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John Calipari

Julius Randle photo by Victoria Graff.

Julius Randle photo by Victoria Graff.

By LINDA SINCLAIR

We passed through one of the most wearisome and frustrating seasons we have ever had with Coach Cal. Don’t compare it to psycho coach or slow ball, please. A lot of us lost faith; some wanted Cal’s head on a platter, others could not learn to love the players, and then many were desperate — and if you were like me you were going crazy.

As noted in many post and stories we went from the #1 recruiting class ever assembled to falling out of the rankings altogether and then we end up at the Senior Prom competing for Prom King. We ended up in second place and could not wear the crown home but we can be proud of the way the young men finally learned to play together and be brothers.

I did not think it would happen especially so late in the season. Who would have thought such a thing could have taken place? WOW! I admit I was frustrated and upset but I was still bleeding blue even if it was a trickle instead of a full flow.

We have our Willie back and Marcus Lee is coming back, smart move … one game does not make an NBA player. Now we must sit back and patiently twiddle our thumbs and keep our eyes and ears open in hopes that more of our young men return.
If they don’t, so be it, it is their life not ours. We cannot judge them; we do not know what it is like to play in their shoes. We have never had their dreams or talent. No matter how many more come back for next year, we will be fine. I believe in Cal and wear my UK Blue proudly.
Born a Wildcat Fan, Still a Wildcat Fan, Always a Wildcat Fan.
Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein dunks against Mississippi in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein dunks against Mississippi in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore forward Willie Cauley-Stein will return to the Kentucky men’s basketball program for the 2014-15 season, it was announced Monday.

“I want to come back and have a chance to win a national championship, while also getting closer to earning my degree,” Cauley-Stein said. “Being at the Final Four this year was special, but not being able to help my teammates on the floor was tough. I look forward to helping us get back there next year, while playing in front of the best fans in the nation.”

Cauley-Stein earned All-Southeastern Conference Defensive Team accolades during the 2013-14 season, the sixth UK player in the last five seasons to earn the distinction. With four rejections against Kansas State in Kentucky’s opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Cauley-Stein moved into a tie for second place in the single-season standings for blocks with 106 on the year. Only Anthony Davis (186) had more in a single year. That total also ranked in the top 10 nationally for the year.

“I’m happy for Willie and also proud of him for making the best decision for him and his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “Being in school for at least three years will get him closer to having a degree and will help him prepare for the next level and life afterwards.”

The 7-foot sophomore has totaled 166 blocks in his career, which ranks sixth all-time in program history.

The Olathe, Kan., native had perhaps the most stunning defensive performance in Kentucky’s regular-season win over Georgia. He posted six blocks and six steals in the same contest to become the first player in school history to achieve that feat.

Additional announcements regarding remaining players will be made at a later date.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach John Calipari started a national media tour Monday to promote his new book, “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” and admitted he had no idea how many players would leave UK early for the NBA draft and denied reports that he had any interest in coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know right now,” said Calipari on the Dan Patrick Show when asked how many players might leave UK. “We had great conversations. They all have the information. I am not going to meet with them nine times. This is it. Tell me what you want to do so I can help you.”

He later when on Kentucky Sports Radio and said he called 10 NBA general managers the day after UK lost to Connecticut in the national championship game to gauge where his players might land in the draft. He said he even had one player on the way to the airport in Dallas after the title game he told him he didn’t want to leave UK.

“As I was doing all of the other research, they were throwing his name in, and a couple of them told me he could be a first round pick. So, I had to call him back in and say, ‘I know what you said to me, but you and your mom need to sit down and talk about this because here’s some of the information I’m getting,’” Calipari said.

“If you’re in the first round, you’ve got to go do this, if you’re in the lottery, you’ve got to go do this.” In fact, if a player wants to come back, he has them sit down and explain why, like Patrick Patterson did back in 2009,” Calipari said.

Calipari said he doesn’t see any way all eight players that might consider leaving early would do that. He noted they have until April 27 to make a decision to put their names into the draft and that they are “not hurting” him or UK by waiting to make a decision.

“You obviously know that there’s a couple, they’re going to go, and then there’s three or four that are like ‘what will you guys do?’ At this point? I don’t know. I don’t think all eight will leave. How about that? We finally will have some guys come back. I don’t think eight will go, but five, six, four, I don’t know,” he said.

He also addressed the rumor former Kentucky star Rex Chapman put out a few hours before the national championship game that he had been told it was a “done deal” that Calipari was going to be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Obviously it is not true,” Calipari told Patrick.

