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Calipari: “Obviously our talent isn’t playing with enough energy and effort”

Click on the photo of Dakari Johnson to view a video of him after the win over Transy.

Click on the photo of Dakari Johnson to view a video of him after the win over Transy.


It didn’t take coach John Calipari’s postgame speech/tirade to let Kentucky freshman center Dakari Johnson know how the Wildcats played.

“Obviously, we could have played a whole lot better,” said Johnson after UK’s 76-42 win over Transylvania in Friday’s exhibition game. “But it is a process. This was our first time as a team (playing against another opponent). We will get better as we go on.”

They will. Or at least they better to fulfill the gigantic expectations on this talented team that failed to play with the energy and effort that Calipari wanted and is going to demand this season.

“The biggest thing that we learned is that energy and effort trumps talent,” Calipari said. “It just does. It always has, it always will.  Now, talent that trumps the energy and effort, and they do both, like they come out, then you dominate play. Obviously our talent isn’t playing with enough energy and effort.”

Calipari said what Transylvania did — slow the pace, shoot 3’s, run back on defense, fall back into the lane to keep UK away from the basket — is what the Cats will face most of this season because of their size, talent and youth.

He also wants his team to understand that what worked in high school, doesn’t work at Kentucky.

“There’s the difference between running and sprinting. We have a lot of guys that running has always been good enough, and, this is me.  You can’t be on the court then. You know, it’s okay, but you can’t be out there,” Calipari said.

He said that’s why senior point guard Jarrod Polson (five points, one assist, one steal, 18 minutes) played so much with freshman starter Andrew Harrison sidelined by a knee bruise for the entire game.

“I thought Jarrod was good. All that Jarrod did was run really hard and push the ball. We had absolutely none of that in the first half.  We didn’t get a breakout,” Calipari said.

Johnson also impressed Calipari with his nine points, eight rebound, one steal and one assist in 17 minutes — and Calipari said he would have played more except he wanted to let freshman Marcus Lee play the second half.

“We have a ways to go. That doesn’t look like the No. 1 team,” the UK coach said.

Freshman Julius Randle had 16 points and 12 rebounds — he also had five of UK’s 10 turnovers — in 26 minutes. James Young, who seems to be UK’s most active defender, had nine points, five assists, five rebounds and three steals in 27 minutes.

While Calipari liked those numbers, he was more focused on the lack of energy/effort.

“This was a great lesson. Jon Hood played well. I even said after, ‘How did Jon Hood play?’ He played great. Yeah, he missed every shot (he made one), but he played great because he played hard. He just competed,” Calipari said. “We had a lot of non‑competitive guys out there.  They’re just going to have to learn. This was a great lesson for them.

“If you don’t compete, I’m taking you out, which is what I’ve always done throughout my coaching career until last year.  I couldn’t.”

Now he can. Three times in the second half he substituted five players at a time, something UK women’s coach Matthew Mitchell did last year and maybe Calipari will do this year.

“If we get that kind of effort, that’s exactly what will happen. They’ll all come out. Then the guys will be saying, please don’t play me with him and him because you’re going to take us all out. Then all of a sudden peer pressure takes over. Then I don’t have to coach the guy to play hard, they will. Or they’ll walk over to me and say, take him out, just get him out of the game,” Calipari said.

“This was a great lesson for us. It’s what this team needed.  (Transylvania coach) Brian (Lane) did exactly what we wanted Transy to do:  played really hard, spread the court, kept coming at us, made 3s, sagged on defense, and were physical.”

Randle said the team understood Calipari’s message.

“One of his pet peeves is not playing hard. We were just not out there playing hard enough on defense or offense running the floor,” Randle said. “We just had to compete. If we do that, we will be fine. We’re young, and we don’t really get it right now. We stopped a lot, but we will be fine.

“We just need to play hard. (Calipari told us) we weren’t playing hard enough, so we just need to step up and play a little bit harder. It’s just all effort. All of that is just playing with effort. We we will be fine.”

Calipari probably believes the same thing, but he sure wasn’t saying that.

“When I watch the tape, it will be more obvious. We just stopped. We didn’t talk. We blamed a teammate,” Calipari said. “I mean, they scored 12 in the second half, and six of them were on a team I couldn’t leave on the floor, the guys I started the game with. I had to take them out again.”

But this year, he can do that and that’s why eventually this team will be just as good as he expects it can be.

