Most Recent Posts
- Baylor coach Scott Drew on key to win: “I think we play a lot of guys and they stick together”
- Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown on QB play: “It’s a deal where we gotta get better”
- Lyles, Booker both put on show for Calipari, UK assistants, UK fans
- Huntington Prep soph Miles Bridges considers Kentucky “dream school”
- Myles Turner one player that Trey Lyles talks to about Kentucky
- “Typical performance” for Lyles — 30 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals
- Randle says Calipari “knows all of us have fight in us”
- Coach on Lyles: “Sometimes he can be too unselfish, but he can take over a game”
By LARRY VAUGHT
BENTON — Huntington Prep sophomore forward Miles Bridges, who had seven points and seven rebounds against Atlanta Sports Academy, is the nation’s 18th ranked prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. He’s from Flint, Mich., and says he already has scholarship offers from Michigan State, Providence and Iowa State
He said Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio State are all showing a “lot of interest” but have yet to offer scholarships.
The 6-7 Bridges grew up a Michigan State fan, but made it clear he likes Kentucky, too.
“Kentucky is a dream school, too,” he said Saturday. “Just growing up and watching every good player come from there.”
Bridges said he’s been in contact with Antigua and was happy to know Calipari was coming to watch his game Saturday night.
“I can’t let it bother the way I play, but it’s nice to know he’s coming,” Bridges said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
He faced unrealistic expectations from many, changing defenses almost every week and scrutiny on every throw/play from University of Kentucky fans and media members. Yet Conner quarterback Drew Barker said he had a “great time” his senior season.
“I did not feel any nerves. I just played football,” said Barker, who signed his institutional financial aid agreement Thursday and will enroll at UK in January. “Obviously, there were a lot of eyes watching me, but on the field I was just playing. I think I got a lot better this year, too. I was leaps and bounds better from last year when my passing and accuracy and footwork. Even a quicker release.”
Barker’s father, Terry, knew there was a “lot of pressure” on his son because of his early commitment to UK and high national ranking.
“There was a lot of scrutiny on his statistics every week. It seemed every week people were attacking him (on social media) and saying this kid and that kid is better than you. People were always trying to measure him against other player’s performances,” Terry Barker said. “It wore him down at times, but he has a strong personality. He knew he was not a robot and could not have a great game every night.
“But I thought he handled it well. Everywhere he went, eyes were on him. The South Oldham game, he missed the whole week of practice for his grandmother’s funeral in Virginia and I did not think he had a bad game. We lost by two (points) and he was really criticized. Same with our playoff loss at Anderson County. But he stays pretty consistent. Not a lot of peaks and valleys with him. He had a good season.”
Good season? Barker completed 255 of 317 passes for 2,702 yards and 34 scores. He ran for 1,421 yards and nine scores. He ended his career completing 526 of 798 passes for 6,264 yards and 62 scores and ran for 3,931 yards and 51 touchdowns.
“If he ever did feel the pressure, it never showed,” Conner coach James Trosper said. “Everybody can be a critic. The last game he was 6-for-23 passing, but we had a lot of drops. But he does not get rattled. He excels under pressure. One of the best games he had was when (Kentucky) coach (Mark) Stoops and (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown were on the sideline. He had one of his best games against Scott, which only had one loss.
“He’s been at that national level for a long time. He did AAU basketball and played in front of 10,000 to 15,000 fans in Las Vegas. He’s been through fire. You can just look at his numbers and see how he handled the pressure. Just throw his stats up and it speaks for itself.
“He got a lot better this year, too. He understood schemes and coverages. Two years ago he rushed for more yards. He had a better idea of defensive trends and see how his passing/rushing stats flipped this year. He commanded the passing game more than the running game.”
Trosper said teams tried to give Conner “different looks every week” from what they had been using.
“We had to figure out what teams were giving us and what they were taking away,” Trosper said. “As much film as he watched, the tough part was showing up on Friday night and seeing something different from what we had seen on film. But it was a great experience for him and will really help at the next level.”
Barker said he got used to linebackers “spying” on him to stop his runs and scrambling.
“Using a basketball reference, it was often like a box-and-one. Teams would contain everyone and somebody would always follow me,” Trosper said. “We had to adjust every week. And that will help me in college. I got the hang of what to do and did not let the changes bother me week to week.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari said freshman Aaron and Andrew Harrison “are trying” to do what he wants but still have a “ways to go” with their execution and body language.
