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John Calipari heaps praise on Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Devin Booker (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)


If you want to get John Calipari on a roll, it’s easy to do. Just ask him about how his former players are performing in the NBA.

That’s just what happened Monday during Calipari’s press conference to preview tonight’s game with Evansville when the UK coach was asked if any of his former players had caught his attention with his play so far this season.

It was like a softball for Calipari to knock out of the park and he swung away in a hurry.

“A bunch of them. But you know who I’m really proud of? Devin Booker. Now, we can all talk stats. Like, his numbers are ridiculous. Fifty-something percent, 50 percent 3, 90 from the 2,” Calipari said. “But how about Phoenix is 6-3? Now that makes me feel good – that he gets what he’s doing is about winning. Couldn’t be more proud of him.”

That was just getting started, though.

“I shouldn’t start down that road because there’s 30 of them that are, you know. PJ (Washington). How about PJ? Come on. This guy, he had 16 last night again. I mean, he’s just–it shows that everybody’s on a different path. Get yourself prepared mentally and physically and if it’s after one, two or three years,” Calipari said.

Of course, that somehow led to a Nick Richards comment or two about how well the UK junior center has played in two games this season.

“It’s like Nick right now. Nick wasn’t ready to leave after year one. Certainly wasn’t ready to leave last year because he walked in and told me. ‘I don’t even want to look. I know I’m not ready.’ Now you look at him now and you say, ‘Wow,'” Calipari said.They’re all on different paths and what they want to do.”

That got him back to the NBA.

“Anthony (Davis), what he’s doing. In my opinion, he’s the best player in the league. And I know a couple of my other guys will be mad I said not them, but I would tell you he is a generational kind of player. He just is. He’s got the heart of a lion and he wants to win, which really means something to him,” Calipari said.

“It’s not just playing to him. I know him. It is, he wants to win. And it appears as he and LeBron (James)–LeBron in understanding who he is and he’s going to let him be who he is, and LeBron is being who he is. So that could be scary, too.

“How about Shai (Gilgeous-Alexand). I mean, don’t get me started, but come on. Here’s a kid, I mean, he didn’t start his first 10 games here and he did just what Tyrese (Maxey) just said to me. I said, “Feeling comfortable but you’re fine, blah, blah, blah.’ He said, ‘Coach, I trust you.’ It’s exactly what Shai said to me. ‘I trust you. I know. I got you.’ You look at him like, whew.”

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