This is John Calipari’s youngest team, and, more than ever before, he’s bracing fans for growing pains. On the eve of Kentucky’s season opener, Cal said he’s had to be harder on this group in practice than any he’s had during his time here.
“This is as hard as I’ve been on a team since I’ve been here, I’d say,” Cal said. “Both in stretching them out and being direct and specific on what we’re looking for and what I accept. But, they’re behind most of those other teams. They’re not behind on size. It’s just trying to get them, when they’re fatigued, to just continue to fight. When they’re fatigued, continue to think. Things they’ve never really had to do.”
Throughout the preseason, Calipari said he’s had to remind himself to be patient with this group, but through 27 practices, he seems resigned to the fact that they will take some lumps early.
“As we start this off, I have to accept more than anyone else — more than any fan or media — that we are where we are, and it’s going to be a process and we could get dinged along the way,” Cal said. “I’m happy with the trajectory of the team, it’s just that we are what we are…They’re gonna have to get hit in the mouth a few times and then you start realizing, whoa.”
Kentucky will be tested right out of the gate, with three games in five days, including a primetime date with Kansas on Tuesday night; however, Utah Valley and Vermont are far from cakewalks.
“The only issue is, there are three teams — these are not teams that you can play bad and win against,” Cal said. “We’re going to play teams with veteran guards. We’re going to play teams with veteran players that aren’t going to get rattled. You’re not going to press them into submission or turn it over four straight times. You’re not going to do it. You’re going to have to play basketball.”
Here we go.