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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have an experienced team used to dealing with late-season NCAA pressure just like he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t last year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The lesson at the end of the day is you can win a lot of games and win leagues, but those last three games (in the NCAA Tournament) with a young team and the anxiety of never being in a Final four, not knowing how it will play out or going 0-for-20 … ? If they had been with me three seasons, there would likely have been a game or two where we started 0-for-20 and won,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“With a young team, you do what gives you the best chance to win.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Players give us a chance to win national titles. We are about kids getting better and I have to learn how to finish off a season with a really young team. Only the 1948 team won more games (than last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team). We did everything short of (winning) those last couple of games. But if the rules donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change, we will have a young team about every year I coach.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Last year the Wildcats had junior Patrick Patterson to lead the freshmen. He was a preseason All-American, proven player on the court and natural leader off the court.
This season UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most experienced players are juniors Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins. Neither has had the past success Patterson had going into a season that will have at least seven new players on the Kentucky roster.
Calipari says he is looking for Ã¢â‚¬Å“service leadershipÃ¢â‚¬Â and not just lip service where older players ask younger players to get things for them.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do not need that here. We need them to challenge players to get better and then they challenge you to get better so you have an opportunity to get your dream,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
He wants players to understand as Patterson did that playing less and scoring less on a better team can be better for them, too.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I understand parents want you to play 40 minutes and score 30 points. But we do not have that here,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to be strong enough to withstand all the chatter.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Last year was the first time Darius played for me and played that way. Now all of a sudden you put him in the second year with me and I think he will respond.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Calipari says the three-game exhibition trip to Canada Ã¢â‚¬â€ and 10 practices that are allowed before the trip Ã¢â‚¬â€ will help Ã¢â‚¬Å“figure out who is who and what is whatÃ¢â‚¬Â on next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team.
However, he says he definitely learned one thing from last year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The biggest thing is that they have to be good people who respect each other and want each other to do well,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You cannot come to Kentucky if you want to be the only guy. There will be eight or nine on the same mission as you and have got to be there for each other. If one guy has a great two or three weeks, you have to be happy for him. If he slips, you have to be there to pick him up and tell him it will be okay.Ã¢â‚¬Â