By LARRY VAUGHT
During Monday’s win, Kentucky coach John Calipari spent time working one of the ESPNU cameras. On Tuesday, the UK coach joined the ESPNU TV crew to talk about his team’s easy exhibition win over the Puerto Rico Reserves.
“I have had to coach 9-10 guys before, but probably not guys this talented,” said Calipari on ESPN. “We have got to keep anything from sabotaging what we are doing. You do not need 40 minutes to prove what you are doing. If you play 18 to 23 or 24 mintues and all feel fulfilled, this gets scary.”
He said he told injured players Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, who won’t play in any of the six games in the Bahamas, to note how hard the players are playing and sharing the ball.
“That’s what you have to do,” Calipari said he told them.
Calipari likes the team chemistry he’s seen forming, too.
“If you watch our bench, that has been the part of it for me. You have everybody really cheering for the other guys and that is what this has to be about,” Calipari said on ESPN.
Calipari knows with UK’s length, teams likely will try to play zone defenses often this year against the Cats.
“If we are making shots, it’s hard to do, especially with our size. We can throw it inside and even if you stop us we are going after that second shot,” Calipari said. “We want to come after you on both ends, push as quickly as we can and defensively we want to scramble.”
Calipari said UK’s defense, which has been praised often by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas this week, was better than he expected since he doesn’t coach defense in the summer or ever September.
“The season is too long. I want them to feel good about themselves. We are a good defensive team because we are so long and can make up for it (lack of preparation),” Calipari said.
During his long stint on ESPN, he said the “stage at Kentucky is like no other” in college basketball.
“We’ve been able to help 19 kids in four years get drafted and help their families reach dreams. It doesn’t look like it is going to stop. Lot of kids here are going to reach their dreams,” Calipari said. “Can they get into our team this year and solely focus on winning? That is my challenge.
“The funnest part for me is when you see those kids reach their dreams and their families, there’s something to it. Why not get seven or eight guys drafted? if we got to the point seven or eight guys got drafted, you had to win almost all your games and won the last one (national championship game).”
Calipari said even UK fans have “bought into what we are doing” by letting players develop and “drag” the program to lofty spots.