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By LARRY VAUGHT
Vanderbilt junior guard John Jenkins, the Southeastern ConferenceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top scorer last year at 19.5 points per game, has a fan in Kentucky coach John Calipari. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jenkins is a terrific player and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s being coached in a way that helps him out more,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Calipari Thursday at the SECÃ¢â‚¬Ë†Media Day. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has the green light (to shoot) and that puts him in position to get shots off, and he makes them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Jenkins and the Commodores will play UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†twice this season, including a game in Nashville that will be part of ESPNÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s GameDay. The preseason all-SEC pick shared these thoughts on Kentucky.
Question: What makes the Kentucky-Vanderbilt rivlary so good?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. It is just two great teams, two great coaches and two great programs. Put it all together and it makes for a great game. The fans go crazy and nobody wants to lose, so you fight to the very, very end.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Have they been fun games to play in or have they been too intense to be fun?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are definitely intense, but baskeball is fun so they have been fun. You go against great players and the atmopshere of those games is a great experience.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Is VanderbiltÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s talent underestimate in that game and KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team play maybe also underestimate at the same time?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are bringing in the best of the best every year. The last few years it has been kind of hard to match up with them because they have the best of the best. The conference as a whole is great, but Kentucky is always at another level with their coaching and everything about them. Credit will be there for us because we are older, more experienced and have won a lot of games. But they will have hype because they have great guys coming in, and deservedly so. They are all big-time guys going to the pros. Any guy that goes to Kentucky will have the potential to go to the pros, so they are going to have a lot of great players. They go there, do their thing and then they leave. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s turned into a great thing for them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: After competing against John Calipari, what is your perception of him?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He seems really, really cool and down to earth and players really like him a lot. If you have that from your head coach and your leader, you will always have great teams.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did Darius Miller say much about him when you were playing together on Team USA last summer?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Darius liked him a lot. He had great things to say about coach Cal and how much he loved playing for him. I know Cal is probably only him because he is their only senior and his leadership has to be there to be a great team, but Darius loves him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How important is Miller to KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s success?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Leadership will come from him. IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†know Darius really well and he will be a great asset to the team. He was my boy. He was real cool. Me, JaMychal (Green of Alabama) and Darius were real cool together surprisingly. We didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think we would be that way at first. It was just kind of breaking the ice and then we were together all the time. Darius is a great guy. I was hoping he was going to be here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did the three SEC players talk a lot about this season during your month together with Team USA?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We talked about coaches and different players, but as far as going against each other in the season there was not too much of that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did anything about Miller on or off the court surprise you?
Jenksins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“On the court, he seems really mean and it ended up he was really cool.Ã¢â‚¬Ë†I guess we all seem that way. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what to expect off the court, but he was a really nice guy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Why mean since thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a word normally associated with Miller?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He seems pretty mean on the court. His face never changes. I have never seen a smile, so I had that mean impression of him on the court but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really not like that at all.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Will be this be a two-team race between Kentucky and Vanderbilt for the SEC title?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“No. Every team in this conference wants to win. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter if it is Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State. Every team has a great chance to be No. 1 in this conference.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What do you expect out of KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Terrence Jones this year?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I saw he had 50-some points the other night (in the Blue-White Game), so I guess he has been working really hard. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always a tough matchup. He was last year for us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your reaction to Kentucky having another No. 1 recruiting class for you to face?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are sending guys to the pros and those guys want to go to the NBA, so when you have a school that does that every year then guys are going to want to go there. I think it is something great.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Does having veteran players like Vanderbilt has give a team an advantage over a team with a lot of one-and-done players?
Jenkins: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty tough. Those guys are one-and-done and hyped out of school. They are very talented and very, very good. SoÃ¢â‚¬Ë†I am not sure it makes that much difference.Ã¢â‚¬Â