Calipari ponders how to get UK from good to great

Cal Asks Miller, others to step up

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 10, 2010 

After Kentucky out-steadied a veteran Notre Dame team Wednesday, John Calipari noted the many ways he'd like his team's complementary players to better support freshman linchpins Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight.

Are your ears burning, Darius Miller and Co.?

Miller, the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball, made only one of five shots in 37 minutes against Notre Dame. That was negligible compared to the combined 35 shots taken by Jones (18) and Knight (17).

"We need Darius to do a little more," Calipari said after UK's 72-58 victory. "He's got to make a couple of those shots. He had drives and just missed. He's got to make a couple of those balls."

The UK coach suggested that Miller possesses the ability to make a more tangible contribution.

"I just want him to be one of those guys that everybody in the country talks about," Calipari said. "Because I think he has that ability.

"Do you know how many rebounds he had at halftime?"

Calipari answered his own rhetorical question.

"None," he said. "Are you kidding me? So why aren't you going after balls? Just do it.

"He can be as good as anybody in the country. He can shoot it. He can handle it. He's a smart kid. He's got enough athleticism. He's not a great athlete. He's athletic enough. He can dunk on you. But there's something that's holding him back."

Although Kentucky is off to a 6-2 start despite a reliance on freshmen and a challenging schedule that Calipari repeatedly second-guesses, the UK coach sees the potential for much more from his team. Whether it's a lack of trust (the subject Calipari addressed earlier in the week) or a lack of respect for teammates or embryonic team chemistry that needs time to develop, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.

"We're still pretty good," Calipari said. "That's our enemy. We want to be great. If we want to be great, there's something holding us back. I haven't pegged it yet."

Calipari said he would continue meeting with individual players to try to determine what might bring more out of the team.

The UK coach also noted a possible change in the rotation, moving freshman Stacey Poole ahead of sophomore Jon Hood. Earlier this pre-season, assistant coach John Robic said the Cats would like "an extra boost" from Poole or Hood as eighth man.

Poole got Calipari's attention by making a three-pointer, his first basket of the season, against Notre Dame and being part of the revolving door of defenders that contained sharp-shooter Ben Hansbrough to two free throws in the second half.

"Let him get Jon's minutes and let's see if he can do better," the UK coach said of Poole. "He deserves an opportunity, too."

By no means did Calipari single out Miller as a player who could contribute more in support of Jones and Knight, a tandem he said led the way while "everybody else fills in." The UK coach noted how he replaced DeAndre Liggins with Doron Lamb in a search for better rebounding.

"I had to take him out," Calipari said. "He couldn't rebound the ball at the end. Doron rebounded the next ball. That's the will to win. (A player saying) 'I'm going to do whatever I have to do to win.' "

Early foul trouble again sent Josh Harrellson to the bench, this time after picking up his second foul at the 15:16 mark of the first half.

"He missed a tip-in and he put his head down," Calipari said. "Well, we've seen that play 25 times. Just run back.

"So there are all kinds of holes we've got to plug. But I like my team."

Calipari had to like UK's defense in the second half. The Cats blanketed Hansbrough with total denial defense. The Irish missed 14 of their first 15 shots, and made only six of 30 in the half.

"It was kind of hard for us to find stuff," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. "The best thing we did was on a missed shot, try to push it and get something early before they could set their defense. Because playing against their set defense was very hard for us. That's why we missed some layups. Playing against their length, I think, intimidated us around the basket."

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