As mentioned before, SEC basketball coaches got together for the world’s largest collection of weekly technical difficulties, cleverly disguised as a teleconference, and discussed the summer happenings with each of their programs. Coach Cal spoke on several subjects, but it was his opening statement that hit the most topics, touching on his hyperbolic statements regarding the draft, the incredible improvement of Jorts and his trip to Haiti. Below is Coach Cal’s opening statement…
“I’ve had two really, really powerful days in this past week and I just want to address both of them quickly. One, I went to Haiti. The program and the people of Kentucky raised $1.5 million through the “Hoops for Haiti” telethon. I wanted to go down and really see what kind of impact it had. I can tell you that any money was given to save lives, it is really a sad state of affairs even six months later. The money is truly saving people but it’s not doing anything for the infrastructure. There’s no lights, there’s no garbage pickup, there’s no sanitation, there are a million people living in tents, food in ration. It’s a total mess. I hope people haven’t taken their eye off the ball. It’s not going to be cured just by the people in Haiti. I think people are going to have to step up. Ellen and I are trying to figure out in our own little way what we can do. We went to an orphanage. It was a powerful day for me.
“And then Thursday, draft day. Just being able to — and I can’t explain the emotions — of being able to be with five families and five players who have realized their dreams, and we were connected to that. We helped created hope for their families. Obviously they did it, but we were a part of it. The call with Eric Bledsoe — he’s screaming, I’m screaming, (his) mom is screaming. It was just incredible. I made a statement – and I’ll make it again — that it was the biggest day in Kentucky basketball history. I wasn’t talking to the past. I was talking to the future. Chris Douglas-Roberts, one of my former greats at Memphis, was at my house last night for two hours and we talked. He said, ‘What a great statement to make for those kids.’ It was a two-hour infomercial for our league, the University of Kentucky, and it will speak volumes for five years, maybe longer. That’s what I meant by that (statement). We’re a players-first program. Players will win us national titles. We’ve got to figure out as a staff with the rules they are – 40 years ago it was different. They all stayed four years. It’s not that way anymore. With the rules the way they are, which I don’t agree with, kids should be able to go directly to the league and then stay two or three years. Those are not the rules we’re playing by. How are we going to deal with those last three games and then the next two with a young team like we had last year because it looks as though we’ll always have a young team.
“The returning team I’m excited about. We’ve got nine of them on campus right now. They’re training with our weight strength (program), they’re playing pickup (games). They’re great kids. Brandon (Knight) comes in with almost a year of academic credits under his belt before he goes to one (college) class. You’ve got Doron Lamb and Stacey Poole — great kids — that are just going to add up that depth and strength to our guard play. Terrence Jones is just going to be one of those unique players along with Eloy (Vargas) and Enes (Kanter), who gives us size. And then there are the players coming back. Right now everybody is talking about Darius (Miller) that it’s ridiculous. See, Darius could put himself in a position at the end of next year that he’s making a decision, and maybe DeAndre (Liggins) the same deal. They’re all doing well. The biggest surprise right now has been Josh Harrellson. He went to China and they were stunned how good he was. Right now, with the weight strength, are people are saying he’s on a mission. All of a sudden you have a 6-10 guy, and you say, ‘Well, he didn’t play last year.’ He played behind two first-round draft picks. No kidding. So we’re looking at this saying it’s going to be good. We are going to Canada and finalizing those things in August to try to figure out this team and who’s who and who’s what. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about the future of our league. I think we’ve got three teams in our top 10. It’s all good stuff, but I’m excited about it.”