An issue seen with this year’s basketball team is a simple one, which goes unnoticed by most. We are constantly referring to what this player is doing wrong or what the other player did wrong, but rarely have we discussed what the team does wrong as a whole. As the season progresses, it has become noticeable the players are finally getting the phrase ‘there’s no I in team’ and are working toward results as a team, rather than focusing on individual achievements.
An example of this would be the growing number of players joining in on the player-ran midnight practices. Personally, I think the midnight practices would be a lot more enjoyable than the 2012 teams breakfast club.
In his pre-LSU presser, coach Cal talked about seeing his team put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“I’m having fun with it. I mean, it takes time. We got the youngest team in the country, and there’s all kind of things that we do that other teams don’t have to do,” he said. “They got established teams. They’re just hoping they don’t get injured. They know who they are. They know how they play. That’s not us.”
Big Blue Nation has watched the basketball team progress over the season in the right direction. Thanks to Cal’s mental based coaching this season, several players have been able to block out the clutter and become better individually. This helps the team develop better as a whole.
Cal said it took the coaches a long time to get the players to think differently. They have been taught their entire lives to play a certain way, and when they come to Kentucky they have to change their entire thought of the game.
“You got to kind of define it (basketball), and we were all discombobulated for the first month trying to figure that out,” he said. “Now it comes down to, OK, we got to be a better team now. We got to have better ball movement, which they’ve started to do. We’ve got to have energy off the ball.”
Teaching young players mental discipline is not the easiest of jobs, according to Cal. Coach Calipari said he has to ask the players “what would you do if you were the coach?” because having the players learn about self-coaching is the next step to the next level for the team.
Cal is not going to take excuses from the players in future games. Each member of the roster was once the best player at his high school. They have been the star of the show, never having to have put an actual team effort into a game. Now it is hard for them to have mental discipline. However, Cal believes that has changed and will continue to improve with a little pressure.
“In the game, I’m taking you out. I’m not going argue with you,” he said. “I’m just saying you broke down again mentally. You’re out, and we’ll go with who has the mental toughness to sustain.’ And you know, it’s just we’ve got to force it.”
Now, with two big road games coming up, Cal says the team will face the biggest mental challenge of the season.
“We went to Arkansas and we made seven critical errors of just, ‘Why did you do that?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Did you not know this is how we play this?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘So why did you do that?’ ‘I don’t know.’,” he said. “That’s all mental discipline. So we have to have that both on offense and defense.”