We’re still a few months from the start of the season, but there is always something going on with the Kentucky basketball program. Whether it’s meaningless exhibitions, trying to figure out how to replace one group of freshmen with another group of freshmen, or Coach John Calipari walking away from his job in order to be the coach of a national team of a country he’s not even from, something is always going on. To stay apprised and educated, you’d be well-advised to follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Putting Shame In Your Game: On Monday, the Domincan Republic national team — coach by John Calipari — whipped a team made up of former Kentucky players, 106-88. Though some fans expressed a degree of surprise at the outcome, a closer inspection reveals the final score wasn’t exactly a shocker. Put simply, the UK Pros were out of shape. And while the Rupp Arena crowd seemed to enjoy itself for the most part, you have to wonder if the lack of conditioning on the part of the former Wildcats was something that Calipari saw coming all along. Consider: Of all times to play this game, why did Coach Cal all of a sudden decide to play in August, when he knew NBA players would be out of shape? Moreover, why did he just happen to pick a time that coincided with the NBA lockout? There hasn’t been a work stoppage in the NBA in 12 years, yet Calipari suddenly decides it would be a good time for his team to play a full court game with a group of players who aren’t working? And on the Monday following DeMarcus Cousins’ 21st birthday party, no less? Kaboom, indeed.
*Lighten Up: At the outset of the game Monday, UK backers in Rupp Arena booed lustily when Dominican team members Al Horford, Francisco Garcia and Edgar Sosa were introduced. Though many had hoped before the game that there wouldn’t be any such instances of over-the-top partisanship, the announcement of the starting lineups left no doubt what kind of fans were in attendance: Xenophobes. Apparently, UK supporters are frightened by people who look different than them, and who have “funny sounding” names, and who speak a different language. One would think that with a black president in the White House, we would have gotten past such ugly and outdated attitudes, but sadly, one would be wrong. True, Eloy Vargas was greeted with cheers, but this was apparently because the Kentucky fans in attendance were confused, and assumed that he no longer played for the Cats. Accordingly, they rejoiced in a hateful display of enthusiastic applause. If Vargas doesn’t end up being a star for next year’s UK team, Kentucky fans won’t have anyone to blame but themselves.
*Gratitude: Calipari’s Domincan team, propelled by the play of Horford, Garcia and Sosa, swept the team of former UK players, who were coached by Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum. The main lesson learned from the two exhibition games was one that was no doubt a bitter pill for Kentucky fans to swallow: Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan are better at developing players than John Calipari. How else to explain the fact that not even a couple of living legends like Hall and Crum were able to coax a single win from a roster full of players who learned their trade under Coach Cal? Clearly, the lessons Horford learned from Donovan, and those Garci and Sosa were taught by Pitino, were instrumental in the Dominicans’ wins. The DR team ran a cohesive offense, they played together, and they put forth great effort. Who else would get credit for that besides Pitino and Donovan?
* On this date: On this date in 1948, the US won the Olympic gold medal in basketball with a roster that featured five Kentucky players and Adolph Rupp as an assistant coach. Big deal, though, because the rest of the world sucked in basketball back then.