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John Calipari Interview’s Monday News and Views


Most Sunday nights in this space, we go over the news from the weekend and look ahead to the next five days in UK sports. But to be honest, my weekend sucked and we all watched the UK football game and know what happened. So instead, let’s get ready for some basketball. A couple of weeks ago, John Calipari sat down with ten local media members for a preseason talk. This event happens every year and is usually done to get the information necessary for preseason guides and previews about the Cats. Over the next week, we will be giving you a lot of information from these interview sessions, including video interviews with all of the basketball Cats. First up though, is this summary of Calipari’s comments about this year’s team at the interview (and some quotes from Fantasy Camp) and the job at Kentucky. There is a lot of good stuff in here, so we hope you enjoy:

On Watching His Team Practice This Summer: Calipari has had the chance to work out the team a number of times this summer thanks to the relatively new NCAA rule, but he says that it hasn’t done a lot to help him understand his team. “To be honest, the more information we get on this group, the more confused we are.” Calipari said that they have seen a number of different skill sets from the team but “we have to see how we are going to play. Is it to play two big guys…do we play Archie at point some…there are a lot of options.”

On Alex Poythress: Calipari said that he loves the skill level of Alex Poythress but notes that it is very important to make him maximize his talent. “My goal is to get Alex’s motor to where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was.” Calipari likes the diversity of Alex’s game but hopes the effort gets better.

On Team Tempo: Over the last three years, Kentucky has played a number of different styles, as Calipari adjusted to his team’s personnel. This year however, he has one plan. “We are going to play fast. We are going to dribble drive and get moving.” Calipari thinks that he has athletes on the court that will be better than almost anyone they played and thus it is important to have a “higher tempo” than any of his other teams at Kentucky. When I asked how someone like Kyle Wiltjer will fit in, Calipari said that he would have Kyle play behind the ball, as the last man down the court “like Larry Bird late in his career, spotting up for shots.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein: Calipari talked extensively about Cauley-Stein and called him the surprise of the early workouts. He noted that a bit part of Willie’s success is his athleticism and the versatility it allows. “I went to see this kid in high school and he comes out and has a tennis racket.” Calipari noted that he can play a number of sports, but his football talents have allowed him to show coordination and ability to run the floor that is rare. Willie has gained 25 pounds since arriving in Lexington and at this point “he is on a different level than Nerlens, because he has been here 8 weeks longer.”

On Expectations for this group: As always, fans want to see the team play for a championship and they have high expectations. But Calipari says he isn’t quite sure what this team’s ceiling is yet. He noted that they only have one player returning who played significant minutes and that the inexperience could cause a slow start, potentially even 0-2. But he isn’t sure what that means for the year as a whole. “Could we better than last year? Maybe. But that would mean we are really good.” While it was clear Calipari wanted to downplay expectations, he repeated a familiar comment, “I like my team.”

On Kyle Wiltjer: Calipari spoke extensively about how Kyle has tried to vary his game and has gotten much better. Wiltjer has put on muscle and is still an excellent shooter (as seen by some of the performances we viewed at the Calipari Fantasy Camp). But the best view may come from Anthony Davis, who came and played with the team and went raving to Calipari saying, “Kyle is way better and way stronger.” Calipari noted that the high praise from a former teammate made him confident about Wiltjer this season.

On Julius Mays: The mystery man for the team is also still a bit of a mystery for the coaching staff. Mays is a 5th year Senior and Calipari noted that he will be expected to provide “old guy” leadership with this group. He said, “Julius is a great kid who has performed at a high level. He can make jump shots and comes in with no expectations.” On the latter point, Calipari noted that Mays could have gone elsewhere and potentially played a bigger role, but he wants to be here to win and that is very appealing to him.

On Ryan Harrow: Calipari noted that having Harrow in the system for a year is helpful, but that he still needs his young point guard to improve. While he may be a better shooter than Marquis Teague and his explosiveness is without question, Calipari wants to make sure he can finish as well. He told Harrow, “I want you to be the best layup shooter in the SEC” and he has made Harrow work on just that skill. Finishing at the rim, something Marquis Teague became great at during the year, is the key for Harrow’s success.

