By LARRY VAUGHT
At least 25 NBA scouts came to Rupp Arena to watch Kentucky host Valparaiso and standout senior Alec Peters, who finished with 23 points in the 87-63 loss to Kentucky.
But UK also has a lot of players who figure to have a chance to be NBA first-round draft picks. How does coach John Calipari keep them focused on the game and not the scouts?
“Probably they didn’t know, unless they read the paper, where I said there were going to be a lot of NBA scouts there. They probably don’t know,” said Calipari.
Then like he normally does, Calipari went a whole new direction with his answer to that question.
“Like I said, there were signs today that we could be really good. Then the question is, how good do we want to be? Do you want to come and practice and get better or are you looking for ways to, I mean, this is hard for these kids. They have never, in their lives, practiced this way. And what I’m saying is, I’m not saying they weren’t coached and all, I’m saying they were never in the gym every day with players this good, going against each other, every day,” Calipari said.
“Every day like Dom is playing De’Aaron Fox or Isaiah Briscoe and they’re trying to take his lunch. So, Bam is trying to dunk on Isaac. Isaac’s trying to score on Sacha. Wenyen and Derek are going at each other, because they’re trying to get minutes. So, every day Malik is going against Mychal. Hard matchup, but if Mychal can stay in front of Malik, he can guard anybody.
“So, it’s a way that they need to build and go, but again, let me just say this about Valpo. You’re talking about a team that beat a bunch of people already, all on the road or neutral sites. They beat Rhode Island at home, a top-25 team. That energy is how we have to come out every day, and it’s hard.
“But you know what? It is what it is and you’re here. We’re playing everybody’s best shot, we got to disrupt, we got to be the aggressor, we got to attack the basket, we got to make the extra pass and we got to make easy plays. You have to dunk balls that are around the rim. Can’t turn it over 17 times. But again, seven were in the first four minutes of the game.”