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By LARRY VAUGHT
New Kentucky coach John Calipari hopes playing on the USA Under 19 National Team does one thing for sophomore Darius Miller..
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I hope he become a much more confident player,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Calipari Monday during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Before he left (for the tryouts), he was going through two-a-day (workouts). I would be in the office at 11 (p.m.) and he would turn the lights on (in the Joe Kraft Center) and be out there shooting and going hard. I think it has lit a fire under him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Miller is preparing for the championships in New Zealand with the team. Calipari hopes the experience will only enhance the skills he saw from Miller during the six workouts he was allowed to conduct when he got the job following Billy GillispieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dismissal.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was as excited about him as anybody on the team. The way we play with the dribble-drive and wide open style, he has a knack for getting the ball in the basket,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good athlete. Not great, but good. He can shoot runners, score from the perimeter. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â good enough with the ball. He has a feel for playing fast.Ã¢â‚¬Â
All Calipari felt Miller needed was more confidence and he anticipates just making the elite team had to help the Mason County product in that area.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He had to work for the tryout. Early on when you are playing one style and you go into that environment and it is a lot like pick-up ball, he struggled at times. But then he kicked it in at the end,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
A more confident Miller could help ease the loss to Jodie Meeks, the SECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leading scorer and top 3-point shooter, to the NBA. Meeks was picked in the second round with the 41st overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks after deciding not to return to UK for his senior season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It gives Darius, Darnell Dodson, DeAndre Liggins and Jon Hood a chance for playing time where there was not going to be as much time (if Meeks was back),Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
Calipari says Meeks and his family anticipated him going a bit earlier in the draft as they told him they expected him to be picked no later than 37th. However, Calipari noted that Chris Douglas-Roberts, one of his players at Memphis, was picked 40th in the 2008 draft and started the final 10 games for New Jersey last season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think Jodie can do the same and I truly wish him well,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hold these kids back. If they go in (to the draft) and know they may go in the second round or not get picked, it is still their choice. At the end of the day, it will still a good choice for Jodie.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t imagine that we will be better. He is such a terrific player.Ã¢â‚¬Â