UK basketball notes: Coach Calipari wants Wiltjer to play 'nasty'

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 22, 2012 

Lafayette's Levi Giese, left, and Seth Hinrichs fought Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer for a loose ball. UK Coach John Calipari sees a lot of Larry Bird in Wiltjer — minus Bird's key physical style.

White. No. 33. Multi-skilled forward, but not the fleetest of players.

There are several reasons to watch Kentucky sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and find your mind drift to Larry Bird. After UK beat Morehead State Wednesday, Coach John Calipari offered one more: Bird more than compensated for his lack of exceptional foot speed by thinking ahead and cracking heads. If only Wiltjer would do the same, the UK coach seemed to say.

"He's got to anticipate," Calipari said of Wiltjer. "he's got to be rougher. He's got to be nasty."

Bird seemed to relish, if not incite, the physical nature of a supposed non-contact sport.

Calipari suggested that Wiltjer needed to be more willing to throw his weight around ... or else.

"You don't want to be nasty, you're probably not going to play," said the UK coach, who seems inspired by Wiltjer to issue ultimatums. "Doesn't mean dirty."

It means anticipating plays and beating opponents to spots. It means boxing out and making plays by force of will.

"But I'm going to tell you, playing that way is really, really hard," Calipari said. "It's easier to (be) loping up and down and letting the guy catch it and then trying to play him. Obviously, that's not getting it done."

How Morehead State attacked Wiltjer caught Calipari's attention. The Eagles repeatedly tried to get the ball to the player guarded by Wiltjer.

"They wanted Kyle," the UK coach said, "and I told him, 'This isn't last year. You want to be on the court, you've got to guard somebody. They went at you every single time.'

"He's got to learn. He's also got to come up with balls."

Emergency point guard

With Ryan Harrow on a de facto leave of absence, freshman Archie Goodwin continues as UK's emergency point guard.

"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable at it," Goodwin said. "Just working at it every day in practice and having the confidence of my guys with me. That makes it a lot easier on me, especially when they make shots."

Goodwin amended a comment made earlier this fall that he'd always been a shooting guard until this month.

"It's not as tough as it seems because I played a little bit of point guard in high school," he said. "But it is a big adjustment because I've never played full-time point guard. I'm coming to it pretty well."

Fellow freshman Alex Poythress vouched for Goodwin's growing ability as a point guard.

"He's getting more comfortable out there," he said. "He knows when to pass, when to attack the rim. Stuff like that. We're all getting more comfortable out there."

No escape

Poythress sounded philosophical about Calipari's high-volume demands.

"I see the big picture," he said. "This is all going to help me out in the long run."

When asked if he hears the phrase "Why don't you rebound the ball" in his sleep, Poythress laughed and said, "I hear everything in my sleep."

0-3 start

LIU Brooklyn has lost its three games — to Morehead State 77-74, Lafayette 98-94 in overtime and at Maryland 91-74. At Maryland, the Blackbirds trailed by only seven with six minutes left.

First-year Coach Jack Perri noted how his veteran players could handle an 0-3 start. The Blackbirds return four starters from a team that lost its first three last season before going on to win the Northeast Conference and get an NCAA Tournament bid for a second straight year. "They understand," Perri said of his players. "... They aren't happy."

LIU Brooklyn needs better defense, the coach said. Opponents have made 51.8 percent of their shots (49-percent accuracy from three-point range).

Forward Jamal Olasewere leads the Blackbirds in scoring (22.3 ppg). Julian Boyd, the Northeast Conference Player of the Year last season, averages 18 points. He had 22 points and eight rebounds at Maryland.

Point guard Jason Brickman had a double-double at Maryland (14 points and 10 assists). He averages 15 points and 8.5 assists.

Re-branding

As Long Island University, the Blackbirds were a national power in the 1930s. The school re-branded itself in recent years as LIU Brooklyn to try to take advantage of the borough's revitalization.

"We really think we can be one of the top mid-major teams," Perri said of his program's long-term goal. "... We think we can sustain something special."

LIU Brooklyn will attempt to become the first Northeast Conference team to play in three straight NCAA Tournaments.

Herald-Leader sportswriter Ben Roberts contributed to this article.Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227.Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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