On Nerlens Noel: The most questions were asked about the nation’s top recruit and Calipari was quick to say that Noel is far behind his teammates due to his late arrival on campus. He noted that he became worried when Anthony Davis said, “I pushed him off the post…so I looked and Anthony and said, YOU pushed him off the post?” Calipari noted that Noel must play tougher and get bigger, but his athleticism is such that cannot be taught. He likened Noel to Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in his springing leaping ability and said that he is one of the quickest kids he has seen in the way he is able to get to balls. Calipari noted that it will take time with Noel and that we may not see the best of him until well into the season.

On the Balance of this Group: Calipari said that he may have never had a team with such variety in terms of talent and the “go-to player.” He expects that at some point this season, up to 7 different players could lead the team in scoring and that this will be a team where “any given night, someone steps up.” He doesn’t expect people to have traditional roles on the team and says this could be a group where “everyone has to do everything.”

On the Overall Status of the Program: Calipari talked extensively about how happy he is with the state of Kentucky basketball right now. He said that while Kentucky has always been a great basketball program, the academic bar has been raised here “and that is because of Brandon Knight.” He noted that Kentucky leads to many stresses you don’t have in other places. “The pace you go here is the pace you go. You take a lot of crap here. But if that is what you have to do to coach here, that is what you do. This is Kentucky.” He said he recently watched a fan video about the last three years (I assume it was the UKCat8Fan video) and that “it touched me.” He noted that moments ranging from Cousins in the SEC Tournament, to Brandon Knight over Princeton to last year’s title are all very special. He said he feels that he is the “keeper of the tradition” and notes that as of right now “the epicenter of college basketball is right here.”

We will have more preseason interviews as part of the KSR Season Preview throughout this week. I will be giving anecdotes and features from the preseason interviews on the radio, including some great stories, all week long. So tune in beginning tomorrow at 10 am. See you then….

Article written by Matt Jones

32 Comments for John Calipari Interview’s Monday News and Views

  1. Buddy
    12:08 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    How big is Ryan’s hair? Any frames left to giveaway ?

  2. BigBlueWest
    12:14 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    It’s so great to be a KY basketball fan right now. Euphoric even.

  3. Bradley
    12:17 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Did he say if he has been contacted about the football job?

  4. catcrawler
    12:19 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    In Cal We Trust

  5. jj
    12:20 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Teague was never “great” at finishing around the rim. In fact, for most of the year he was quite awful in that area. And while he did get better at it towards the end of the year, he was still average. Never seen such a good player miss so many easy layups than Teague. Not to hate on him, but his game struggled in that area.

    Pretty cool that he saw the 3 year “John Calipari Era” video. However, UKCat8 fan did not make that video. The Youtube user “Airball89” did, so you should probably edit that to give due credit.

  6. Hal
    12:27 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    But Calipari says he isn’t quite sure what this team’s ceiling is yet. “Could we better than last year? Maybe. But that would mean we are really good.”
    all i needed to read. get ’em cayts.

  7. Bradley
    12:28 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Teague was VERY good at finishing tough shots at the rim. Not sure you know what you’re watching.

  8. Keep it Real
    12:32 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Who are the 10? I would love to know who Cal invited.

  9. UKBlue1!
    12:32 am October 1, 2012 Permalink


  10. cowbell
    12:41 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    I got a fever.. and the only cure is more anecdotes!

  11. mikebballs
    12:55 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    I wish our players would stick with one last name.I loved MKG but it seems like they only have one last name. Then when they get an offer from UK, they end up with two last names..What’s the DEAL?? It’s too awkward to yell their names while cheering.

  12. JCPostel
    12:56 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Solid read, thanks Matt

  13. SoCal Will
    12:58 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    A nice trove of nuggets. #6 restated the real surprise. This year’s team may be better than last year’s. Wow. Also, I find interesting the way Cal may be professionally providing cover for Nerlens starting the season as 6th man behind a stronger Kyle and surprising Willie. Cal is always one move ahead of what we see….

  14. g-unit
    1:10 am October 1, 2012 Permalink


    I agree mostly with what 5 said … teauge did struggle finishing at the rim at the beginning of the year… the first game with kansas teague struggled to finish at the rim. He really struggled the first half of indiana game and both games againdt louisville. He would very often get lucky that davis and jones would be near the rim to clean up. There was a play in the NC during the sequence davis intercepted a lob, passed it to teague and teague crossed over and threw the ball over the rim and gilchrist Finished with a dunk… then the next trip lamb had a similar run out and finished the layup… teague also had some troubles with baylors length as well but over the course of the season as a whole he did improve but was no where near the level of wall, bledsoe or knight… he had no floater or high arching tear drop But sometimes did use his strength to “bull himself to the rim and create some space but as far as finishing at the rim he has been the worst of the Calipari pg’s… it was also very evident during the summer league as well…

  15. NittyPicky
    1:12 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    #11 – it’s OK with me to cheer our players using their first names.. i bet it’s no big deal to the players either. gonna be a great year
    if that’s all we complain about, don’t know about you guys but i’m way past ready for the tip off. GO UK!

