John Calipari met with his favorite media members this afternoon to preview tomorrow night’s game against Mississippi State. Here are the five things you need to know:
1. Camp Cal helped the team come together off the court
Cal said that having his players out of class and fully dedicated to basketball for two weeks made them closer off the court, but he won’t know for sure if it will translate to on-the-court chemistry until tomorrow night.
“Every team I’ve coached has come together. Now, don’t know what that means on the basketball court, but I know they know each other better, they have a better feeling for each other. It starts there, in my mind.”
Cal added that he hopes that cohesion will result in a better effort defensively and improved pace throughout the game.
2. Rust could be an issue
Cal pointed out that the Cats have played two games in 19 days, and now they’re facing three games in seven days, two on the road in tough venues. “For us, again, let’s see what steps we’ve taken. Not playing, we may be rusty,” he warned.
3. Cal wants more points and rebounds from Alex
A common theme from Camp Cal has been the impressive play of Alex Poythress. Cal said Alex has been killing it in practice, but it’s time to bring that to games.
“I just want to see that there’s carry over, there’s certain guys that are playing so well right now, go do it in a game,” Cal said. “Alex, I want a couple more baskets and a couple more rebounds from him. And he is absolutely like ‘Whoa’. I’ve never seen him like this. Ever. I mean, now go do it in games.”
Everyone’s happier Alex is playing well, including Alex. He even smiled yesterday:
“Alex smiled yesterday, did something, dunked on somebody. Just grabbed the ball and just. He was smiling. And I stopped and said ‘Can you imagine? Alex is smiling.’ And I said, “did he smile at all last year?’ Coach O said ‘yeah, when he was leaving the gym.'”
4. The new motto is “Run blind”
Fail fast, brother’s keeper, yada yada. It seems like Cal has a new motto for his team each week. The new flavor? Run blind. And no, it doesn’t mean run with your eyes closed:
“It’s like a football player who’s a wide receiver that’s not receiving the ball but runs his pattern like he is receiving. I’m trying to get these guys to run the wing blind. Don’t jog like ‘I don’t think I’m getting this one.’ And the big guy, run blind! Fly. And maybe you get the ball and maybe you don’t.”
5. Even the 2014 signees are impressed with Dominique Hawkins
Has there been a more surprising player than Dominique Hawkins? The Madison Central star has become an integral part of the team because of his hard-nosed work ethic, and relentless effort. Cal said that Dominique has been so impressive that the 2014 signees (Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, and Trey Lyles) have texted him to tell him how much they love his play.
“I have some of the recruits that we’ve signed hit me on the text after a game and say ‘I love Dominique’s game.’ So you have everybody watching. It’s a good lesson that when you come with energy and when you come to compete, you stand out.”
Now, if only Alan Cutler would get out of the way: