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Calipari’s Cats are “ahead more” than he wants team to be in October

John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Most coaches would love to have this problem that John Calipari says he has with this year’s team.

The Cats might be too good too soon based on what Calipari saw during his team’s four exhibition games in the Bahamas in August.

“It did put us ahead more than I want to be. I don’t want us to look like it’s January in November because you can’t get better. You can’t — your team can’t keep improving,” Calipari said. “What we’ve tried to do here every year is play our best basketball in March.

“If you’re playing like this in November, how in the world are you going to get better? And if it is, it’s going to be just a little bit.”

Kentucky, of course, might need to be really good to beat Duke Nov. 6 in the season-opening game. So how is Calipari slowing his team’s progress?

“We haven’t started scrimmaging yet, and I thought this would be a scrimmage team, but I didn’t want to start down that road yet. So we haven’t done anything with zone, offense or defense. Very little. And we’re going to have to because I think the first four or five games, you’re going to have teams playing us a majority zone,” Calipari said.

“This should be a pressing team. Well, we haven’t really done that yet. So I’ve zeroed in on four or five things where I’m trying to create habits of individual players and then habits of our pace of game. In other words, we’re flying, but you don’t play real fast. You’re still in control.

“You’re having poise, and what does that mean and what does it look like? So that’s what we’re trying to do right now and not get ahead to where we’re a full-blown — I think we did a walk-through before the first combine, and I said, let’s take it out on the baseline.

“So I’m not slowing down like not working, but I’m slowing down what I’m giving them to master right now, and let’s master this individually.And it’s good because we have still young kids that we’re going to be relying on.”

1 comment

  1. Interesting message from Calipari. I think it is a reflection upon the 2014-15 team that exploded out of the starting gates, only to fall to Wisconsin in the final four in a game they should have salted away over the last 5 minutes.

    Did that team not improve over the course of the season? I believe it did improve over the course of the season, but it did not improve at the same rate of improvement as the field that started chasing the Cats in November.

    The 2015 team got off to that strong start for two reasons. First, it was an experienced team that did not have to go through the same amount of fundamental learning that most Calipari teams at UK must navigate. Second, it benefited from a 6 game Bahamas tour against very tough opponents in August, allowing the team to bond and gain game legs earlier than the field.

    This team has both of those advantages, and I believe this team will come out of the gates in November way ahead of the field, even Duke.

    By March/April, there will be legitimate challengers that will have caught up with this team.

    I have no doubt that Calipari’s words are cautionary and directed at rabid fans, who have unrealistic expectations, like me, and he wants to temper those expectations.

    Roll the ball out there, Coach, and let these guys do their thing!

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