John Calipari has had enough and is at it again, starting Camp Cal about a week earlier than normal. The camp, which traditionally takes place after the Louisville game, is Calipari’s chance to hone in on his players and get them to really focus with multiple practices a day for several days. They’ll get a break from Cal’s craziness the next two days as they travel to Brooklyn to take on Ohio State and then its back to camp to get their minds right before Christmas.
The real question is though, what exactly needs to happen at Camp Cal in order to set the tone for the rest of the year and help this team meet their full potential?
1. Learn to make free throws
I’m pretty sure this is an obvious one, but I’ll say it any way. As a team, Kentucky is shooting a combined 68% at the line. While that doesn’t seem so bad, there are some outliers like Derek Willis, who is currently shooting 100%. But more importantly, there are two outliers in the opposite direction. Marcus Lee is shooting 39% and Isaiah Briscoe is shooting 38.9%. That’s got to change in particular for Briscoe who lives at the foul line. This team’s percentage from game to game will depend on who is at the line. If guys like Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis, and Jamal Murray get to the line a lot, the percentage should go up.
I don’t care how Cal fixes this problem. He could pull a Lucas Scott in One Tree Hill and if each player can’t hit 10 free throws in a row, they run. Although, Briscoe and Lee might not have any legs afterwards with their struggles from the line.
2. Toughen up
Again, I don’t care how this gets done as long as there’s some improvement. John Robic could stand at the baseline and throw basketballs at each player as they come down the court, Rock Oliver could come back and get them in the weight room. We just need to see some toughness out of this team, especially from Skal since you can argue that the success of this team depends on how much he improves this season.
It seems we’re too afraid to drive and settle for an outside shot (I’ll get to those later). While we’re still outrebounding teams and outscoring them in the paint, we’re not tough. Every now and then we get a glimmer of hope that Kentucky has manned up, but there hasn’t been any consistency. If the Cats are going to bring home a national championship, they need to toughen up or I may go all Tyler Ulis on them.
– Dave Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) December 4, 2015
3. Working Tai Wynyard in
The now infamous Woodchopper finally arrived in Lex today in time for Saturday’s game. However, it’s obviously going to take more than two days to really get him to meld with the team. This team has been hanging out and playing together everyday since they arrived before the start of the semester and some have been teammates for a year or two. While it hasn’t been determined if Wynyard will actually play on Saturday or not, he still has some catching up to do. A large focus at Camp Cal needs to be not only working Wynyard in with the big guys but also with the guards so they can feel comfortable feeding him the ball in the paint.
4. Hitting 3-pointers, or just any shot really
Like Cal said, we have some really good shooters, just not good makers. As a collective unit, Kentucky is shooting just 28% from behind the line and 48% from the field-goal range. For a team that was on the throne of many leaderboards last year, they’re barely top 50 in field-goal percentage, tied at 48 with North Texas. The biggest problem is that since we’re shooting just 28% from behind the line, we don’t drive enough and instead depend too much on the outside shot.
Individually, Jamal Murray is shooting 33% from behind the line and 39% inside, Tyler Ulis is actually shooting worse than that at 28% and 34%, but with consistent elbow problems. The point is that Jamal Murray is actually shooting the best from three-point land and Marcus Lee of all people has the best field-goal percentage at 67%.
5. More sleepovers at Cal’s
If Skal plays well on Saturday I’m convinced that it’ll be because of his sleepover at Cal’s house. Have Ellen make them brownies and breakfast in the morning, stay up watching Christmas movies and just have fun. Who knows, maybe that’s all they’ll need to get over the bridge.