“But it’s not just those two. Julius (Randle) has got a ways to go. When you rebound, stick, rebound, bang, and then they say, ‘Man, he played hard,’ but then you’ve got to watch defensively, you’ve got to watch running the floor,” Calipari said. “Alex (Poythress) has gotten better, but got a ways to go. I mean, we’re a team that is behind – Dominique (Hawkins) is probably closest to what we’re looking for of anybody on the team, but it’s not where we need to be right now.”
Calipari said players have to know where other players are on the court to become a special team.
“If you don’t know where everybody is and if people aren’t talking, you’re not comfortable, you kind of get … you go back because you’re afraid to go out, because you don’t know if people have your back,” the UK coach said. “That’s where we are a little bit right now to. So, look, there’s a lot of fronts that we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to work more on the press. But the whole point comes back to your effort, if you want to know, again, what’s success, it’s just ‘I’m giving my best, I’m doing my best.’
“You have to feel good about that. If you’re not doing your best, if you’re standing around, if you stop playing … for most of these kids, they were always bigger and stronger and longer and faster, you didn’t have to outwork the other guy. If a team’s effort level is far beyond yours, it will smash a talented group. Just will. A less talented team that just fights like crazy will beat the talented team. So we just – my job right now is to get these guys to understand how hard they gotta play, what it’s gotta look like, and we’re just not there.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
While Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did his best to emphasize that he knew his team could play better, he also didn’t try to deny that Kentucky would likely make dramatic improvement before this season ends.
“Look, they’re going to get a lot better, but don’t think we’re not going to get a lot better. I think it was some of them, but we didn’t play great. I mean, it wasn’t like we just made every jump shot,” said Izzo Tuesday after his team beat Kentucky 78-74 in the Champions Classic in Chicago. “I think they’ll definitely get better, because they are freshmen. I give them all the credit in the world. They’re going to get a lot better, but I honestly believe so are we.”
However, Kentucky started four freshmen and one sophomore and played two more freshmen. Michigan State’s more experienced players jumped in front 10-0 and survived a late Kentucky push to beat the No. 1 Cats and likely move the No. 2 Spartans to No. 1 in next week’s poll.
Michigan State beat Kentucky consistently in transition thanks in part to forcing 17 turnovers and getting 13 steals while UK had just one steal
“No, that surprised me a little bit (about the steals), but for a young team that’s probably the way it’s going to be. They’re not going to be as good defensively when you’re young as you are offensively. I just thought we did a decent job with their guards. I thought they’d have more steals, but they maybe weren’t as aggressive. Early on, we were aggressive,” Izzo said.
Izzo said it’s hard to continually rebuild like UK coach John Calipari has done with one-and-done players in his four years at UK.
“Guys, Kentucky is an anomaly. Not everybody’s like that. Duke’s got a lot of veteran players. Kentucky, he’s found a niche. He does an incredible job with it. But I don’t think that’s the norm right now. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I hope I get more and more one-and-done or two-and-done, but I also appreciate having guys around,” Izzo said. “I don’t think we give kids a chance to grow up off the court. It’s a shame that we’ve sped the process up so much. God bless the kids that are good enough to go, but I wouldn’t count that. It gets so much attention because Johnny does such a good job of it, but that’s not really the norm.
“It’s just Johnny’s done such an incredible job. And I told him, I said, ‘I don’t know, how many NBA teams have seven first-round picks?’ You know, really? That’s not a knock. That’s just a fact. A couple I’m sure, but not many. So this team he’s got will get better, but they’ve got some growing to do, too. And they’re going to have to get better in some areas. Now, (Julius) Randle, he doesn’t have to any better. He can stay like he is. But those other guys, they’ve got to get better and they will get better.”
Randle, after a slow start, scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half. He also had 13 rebounds for his third straight double-double. He has 72 and 43 rebounds in three games — both highs for any freshman under Calipari at Kentucky. That includes Terrence Jones (66 points, 30 rebounds), John Wall (61 points), Anthony Davis (40 points, 22 rebounds), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (36 points, 22 rebounds), DeMarcus Cousins (44 points, 32 rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (35 points, 24 rebounds). All those players were NBA first-round draft picks and Davis and Wall were No. 1 picks.
Randle helped UK outrebound Michigan State by 12, something that seldom happens to Izzo’s teams.
