By LARRY VAUGHT
For the first time in his coaching career, John Calipari said he is having a team work on zone defense every day. In fact, he said he’s even talked to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who always plays a zone defense, about the zone and Boeheim has praised the way UK plays in the zone even if Calipari is quick to abandon it if a team hits a 3-pointer.
“We are using nit. It has been effective,” Calipari said Friday of the zone defense. “If I had a game where I had to play zone the whole game to win, I would do it. I would love to be a guy that could do that (play zone all the time). But that’s just not me.”
Kentucky did use the zone more frequently in the Tuesday win at Mississippi, but Calipari joked that the pro-zone fans forgot that the Rebels scored four straight times against the zone to get back in the game the second half.
“But I am getting better at teaching it and understanding it,” Calipari said.
He said freshman Aaron Harrison is UK’s “best zone player” and said he “is like a cat” with the way he uses his long arms to create havoc with passing lane.
“You watch his brother (Andrew), and he is not a cat. I said to Andrew, ‘You won’t believe this, but your arm is as long as his arm and you could do the same thing,’” Calipari said. “I tell you who else is good in the zone. Jarrod (Polson). It has helped us.”
He said Auburn coach Tony Barbee, a former player and assistant coach under Calipari, said UK’s zone was good but that UK’s man-to-man switching defense limited what opponents could do.
“If you play zone, you know they will get off 3’s. If they make them, we lose. But playing man means contested shots,” Calipari said. “But it (the zone) is a good change up and good defense for us. It has been good.”