By LARRY VAUGHT
BENTON — I am not sure how many fans came up to me here Thursday night at the Marshall County Hoop Fest to talk about the University of Kentucky basketball team and how good coach John Calipari’s team is this year.
Kentucky, unbeaten in seven games and ranked No. 1, is coming off a 49-point win over Arizona State as it gets set to host UCLA Saturday afternoon.
So does Calipari worry that his young team might get too full of itself?
“It’s not that. It’ll be—what I talked to them after the game was their diet. And I’m not one to talk about diet, because I grew up where paycheck was Friday to Friday, so Saturday, Sunday, Monday, if it was there you ate it because it probably wouldn’t be there,” Calipari said after Monday’s win.
“Someone in that house was probably going to eat it. So by Thursday, you were eating Spam, cereal and oatmeal. That’s what you had left. And Friday was a good day. Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you were good. My diet’s still—my wife tries to get me to—but I’m working out, I’m doing stuff, but I’m eating.
“But I’m telling those guys, ‘If you really want to be professional, you gotta take care of your body. You gotta eat right, you gotta get rest. We were just talking, Carmelo (Anthony) had said to somebody, ‘If you had to do it over…’ He said, ‘Ice and diet.’ Because as you get older, it affects you more. More ice, better diet. And so I’m trying to say, ‘Why don’t you learn that as an 18-year-old, 19-year-old?’ So I’ll probably bring in somebody that deals with professional athletes that when they get their chefs and all that stuff to say, ‘Here’s how they’re eating.’
“That’s another step for these guys, because it’s going to be, every game we play now, someone’s Super Bowl. I don’t care if it’s in our place or on the road, it’s somebody’s Super Bowl. And that means one letdown, physical letdown because you haven’t eaten right, you haven’t gotten your rest, your body starts kicking away. These guys, listen, in another month their high-school season would have been over. And we’re just starting. What?
“Oh, the real stuff starts and your high-school season just ended. And you might say, ‘It’s not your whole team.’ Yeah, it is. Six of them. And the other two are sophomores, so yeah. So we got a lot of work to do. I’m—extreme talent. Every day I walk in the gym, every day, I walk in the gym and say, ‘Wow. I got really talented kids.’ You ready for this? Who are great kids, who are smart, who care about one another, who got great hearts, kind people. Yet they have a competitive spirit. The whole group.
“And I look in there—and I get to coach my son on top of that? Come on. I’m the happiest guy in the world. The kid I’m probably the maddest at sometimes. I can’t stay mad long, but you know.”