We knew it was going to be good. We knew it was going to be really good. So it should probably come as no surprise that the first installment of the All-Access Kentucky series did not disappoint. From start to finish, the production value was second to none. If you are a Kentucky fan, and you didn’t get chills during various points of the 30-minute show, check for a pulse. The 30-minute special showcased all of the best parts of Kentucky basketball under John Calipari: the facilities, the atmosphere, the championship, the tradition, his recruiting philosophy, his ability to put players in the NBA, the unmatched fan base, the family atmosphere, the player’s first approach, getting guys prepared for every aspect of the NBA/future, not holding players back back, the hard work involved, etc. In case you missed it (what were you doing, anyway?), here are some highlights:
- The show started with a clip from the moments following the national championship. “6 months later…” came across the screen and Calipari was shown in his car on the way to Wheeler’s Pharmacy. “When I first got the job, I was told, you better to go Wheeler’s. Every coach who won national titles came here. The guys who didn’t win national titles never came. So I said, well I’ll be there.” The tradition. The championship.
- The footage then moved on to Calipari addressing the crowd of fans at the Big Blue Madness camp out. By now, a lot of folks outside of the state of Kentucky have heard about the hysteria that is the madness camp out, and just how many people actually show up days in advance to get tickets for a scrimmage– but this put it out there for anyone who hadn’t heard about it yet. In one neat quote during this part, Calipari reminded the crowd about this year’s team, “Yes, they can all play basketball, but they’re also good guys” The unmatched fan base.
- Calipari then enters his office, where he takes a moment to stop by a framed picture from his first recruiting class at Kentucky. The picture has all of his guys after they were drafted in the NBA. “Five first round draft picks,” Calipari points out. Calipari revisited his previous assertion that it was the greatest/biggest moment in UK basketball. Calipari still believes it, and still believes it’s why the program is where it stands today coming off of a national championship. “I want 6 in the first round now, or 7. That would be okay, too. If we ever won a national title and not one of my players got drafted, I’d be disappointed. I’d be happy for the fans and the program, but we’ve all got to benefit from this thing.” His ability to put players in the NBA.
- Nerlens Noel was the player who the ESPN crew focused on the most. Calipari talked briefly about Noel and what he thought when he first saw him. “I’ve got another Anthony, another Marcus Camby. He’s got a ways to go, but there’s signs that it’s like whoah!” Noel talked about Calipari and part of the reason he came to Kentucky. “What he’s done for young men like me. Every birthday I’ve had since I was like 8, I’ve wished to play in the NBA.”
- Calipari also touched on how he makes sure never to hold a player back. “Would you tell a kid who’s the number one pick to come back to school? What if he got hurt? If it’s your son that I’m coaching, what would you want me to do? What would you want me to do? I am not going to have a young man come back and get hurt and look at me and say, ‘what do I do now?’ Whether that’s right or not, I’m telling you…that’s how I feel.” The player’s first approach/not holding guys back
- One of the coolest parts of the show was when the cameras went into a conditioning practice with the team and Rock Oliver. The practice was supposed to start at 6 a.m. and it appeared as if a few of the players strolled in late. Instead of crushing the guys for it, Oliver made a point to relate it to the NBA and how in the NBA that would translate directly into a monetary fine. During the workout, not only was Oliver pushing the guys to their limits, but he was shouting things out such as, “NBA, NBA!” when the going was the toughest. Calipari on what guys like Noel said when they chose Kentucky: “Coach never promised me anything. I’m going to have to work hard for everything.” Calipari then said about his players, “You’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. If you don’t want that, then don’t come here.” The hard work involved/getting guys prepared for every aspect of the NBA/future
- The next segment showed Calipari going through some of the recruiting process, from early morning and days filled with flights and visits before coming home the same night. Calipari talked a bit about the recruiting process and how it’s about perfecting what is already clearly working at this point: “This is a touch-up. We’ve already done it. I’ll be honest with you, you’re babysitting it at this point. I like the fact that we can now text and call. I don’t call that much. But I text. You’re only recruiting 7 scholarships, so you’re talking 15-16 kids. I tell them, if you want me to call you once a week, I will. But you’re 17 and I’m 50-ish. What are we going to talk about?” Calipari also talked about the fact that he doesn’t promise everything to these kids. He talked about being unselfish and how you will not get 30 shots a game at Kentucky. He talked about Davis being the #1 draft pick despite being 5th in shot attempts on the team. He then talked about MKG being the #2 pick and the 4th in shot attempts. “Your responsibility will be to get in the best shape of your life, improve your skills, and play for your teammates. If you can’t do that, then you won’t come here.” The recruiting philosophy.
- Calipari expanded even more on the family aspect of recruiting and Kentucky. “I wonder if I’m in the business of basketball or helping families. The parents want to know if you care. Mothers are looking at you, ‘are you going to take care of my son? Are you going to take care of my baby? This is my baby.’ Calipari continued, “These kids all need me in different ways. Some kids need affection. Some kids need my direction. I’m still learning.” The family atmosphere
- The end of the show concluded with the lead up to media day and Big Blue Madness. DeWayne Peevy came in the meeting room to brief the team on what to expect (over 100 media members). “You’re creating your own headlines today,” Peevy told them. The show also highlighted the best parts of Big Blue Madness, capturing the hoopla, the rock star atmosphere for the players, the rabid fans, the excitement around the program, and showcased just how special Big Blue Madness at Kentucky is/was for anyone who has never seen it before. He also threw in a “These people are crazy.” (Drink). The facilities/the atmosphere
- Calipari concluded with a great couple of lines about being at Kentucky and this year’s team, “There’s no place to hide here. It’s not easy being here. It’s not easy coaching here. It’s the life you’ve chosen. I hope we’re as good as everyone thinks we are.”
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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