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By MIKE MARSEE, marsee@amnews.com

By just about any Kentucky fan’s standard, last season was a failure. By John Calipari’s standard, not so much.

The Kentucky coach said he was disappointed that the Wildcats didn’t have a better year — they finished 21-12 and lost in the first round of the NIT one year after winning a national championship — but he said that wasn’t the only measure of success for him or the players.

Calipari said all of Kentucky’s players got something out of last season — even those who didn’t play as well as expected. He talked about what he and the players took from the season Monday during his remarks to children and their family members at his satellite camp at Boyle County High School.

“In a lot of ways, it was really rewarding for me. We were disappointed. We finished second in the SEC, we were disappointed. The three (SEC) teams that went to the NCAA tournament, we were 3-1 against those teams,” Calipari said. “And you never use injuries as an excuse or any of that. Here’s what’s disappointing: We didn’t even get to the tournament; we played our way out of it.”

“But this is a players-first program. We had a 3.4 grade-point average as a team last year. Twelve out of 13 guys had a B average. Two had a 4.0. Aside from that, players benefitted from last season. We talk about players first, that’s what this is supposed to be about.

“Did we benefit from this, our staff? No. But did Nerlens (Noel) benefit from this past season? He may get drafted (number) one. He did all right. How ’bout Archie (Goodwin)? We would have like to have him come back, but we’re going to support him. Looks like he’s going to be a first-rounder, maybe a second-rounder; he’s going to get drafted.

“How ’bout Willie (Cauley-Stein)? No one knew who Willie was. He benefitted. How ’bout Alex (Poythress)? Oh, yeah, he benefitted. The benefit was you saw signs and he saw signs of where he can go, but knowing he’s got to change the path he’s on to get where he’s trying to go.

“How ’bout Kyle Wiltjer? Sixth man of the year. By the end of the year, though, what happened to him? What did every team do to him defensively? They went at him on defense, and he knew, ‘I’ve got to change my body.’ He benefitted. How ’bout Julius Mays? No one knew who Julius Mays was. Julius is going to get a contract to play in Europe.

“You may say, ‘Well, what about Jon Hood?’ Jon Hood benefitted. How ’bout Jarrod Polson? Did he benefit? Yes, he benefitted. Ryan Harrow. You may say, ‘Well, he didn’t benefit.’ Yeah, he did. In a lot of ways, he benefitted in that (he realized), ‘I’m not made for this.’ So now, that season got him to where he can go to have success.

“What I mean to say, again, when you’re about players first, it’s got to be that way, your principles, your core values, even when it doesn’t go good for me, it’s got to be about those guys first. We graduated 10 of our last 10 players in four years. Ten players who have used up their eligibility have graduated. Ten out of 10. We’ve had 17 draft picks? We just helped create 17 millionaires. Isn’t that nice. Wouldn’t you like to have that lottery ticket?

“Now, 10 out of 10 have graduated, 17 have gone on to pro careers. Some have done both: Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson. They stayed the (entire) time and they became pros. We call it a success rate. People have this graduation rate. OK, we graduate our kids, but it’s more than that.”

Calipari said he’s excited about the team he’ll put on the floor next season, but he said the incoming players will also need some work.

“This team we have coming in, with the players we have returning, we should be good. They will decide how good we’ll be,” he said. “And every one of those players, they need us in different ways. Some need us to be right on top of them, some need us to just teach. Some need us to encourage, some need us to bring them back to show we have no fear of coaching them as a player. They all need us in different ways.

“So I’m excited about the opportunities we have. I’m really excited about where this program is, what it stands for, what it stands for around the country, not just in the commonwealth. We’re about players first. We drive them. They don’t always like us, they’re not always happy with us, it doesn’t mean I’m trying to be everybody’s buddy, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about helping them reach their dreams. When we help them reach their dreams, they drag us to where we’re trying to go.

“Do we want to win national titles? Absolutely. And if we win a national title, I’m ecstatic. But you know what would disappoint me? If we won a national title and not one player was drafted. That would disappoint me.

“And you say, ‘Well, why?’ I should benefit from that, you should benefit from it, the school should benefit, the state should benefit, but those young people shouldn’t benefit? If you’re about them, it’s about, yeah, we want to do all this, but not at the expense of our young people. We’re here to help them reach their dreams.”

10 Responses to Calipari insists that players did benefit from last season in various ways

  • Little Baron says:

    “… If we won a national title and not one player was drafted. That would disappoint me.

    “And you say, ‘Well, why?’ I should benefit from that, you should benefit from it, the school should benefit, the state should benefit, but those young people shouldn’t benefit? If you’re about them, it’s about, yeah, we want to do all this, but not at the expense of our young people. We’re here to help them reach their dreams.”

    That is the formula for successfully bringing in the best of the best… players first… and these top players will bring the Commonwealth the victories and championships.

