As the Wildcats prepare to begin their third season under coach John Calipari, here are a few thoughts on what might have an impact on the team’s quest of an eighth NCAA Tournament title.
This year has the makings of the best season a John Calipari coached team has ever had.
Looking back at his previous teams over the last 10 years, he hasn’t had this type of caliber of players return for a second season. The mixture is incredible ... we are talking about three potential starters (Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Darius Miller) back in the lineup bringing a combined average of 40 points per game.
Not to mention the most explosive combination of freshman in the country.
From leadership and experience on the floor to player-to-player teaching of the dribble drive, the Cats have had an edge from Day 1 that they haven’t had in Cal’s first two seasons.
Look for this team to mesh together quickly on both ends of the floor and to be a well-oiled machine in March — CP
Checking ego at the door
In the game of basketball, heart, hustle, and selflessness go a long way toward a successful season.
I bring up this point to try and provide a little perspective on how difficult it is to bring in the best high school players in the country and get them to play for their coach, university, and most importantly, each other.
These young players have come from environments where they were essentially untouchable in terms of criticism and put on a pedestal due to their advanced skill set. They must now change how they approach the game and redevelop their thought-process on what is truly important when competing in a team sport.
The quicker this happens, the more realistic their chances become to raise an eighth national championship banner — SL
Quick, long and lengthy
The Cats have a chance to be something really special on the defensive end of the court.
Last year they blocked 239 shots with Jones leading the way with 72. Most wouldn’t know that they were only 76 behind the NCAA record for shots blocked by a team within a season by Connecticut (315 in 2004).
What does this mean for the Cats?
Well for starters, Calipari made it very clear during Media Day that they could be more aggressive defending the passing lanes this year due to having more shot blockers on defensive end of the floor.
The combination of length around the bucket and quickness around the perimeter should allow this team to push the tempo offensively unlike any Calipari coached UK team to this point — CP
Do as they do
A lot has been said on the fact that some of the greatest professional basketball players in the world have spent time on UK’s campus in recent weeks working out.
NBA stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and former Wildcat Rajon Rondo.
So it couldn’t hurt to play pick-up games against those guys, right?
It couldn’t hurt to hit the weight room with those guys, right?
But the most beneficial advantage in my eyes is the opportunity to see the best in the world try to get better because they want to, not because someone is pushing them too.
What better motivation for young men with aspirations of playing basketball as a profession? — SL
A polished mind
As a coach myself, I’ve noticed that heading into the preseason, everyone including the head coach has to knock off some cobwebs.
Even though Calipari is paid year-round, he still has to get back in the gym and get acclimated to the daily grind just like players. It does take some time to get back in the swing of things.
However, this offseason, Cal coached the Dominican Republic National Team. The point being that this year, not only do the Cats have returning leaders back in the lineup, but also have a new charged “mind” within Calipari.
He worked extremely hard with a raw team during the summer and had great success with them. He also was quoted as saying, “He felt like he learned more than the guys did, and that we were to able pick up some things from the Dominican Republic’s pick and roll philosophy.”
It is apparent that Cal feels his roster is put together in such a way that he wants to pull the opposition’s big men away from the basket and force them to make decisions on how they will guard the likes of Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis, a strategy that should benefit UK immensely — CP