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Dakari Johnson runs 1.5 miles before every UK practice

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If you’ve followed Kentucky basketball all season long, which you have, you’ve noticed a change in Dakari Johnson’s game. Once limited to eight or nine minutes per night, the freshman big man started the last four games at center for Kentucky and the Wildcats are 4-0 over that stretch. Dakari attributes his improved play to a number of factors, one being conditioning.

In his postgame interview with Mike Pratt last night, Johnson said he meets up with assistant coach Kenny Payne before every UK basketball practice to hit the treadmill. He said he runs a mile and a half everyday before the rest of the team arrives to get his legs going and to get his conditioning up. That explains why the big fella has been able to keep his legs and play extended minutes as of late.

Dakari also said he tries to make an impact on the game however he can, whether that be scoring, defending, rebounding or whatever the team needs. That’s the attitude Coach Cal is currently trying to instill in all of his players, that it’s not just about offensive production. He wants them to do whatever they can to help the team, not just score, and we’re seeing that from Dakari Johnson.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

29 responses to “Dakari Johnson runs 1.5 miles before every UK practice”

  1. Mark

    This team needs more Dakari.

  2. Kyle

    I hope he can instill this attitude to some other guys on the team.

  3. Leslie

    I love the way Dakari gives 110% on the court and apparently in practice too. His hard work is paying off!!

  4. TJY

    “I gotta feva! And the only prescription is mohr Dakari!”

  5. Kentucky

    Remember who his teammate is highschool was. The Kidd.

    1. GP


      You can easily see some of that MKG fire in him.

  6. UK Terry

    Dakari is the ONLY player on the team that has improved as the season has progressed. Hard work pays off.

    1. JustSayin

      Sad but true … i can’t believe the nosedive Young and Aaron Harrison have had

  7. Big Dave

    This guy is becoming my favorite player. He isn’t real athletic or explosive, but he beats you with strength, will, and an old school game. I hope he stays another year and works himself into a lottery pick. The only thing that needs to be worked on is conditioning and you can tell he’s gotten better in that category as the season has progressed. The 1.5 miles says a lot about his work ethic too.

  8. 2mites

    I could tell Dakari is in a lot better shape last night because he looked a lot faster on defense. This guy could be our next Josh Harrelson by doing the hard work in conditioning and hard work. Gotta love the big guy and his big smile.

  9. amirite

    Imagine what this guy could do if he didn’t have six hands slappin the hell out of him every time he touches the ball. He gets beat UP in that paint.

  10. Wildcat Willie

    Lunardi has UK at a 3 in Orlando, I hope so, cause I’ll be in Winter Haven just 45 minutes away.
    Go Dakari, this should also help Randle by taking some pressure off.

  11. Why

    So if Willie (laughably) is projected to go in the 1st round in NBA mock drafts, why is Dakari not projected at least as high? He starts over Willie, and as far as production per minutes played, he has to be more efficient than Willie. I just don’t get the NBA Scouts’ love of WCS. But then again, I would have bet the house that Daniel Orton would not have been drafted when he left….

  12. D-Rock

    Now if we can just teach someone to make a pass into the post….

    1. B-man

      I agree that the low post passing could use some work. Cal should try to find a way to play Derek Willis during the same minutes as Dakari. Is it just me or is Willis the only guy that makes a fundamentally sound post pass??? When you lob the ball in, it gives the defense an opportunity to push the post player off the block. A bounce pass keeps the post player planted low. As usual, this is just my opinion based on coaching my daughter’s under-7 team.

  13. SayWhat

    I find it odd that the other players haven’t taken this same approach to the game. It’s been proven time and time again that conditioning is one of the main keys to playing at this level and yet, only a few players take it on as something personal.

    The other part that is key is his attitude to helping “however he can”. That is what UK needs from everyone and the success of the team would bleed over to individual success.

    Some of the kids have played themselves out of the lottery and some out of this year’s draft due to these two factors. At what point do they realize this and try to change?

  14. GraBeardCat

    I believe Dakari had to sit out his junior year in HS because of transfer rules, so he is actually one year behind the rest of the freshmen in experience. His focus and dedication to conditioning and getting better should be a target for the rest of the team. While he may not have the talents of some of the players, he uses what he has well, and his conditioning, athleticism, trying to maximize his abilities will put him ahead ot the rest of the team if they do not learn to focus and play with energy – all the time. For players who want to go to the next leverl, they need to understand scouts do not look only at points and rebounds!!

    UK fans know BB, and know Dakari is one of the most improved players on the team. He certainly is one of my favorite players to watch.

  15. JB

    I try to refrain from being negative, but at the beginning of the season I remember Cal talking about the team focusing on the dribble drive the majority of practice and defense wasn’t something they would practice until after the blue/white scrimmage. Now he is telling us that he is trying to get his players to think defense first and offense second. Maybe i’m wrong but if that’s his message why not make it a priority initially. I know some will say the dribble drive takes time to perfect and thus is the reason it consumes the first few weeks of practice. I guess I am just trying to say that i understand why the players are thinking offense offense offense

  16. jpg

    I love the grit and determination of Dakari…..This kid has heart!

  17. Jus Sayin

    This team needs Willie Cauley-Stein to be good more than it needs Dakari Johnson. Shot blocking is our main need. Not post scoring. I like Dakari but we need to find a way to work WCS in to more minutes.

    1. jpg

      That is all on Willie. If he starts hustling/playing hard like Dakari has been, Willie would be starting! Is all about the effort Willie is willing to bring.

    2. Next

      You’re going to be waiting a long time if you think wcs is going to be a good shot blocker against good teams with good bigs. He got a lot of blocks against the scrub teams we played at the beginning of the season and people got the idea he’s a good shot blocker. Against good bigs he gets pushed around, pumped faked, and leaves his feet too often leading to easy put backs. He has zero offensive game. He’s destined for a career as a back up. In the NBA and on this team. I wish Dakari had his 574 minutes played instead of just 275. He’d be 20x better than wcs instead of just 10x.

  18. LA

    If Dakari learns how to jump he can be an awesome post player.

    1. Next

      Post play is about footwork not jumping. He already is a very good post player for a freshman.

  19. Buzz Baker

    That’s how Dakari got down from 365lbs.

  20. STEVE!

    Dakari also looks to be excited and having fun when he’s in the game, moreso than some of his teammates.

  21. Jughead

    Bravo. I’d rather watch Polson/Hood/DJ/Willis/Poythress lose with heart than watch the privileged sloths that start.

    Terrible of me to prefer effort over entitlement?

  22. Next

    It was smart of Cal to help Auburn out by pulling Dakari at the beginning of the game with him playing red hot. He has 4 pts 2 rebounds a steal and he can’t even make it to the first tv timeout.

  23. RandyB

    I think the former Sayre Middle School player has a chance to be the next Nazr Mohammed,
    or better. Big guy who hustles and sticks around the NBA for a decade.