, Livingston is averaging 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 34.3 minutes a night. He’s shooting 52% from the field during that stretch.