This year John Calipari is doing something he’s only done on the rarest of occasions: play zone.
Fans asked for years why Coach Cal would not at least try a little zone here and there to give opponents a different look. Many times Kentucky’s length could have suffocated opponents with a zone, yet Calipari refused to relent. That all changed this year.
“This year for us, we’re just so young,” Calipari said on the SEC teleconference. “The way you have to trust each other [in man-to-man]; the way you have to talk; the mental toughness you have to have to sustain a full possession. To really be that guy, that team, you have to be a great rebounding team, which means you gotta play people before the ball hits the rim.”
He added, “Young kids don’t have that discipline, that toughness yet.”
Calipari has been forced to deviate from his philosophy to cater to his players. Few coaches would do it, but Calipari is willing…for now. It’s his job to push them to play like they are no longer freshmen.
“Now you’ll see veteran teams out there, the best teams in college basketball right now are veteran teams, and they do have that discipline. They do have that toughness. They do know how to finish. They do know how to sustain.
“I think part of it is looking at young teams, it’s just harder when you got young teams. But it’s doable, because we’ve done it before, it’s just when does it catch? When do they grasp it and understand?”