Calipari looks to end Kentucky basketball complacency

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 7, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari tried to rally his team as Baylor defeated #8 Kentucky 64-55 on Saturday December 1, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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    Records: Kentucky 5-3, Portland 3-5

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In explaining why he began the Camp Cal morning workouts this week, Kentucky Coach John Calipari touted "fear" as a foundational piece for any good team. This antithesis of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous declaration holds that the only thing UK has to fear this season is the absence of fear.

The Camp Cal workouts can help instill "fear" or, more precisely, the anxiety that comes with a player realizing he must work harder.

"None of them work hard enough," Calipari said Friday in a sweeping statement about all freshmen. "In most cases, I'm going to be honest, what moves the young kid (is) fear. Not fear of me."

Rather it's a fear that "'I'm not good enough,'" Calipari said.

Calipari held out his first mega star at Memphis, Derrick Rose, as a prime example. Rose was "scared to death" of not making it in the NBA, Calipari said. So, the UK coach recalled, Rose spent five hours a day in the gym.

Calipari also noted one of UK's heroes last season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, as another example. The UK coach said he'd gotten text messages from MKG during the Charlotte Bobcats' training camp this fall that revealed anxiety.

"'I may have made a mistake,'" MKG texted, according to Calipari. "'I don't think I'm good enough.'"

To which, Calipari said he replied, "'What?! Are you kidding me, kid? You may not shoot it as well (as other pros). You may not bounce it as well. But the thing you do no one else does. So you keep playing hard and competing. That's what you do.'"

Said Calipari approvingly of MKG: "He was scared to death."

The implication was that not all of Kentucky's current players have that kind of fear of failure.

"Guys who think they're it, they've made it, I'll be honest," Calipari said, "normally don't make it."

Hence, Camp Cal began Thursday, two days after a middling second half in a blowout victory over outmanned Samford. Of course, that uneven performance followed losses to Notre Dame and Baylor. UK players awoke around 6:30 a.m. Thursday and began running at 7.

As Camp Directors go, UK strength coach Ray "Rock" Oliver tends more toward the, uh, mercurial. No tranquil Kumbaya for him.

"He's always an exciting person," point guard Ryan Harrow said in carefully describing Oliver's mood during Camp Cal. "Because he's talking one minute, and then all of a sudden, he'll start screaming. Then he goes back to regular talking.

"We think it's kind of funny, but we don't mess around with Coach Rock."

More than one UK player said that the hardest part of Camp Cal so far is the pre-dawn wake-up call.

Harrow put Camp Cal in the context of Calipari returning to his "old-school" roots as a young coach at UMass 20 years ago. Calipari voiced no objection.

"I'm just holding them accountable like I had to do with (previous) young teams," he said. "Probably holding them more accountable. This team has the farthest to go. It's not schemes. It's not offenses. It's not defenses. It's a competitiveness. It's a will to win and holding each other accountable for that."

So UK players run "suicides" for such practice transgressions as failing to rotate into rebounding position when Nerlens Noel tries to block a shot. "Now that's killed us all year," Calipari said.

Kentucky plays again Saturday against Portland, a team Calipari likened to Notre Dame in terms of attention to low-post offense and execution.

There's no quick fixes from Camp Cal, which Calipari likened to a "forced Breakfast Club," a reference to the voluntary morning workouts that the coach wholeheartedly endorsed last season. It might be a month and a half before Kentucky shows the fruits of its early-morning labors.

"Like coach says, wait till you see us in January or February," Harrow said. "We'll be a totally different team, and everybody will be excited about us."

Meanwhile, Calipari saw the game against Portland as a chance to see if this week's attention to competitiveness took root.

"If (the UK players are) only doing it because I'm making them do it, at some point of the game, they'll let go of the rope," he said. "If they're doing it because they know they have to change, they'll play a full game."

Calipari said he wanted UK fans to leave Rupp Arena after the Portland game saying the Cats "'fought for 40 minutes. I can live with that. We're going to be fine.'"

Added Calipari, "I think that's the response you'll get."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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