He said he was “surprised” that Chapman put that message on Twitter.

“You know, every year I have coached I am going somewhere. That is all part of being the coach at Kentucky but that disappointed me in that unless the Lakers told him, which I know wasn’t done … They had a coach. We had a coach. Getting ready for the championship game. I am not mad at Rex. We are moving on,” Calipari said.

Calipari said the rumor was not a distraction for him or the team because they didn’t know about it until after the game.

Patrick asked if Calipari would one day like to be offered the Lakers job?

“No, I am good We need to get this thing to two years (before a player can leave college for the NBA),” he said.

He said on Kentucky Sports Radio that he had a “great job” where he could impact the lives of players and their families and wanted to keep doing that. However, he told Patrick if players are still able to leave school after one year that it would “be hard” for him to still be coaching in three to five years.

“The option is to recruit players that are not good enough (to leave UK for the NBA after one year) or convince kids that should leave that they should stay,” Calipari told Patrick. “I am not comfortable with that and BBN is not comfortable with the first one (recruiting players not as good). Let’s get to two years because that is good for everyone.”

Calipari said even if he didn’t get the top-ranked players, the 50th rated recruit would still think he could be a one-and-done player.

“If I try to talk them into staying, people are going to say I am doing it for me,” he told Patrick. “I give information to families and they make the decisions. I can’t go at this any other way.”

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari says his postseason “tweak” to the Wildcats’ game plan was a simple matter of convincing freshman point guard Andrew Harrison to pass first instead of shoot.

The adjustment made Harrison more of a distributor in the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments. He helped the Wildcats reach the NCAA championship — and during the run his twin brother Aaron made back-to-back clutch 3-pointers off feeds from Andrew.

During an television appearance Monday, Calipari said, “What I tried to do was make the game easier for Andrew.”

Connecticut beat Kentucky 60-54 in the championship, but the Wildcats’ performance may have helped the Harrisons’ NBA draft stock.

The twins are among several Kentucky freshmen projected as NBA prospects if they leave school early.

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

With all the attention focused on what Kentucky players might leave early for the NBA, it’s been easy to forget that coach John Calipari needs to add someone to replace Orlando Antigua.

Not only was Antigua a top-notch recruiter, but he was also a man that players could trust. He was someone who always had a smile and positive outlook. He could tell a player why Calipari was busting their butt with a smile on his face and make them feel better about it.

One name that seems to be surfacing a lot if Barry Rohrssen, an assistant coach at Pittsburgh and a proven recruiter, especially in the New York area. He was an assistant at Pitt fro 1999-2006 and head coach at Manhattan fro 2006-2011. He spent the next year working with the Portland Trailblazers before going back to Pitt last season as an assistant.

His personality would seem to be one that would mesh with Calipari nicely and his recruiting contacts certainly would seem to be a plus as well.

Calipari has given no indication when he may fill the vacancy on his staff, or if he will replace Rod Strickland, a personal assistant, who is also apparently leaving to join Antigua at South Florida.

 

 

With his new book, “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” due in bookstores on Tuesday, Coach John Calipari will be making the media rounds this week to talk about the release. Below is Calipari’s media schedule for the next three days. It only includes live TV and radio appearances. There will be other taped media appearances, including SI Now with Maggie Gray, the O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly and the Charlie Rose Show PBS-TV.

All times below are subject to change.

*only includes live media appearances Monday through Wednesday

MONDAY

8-9 a.m. – CBS This Morning (CBS)

9:30-9:45 a.m. – Dan Patrick Show (Fox Sports Net)

2:22-2:32 p.m. – Rome with Jim Rome (CBS Sports Network)

4:15-4:45 p.m. – Mike Francesa Show (WFAN-AM)

TUESDAY

(all of Tuesday’s appearances are on ESPN’s family of networks)

9 a.m. — Mike and Mike in the Morning

10:20 a.m. – SportsCenter

10:40 a.m. – First Take

11 a.m. – Listen Closely with Linda Cohn

11:20 a.m. – SportsCenter

12:10 p.m. – ESPN.com chat

2:30 p.m. – SVP and Russilllo

3:10 p.m. – Paul Finebaum Show

3:45 p.m. – Sedano and Stink

4 p.m. – Freddie Coleman

WEDNESDAY

6:30-6:35 a.m. – Morning Joe (MSNBC)

7:40-7:50 a.m. – Squawk Box

By LARRY VAUGHT

A series of twitter posts from John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) shows just how hard he took the loss — and also shows that he intends to be back at UK despite the Rex Chapman info that the coach was headed to Los Angeles (a Twitter post that Chapman now seems to have backed way off of):

I was close to depression yesterday. Getting that close and not being able to see the joy in my players’ eyes after victory rocked me.

