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No matter who comes back, competition will change UK culture next season


If Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein, Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer — the top five non-seniors on UK’s roster other than injured Nerlens Noel — all return to UK as they indicated they would Tuesday, they better be prepared for a culture change daily. Kentucky coach John Calipari added Julius Randle to an already impressive recruiting haul Wednesday and will add six of the nation’s top 20 players in what is being call the all-time best recruiting class in college basketball.

Kentucky players had no fear of the bench — or practice competition — this year. Next season the five players who could come back may not produce a starter among them. After all, who could argue with a freshman starting lineup of guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, small forward James Young, power forward Julius Randle and either Dakari Johnson or Marcus Lee at center. Add Andrew Wiggins if he was to pick UK and the returning Cats will have to battle harder daily than they did at any time this year just to play.

Calipari was beating that drum not long after Tuesday’s loss.

“The best thing that’s going to happen to us next year is we’re going to have unbelievable competition at every spot. So there’s no one here that’s promised, ‘OK, I played 30 minutes a game.’ You may play five, but you will change,” Calipari said. “The stuff I had to accept this year, the program almost got hijacked. Never in my career have I surrendered in any way to any team, and I did at times this year – to try to save guys, to try to help guys – and it never works.

“So what we’re going to have is unbelievable competition. We may have three teams, so 15 guys that can play. Let’s go. It’s what we need, kind of like my first year when we had all those players. We’re going to be a little young, but with guys coming back we’ll still have some veteran guys.”

Some critics are wondering if the one-and-done philosophy Calipari has embraced finally has caught up with UK even though the Cats won the national title in 2012 and could have won it the previous two years as well.

“Who’s down on this program? The only good news is, because we have this group coming in, they’re not going to be No. 1 in the country, because they’ll say, ‘Well, maybe you can’t do it with young guys.’ And I come back to, we did it last year, won a national title with young players. But that’ll be out there,” Calipari said.

“So we have something to prove: You can do it with young players if you have some veterans sprinkled in who come with a great attitude and understand what they have to do. If there’s any doubters, have at it. You can doubt all you want. This program’s in great shape. Kids across the country still want to come here. It’s all good.”

Randle’s decision to pick UK over Kansas, Florida and Texas certainly seemed to validate what Calipari said after the NIT loss.

Remember back in November when Morehead coach Sean Woods, a former Wildcat, said he sensed the current Cats felt entitled and drew the wrath of UK fans. Calipari admitted Tuesday “maybe” Woods was right. Then he also explained a lot more about what went wrong this year.

“There was a combination of our skill set wasn’t where it needed to be, we weren’t real skilled and (we didn’t) work as hard and together as we needed to. Was it a combination of all? Was it a lack of leadership or guard play? People have said our guard play stunk. I don’t know if it stunk. I’ll have to go look back. All I know is, there were things that we did this year we will not do. We will correct, and we’ll be fine,” Calipari said.

“This program’s fine. The recruiting is in good shape. We’re right where we need to be. I’ll be out on the road tomorrow looking at juniors. We’re ahead in the junior class. We’re fine. And we will be a tough ball team next year. We will be a tough, hard-nosed, fighting team next year. I promise you we will be because I can’t sit through that. I can’t take it.”

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  1. Larry Pup

    Coach is ticked, and he is still hungry. Look out !

  2. Karen Sprinkle

    The headline says it all. Lack of competition in practice and for playing time hurt this team’s development. That certainly will not be a problem next year. It sounds like at least 3 of the incoming freshmen would almost rather die than lose. The pickup games over the summer should be legendary, and should be eye-opening to any players who return for the Cats. Play to maximum effort or get embarrassed every day in practice.


    Nothing like a good smack in the face from reality. It stings and I’m glad Cal doesn’t like it.

    Good point Karen, maximum effort is going to be needed or embarrassment will ensue.


    I think a lot of people have overlooked something that I believe was truely beneficial to last years team. The NBA lockout. Those young guys got to see first hand what was required to play at that level. All those NBA players being on campus and playing pickup games with the young guys really set in motion the work ethic required for success. I remember Teague saying last year that they learned, only through team play could they even come close to winning againt these guys. They also got an up close and personal look at the off season workouts.

    But I still thought that for what we had we did well. I know I’m in the minority on this but its my humble opinion.



    1. Karen Sprinkle

      I agree about the NBA lockout being an invaluable advantage for the 2012 National Champions (man, typing that never gets old). This year’s team had a lot go wrong, from injuries to illness to immaturity and it just snowballed. I don’t know that I’d say that we did well, but I do understand a lot of the reasons for what happened.

      1. UKFMLY

        You know Karen I understand what you are saying. I sent Larry my thoughts on this subject in a little more detail and it should be posted soon. I may just be so blue that I spin it to meet my feelings. But isn’t that what we all do. Use what we know and feel to back up our assertions. That’s why I love this site. It gives us all the opportunity to say what we think in a way that does not offend others. Heck my wife and life partner of 31 plus years disagrees with me! LOL.



  5. King Ghidora

    I am NOT down on Cal. I think he’s the greatest coach since Rupp. Even Rupp had his off years. You can’t play the game for the team and even talented teams fall on their face at times. Let’s talk about the class known as the Super Kittens. Grevey, Flynn, Connor, Guyette, and a holdover from a previous year, Ronnie Lyons. The year was 1973-74. That team won a whopping THIRTEEN games. They lost the same number. The next year that nucleus of players knocked off what many consider the best college basketball team of all time, the 1975 IU Hoosiers. Sure they had some help from a group that included Givens, Robey, Phillips and Lee. But still. They went from 13 wins to 26 wins and a trip the national title game. They should have won that game but Wooden had one more trick up his sleeve and announced his retirement just before the game. It was a tremendous motivator and the Bruins beat a much better UK team.

    So sometimes things just don’t click even with good players and good coaches. Hall went on to win a title with that bunch that included Givens of course. And he was always in the hunt for a title with a string of McD AA’s that rival what Cal has accomplished. Yes ’74 was his first year as UK coach and that hurt but mostly it was about him trying to force his game plan on a team that it didn’t fit. When that team rebelled and played like a Rupp style team they played fantastic. That team looked as good as any UK team I’ve ever seen. And they had lost 13 games the year before. Early in the ’74-’75 season they didn’t look so good either. They lost on the road to an inferior Auburn team. They turned the tables in Lexington winning by 43. I was at that game and I tell you what Memorial was rocking like never before. ‘

    So I will not give up so easy on Cal. He will do well again, I’m sure of it. He is a great coach and a fantastic recruiter. He can’t help but win again.

  6. M'boro mark

    What a roller coaster ride this year . Said it in aug. , this is a team that loses 10 games . It could have been less but, as said before this was not a team that played as a team. Maybe these guys see that Sean woods was right . They play the games to see who wins , not by the name on the jersey . It had to happen that we have a down year . Hopefully incoming players see this and will come in hungry .

  7. Anonymous

    Cal’s down year we win 20 and finish second in SEC with a major injury to our best player. Look out 2014.

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