John Calipari met with the media for almost an hour this morning to talk about his team. In true Cal form, there were plenty of great soundbites and a ton of information. Here are the ten things you need to know:
NBA scouts say James Young has stood out to them the most
Cal said that so far, James Young has been the most impressive player to people who watch the team practice: “Everybody that walks in the building, the guy that they’re saying stands out is James Young. Every day. We’ve had NBA scouts in there everyday, and they’re all speaking about him.” Why?
“He is really fast, he’s now not settling for jump shots, so you’re seeing a young man get his head and shoulders by people, take contact and make baskets, which a month ago, he wasn’t going in there. In transition, he’s like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If he’s out ahead, you throw him the ball and something good will happen. He has a chance of being a terrific defender.”
What about 40-0?
Inevitably, Cal was asked about going 40-0. Cal joked that he felt like White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in that he keeps having to repeat his goal to go undefeated (this was the first of many political references):
“Let me again tell you what I’ve said for about eight years. Before I retire, I’d love to coach a team that goes 40-0. ….Will that happen? I don’t know. Every game, we play to win. We’re not playing any game not to win. The reason I like the mentality of ‘every game matters’ is you don’t want to get upset by people that you shouldn’t get beat by.”
Cal insisted that they don’t discuss going undefeated as a team, but it’s a personal goal for him.
Inexperienced, but talented and deep
Cal refused to say whether or not his team should be the number one team in the country because he hasn’t seen anyone else play, but did say that they have the talent: “We’ll be the most inexperienced team in the country but we’ll be really talented.” More talented than any team he’s had here?
“Umm…boy, that first team I had here was really talented. That first team was like ‘Woo!’,” Cal grinned. He also mentioned the 2012 squad, but said that he wants to watch this group a little before determining whether or no they’re the best he’s ever had: “I’d like this to play out a little bit, and look back. This team is deeper than that team (2012). We have a couple more than we had back then.”
Cal brings up that he could start five freshmen
Cal went on a riff about young players, and, unprompted, mentioned that he could start five freshmen this season:
“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but we could start five freshman. I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but it may.”
Ultimately, Cal says it’s up to the players.
Jerry Tipton made a funny.
At one point, Jerry Tipton introduced himself to Cal as “Jerry Tipton, Fox News,” causing the room to break out in laughter. Cal grinned and made another political reference on the absurdity of the moment: “The Republicans have shut down the government and the Democrats are trying to feed everybody. What is going on here??”
Julius Randle never leaves the gym
Cal said that they’re focusing on playing Julius Randle out on the floor away from the basket right now, and it’s taking time for him to adjust to it. Cal cites that as a reason many who have watched practice have come away raving about James Young instead of Randle–Young is playing his natural position, while the staff is trying to diversify Randle’s game as they did with Patrick Patterson. Because of that, Randle doesn’t have the “swagger” he did when he came in, but Cal says his work ethic is the best he’s seen since Brandon Knight, which could give him a chance to be National Player of the Year:
“10:30 last night, he’s in there shooting. This morning, I hear “Blup, blup, blup” (basketball sounds), and I look out my window in the morning, he’s got a full sweat going. And he’s going to practice today. So when you ask me, does he have a chance at that? Yes, he does, because of that.”
You people are giving him gray hairs
Cal often refers to the recruiting video they use on visits, which includes clips from his time at Kentucky, including the first press conference he held as coach. Cal joked that when people see that video, they tell him he’s “aged more than Obama”:
“In this job, you age. It’s just part of what you do. I’m on the treadmill and I love it. I love the fact that our fans are so active and a part of it. I mean, we have a media day and look at this (gestures to crowd). It’s ridiculous. This is what it is here. It’s a different deal, it just is. But it’s what you strive for when you’re coaching.”
This team needs a killer instinct
Cal said that because of the team’s inexperience, he worries that they haven’t developed a killer instinct yet:
“This will be a team when they get teams down, will they bury them or will they go to showtime? If you ask me right now, that will be our Achilles early. We’ll let up off the gas, we’ll get good and we’ll let up.”
How do you fix that? Close games. Cal said he’s looking forward to his team getting tested early in order to keep the pedal to the metal.
The Harrison Twins will totally pull a “Parent Trap” on teams this season
One of the few ways to tell the Harrison Twins apart right now is Andrew has longer hair. Cal admitted that he asked Andrew to grow his out so he could tell which twin is which, but it won’t last for long. Once the season starts, Cal says he’s going to have Andrew cut it the same length as his brother’s so teams can’t tell them apart:
“Right now, you’ll notice that I’m making Andrew keep his hair longer than Aaron’s so I can tell who’s who. When the season goes, we’ll have them cut it back down so no one will know. I told Andrew he’s gotta keep one line on his head that I can see so I can tell it’s him and not Aaron.”
No word on if they’ll be allowed to pull pranks on the media too.
Derek Willis dunked on Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson
When asked what players have surprised him so far, Cal again mentioned Derek Willis and Dakari Johnson. In fact, Cal said Willis dunked on Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson recently in practice, winning the coveted “Helmet Award.” Whoa. Needless to say, “he is going to be a really good player here.”
I’ll post a full transcript of Cal’s remarks in the basketball section in a little bit, along with a full video of the presser. More coming all day…