By LARRY VAUGHT
How good is Kentucky going to be this year? I’m not even sure Kentucky coach John Calipari can answer that question right now going into Saturday’s game with Lipscomb.
In fact, Calipari all but admitted as much last week following his team’s win over Portland.
“I’m just telling you we have a long way to go. My question to my team: There’s eight or 10 teams that are better than all the rest of the teams in the country. Do you want to be one of those eight or 10 teams? What are you willing to do to be one of those eight or 10 teams? Or you don’t want to be? Too hard. I don’t want to be one of those eight or 10,” Calipari said. “You tell me we have to go three a days to be top 50, hope we make the NCAA tournament. If we’re in the NIT, it’s a good run to New York. We can be that team, too. I mean, which team do you want to be?
“I’m looking at everybody in the country saying we’re probably 50 to 100 right now, but we could be top 10, top 8. Those eight are the only ones that truly have a chance to win the whole thing. Do you want to be those or not? That was my challenge to them. Are you fearful you’re not good enough right now? Are you like Derrick Rose, who when I had him: ‘I just don’t think I’m good enough, I have to work harder, spend more time.’ Or Michael Kidd(-Gilchrist), Brandon Knight, guys that understood, I’m not good enough, I’ve got to get better.
“I’m working on as much mental toughness and the mentality this team has. It’s not all their fault. We played Maryland and Duke to start off. We all think everything’s good because we only lost to Duke by three. It was a three point game, so we’re good. We weren’t right. I knew we weren’t right. That falls on me. I’m trying to correct the mistakes I made and make sure that we get these guys after it.”
Calipari encouraged his team to have a second team meeting to figure out what the players wanted.
Q. Did you give your guys a chance to answer when you asked them about where they wanted to be?
“Come back and tell me. If you don’t, don’t let me go nuts by myself. Just tell me: ‘We’re good, cool down, we’ll jog it up the court, help each other when we feel like it, have some big 3’s sometimes.’ Just let me know,” Calipari said.
“As I say this jokingly to you and sarcastically, I like my team and I like our players. What are they choosing to do? Did you see the fans gave Kyle Wiltjer a great ovation? Can you tell me what that was for? Tell me why they did it. He rebounded a couple balls. You know he didn’t have a rebound in the first half.
“Our fans will cheer him. He only had three rebounds. Acted like he had 12. But he got three in traffic that they haven’t seen in eight games. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing in practice. There were loose balls he didn’t get, he had to sit down, you’re not playing. Loose balls that Ryan (Harrow) didn’t get, you’re sitting down, you’re not playing. I’m holding them accountable.
“I grabbed a couple of them after. It’s hard, isn’t it? Hard trying to be special. Easy being mediocre. It is really hard to try to be special. I can help you or you can say, I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I don’t. I never prepared anybody. I don’t know. Or you can listen to what I’m saying and do it.
“I’m not afraid to tell the media what I’ve said. I like our fans to watch and say, he is exhausted, my gosh, look at him, so these guys understand. It’s hard playing here and it’s hard playing for me. You don’t come here unless you want to be special. Don’t do it. Don’t torture you or me.”