There are times in life in which we’re reminded just how much we can accomplish when we unite for the greater good. Wednesday night was one of those times. After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast last week, people across the country have been looking for ways to help out. Days before the Cats’ first official game of the season, Cal has a lot on his plate. To say he is a busy man is a gross understatement. Yet, like he has so many times before, Cal decided to make time to give back because there simply was no other choice. In an appearance on Matt’s radio show this morning, Cal explained the reason he felt the need to help WKYT with the telethon:
“I don’t have time for this right now. But I have to make time. I don’t have a choice. I’m sitting in a seat that can make a difference. We know we’re not going to rebuild Staten Island, Queens or the Jersey Shore, but we may keep people alive.”
Cal didn’t have to do this. He could have quietly donated money on his own, which I’m sure he has, and gone on with his business. But, as we’ve been reminded time and time again, Cal understands the weight of the job he holds. He realizes the power of his popularity and that if he helped out with a telethon, it would quadruple the difference it could make. Hurricane Sandy was a salty smack from the perspective stick, reminding us all what actually matters in life: helping others.
“People say, ‘You play Friday against Maryland!’ Yeah, that’s big. I know it is. But I think what we’re doing here is bigger.”
For two hours, the basketball team helped volunteers answer over 2,500 calls and take donations, with the occasional break to goof off for the cameras or give Matt bunny ears (looking at you, Jarrod Polson):
Cal lent his special swag to the event, emceeing portions and dishing out the usual Cal-speak (“We’re not very good right now,” etc.). As of this posting, the telethon has raised approximately $500,000 from phoned-in pledges, a figure that doesn’t include the results of the online auction or Papa John’s fundraising efforts. That’s an amazing number, but Cal thinks we can do better and challenged the Big Blue Nation to raise $1 million before he takes the check to New York City tomorrow. You can still donate at wkyt.com or order a late night pizza from Papa John’s, who is donating $1 from every pizza sold on Wednesday to the efforts.
When united behind a common cause, is there anything the Big Blue Nation couldn’t do? (Sorry IU fans, Tom Crean’s creepiness is a lost cause.)
— As mentioned, Cal appeared on the radio show on Wednesday morning to discuss the telethon and the Cats’ game vs. Maryland. Cal said that he has no idea what to expect from his team on Friday, but that he does know that he has a few players who are “still playing for themselves and not for their teammates,” not because they’re selfish, but because they simply don’t know any better at this point. A large part of the preseason and the early games will be this team figuring out how to play together and although playing Duke and Maryland this early will be a challenge, there is no better way for Cal to learn about his squad.
Cal singled Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin out when talking about players that need to improve the most:
“Why would you be on your point guard and your other handler the most? Well how about that they’re going to have the ball 70% of the time. Well, then they better be making the decisions that we need them to make as our team. … Those two are going to be our point guards. We need them to play and have a vision of themselves that we have, not they have.”
In fact, Cal had advice for just about everyone on the squad:
Nerlens: “Nerlens is the hardest worker in practice so it’s showing. He’s the one that in the last fifteen minutes in practice, he has something left in the tank.”
Alex Poythress: “Alex isn’t active enough. Alex doesn’t run the court hard enough. Alex should average ten rebounds per game, he had two against Transy. When we get Alex right, then it gets scary.”
Willie Cauley-Stein: “Willie can only play 3 or 4 minutes in a stretch. The good new is he subs himself. He knows it.”
Archie: “We’ve gotta get Archie under control. I want you to attack, but you can’t run three people over and just throw it at the basket.”
Ryan: “You’ve gotta get tougher.”
Kyle: “You can’t rely on threes. You’ve gotta go get rebounds, you’ve gotta score around the basket, you’ve gotta get fouled. You went 0-5, and you don’t look very good because you don’t do enough of the other things.”
The best time to have these problems? November. Cal says the Cats could lose both of the games very easily and still be on the of best teams in the country. Have faith.
