By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows his players are ready for outside competition, even if it is just Transylvania in an exhibition game Friday night.
“We’ve been playing together now for 22 practices, so I think they’re just about ready to put it out there against somebody else. We’ll see. We’re still trying to evaluate who’s in that top six, seven, eight, who is it? We get another look,” said Calipari Thursday. “The (Blue-White) scrimmage kind of put out one thing, well let’s see it against somebody else and see how our guys do.”
Calipari was “proud” that his team committed only 20 fouls in the Blue-White scrimmage considering the emphasis this year on not allowing as much physical play on defense.
“We don’t want to foul. It’s not football. We don’t have to march a hundred yards to score. They score one, OK. Now score in five seconds. That really hurt? It’s not football. And I’m glad it’s not football and us having to be in the SEC playing football,” he said. “The officials are going to call things. And the good news is: All the propaganda and all the other things, they’re calling it. So you can say you hate it, you like it, you don’t; it doesn’t matter. Your team’s got to play. And now we’ll see.
“I believe everybody will adjust. I believe coaches will. I believe the players will. I believe scoring will go up. I think early there will be a lot of fouls by some coaches that weren’t adjusting, but the coaches that adjusted, maybe it’ll be 50 fouls on one team and 12 on another. One coach did what he was supposed to do, the other didn’t. Should be fun, though.”
Calipari said he wasn’t sure if freshman point guard Andrew Harrison would play against Transylvania. He sat out the second half of the scrimmage with a bone bruise.
“He’s got to take time. And right now it’s good because Aaron’s playing point. It’s giving us a chance to look at James Young playing both the two and the three,” Calipari said. “Now it gives us a chance to maybe put other guys at the three, try Julius (Randle) at the three. Dakari (Johnson) gives us a different look as a big player, more of a scorer than Willie (Cauley-Stein) is. Willie’s more of an athlete and active. We kind of got a good kind of mix. But right now with him being out, one guy’s misery is another guy’s blessing, another guy’s opportunity, and that’s what’s happened for us.”
When Andrew Harrison went out Tuesday, it let his twin brother, Aaron, move from two guard to point guard.
“He’s doing great. The only thing that’s hard: you have to attack and keep your teammates involved. What do you mean? Attack! Come on, why didn’t you pass that ball over there? ‘You’re telling me to attack.’ You need to attack, but I need you to find him. Did you know he didn’t touch the ball the last few times down? ‘No.’ Well, you gotta know that. You’re playing this position,” Calipari said. “Then he leaves the gym saying, ‘My brother’s position is harder than I thought.’
“It’s a tough position, especially playing for me and the way we play. I put a lot on the guy’s shoulders. He’s making his own calls. This is like a quarterback going out there and we talk about the game plan and then he makes the calls. It’s a hard deal.”
Calipari says he is still open-minded about his playing rotation, especially after the way freshmen Dominique Hawkins and Willis both played in the Blue-White Game.
“It’s all good in practice and drills and all that, but when you put people in the seats and it’s on television to 10 states and there’s 15,000 fans and it sets the Guinness World Book of Records (for scrimmage attendance), that you now see who performs when the numbers are on the back and the lights are on. Those two stepped up,” Calipari said.
“You’d like to play your whole roster because you’re up 35. Then you put all those guys in. But the reality of it is, I think you stretch it unless you figure out a way of playing more than seven or eight. Then you got to figure out. Now, if I had a veteran team, it wouldn’t really matter. But when you have young guys trying to figure each other out, you can’t keep throwing more to the mix. You got to figure out these six or seven. That group’s got to get good. How I figure that out, part of it is in practice. Part of it’s going to be in these games.”