“They beat us at what we do well. I think we beat them at what they do well,” Izzo said. “We stopped the dribble-drive I thought for the most part. They went to a total post-up game. We gave (James) Young a few shots. Got a little lazy there in stretches when we were tired because of the strange lineups we had in there. But his guys did a heckuva job rebounding. They’re bigger, but we didn’t do a good job rebounding. I didn’t like the way we went after the ball, and I liked the way they did. They kicked our butts on the boards.”
Calipari moved Randle from the perimeter to the interior in the second half. The only downside was that Randle continued to turn the ball over — he finished with a game-high miscues, mainly when he lost the ball while being double-teamed inside.
“We have ways of letting him in the post, which we did and then he just holds the ball. If he holds the ball, the whole defense is going to sink on him and they we’re going to end up shooting a 3 or … I want him to get in the lane quickly. But it’s all new. This is the first game I coached where I got to change in midstream and that’s why I did,” Calipari said after the game.
By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari found a lot of things not to like Friday night even though No. 1 Kentucky started the season with a convincing 89-57 win over UNC-Asheville.
The Kentucky coach didn’t like his team’s passing. He was upset with the lack of defense at times. He detested the 18 misses in 48 attempts at the foul line. He didn’t even think his best player — freshman Julius Randle — played all that well despite having 23 points and 15 rebounds in his collegiate debut.
But what Calipari had to admit he did like was the way two sophomore returnees — Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein — played on a team featuring six freshmen McDonald’s All-Americans who many felt would turn the two into merely role players at best this year. Indeed, they will be role players, but they could be major role players.
Poythress had one double-double last year. He got one Friday with 10 points (5-for-9 shooting) and 13 rebounds (six on the offensive end) in just 21 minutes. He also did not have a turnover, a huge smiling point for Calipari.
Cauley-Stein? He had just three points, yet dominated the game at times. His play in the first half led to five straight UK scores because he did a little bit of everything. He finished with six rebounds, four blocked shots, four assists and three blocks in only 18 minutes. He took just three shots, but he was a dominant player.
“You have to now where he is,” said losing coach Nick McDevitt before rattling off Cauley-Stein’s numbers. “I would take one of those (stat lines). Some of the possessions where they missed free throws, we did a nice job blocking out but our guys are not as big and athletic as them. He was able to influence the game pretty well. We just were not able to drive. He was altering shots and forced us at times to dribble back out on the perimeter because he is a threat to throw it in the stands (with a block) any time he gets in there.”
Just ask Randle.
“Willie does a lot of terrific things,” Randle said. “He’s very versatile. There was a stretch where he got consecutive offensive rebounds and it helped us bust the game open. He just does a lot of little things like that to help us.”
Calipari said his center now has to “sustain” his effort for longer period.
“Maybe at this point he can only go 20 minutes. That’s fine, just give us 20 minutes of those minutes because then he started getting beat on the dribble and saying, ‘I’m not tired.’ Well, you blocked all those earlier, why do you think you’re not tired. Something is wrong. You went from blocking them to giving them lay‑ups,” Calipari said. “He’s way better than he was. He had four assists and four blocks and three steals. He probably could have scored a few more baskets just forcing himself to go get the ball, but again, in 18 minutes that’s pretty good.
“So again, we’ve got guys, the intensity and the fight that they’ve got to play with, we’re just not where we need to be right now.”
That’s where Poythress was too often last season and with the arrival of Randle and perimeter player James Young, many wondered how Poythress might fit in.
“I thought he was terrific. I thought he got tired. He’s way better than he was, and the biggest number on there was the zero he had for turnovers,” Calipari said. “Think about that. So now he’s defining his game a little bit better, one‑dribble pull‑ups if I have open shots, fine. I’m not a playmaker, that’s not how I’m going to play, and I’m going to go after every ball and dunk every ball, and he’s playing to his strengths, trying to be the best version of him, and I thought he was terrific today.”
Poythress he yanked one rebound away from Randle — something few players will do this season — and scored on a follow shot in the first half.
“When he plays like that, it gives us a new dimension,” Randle said. “He made so many plays. Offensive rebounds. Defensive rebounds. Him playing like that makes it tough on teams.”
It does even if Poythress felt he only played “pretty good” and was just doing what Calipari wanted.
“He (Calipari) knows what I can do,” Poythress said. “I know what I can do. I just have to bring it and help my team win.”
He doesn’t mind coming off the bench, either, after starting last season.
“You just have to be ready even if you don’t know when. You just feed off the energy when you get in the game,” he said. “I just have to play to my strengths and stay away from my weaknesses. We are really deep, so it’s easy to play the role you have on this team.”
