For the third time in as many weeks, John Calipari sat down for his weekly call-in radio show with Tom Leach on Monday evening.
Like Mark Stoops does during football season, Calipari uses this time to break down his team’s recent performances, what to expect against future opponents, and update the fans on potential injuries.
This evening, Calipari talked about his team’s recent run of impressive play, Camp Cal starting up soon, and injury updates on Dontaie Allen and Nate Sestina, among other topics.
Here are the ten things we learned during the John Calipari Show tonight:
Calipari was hard on the team today
After a blowout win over Fairleigh Dickinson, Coach Cal didn’t take it easy on the Wildcats in practice on Monday.
In fact, he pushed them harder than he’s pushed them all year.
“Today’s practice was hard, I was really hard on them today,” he said. “Hard on Tyrese, hard on Nick, hard on EJ. Keion, Kahlil, I was hard on guys today. Even Johnny.”
His goal? To make practice harder than the games.
“I’ve got to continue making these practices harder than the games, and I’ve got to make them as competitive as I can because we’ve got to work on fighting and finishing better than we’ve been,” he said. “We’re going to be playing a team coming up that plays mostly zone, so we’re going to have to get some more work in. Tomorrow is an off day for us, then we’re on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Get some zone work in.”
Legendary coach Larry Brown gave him some advice
Coach Cal said that he received a call recently from none other than legendary head coach Larry Brown.
His message? Kentucky’s players “aren’t running for layups.”
As a result, the UK head coach put in a drill specifically for that, and it worked.”
“I get a call,” Calipari said. “It was Larry Brown. He said, “Your guys aren’t running for layups.” And I said, you know what, you’re right. So I put in a little drill and told them why I was doing it. And different ways you have to sprint for layups. If you don’t have a layup, you’re bumped to the corner. You’re running for layups. And so we’ve done this thing every day, and all of a sudden, we get in the game, and we’re running for layups. We see how much easier it is to get baskets. How about this? Just outrun the other guys. That’s fight. That’s a fight.”
Rebounding is still a work in progress
A struggle early in the year is now turning into one of the team’s strength: rebounding.
While Calipari is impressed with his team’s growth in the rebounding department, though, there is still work to be done, specifically when it comes to simply grabbing the ball with two hands.
“We’re getting better, but we had six one-handed rebounds in the last game,” he said. “And of the six we could’ve reached with two [hands] and we reached with one, I think we got one, maybe two of the six. But if you reach with two, you get all six.”
As a result, the team ran in practice today. After all, “tape never lies.”
“So we ran today for every one-handed rebound,” Calipari said. “My thing is, you better go for two hands, because I’m watching the tape. The funniest thing is, tape never lies. It never lies. Late in the game, you remember late in the game where Nick moved on a screen and hit the guy? I said, “Nick? Why would you?” He said, “I swear to you I didn’t do it! I swear to you!” He was screaming. So today, you know I showed it 18 times in the film room. The whole room was cracking up. Guys, you can say what you want to me, but you’re better off saying “my fault.” You make an excuse, the tape is never going to look.”
Keion Brooks Jr. is getting better
Coming off Keion Brooks Jr.’s career-high 15 points against Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday afternoon, John Calipari praised the freshman wing for his growth both on the game floor and in practice.
How did his recent success come to fruition? He has been guarding Kentucky big men Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery in practice.
“Keion is getting better, and you know why? He’s going against Nick and EJ,” Calipari said. “He’s got to fight now. So now, he goes in the game, and what does he do? He fights because he had to in practice. It’s made him better.”
Kentucky’s schedule is about to get difficult
As Kentucky moves on from the Fairleigh Dickinson victory, Calipari was quick to acknowledge that the road gets difficult from here with upcoming games against Georgia Tech, Utah, Ohio State, and Louisville in the coming weeks.
At the end of the day, he believes this non-conference schedule will be one of the best in college basketball.
“As we go through this, we’re going through a lot of stuff,” he said. “A lot of stuff is good, but we’re going to be tested against better teams, and then we’ll see where we are. That’s why we play this kind of schedule. When we get through our non-conference schedule, my guess is that it’ll be top-five [in the nation]. It’ll be a top-five schedule.”
And as a result, he needs as much practice time as he can get.
“It’s on now,” he said. “We needed time [to practice], we needed this week to get better. We’ll need next week too.”
Calipari invited the UK volleyball team over
This weekend, John and Ellen Calipari had the Sweet 16-bound Kentucky volleyball team over to their house for dinner.
And according to the UK head coach, they probably enjoyed the experience more than the volleyball team.
“Coach Skinner has done unbelievable work with the volleyball program and our girls,” he said. “I wanted to have them over at the house, feed them, and have some fun. They leave for Waco on Tuesday or something. When you all left, I asked my wife, she said “I loved it.” I think we enjoyed it more than they did. It was just neat to have them there. We just want our teams [at UK] to do well.”
Dontaie Allen returned to practice today
After saying on his radio show last week that Dontaie Allen returned to practice for the first time following his torn ACL and broken collarbone injuries, the freshman wing missed the next two practice due to “knee soreness and swelling.”
According to Calipari, though, Allen finally returned to practice today.
“He went two days last week, could not go,” he said. “He went today, made a shot today. It was the first one he’s made since he started playing. He’s behind, as he should be. But at the very least, he’s going to be helping us in practice.”
What about Nate Sestina?
While Allen is returning to practice, the same can’t be said about Nate Sestina quite yet.
When asked about the Bucknell graduate transfer’s status moving forward and whether or not he would be available by the time Louisville comes to town, he wasn’t certain.
“He has a small cast, but I think he’s still a week away from taking that off to see how he feels,” Calipari said. “I don’t know [if he’ll be back for the Louisville game], have no idea.”
EJ Montgomery can’t exchange baskets
Coming off a career-high 25 points for EJ Montgomery, Coach Cal still demanded more out of his sophomore forward.
At the end of the day, while he is putting up solid numbers on the offensive end of the floor now, he is still giving up too many baskets on defense.
“When he aggressively catches the ball, he makes aggressive moves,” he said. “When he grabs it with one hand, he’s not the same player. We focus on that in practice. He’s shooting the ball better, we just can’t have him exchanging baskets. You as the primary defender on him, you occupy his eyes. Make it difficult, be part of the fight.”
Offensively, are they specifically going at Montgomery to help him find his groove?
“They went zone, so we put him in the middle to make baskets,” Calipari said. “I like when he catches it on the perimeter and drives it. He just needs to fight through bumps, too. If you avoid all contact and try to flip it, you’re never in position to offensive rebound. That’s not just EJ, that’s a lot of guys.”
Calipari is showing defensive film of his past players
Recently, Calipari said he has been showing his players old game footage of former Wildcats Tyler Herro, Deandre Liggins, and Tyler Ulis.
Why? He hopes his current players learn from the defensive success each of those three players had during their time in Lexington.
“What I did? We cut out [film of] Tyler Herro,” he said. “When he got here, he was used to playing zone in high school. He didn’t play any defense. Late in the year, he was playing people before they caught it. He was one of our best perimeter defenders. … When I told him that, he said “I never thought people [would put together footage] of my defense.”‘
“[Then we did] DeAndre Liggins,” he continued. “Clapping, charging, pumping his fist.”
“Then we show Tyler Ulis at 5-foot-8, 140-pounds,” he finished. “Just do what he’s doing. Be disruptive. It’s hard to play that way. If we’re not an elite defensive team, we’re not going to be a team that’s advancing very far [in the NCAA Tournament]. If we are, then we’ll be one of those teams that [makes a deep run.”