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  1. King Ghidora

    I thought Randle played with emotion and effort most of the time and Lee did some of the time. But too many guys thought they could keep shooting 3’s like they did early. That great opening run will suck you in and kill you. It’s not going to be that easy all the time. Once their shooting went cold Transy could stay right in the game. The problem was a lack of defense in the first half. Defense is all about effort and they just didn’t work hard at it in the first half. I told my wife the team would come out with a different attitude in the second half and they did. They looked like the #1 team for a while at least. But they still couldn’t hit their shots.

    And Hood needs to get some PT on this team along with Polson. Both of those guys looked good IMO. They hustled, pushed the ball and played D. If you do those things you’ll win a lot of games. But if they play like they did tonight against Mich. St. for get the undefeated season. Of course I expect them to pick it up a big notch or two against better quality teams.

  2. Jim Boyers

    Watching this team tonight was, at times, exciting, frustrating, puzzling, awe-inspiring and various other adjectives that made me run the emotional gamut from elated to aggravated.

    This team made me feel like a world-class sculptor: I felt like I was looking at a very large, raw hunk of marble. It was shapeless and ugly. HOWEVER, the longer I looked at it, the clearer I could see the beautiful, finished statue that it would eventually be chiseled into.

    This team is going to be great. Really, really great…eventually. Right now, it is a total work-in-progress. They are very fun to watch, even when screwing up, because they are so athletic that even their mistakes are entertaining and that is a good thing because the mistakes are many. They looked like a young team, but fans shouldn’t expect much more on November 1.

    I can’t wait to see the finished product this team will round into. They are going to be amazing.

  3. Little Baron

    The potential is on this team – in depth & quality depth, which is what we did not have last year.

    Interstiting – Alex was the catalyst involved in the first 7 or 8 unanswered points to start the 2nd half – by scoring, an assist, or a steal. Then he deferred to his team mates again – a lot like Darius Miller. I’d be happy to have Alex 4 years! He just needs to take action a d not defer to his team mates so much, but that is just not his natue.

    Polson and Hood set examples of how to work hard.

    It takes time to mesh, but remember we played without the heralded PG that will be the catalyst to nearly every posession. It may have been a blessing disguise to let this team see what it needs – including pushing the ball.

    The potential is gong to start to reveal itself our 3rd game when the stakes are HIGH – #1 vs #2 !

  4. Dave

    Just some perspective. Already been pointed out it is just Nov 1st. UNLV loses last night to a D2 school . Ole Miss wins in OT against a D2 team. Last season Miami, eventual ACC champs opened the year losing an exh game against a lower level team. Othe examples around I’m sure. We won, held Transylvania to 12 Pts in the 2nd half. Got on the perimeter and guarded the 3 which Transylvania had most of their 1st half points on. UK will be fine. Different team on Mon and different team the 1st real game. Work in progress. Let us not forget the last second shot by Wall to beat that powerhouse team Miami of Ohio . How did that team turn out.

  5. Mike

    In Cal’s words “energy and effort” will decide who gets the PT. I would say that this year could put Poy on the bench just like last year. We are only 1 game in but I didn’t see much leadership with his play last night. He had a couple of plays but no consistency like last year as well, and he only got 1 board. Our first half performance took me back to the WKU game in football. Cal definitely got the message communicated at half time and they looked much better. The real scary thing is MSU this early in the season. One would have to think that experience will probably trump talent at this point, and the only positive that could come out of that would be that the pressure of going 40-0 will be released. It is going to be a nice ride watching this team come together and play to their ability, but guess we will have to be a little patient because there will be some speed bumps along the way.


    These guys will get it. They ABSOLUTLEY WILL. Catch them early because they will be EXTREMELY TOUGH late. Nine guys 6’6″ or taller, say that three times and then go relax. They will be fine. They are starting to see what’s coming so it will get better or they will get embarrassed in Chicago on the 12th. That game should give us a good indication of where they are and how much work they will have to put in to bring home #9. Love the excitement in the air! !



  7. Sully

    There simply is no excuse for not playing hard. I do not care who you’re playing. Championship teams play hard, and play hard all the time. If that’s going to be a question for this team, there is no chance they will win anything of significance. History is littered with talented teams that didn’t win because they didn’t work hard enough.

    Effort never takes a night off. This ain’t AAU, and it ain’t high school. These guys had better wake up.

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