And what are his strengths on this team?
“Bring energy, play great defense, attacking the boards hard,” he said.
Simple, but if he does that, Kentucky adds another huge dimension coming off the bench because him and Cauley-Stein have one thing the star freshmen don’t — game experience.
That might not be huge Sunday against Northern Kentucky — even though Northern should have won at Purdue Friday before losing a heartbreaker — but it will matter a lot in a game like the one against Michigan State in Chicago Tuesday.
“We just take it one game at a time right now,” Poythress said. “We’ll talk about Michigan State when we get there.”
Fair, but won’t his experience help in a game like that?
“It should,” Poythress said.
It will and that’s why if Poythress and Cauley-Stein can continued to combine to do all the energy things they did in this game, Kentucky could well end up being as good as UK fans hope when the freshmen get the experience to go with their playmaking ability.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting and how his family has handled Kentucky’s 2-6 start this year.
Question: What are you mainly telling recruits when you are talking to them now?
Brown: “That we are getting better and we are playing a lot of young people and the system works. You could look at past results even though we have struggled. We have some good pieces but we need to add some quality pieces. But we have the core of our football team coming back and really, most of the core back for two and three years. I just stress the positive and about where we are right now and what we are doing on a daily basis to get better.”
Question: What do recruits ask you the most?
Brown: “They are asking the same. The guys we are recruiting are positive. Even the (20)14-15-16 kids are that way. They see that we are making progress. They see the inroads we are making in recruiting. They know that we are going to be better. They have kept the faith. You always go back to what you have done and how it should look and what it can look like when we get everybody together.”
Question: How have things gone for your family since even with the win UK is now only 2-6 in your first year here?
Brown: “They are fine. The people have been fine. We have got some criticism, but when you are 1-6 (going into last week’s game), you are going to get some criticism. When you haven’t played great on offense, there is going to be some criticism. I can make all kind of excuses for it, but it is what it is. It has been good. People understand where we are at as a program and that we are making some strides.
“I would love for it to happen yesterday also, but it is a process. You are not going to … you are steering a ship, not a speed boat. Myself personally and (my wife) Brooke, she understands coming from a coaching family … my family understands that criticism comes with it but at the same time they see the every day process is getting better.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
College basketball analyst Jay Bilas thinks Kentucky coach John Calipari has “outdone” himself with this year’s freshman class.
“From a rating standpoint, they have so many players No. 1 at their position that it is really unusual,” said the ESPN analyst. “It would be folly to say this is the best recruiting class ever. It is the highest rated. We can only call it the best recruiting class by looking backwards. But there are not any more classes that are going to come in and win three championships because players don’t stick around. It is a different standard now. But from a pure talent standpoint, it is off the chart. This class is really good.”
Bilas was in Lexington during the summer for one of Calipari’s camp and says he was “blown away” by UK’s talent.
“I had seen them before, but to see them all together and the level that John has gotten his program to with that youth is impressive,” Bilas said. “I frankly didn’t think it was possible to take a new team each year and compete. But what has been the anomaly was last year, which was expected to be the norm. For those who doubted if he can coach, and I was not among that group, he not only can recruit, but he is a great coach.”
Bilas found a lot to like with UK’s new players.
“You can tell at every spot they are special. Julius Randle is the best player. At 6-9, he is the most physical, imposing left-hander. If he limits it to two dribbles, nobody can stop him. If he dribbles more, he gives people a chance. But nobody can stop him if he holds it to two dribbles,” Bilas said. “I was really impressed with James Young. I had seen him before, but he is just getting better and better. He can be their best defender.
“Andrew Harrison is back in the mold of the big, dominating point guard John has had with (John) Wall or (Derrick) Rose. I am not projecting he will be the first pick in the draft, but he will not be much further down. He will be within shouting distance of that. He’s big, strong, quick and can get in the lane. His brother, Aaron, can really shoot.
“Dakari Johnson has really good feet and hands and can score in the low post. He doesn’t run very well. He’s not a speed merchant, but he’s not slow. That’s not his strength. He has a chance to be very good and will contribute right away. It is hard to imagine a class in today’s age with more talent, but I would not put it past Calipari.”
Bilas doesn’t think Calipari will need to change the way he prefers to play because of the increased size Kentucky has this year.
