John Calipari has a long list of successful point guards that learned to play the position under his coaching. Now his son, Brad, is trying to join the bunch.
The younger Calipari worked harder than anyone over the summer, trying to learn to play point guard to increase his opportunities in his sophomore season at Kentucky. He got a taste of what it’s like to run an offense while competing overseas in Croatia on an eight-day trip with Global Sports Academy.
“Since the season ended last year, the main thing they wanted me to do is handle the ball better,” he told KSR. “The months before I went (to Croatia), that’s all I was doing; just really focused in on that and I think that helped me a lot. Then when I went over there, I played point guard a lot over there so it was just getting comfortable with the ball in my hands. My main focus over there was getting people involved and just trying to do something different, and adding another dimension to my game than just shooting the ball. That’s been the thing I’ve been the most focused on — having more than one dimension.”
Calipari scored 17 points with seven assists and four rebounds in his first game of the trip. He finished with averages of 14.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game against four professional teams from the region.
He hopes that experience of playing point guard against pros will have him better prepared to play the position in his second season in Lexington.
“That’ll be the thing that gets me on the court the most,” he said of the switch. “I’ve always had good vision passing the ball; it’s just getting my ball-handling up at a higher level because playing with guys like this, it’s different. Over there in Europe, it’s a completely different game. Guys aren’t as athletic; no one’s getting driven by and dunked on. But it’s still professional athletes and they’re still very skilled; great IQ, they play well together. It’s more execution than it is athleticism and pushing the ball up the court. I think that helped me a lot, to play a different type of game. But playing against these guys (at UK) made it seem easier.”
One person who has already seen his progress in action, and the work that has gone into it, is his dad. Coach Cal has been right by his side the whole way.
“He’s been with me week by week,” Brad said of his old man and head coach. “He sees the strides I’m making as a player. He tells me how proud he is of me and I think it’s good that he realizes that because he knows how hard I work and the hours I put in.”
Maybe his critics will realize it soon, too. I couldn’t let him could go without asking about them.
“It is what it is. Anyone in this gym who’s seen me or been around me, can tell you I put in more time than anyone. I work harder than anyone, so the people who are saying all that stuff is people who have an outside view and an uneducated opinion. It is what it is.”
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