John Calipari spoke to Seth Greenberg and Sean Farnham during UK’s open practice on the SEC Network, and once again, bemoaned this squad’s youth and inexperience; however, once again, you couldn’t miss the excitement in his voice as he described their potential. Some quick hitters:
— What he’s learned through four practices: “We’ve got a great group of kids who want to learn and want to get better…some of this is we’re trying to go and learn as we run, but it’s hard. Young kids. I’m having fun with them, but it’s hard.”
— With so few veterans, the search for a leader is still ongoing: “You have to be the hardest worker, the first one in. You’ve got to be the one that wins the drills and then you can lead your teammates…The leadership here will develop over time.”
— Cal claims he was so excited for his players to go through Pro Day that he didn’t sleep well last night.
“We did it for the kids. everybody will say, well you did it for recruiting. No, we did it for the kids. Now, the ancillary thing is, wow, it’s helping us in other areas too, but that’s not why we did it,” Cal said. “I was excited for them. I didn’t sleep good last night. We’re not winning and losing, but they are. So, you want them to walk away and have these guys say, wow, I’m really going to keep my eye on a bunch of these kids.”
— The difference between Hamidou Diallo last season (redshirt) and now: “I’m having to get on him now about every drill matters. And every shot matters and you’ve got to be more consistent in your workouts. And when it doesn’t go right, you’ve got to come back and double down. ”
— Of course, he talked about the “positionless” philosophy: “We started the positionless stuff based on, we really, the way we play, if you’re a wing, if you’re a 2, or a 3, or a 4, you’re really the same. And eventually, I would like to have a bunch of 6-9 guys that can play point and shoot it and wings and bigs…The positionless is, you’re going to see us posting a bunch this year.”
— It’s easy to compare Quade Green to Tyler Ulis because of his size, but Calipari doesn’t want you to do it.
“What Tyler Ulis did for us is show us that you can be a little smaller than 6-9 and play with the heart of a 6-9 player. Quade, I don’t want him compared to Tyler Ulis because that’s not fair. Tyler Ulis is a once in a lifetime player and he’s in the NBA proving it.”
— Calipari on what they’re focusing on in practice right now: “I think it could be a fairly good pressing team, but we can’t start a press [right now]. We need to start a zone — we don’t have time yet. We’ll probably go into the first week of our real games and have just a couple of offenses, an out of bounds play, a side out of bounds play and we’ll learn as we go.”
— “One of the things I told them today is, there are things that you do well. Then you’ve got to tell me in a huddle, we’re going to you, where do you want the ball? Tell me where you want the ball. It’s a game-winning play. The reason I have to do that is these are all new. I’ve never coached them. We’re four practices in and I’m going to control this more than I have in the past because my job is to protect them. I’ve got to protect them now too. I can’t let them go out and hurt themselves losing their minds.”
— On when he believes his system will finally be in place with this group: “I just hope we don’t run out of runway. We need to land this plane and hopefully there’s enough runway and enough time to do it. The team that went to the national championship game with Connecticut, we didn’t get it until March. We figured it out in March, thank goodness and then we played. I don’t know this team. I’ll tell you agin, this may be one of those teams where we shoot it and four guys go to rebound it. We may not be that consistent. You play zone against us, we move it twice, shoot it, and send four guys to the glass. That may be what happens.”
— One good thing so far is each player is pushing themselves to the limits: “They go so hard in some of this stuff that they’ll cramp up. If you see me stop [practice], it’s because two guys are cramping up. And then I’ll tell them, you know what that means? You don’t ever go this hard. This is what they have to learn, the pace and the effort. Go until your legs burn. They don’t know this. It’s all new.”
— Calipari is reminding players to be patient, but he needs the players to remind him to be patient too.
“Here’s what I’ve been telling them. I stopped practice, I’m ready to kill people. I tell them, you need to remind me to be patient. So say, Coach, be patient. We’re good guys, we’re good players, we just don’t know. Just be patient. Because I want to kill some of you in here right now. I’m going to have to be patient.”