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Kentucky’s defensive struggles have Calipari going back to square one

John Calipari’s best teams have thrived on defense, which has made this team’s struggles even more frustrating. Through six games, the Cats rank 350th out of the 351 teams in college basketball in three-point defense and 279th in field-goal defense, a pill so tough to swallow that Calipari is hitting the reset button.

“What I told them yesterday is, here’s what happened to me personally. I’m expecting them to be farther than they’re ready to be,” Cal said. “I literally gotta start coaching the games as though they’re practice until we figure it out.

Calipari likened this team’s defensive struggles to those of last year’s squad, admitting that he got so caught up in their performance in the Bahamas he didn’t notice how bad things were on that side of the ball.

“I’m just telling you, I’ve come to — for me, reflecting and looking and saying how do I do this, it’s going to be a process,” he said. “I should have known this early. I should have seen it in the summer. I got enamored like everybody else and now, it’s, how do we get better defensively?”

Right now, that means going through tape and hitting pause to point out when players are in the correct stance, or repeating drills in practice to hold players accountable for their mistakes.

“We don’t stay in a stance. We don’t bounce. We don’t anticipate and we don’t play with hands like we should because of our length. And we’ve been working on it. It’s hard for us to stay in front of people because we come up out of a stance. We’re never ready to go. We’re never anticipating what the guy is doing. We’re never helping the helper.”

Calipari said there’s a shortcut to getting young guys to play defense, but he’s not willing to take it…yet.

“What a lot of people do, if you have to teach a lot of young guys, you just go zone. You just say, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to play zone.’ I just don’t want to be that guy. And maybe I will be.”

From listening to Calipari’s remarks today, you would think Kentucky is 1-5 instead of 5-1; that’s how discouraged he is by his team’s defensive struggles. With three sophomores and a fifth-year senior, we all expected Kentucky to be past square one, but that’s clearly not the case.

“The question I have is, is there ever going to be an easy year for me?” he joked. “Like just one year, be a team that I can sit there and — every year is a grind and sometimes I forget.”

“When they were in high school and there were stories written about them and their game, did it ever talk about how they defended or did it just put their points in the game?” Cal said. “And then they’re here. And then they’re not here a long time. And then you’ve got a short period of time. And then I get to where I’m frustrated and then I’m not having fun coaching and I’ve got — to be in this job and do the job, you’ve gotta have a ball every day. You must have fun coaching. You almost have to look at, this is where we are, accept it, and let’s move from here and just get better.”

In fact, he’s boiled down the motto to something even simpler.

“The standard defensively: let’s just be better than yesterday.”


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

10 Comments for Kentucky’s defensive struggles have Calipari going back to square one

  1. secrick
    4:12 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

    Yep lets do some coaching.

  2. Aar
    4:44 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

    Players listen more to coaches when struggling. Whether it’s after a beat down or being ranked next to last, it’s good to see Cal using under-performance to drive the team.

  3. sportsbird66
    5:56 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

    Not enough effort. Defense is difficult unless you lay it all out there. They will definitely improve. Really only one way to go from here.

  4. binarysolo
    6:22 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

    So we’ll be going strictly zone by the 2nd or 3rd game into conference play?

    • bigblue2284
      6:33 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

      Of course we won’t go zone, this is Cal after all. Move along nothing but Cal’s same regurgitated non sense. They’ll “make strides” against garbage teams and “revert back” against decent teams. Unless he’s got elite talent he ain’t doing much but talking.

    • bigbluebanana
      7:26 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

      Except going to final fours, championship games, and elite 8’s. Wtf do you want? Championship every year? Cal has won as many titles as any coach at UK in 60 years, and you’re talking trash? Please, go somewhere else with you regurgitated nonsense you nimrod. UK will be in the thick of it come March, ya know, like every year? Go root for dook man, do us all a favor…including yourself since you’re so damned ornery about our team. You and your other username bigolblue are constantly making yourselves look as dumb as a sack of rocks. No one is better for UK than Cal. Cal is THE reason we even became relevant again, yet you keep running that fat yapper of yours? Goodness, you are the reason basketball people hate UK, you’re that fan, you’re that guy, you’re why we can’t have nice things.

    • bigblue2284
      9:31 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

      Hey Banana let me explain something to you, UK was going to recover from their brief slide before Cal. Cal should have ff, elite 8s and certainly more than one chip he’s only had more talent than any coach in UK history or history period except maybe the legacy UCLA teams. Yes fans have a right to get sick of the same non sense every year especially when his record continues to slide. Do me a favor when Cal leaves in the next few years pack it up and go root for his next team chalked full of underachieving one and dones.

    • syrin23
      10:28 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah banana. 35 NBA players. Tons of lottery picks. At least three over all number one picks. One title. Less than Villanova. That will be his legacy until he wins more titles.

    • bigbluebanana
      10:34 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

      Syrian, you’re complaining because we won a title. We wouldn’t have won one without Cal in all this time. Cal made UK UK again.

  5. KYjellyRoll
    6:56 pm November 27, 2018 Permalink

    Well…you’ve got these players that are here as a path to the NBA and they’re all about themselves and as long as they think they’re doing all they have to do to get THEM to the nba…ten they’ll not be so worried about winning. They’ll be worried about individual performance which translates to score as many points as I can and no Defense!