— Naturally, when you’re a former Cat and the number one pick in the draft like John Wall, haters gonna hate. But normally, those haters aren’t on your own team. Last week, the Wizards had to participate in a seminar on the business of basketball, which is surely as boring as it sounds, so Ed Tapscott, the team’s director of player development, decided to spice things up by holding an exam at the end for two courtside seats for a future game. John Wall ended up winning, much to the chagrin of Emeka Okafor, who accused him of cheating, claiming Wall looked the answers up on the internet: “But he’s from Kentucky, so I’m not saying nothing.” Okafor went to UConn, so how he has the nerve to accuse anyone of cheating is beside me. Wall, the classy Cat he is, had a priceless response: “How did I cheat? They gave us the questions ahead of time. No cheating. I won fair and square.”
— If you didn’t get a chance to yet, be sure to check out Jason King’s profile of Calipari over on ESPN.com. King examines how Cal has taken the Cats back to the top of the game not only with excellent coaching, but with the marketing savvy that most Hollywood starlets would die for (at this point, Cal might even be able to save Lindsay Lohan’s career). King argues that through Twitter (he uses Cal’s pic with Charlie Sheen at a Reds game as an example), the All-Access special, relationships with hip-hop icons, etc., Cal has made Kentucky the premiere destination for top recruits in the country. As one SEC coach said of Cal’s dominance of the recruiting scene: “It almost doesn’t seem fair.” If that didn’t make you smile, how about this quote from Cal on celebrities wanting to be associated with the program:
“People, on their bucket lists, are saying, ‘I want to see a game at Rupp Arena,'” Calipari says. “Magic Johnson will call and say, ‘I want to come to the game tonight. I want to see John Wall or Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.’
“It’s become fashionable to be seen here, because people want to be seen and associated with success. They want to be around it. It’s like going to Macy’s. It’s good to be seen there. Another store, you may lower your head and slip out. But if you’re at Macy’s, you want people to know you’re there.”
The piece also includes an interesting look into Cal’s psyche, and what keeps driving him to work around the clock. DeWayne Peevy says he thinks Cal feels like the “red-headed stepchild that can’t get accepted into the club,” which keeps him always wanting more. Seriously, go read it.
— Friday’s game just got a little tougher. On Wednesday, we found out that Maryland’s Dez Wells has been ruled eligible for the season, which means he will play Friday against the Cats. You may remember Wells for his part in the Xavier/Cincinnati bout, or the alleged sexual assault charge that got him expelled from Xavier. Wells looked at Kentucky before committing to Maryland, only to find out that his eligibility was denied. He filed an appeal, which the NCAA granted to everyone’s surprise on Wednesday. Convenient timing, isn’t it?
— Anyone with eyes could tell, but WLEX-TV and the Herald-Leader did an investigation on the attendance figures for the UK/Vandy game last Saturday and guess what? UK Athletics fudged that number just a little bit. Through an open records request, they found out that only 18,885 tickets were scanned at the game, which is just as depressing as we thought it was.
— But hey, it’s a new dawn, a new day for Kentucky football. On Wednesday, two coaches on Kentucky’s list of potential candidates dispelled rumors that they’ve been contacted by the Cats. First, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease told reporters that he hasn’t heard from anyone at Kentucky and that he’s wholly focused on what’s going on in Gainesville, BUT that he saw potential in Kentucky’s program. Pease, the offensive coordinator and QB coach under Guy Morris at Kentucky, called UK a “great program” with a proven record of success under Morris and Brooks. He even went as far to say that “you can get good guys there,” which to me says he may not have heard from the Cats, but if/when he does, he will listen.
Duke’s David Cutcliffe followed suit, telling reporters on the ACC coaches teleconference that he hasn’t “felt the need” to address the coaching rumors with his players and that he’s happy with his position at Duke. **puke**
— Finally, who is interested in the Kentucky job? Bobby Petrino, whose father told the Courier-Journal that “I just know this, that he’s interested in Kentucky. He wants to stay in the SEC. That was his life’s goal was to go to the SEC.” Check out Matt’s post below for more.
That’ll do for now. Matt and Drew leave for NYC tomorrow, but be sure to tune into the radio show, as Ryan Lemond and the one and only Matthew Mitchell will be hosting. Judging from his last appearance, it’s going to be solid gold. I’m doing the MC Hammer dance just thinking about it.
Buckle up guys, it’s about to get real.