“They changed the way they played last year, and a little bit the year before, and did not use as much dribble-drive,” Bilas said. “I think they will go back and mix ball screens in. The problems they had last year is No. 1, they did not have a point guard, and they could not shoot it. Defenses packed in and Kentucky could not bring them out. You can spread the court all you want, but you have to stretch defenses.
“You can stand anywhere you want, but if the defense does not go with you … this year they will be able to spread defenses and open driving lanes. This team can really drive. If they make shots, it will open driving lanes and open it up for lobs. That team is going to shoot a lot of free throws and get a lot of easy baskets. I was really impressed with them.”
By GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
Here are five things to watch as top-ranked Kentucky begins the season:
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Life is definitely good for coach John Calipari with two 7-footers in Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. The Wildcats are in good hands with Cauley-Stein showing more confidence and fluidity and Johnson displaying a physicality that has NBA scouts raving. Both are obviously benefiting from going against each other daily in practice, and Calipari smiled when he said, “both are going to play. They don’t have to worry about it.”
YOUNG SURPRISES: Six-foot-6 swingman James Young might emerge as the star of this heralded rookie class. Each practice is revealing something different about Young, who can shoot and drive, and he has displayed impressive defensive skills even though Calipari hasn’t fully installed the defense. “I wasn’t a big defensive player in high school, so once I got here coaches got on me about my defense and I had to step it up,” Young said.
UNSUNG DEREK WILLIS: The Mt. Washington, Ky., native has been somewhat overlooked in the hoopla over all those high school All-Americans. But 6-9, 205-pound forward has impressed Calipari and his high-profile teammates with his skills and toughness. Wiry, quick and a smooth shooter, Willis just needs to bulk up. Still, his lean frame hasn’t stopped him from mixing it up in practice and he figures to contribute as a freshman.
NO IDLE CHATTER: On-court communication won’t be an issue with a group that clearly has established a comfort zone with each other. Whether it’s because the freshmen competed against each other in high school or because many of the Wildcats used the summer to get acquainted, the improved chemistry is apparent. “We have a pretty good feeling about what each other can do,” JuliusRandle said.
EARLY TESTS: Once again, Calipari has scheduled several tough nonconference games to see how his squad stacks up. The docket begins Nov. 12 against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago; vs. No. 25 Baylor in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 6; and at No. 12 North Carolina eight days later. There’s also the annual showdown against in-state rival and defending national champion Louisville on Dec. 28. And in a comically ironic twist, the Wildcats will even host Robert Morris on Nov. 17 in a rematch against the team that upset them in last year’s NIT.
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Just in case anyone still wondered how talented and athletic John Calipari’s team might be this year, the Wildcats put a variety of skills on display — and 19 dunks — Tuesday in the Blue-White Game.
It would be easier to find what there was not to like than point out all the positive signs in this intrasquad scrimmage that drew a Blue-White record crowd of 15,035 fans to see the Blue win 99-71.
As expected — at least by UK fans hoping for a ninth national championship — freshman Julius Randle proved why he could be a special, special player. He had 21 points, eight rebounds and one assist to more than offset five turnovers.
“He’s the most athletic and physical person I have ever seen,” said Kentucky freshman guard Aaron Harrison.
Calipari was most impressed that early in the scrimmage when Randle was not getting the ball, “he just played” and did not let it impact him. Remember UK had a player two years ago named Anthony Davis that had that same mentality.
“Then he started getting it and made shots. He’s really good. He can really pass, too,” Calipari said.
Randle said he was not nervous, but was anxious for the team to have a chance to show what it could do. That included him showing he’s become even better on the perimeter, something Calipari has emphasized.
“That’s something Coach wants me to work on for the next level (NBA),” Randle said. “I am a lot more comfortable out there now. But our practices make you improve. Pretty much what you saw today is how we do in practice. We defended better. We still have a lot of stuff to work on. We’ve got to get better, but we are doing a pretty good job. We are playing unselfish and doing what the coaches ask. We know we have talent. We’ve just got to keep the mindset of working hard.”
But Randle was not the only star when James Young scored 25 points and Aaron Harrison had 19 points — the two combined to go 6-for-9 from 3-point range. Here are some other things that impressed me.
— Less than a minute after he came into the game, freshman center Dakari Johnson dove on the floor for a loose ball. Everyone knew he would throw he weight around in the pain — and he did — but he proved he would be just as reckless on the court.
— During a timeout, Young put his arm around Dominique Hawkins to chat even though they were on opposing teams. That’s the kind of chemistry that was missing most of last season.
