By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON —John Calipari was impressed with his team following the first week of individual workouts.
“Great first week,” the Kentucky coach tweeted Friday.
Calipari joined his team for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began to focus primarily on the little things on the court.
“(We) went a little old school with some of the things we did,” he said. “Getting on that court and teaching is why we do what we do.”
For more than three months, Calipari spent most of his time talking with other coaches, players and influential personalities with a weekly “Coffee with Cal” series that ended a couple of weeks ago. He also helped establish a foundation — The McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative — to help college minority students amid the ongoing unrest throughout the nation.
Returning to the court has given Calipari a “little extra bounce in my step … because I’ve had the chance to work with our guys.’
“It hasn’t been much — just individuals — but getting to see their faces and talk a little basketball has me smiling,” he said. “We’ve got a determined, dedicated, and hard-working group. We’ve got a long ways to go obviously, but I like this group.”
Calipari likes the mixture of “talent and some veterans.”
“Keion Brooks is way better and Davion Mintz and Oliver Sarr have been great,” he said.
Calipari said he is hopeful Sarr will be eligible to compete this season after transferring from Wake Forest.
“We’re waiting to hear, we feel confident, but you never know until you know, you hear it’s good to go,” the Kentucky coach said. “He’s got a great case. But, you know, we’ll wait to hear.”
Calipari also was glad to see many of his former on NBA rosters. The league will reset the season on July 30 and 17 former Kentucky players are part of 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
“(I’m) looking forward to seeing our guys compete again,” he said. “I know they’re itching to go. (The) guys were having some big seasons before the break.”
The NBA playoffs will begin Aug. 17 in the traditional 16-team playoff field – the exception being that all games will be played in Orlando. Here is a list of former UK players who will be competing:
Enes Kanter (Boston Celtics), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Dallas Mavericks), Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), Patrick Patterson (L.A. Clippers), Anthony Davis (L.A. Lakers), Rajon Rondo (Lakers, injured), Tyler Herro (Miami Heat), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks), Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nerlens Noel (Oklahoma City Thunder), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Kenyan Gabriel (Portland Trail Blazers), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) and Keldon Johnson and Trey Lyles (injured, San Antonio Spurs) will compete in Orlando.
* * *
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.