While you were out enjoying the sunlight, listening to Kentucky Sports Radio, or carving ‘Monday Sucks’ into your desk at work, I was on the phone listening to the Southeastern Conference’s summer teleconference with John Calipari and the league’s 13 other basketball coaches. Assuming most of you weren’t on the line with us — and if you were, you should’ve said hello — I put together some notes from the Coach Cal portion of the call, the only time I paid any attention to what was being said.
A brief summary…
— Calipari opened up the discussion by saying next year is going to be ‘interesting’. He said he hears all the comments about the incoming freshmen, but at the end of the day, you have to be a terrific team if you want to do something special. “We have the pieces,” he said of the group. “Now we need them to come together as a team.”
— Cal used this line twice during the call: “Having talent and players doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win, but not having talent and players guarantees you’ll lose.” He said some coaches rely on ‘coaching up’ average talent, but he’d rather take the talent and worry about teaching them to play together.
— It’s very early, but if he is comparing the 2013-14 team to a Kentucky team in his past, it’s the Wall-Cousins squad over the 2012 National Champs. Like that 2010 team, this year’s team won’t be a great execution team because they’re so new and young. But he said they’ll be able to do things physically, athletically, and skillswise to make up for the lack of execution. Let’s just hope the season ends the way it did in 2012, not 2010.
— He thinks Tennessee is going to be good with Jarnell Stokes returning. LSU, too.
— Competition will bring out the best in Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress; they’re already seeing it. They’re being challenged this year, not protected. Cal said, “Now there’s competition; now you really see guys blossom. Right now, Willie is challenged by the other big guys. Alex is challenged by Julius and the other guys. So, all of the sudden, they’ve elevated their game, and if you make an excuse, you’ll be sitting.”
— Cal also talked about Archie Goodwin, saying he still thinks there’s a chance Archie could go in the first round. He said he thinks age is working in Archie’s favor — he is one of two 18-year-olds in the draft — and teams like his toughness, athleticism and ability to get to the rim. Cal reminded us that he thought it was a good idea for Archie to return, but the final decision was Archie’s to make. “Would I have rather had Archie back? Sure I would’ve,” he said. “Would I have thought it’s probably in his best interest to come back? Yeah, maybe. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn’t matter. I can give him the information and he’s got to make that decision. He has to make it work.”
— In closing, Cal said last season was a disappointment but he was humbled by it and the players benefited from it. Wiltjer was Sixth Man of the Year; Julius Mays is getting a lot of looks this summer; Hood and Polson improved; and even Ryan Harrow helped himself out.
Let’s just not go through it again, please.