By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though this will be their first official game at Kentucky, senior guard Julius Mays and sophomore guard Ryan Harrow both played in big-time games like the one UK has Friday in Brooklyn against Maryland before they transferred to Kentucky.
Harrow played a season at North Carolina State before transferring to UK last year and sitting out. Mays played two years at North Carolina State and one at Wright State before transferring to Kentucky this season where he’s eligible because he is a graduate student.
So what will they tell their four freshmen teammates about their first collegiate game?
“Just take it like it is another basketball game. Be excited because it is our first real game and against competition. Just play basketball like you have been doing all your life basically. Just go out and do the things you are able to do and do the things Coach (John Calipari) taught us to do and we will be fine,” said Harrow.
“We have to be focused. Take everything serious. Obviously, Maryland is going to be a totally different team from the two teams we have played in exhibition games. We have to play with high energy, play as a team and we will be fine,” Mays said. “The teams we are going to be playing are maybe not as athletic (as us), but will be athletic and will have just as much talent as we do. Obviously, going against Kentucky they are going to come out and try to have their best game, so we have to be ready. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a competitive game from start to finish.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows it will be no “walk in the park” for his team that had its ups and downs in exhibition wins over Northwood and Transylvania.
“Look, I said after November and December when you coach new teams, which we seem to be doing every year, it’s a learning time for you as a coach. Like today I learned some stuff about my team,” Calipari said after the win over Transy Monday. It’s winning or learning, it’s not winning or losing. It’s all learning now because by January we’ve got to be right. So you use November and December … and the only way you can really learn is play against good teams, and those two teams (Maryland and Duke Tuesday) are well coached and they’re talented, and they’re veteran teams, so they’re going to be hard games for us.”
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein understands the challenge UK will face against Maryland and then Duke Tuesday in Atlanta. However, he can’t wait to face that type of competition.
“I am excited. I mean, we are going to New York. I have only been to New York once. It was fun, a different environment. I think playing Maryland is going to be fun just to see where we are at versus a higher level (team),” Cauley-Stein said.
“It is too early to even tell how good we even are. We still have flaws and we are still trying to figure out how we are going to play. You see the different lineups coming in. Maybe that is how we are going to play with a bunch of lineups, or maybe he (Calipari) is going to find one lineup that works and sub in and out like that. That’s why these games will be good for us.”Mays hopes his younger team learned in the two exhibition games that they need to be ready to play from the opening tip and not wait until the second half to start clicking.
“If you don’t come out ready against a team of our caliber, this can go the whole opposite way of how it went tonight,” he said after UK dominated the second half against Transy. “I think it is a stepping stone and learning experience for all of us to learn we have to come out with high energy from the beginning and not wait to come out in the second half.”
“It is just better if we get our team to play like we did in the second half in the first half and keep it going throughout the whole game. That would be a lot better for us,” Harrow said.