John Calipari made a surprise appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio this morning to talk about his team and the record crowd at Big Blue Madness Campout. In true Cal form, he killed it. Here are some highlights:
On the message the crowd at campout delivers to his players: “This isn’t for funsies here. You gotta bring it. You’re not just doing this for your teammates, you’re doing it for the state.”
Who’s surprising him in practice?
“Derek Willis has looked really good. He’s long-armed. …Like a Darius Miller, he’s gonna be a player here.”
“Dominique (Hawkins) is holding his own against two grown men. I’m telling you, he’s not backing down.”
“Marcus Lee…I never realized how good he is. He has an energy level that you have to put him in the game. ‘Just go kid, just go at it.’ He’s confident. …I’m surprised how good he really is.”
Cal said that the best thing that could have happened for Marcus Lee and Derek Willis is Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress’ injuries: “All of a sudden, those guys are out there and you say ‘whoa, they can play too.’”
How about Julius Randle? Cal says he’s trying to teach Randle how to diversify his game to prepare him for the next level, and in that sense, compared him to Patrick Patterson. He’s also encouraging Randle not to worry about missed shots or mistake plays: “My best players, I give them all kinds of room. His energy, his MKG kind of drive, when you’re struggling to figure this out, it can’t effect that.” However, he said that Julius should be the best offensive rebounder in the country and a great post-up player.
He reiterated that Aaron Harrison is just as good as his brother and that he’s trying to get the two not to worry about missed layups or shots. Why? “They don’t understand when you miss a layup, it’s not a bad thing, we can tip dunk it.”
The most interesting tidbit Cal dropped was that right now, he thinks Marcus Lee is ahead of Dakari Johnson in practice. While Dakari has dropped 20 pounds and is “dunking everything around the rim,” Lee is a “pogo stick” and the two are battling against each other in practice.
Cal shied away from any grand declarations of going 40-0 because he knows every team on the schedule is gunning for the Cats, including Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Cal mentioned Izzo’s quote about how the Spartans are planning to “beat Kentucky’s a$$,” and said that teams don’t just want to beat UK because they’re good: “It’s not just Kentucky they want to beat, it’s you because you got the scholarship they wanted.”