  16. UKBlue
    1:54 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    I highly encourage everyone in the Big Blue Nation to enjoy, appreciate, savor these years because from the moment Cal excepted the job, started what will more than likely go down as the greatest period in UK storied basketball history. I know that is a lofty statement considering it’s UK basketball history, but if the first 3 years are any indication of the future, then Wooden & UCLA records better get out of the way.

    Just think: we maybe alive & get to witness UK’s greatest run ever; appreciate that.

    Maybe we should all thank Billy G because without him none of this would happened.

  17. Buckets
    2:06 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Matt should invite Kyle Tucker on the radio show so they can scream at each other. His awful hair could yell at his great hair. Two words: Radio. Gold.

    Basketball is right around the corner. Go Cayts.

  18. WhatSheOrder?FishFilet?
    2:19 am October 1, 2012 Permalink


  19. IUcansukabigblue.....
    2:59 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    I think this is the video in question. I’m just sad I don’t have to ability to make one like it. Gives me the chills. I just love how we prove Hubert and Skip wrong everytime. 🙂 Go Big Blue!!! You can thank me later.

  20. IUcansukabigblue.....
    3:07 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    The 7:39 mark, the Kentucky flags, the players taking the court, the fans, the entire basketball world watching.

    I’ll enjoy this moment forever. I miss them already.

  21. SeaCat
    4:13 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    13) Kyle was described as last man down the court and
    an older slower Larry Bird as a spot up shooter.
    I don’t think Cal meant Wiltjer would start and Noel
    would be the sixth man. I think Cal does not want
    us to expect Nerlens to be Anthony Davis right
    out of the starting gate.

  22. catlanta
    6:20 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Did cal say when the ncaa was going to rule on noel? Was that question even asked?

  23. HeySteve
    7:07 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Please give proper credit to Airball89. His video is at this link and its pretty awesome.

  24. Bradley
    7:57 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Noel WILL 100% start. Cal is telling everyone to not expect Anthony Davis and be patient with the kid. Noel will be a beast. Just give him time. Don’t act like most fans did with Knight and Teague. Knight was HORRENDOUS in Maui and most made a huge deal out of it. Teague struggled early and became VERY good the last half of the season even though most won’t/can’t admit/recoginize it. Give the kids time to find themselves. We’ll be fine regardless what we look like the first 10 games or so.

  25. bluefan
    7:58 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    I believe Nerlens will be fine. Not fair for us to expect him to be better or even as good as AD right from the get-go. I think he will develop into one of the best but we have to realize that Anthony Davis was a once-in-a-decade (maybe) player.

    Hope this lights a fire under Alex Poythress. I expect great things from that guy.

  26. Rixter
    8:07 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    There is a LOT going on in UK athletics right now, but when the radio show starts, let’s make sure ALL calls are about the Jones vs Tucker feud!!

  27. “everyone has to do everything.”
    8:12 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    new favorite line.

  28. RealCatsFan
    8:53 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Alex definitely has the potential to be something special. I think Cal was using one of his patented motivational techniques to get the most out of him. Friend of mine’s son is a freshman at UK, and he has commented on Poythress the first time he saw him on campus, “that dude is truly a MAN among boys.”

    Can’t wait for the first tip-off!

  29. Smiley Pete
    8:59 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    It looks like we only play Mizz once this year? Is that correct?

  30. Sozo
    10:57 am October 1, 2012 Permalink

    Great, great video that has been shared. Please give credit to the guy who put all those pieces together!

  31. steve
    7:39 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    you don’t win a title with a point guard that can’t finish at the rim. teague finished at the rim in the second half in bloomington and got better and better from that point on.

  32. Duke Sucks
    10:14 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    I wonder what style Tubby will play this year at Minn. We need to get Katz on that.I wonder if he will play slow or if he will play slow.