  • 100% agree…

  • LindaS says:

    I learned a lot, you have to play as a team. I also learned no matter what I am still blue through and through. We expect too much of freshman, 18 year old boys. We need to keep our seat belts tight, our spirits high and support these young boys as they transition into men. These boys have been the big fish in little ponds, they have had things written about them and they think they are the second coming of Michael Jordon. They are thrown into the big ocean and are little fish being chased by Ocras, sharks and stingrays. Kentucky is not a big pond, it is an ocean. Hang in there, it’s going to be a good year no matter what.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    My wife and I brought our grandchild. It was $80.00 well spent. All the kids seemed to enjoy the experience and today’s Advocate illustrated that by the pictures that it printed.

    I have posted before and I emphasize again. Calipari is a master at PR. For one thing the traveling road show engages young kids and conditions them to be life long Cat fans. Parents and grand parents love getting to be in the company of players, assistant coaches and Calipari. Calipari gets to spread the news about his program being kid friendly. He brushed aside the “one and done thing” by saying that all of his players that stayed 4 years have graduated and that the rest of his players have gone on to become professionals and earn big bucks. But, IMO…the master stroke was his rationalization that even though last year as a disappointment every kid on the team learned and profited. Finally, he emphasized again how important it is to him for his players to be drafted when he said that he would be disappointed if UK won a national
    title and not one player was drafted. He knows that the more he says it the more the BBN will accept the one and done situation and that word will get out to the best players in the country and they will have a zeal to come.

  • ” Snarky ” reply KJ…get over your one & done mantra, as you try to cloak it with your psycho babble and ” The Genius ” mind warp that Coach Calipari is indoctrinating our children…” GEEZ “, Really ! ” And The Masterstroke Of The Evil Calipari, Will Have ALL THE YOUNG BALLERS In The Country, pledge their Honor and Loyalty, To THE KINGDOM of KENTUCKY. ” Actually, ” I kinda like that “…..BUT, Maybe KJ, 8 to 10 years from Now, we may see a whole new level of Highly Skilled ” Home Grown ” Kentucky Boys playing for UK…..All because they were INSPIRED by a group of Ky Coaches & Ky Players, who gave their most precious gift, ” their time,” to these young Boys, ” In Their Home Town “. Welcome To : THE KENTUCKY EFFECT

  • LindaS says:

    Why shouldn’t the one and dones go to Kentucky? I don’t see any other coach who can mold them so fast to reach their dream. Cal does not like the rule, I don’t like the rule and I don’t know anyone else who does. However, I would rather the be blue then playing against us. Football you have to go to school 3 years, it should be the same for all sports. Cry to the NBA, it’s their rule, they are the ones who are exploiting the players, not Cal.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    What on earth are you talking about? Did you see the look in these kids eyes? What better way to help the fan base grow than by bringing the coaches and players to various towns across the commonwealth. Today’s Advocate has several pictures which illustrated this, especially one with 6 and 7 year olds looking at their heros with loving eyes. Of course these camps help build future UK fans. What is wrong with that? Indoctrinating our children?????????

    Were you there? I was. I see his statements, as many of the things that he publically says as supporting his drive to recruit the best of the best. Of course the very best are going to leave early, which means there will be room for the best every year. How to you spin my remarks into “the evil Calipari”?

    I came away from this camp with a very positive attitude and the remarks that I made were very positive. Your negative spin is misplaced.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    I am not especially in love with the one and done system, but with the talent that we are getting that must be the system that Calipari must use. Overall the system has worked, and as long as it works I believe that we should be happy about it.

    Calipari made several remarks which feed directly into the system, I believe because he knows that there are still some who do not like it. Here are examples. (1) all 4 year players have graduated and the others who have left are professionals and who could argue about being a millionaire. (2) He would be disappointed if UK won a championship and no one was drafted. (3) He emphases the grade point standing of all his athletes (4) Even in a losing year, every kid improved and learned a great deal.

    Unlike Gillispie, Calipari gets what it takes to coach at Kentucky. He must be on the job at all times, and P.R. is important in order to stimulate recruiting and to keep the BBN happy. He is an expert.

  • KJ, relax…You starting out Talking about The Kids and then went strait into Coach Cal…” maybe you should have stayed with the Kids experience.” ” THE MASTERSTROKE WAS HIS RATIONALIZATION “…Your Words KJ ! Some would just say, ” The Reality “…But you prefer to frame it as a One & Done result, problem, (did you notice last Season, we lost Nerlens Noel) ….What’s funny about your two responses is you didn’t mention the one ISSUE that has you upset, the Recruiting of more Kentucky Young Men…??? And, in my comments, I laid out a perfect potential reasoning how that is being nurtured with these HOMETOWN CAMPS…A clear resolve to your rants of more Ky Boys at UK & YOU JUST Ignored it…By the Time we finally get you past the One & Done Issue, the NCAA will put in a Mandatory 2 years, so be proud of what we have and how its utilized to help OUR WILDCATS, (young men), The University Of Kentucky and The State Of Kentucky…..And, be thankful for Coach Cal, who does More than just Coach and Recruit….TIME is a valuable gift, Our Coaches seem to share their precious Gift with Joy, ” Not Rationalization.”

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