— I’m back up and running because I’ve called a bunch of the NBA teams about our guys and met with the players twice individually.

— Remember, I’m here to help them. I stay out of the decision making. I’m trying to get them information so they can make the best decision.

— It’s a process that we seem to be doing every year, but this group may be the most mature that I’ve dealt with as far as reasoning.

— Every single person in the #BBN should be proud of this group. I know I am.

— Remember, our season doesn’t end until the evening of June 26. And oh, by the way, I’ll be recruiting this weekend. Let’s keep this going.

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

Could Kentucky  lose seven players — five freshmen starters and sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress — to the NBA draft?

As unlikely as that might seem to Kentucky fans, it doesn’t seem that unlikely to some who closely monitor the NBA draft.

Start with ESPN analyst Chad Ford who indicated on ESPN.com Wednesday that UK could lose more than the expected trio of Julius Randle, Cauley-Stein and James Young — all projected first-round picks in every mock draft I have seen.

Ford agreed that Randle and  Young are “for sure gone” and put Cauley-Stein in the same category even though the sophomore explained after the title game that there would be reasons for staying in school — as well as having several millions reasons (dollar-wise) for going to the NBA. He has Randle ranked as the fifth best player with Young 16th and Cauley-Stein 19th

“The Harrison twins have wanted to leave all year according to multiple sources around the twins, but their draft stock made them iffy first rounders. I’m not sure it’s to the point that they are clear first rounders,” Ford said on ESPN.com. “Andrew probably has the most claim, but he’s not a lock. Another year at Kentucky would help.”

Aaron Harrison Sr. told the Houston Chronicle that he had not discussed the NBA with his sons before the title game and that he expected them to discuss the subject this weekend when the twins likely will come home. Harrison Sr. said about a month ago that he was fine with his sons staying at UK if that was their decision.

NBADraft.net has Andrew Harrison going 27th in the first round with Aaron going in the second round with the 35th overall.

Draftexpress.com has Randle going fourth, Cauley-Stein 12th and Young 17th. Draftexpress.com does not have any other Wildcat going in the first or second rounds. CBSSports.com has  Randle, Cauley-Stein and Young in the same slots with Poythress 46th and Aaron Harrison 47th in the second round. CBS has Andrew Harrison as the 61st best prospect — there are 60 spots in the draft.

Most assumed that freshman Dakari Johnson would be back. While he said he had not thought about his draft status after Monday’s national title game loss, he also didn’t want to say he would be back at UK, either.

“Dakari Johnson would be a bubble first rounder as well,” Ford said.

He said he’s also heard rumblings that Poythress could declare, but says he would be on the same first-round bubble as Johnson.

“I think there’s a chance all of them are gone. There are certainly rumblings that direction. But the only three that really make sense right now are Randle, Young and Cauley-Stein,” Ford said.

 Players don’t have long to make a decision. The draft is not until June 26 but players who wanted official NBA input have already had to request that and will receive by Monday. Those not requesting information have until April 27 to enter the draft.

 

 

video courtesy Kentucky Wildcats TV

UK coach John Calipari yells instructions to his team in the NCAA final game loss to UConn. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

UK coach John Calipari yells instructions to his team in the NCAA final game loss to UConn. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

By LARRY VAUGHT

ARLINGTON — He had shared the message before, but just to make sure national media members understood one last time Monday  night after Kentucky lost to Connecticut that players as talented as those on his team can’t be perfect all the time.

“But these kids aren’t machines. They’re not robots. They’re not computers. I say it again, I wish I had an answer for them later in the game where I could have done something to just click it to where we needed it to go,” said Calipari. “That three in the corner (by Aaron Harrison), if that would have gone, maybe the game changes a little bit, but it didn’t.

“So keep coaching. What do we figure out, how do we do it? And obviously I didn’t have the answers for them.

“But I’m proud of them, they fought and tried and played a really good team that’s well coached. Kevin Ollie played that team exactly how they had to play to have success. People in Connecticut should be so proud of him as a former athlete there, coming back and winning a national title and doing the things he’s doing. He’s a great guy.

“He’s not only a great coach. Believe me when I tell you, we’re telling each other before the game, I love you, he’s telling me I love him, he loves me. I mean, this guy is one of the great guys of all time.

“And I hate losing, but I’m happy he won. I hate losing. But I’m happy he won.”

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