— Young hit shots early, but he pulled up on the fast break to feed the ball to Alex Poythress. He finished 11-for-16 shooting.
— Randle and Johnson, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, took turns batting around offensive rebounds, something UK could not do last year. “He’s a big boy and a load down low,” Randle said.
— Andrew Harrison, UK’s point guard, didn’t play the second half because of a knee contusion. But he looked to be enjoying everything he saw and kept connected with teammates. Again, a little thing, but an intangible asset UK did not have from its starting point guard last year.
— Randle, perhaps the most versatile player for his size UK has had, did a cross-over dribble and dunk on Marcus Lee that was superb. Then a few minutes later he pulled off a defensive rebound, drove the length of the floor, faked Lee and dunked. “I liked both of them,” Randle said.
— And there was Derek Willis taking the ball from Randle, throwing a behind-his-back pass and then spotting up and hitting a 3 from the corner. He finished with 21 points. Calipari said he had “no conscious” and just “let it go” while making five of six 3-pointers.
— And even freshman walk-on E.J Floreal, the son of two former Olympians, threw down a dunk — on Randle. The best part was that even their teammates were laughing and enjoying the moment. “They were still giving it to him after the game,” Calipari said.
Calipari kept noting it was a scrimmage in October, not a win to get to the Final Four. But it was obvious he liked a lot about his team.
“I like that we defended without fouling. The officials, especially the SEC official, told me it was the best he had seen. We don’t try to foul any way. I thought it was good,” the UK coach said. “And we are a shot blocking team, so these rules play to what we do.”
Actually, new defensive rules or not, everything about the game should play to what Kentucky does this year because Calipari has a deeper, bigger and more talented team — and the best part for him and the players is that UK should only continue to get better.
By LINDA SINCLAIR
I find it quite interesting that some people are on the Calipari 40-0 bandwagon. It would be a great thing to do but realistically can it be done? I say no.
Why am I not a believer? Easy enough … eight freshman. No matter how good these young boys are, they are still freshman. How many times have we seen extremely good players make freshman mistakes?
Cal is up on this team, he feels good, oh so good and he knew he would…da da da da da…But no matter the talent, no matter the coaching, things happen. Don’t forget refs, don’t forget other players trying to take ours out like they did Anthony Davis all year in 2011-12. Missed passes, stupid fouls, stepping on the line, etc, you know the scenarios it can be very ugly. Kentucky, Cal and the players always have a bulls-eye on their backs. We are Kentucky; remember that and what it means.
They have been playing against each other, they have not faced another team yet that has a different mindset, physicality and experience. They are freshmen; they have not set foot on a basketball court yet where we expect them to win. Can you imagine how nervous they will be the first time they face a ranked team, a good team? No amount of preparation from Cal can prepare them for that first game.
Willie and Alex are experienced players now; they know what it will take to win. They are more motivated and focused. They saw what was wrong last year and maybe, just maybe they can make sure there is no I in team this year.
We have Jarrod, our boy, he knows too. He might not get a lot of playing time but he is there, he is a role model and he has played against some of the best during his time at UK. Maybe, just maybe he will be the soul of this team this year, like last year and have some fatherly talks with the boys when Cal is not around.
We have Jon Hood back this year. He can shoot but how much time will he get. He is confident and healthy. He’s one of the old men on the team like Jarrod.
I want to see a Team, I want to see this team sharing not just on the basketball court, but sharing good times outside of the court. I want the ‘brotherhood’ back. That was a tremendous feeling to see those young men such great friends. We use to see post of the team going to dinner, doing things together but we didn’t see that last year. We heard about a few visiting the sick and elderly, going out of their way to be extremely kind to fans and small children, but nothing like in years past since Cal has been at Kentucky.
It is a huge burden for any player, but freshman are still wet behind the ears. We don’t know what is going on in their lives; we don’t know what kind of pressure they have before a game or during a game. Did they have words with a girlfriend or teammate? We don’t know if something is bothering them about their family. Classes, tutoring, practice, not enough sleep, not enough to eat, lack of funds to do what they want to do on the precious free time can all affect how they play. They are not robots.
It has been said this is the best recruiting class ever assembled for college basketball, but will the basketball gods look with favor on this team, will the stars be aligned for them? No one knows until the season is over in Atlanta.
I don’t care about 40-0, I care a little about #9, but what I care most about is a winning season, a good effort and no rumors or dissension like last year.