UK's Breakfast Club takes a cue from Michael Jordan

Members meet, work out first thing

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 20, 2011 

John Calipari said he felt the Wildcats don't talk to one another enough.

CHET WHITE

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

Four or five Kentucky players get up early enough each morning to lift weights before that first cup of coffee (or whatever it is college athletes drink to start the day). UK Coach John Calipari called it the "Breakfast Club," an idea seemingly borrowed from Michael Jordan and intended to create the kind of unity that brings success on a Jordanesque level.

"It's as much about getting them together all the time," Calipari said Monday. "... This team doesn't talk enough."

The Breakfast Club is Calipari's attempt to create dialogue. He declined to name the four or five players who make up the Club.

"A good group of guys," he said. "Guys you'd expect being in it are in it. Hopefully, other guys will join in."

Noticing one player working out before breakfast, Calipari evoked the name of Jordan to try to persuade others to participate. Jordan formed a Breakfast Club the season the Chicago Bulls set an NBA record with 72 victories, Calipari said.

"That means you're totally sold in," Calipari said. " 'I'm buying in.' 'I'm in.' 'What do I have to do?' "

In the short term, it remained in doubt how much All-America candidate Terrence Jones can participate. The dislocated finger on his shooting hand sidelined Jones at Monday's practice, as recommended by the medical staff, Calipari said.

If Jones could not practice, he would not start against Samford on Tuesday night.

Calipari dismissed the notion of any long-term consequences of the injury. "It'll just take time," the UK coach said. "But he'll be fine."

Teammate Darius Miller said UK would feel Jones' absence should he not be able to play against Samford.

"Terrence is a huge part of this team," Miller said. "He's one of our best players. When you lose someone like that, I think it always affects you."

But Samford Coach Jimmy Tillette saw Kentucky being able to soldier on Tuesday without too much difficulty.

"My reaction would be, then NBA player No. 6 will take his spot," Tillette said.

Kentucky takes a 9-1 record and No. 3 national ranking against Samford. But in trying to form a more perfect union, Calipari said he frowns upon cellphone use when the players eat dinner.

"If you choose not to be with us, then OK, be with someone else," Calipari said. "Talk to one another."

Calipari noted that basketball is a team sport. His team, largely dependent on freshmen and sophomores, does not yet understand the importance of a united effort.

" 'What's the big deal?' " Calipari said, mimicking players' attitudes. " 'I want to be on my own.'

"Go to bowling. Golf's a good game. Tennis. Wrestling (is) not bad. But this is a team sport."

Of course, the semester break serves as a good time for players to bond. Few students are on campus. There are no classes. No study. There's no need for cellphones, computers, social media and video games, Calipari said.

"You're playing basketball, you're eating and sleeping," Calipari said. "That's it."

Kentucky will practice more than once daily on days there are no games. The Cats might practice as much as four times in a day, presumably not counting the Breakfast Club get-together.

With envy in his voice, Calipari noted how UK women's coach Matthew Mitchell can count on his players staying multiple seasons. Mitchell can be confident about putting building blocks in place.

As for the men's team, "It's going to be a one-year run," Calipari said.

By February or March, freshmen typically evolve past individual ambition and play to win, he said.

"They're probably further along than they deserve to be, especially defensively," Calipari said. "To get freshmen to defend the way we're defending is not normal."

Kentucky leads the nation in blocks and ranks among the top 10 nationally in field-goal defense.

"Yet, offensively, we're just not there," Calipari said. "The biggest thing for us is, we don't talk. Everybody is kind of wondering how they play (as individuals). It's not pieced together yet."

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