John Clay: Prepare to have your mind blown, Calipari style

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013 

  • Next game

    Kentucky at Vanderbilt

    When: Thursday, Jan. 10, 9 p.m.

The methods John Calipari has employed lately to push his young Kentucky basketball team have been so dramatic, so ground-breaking, so outside-the-box, so unorthodox that you, dear reader, are probably not even going to believe them when you read about them.

"We're doing things that we have to do that have never been done, based on the fact that we're doing it with young guys," the Kentucky coach said during his news conference Wednesday night after his Cats barbecued Eastern Michigan, 90-38.

Prepare to have your mind blown.

"Now I told all of you (that I would tell you) at a later date what that is," Calipari said. "I'm going to tell you and the Big Blue Nation . . . "

Drum roll ...

"Tomorrow."

Then came that Cal grin. You know the one.

"It will be on my website," he said. "Coachcal.com."

Media question: Do you have to buy any product to get on there to see it?

"If you'd like," said Calipari, grinning. "That would be nice."

Now, who knows what sort of non-traditional approach the Kentucky coach is using behind the scenes for his non-traditional program, but there are plenty of things we can see with our own eyes without even having to log on.

For example, Calipari is still tinkering with his starting lineup. After starting Willie Cauley-Stein in place of Alex Poythress on Saturday at Louisville, Calipari returned Poythress to the starting lineup on Wednesday, this time choosing to use Julius Mays off the bench.

"I like the big team," he said later of starting 7-foot Cauley-Stein, 6-foot-10 Nerlens Noel and the 6-7 Poythress all on the front line.

Then there was a halftime adjustment that happened not in the locker room but on the floor. After UK returned to the court for warmups, leading 38-14, Calipari instructed his players to ditch the usual layup line in favor of a weave drill that would keep the players' feet moving.

Chronic slow second-half starters, the Cats responded with a 15-0 run.

"At practice he keeps saying, 'Get your heart rate up,'" Mays said. "He wants us playing with energy."

That's especially true of Poythress, or the Alex Poythress Project, as the UK blog A Sea of Blue referred to Calipari's start of individual workouts with the freshman forward who has yet to consistently play up to his ability.

After watching Poythress's lackluster 15-minute effort in the loss at Louisville, Calipari decided to put the Tennessee native through a daily dose of one-on-Cal. The sessions are comprised of certain stations in which the player must complete one station before moving on to the next.

"Like if you miss free throws, you have to run," Poythress said. "That makes it longer."

It took 38 minutes for Poythress to complete the first workout. He did the second in 27 minutes. He played 23 minutes Wednesday night, scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds.

"Better," said Calipari when asked about Poythress's play. "He had some glitches, but the team gave him a hand after the game."

Not that any of this should surprise anyone after four years of observing the perpetual-motion machine that is Kentucky's basketball coach. If he's not holding another telethon, or going on another trophy tour, or denying another NBA coaching rumor, Calipari is putting the finishing touches on the palatial new Rupp locker room, which everyone does think is mind-blowing.

Well, almost everyone.

"(Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) was really, really angry when he saw the locker room," said Calipari of one of the star's of last year's national title team who took some time off from his duties as a Charlotte Bobcat to watch the Cats Wednesday night at Rupp. "He walked in my office and he said, 'This is BS. What we had last year. Look at this.'"

There's another method Calipari could use, and he probably has. If the current players want to know how the head coach wants them to play, they could just look at the way MKG played last season. All of last season.

I'll bet there's some video on CoachCal.com.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com Twitter: @johnclayiv Blog: Johnclay.bloginky.com.

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