“Camp Cal” won’t officially kick into full gear until tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. With that said, the intensity level in practice has picked up immensely over the course of the last week according to all sides. John Calipari has admittedly put the clamps down on this young team as he continues to try to push, prod and pull the best out of them as players. Although not all of the questions and concerns plaguing this team early in the season were answered this afternoon, steps were taken in the right direction on a number of fronts.
For the third game in a row Ryan Harrow continued to make strides. This afternoon’s game was probably the closest Harrow has come to putting together a complete game in a Kentucky uniform. Calipari is far from satisfied when it comes to his point guard, and he noted that in his post-game press conference. But notice that I referred to Harrow as Calipari’s point guard. Two weeks ago, we still weren’t 100% sure if and when Ryan Harrow was going to earn that label permanently. Although things could always change moving forward, Calipari’s decision to start Harrow at the point guard position today has to be considered a sign that he will be the guy moving forward. Archie Goodwin, Jarrod Polson and even Julius Mays might still take over duties at times to share the load, but it now seems as if the position is squarely Harrow’s to run with or Harrow’s to lose.
And today, Ryan Harrow ran with it. Positive steps were taken even though he was still not perfect. Calipari stated in his post-game comments that his team was “showing signs.” Harrow has to be at least a significant part of those “signs.” Perhaps trivial on the surface– small things such as Harrow smiling and seemingly enjoying himself during the course of the game, even coming off as confident at times– have to be considered good signs. Harrow also communicated, though still not at the rate Calipari would probably like to see. At different points during the course of the game though Harrow could be seen pulling his teammates together and giving them words of instruction and encouragement. He still doesn’t look the part of John Wall in leading his team, or a late-season Brandon Knight… but he’s a lot closer after today than he was two weeks ago.
The more concrete results/signs? Ryan Harrow started. Kentucky looked much more effective in the fast break–often times with Harrow setting the pace. Harrow scored in double digits for the first time during his Kentucky career. Kentucky won and their offense looked more controlled and organized than when Goodwin was running the point.
As with all of his young and talented players, Calipari is not ready to announce Harrow’s arrival. He will continue to push–that much is certain. But a shift has seemed to take shape when it comes to Harrow and Calipari. Harrow is talking like a player who is ready to be pushed. And Calipari? He’s still far from satisfied, but he has been giving more positive feedback on Harrow in practice and during games. Harrow was one of the first players on the court during the pre-game warm-ups, and Calipari noted that he has been spending extra time in the gym.
Honorable Mention Camper of the Week: Kyle Wiltjer. Calipari practically begged for Wiltjer to find ways to contribute and impact a game other than simply through his shooting. Wiltjer was even relegated to the bench to start the game for the first time all season. The concentration and focus on the other aspects clearly paid off in the end and his shooting stroke certainly returned this afternoon as well. Calipari was more pleased with Wiltjer’s 12 rebounds than his 23 points. Me? I’ll take both.