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By LARRY VAUGHT
Based on what Kentucky coach John Calipari told veteran college basketball writer Dick â€œHoopsâ€ Weiss, the UKâ€ˆcoach is not afraid to go into next season with the roster he has put together if the Wildcats do not add another player.
Calipari lost five starters, his first player off the bench and another senior off last seasonâ€™s national championship team. Heâ€™ll go into the 2012-13 season with North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow, sophomore Kyle Wiltjer (the player with the most experience returning) and four signees â€” 6-11 center Nerlens Noel, 6-4 guard Archie Goodwin, 6-8 forward Alex Poythress and 7-0 center Willie Cauley.
“We could use maybe one more guy,â€ Calipari told the New York Daily News writer. â€œA year ago, we played six and we went to the Final Four. This year, I played seven guys, really six and we went to the final game and won the title. This year coming up, I hope to have seven. But if it doesn’t happen, I can live with that. I like my team.â€
Weiss spent about 30 minutes one-on-one with Calipari when he was at the New York Athletic Club to receive an award.
â€œJohn has a totally unconventional way to look at many things,â€ Weiss said. â€œThey had perfect chemistry last year. It was the perfect storm. No one got hurt. They didnâ€™t have a point guard or center go down. Everybody stayed healthy. But maybe he can do it that way again.â€ˆHeâ€™s convinced he can if thatâ€™s what it takes if he does not add another player or two.â€
Weiss noted that Calipari will still have five five-star players â€” Harrow, Wiltjer, Poythress, Goodwin and Noel â€” on this team next season, and thatâ€™s more than most teams will have.
â€œThe team will be young, but the point guard has been there a year at practice and Wiltjer played some,â€ Weiss said. â€œNoel is really good. Goodwin and Poythress are very, very good. Cauley must be athletic to do what he did in football and basketball. They will have talent.â€
Perhaps thatâ€™s why Calipari told the dinner crowd â€” and Weiss â€” that he was not going to be coaching the New York Knicks or any NBA team. He left college once for the NBA and was fired by the New Jersey Nets before going to Memphis and then Kentucky.
â€œI have got the best job in basketball, in my opinion. You don’t need to make decisions financially, which I did the last time when I went to the Nets. Fifteen million back in 1996, when you’re a kid, is like $30 million now. At Kentucky, you can win championships. And you have a stage that really helps the young people. I’m not going to the Knicks,â€ Calipari said at the dinner.
Weiss believed him.
â€œHeâ€™s got a big contract and a great job. Heâ€™s making (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban money. And he loves Kentucky,â€ Weiss, who wrote that UKâ€ˆhas â€œsurpassedâ€ Duke as the nationâ€™s top program, said.