UK basketball notes: Calipari won't change UK's freshman-heavy formula

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 18, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talked to his players to break down as Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 64-48 in the SEC tournament on Friday March 15, 2013 in Nashville,TN. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff


  • National Invitational Tournament

    Kentucky vs. Robert Morris
    When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
    Where: Charles L. Sewall Center in Moon Township, Pa.
    TV: ESPN
    Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
    Records: UK 21-11, Robert Morris 23-10
    Series: UK leads 1-0
    Last meeting: UK won 92-67 on Dec. 30, 1993

A reliance on freshmen might have been a contributing factor in Kentucky's absence from this year's NCAA Tournament, but don't look for Coach John Calipari to change his formula for building a team.

"No," he said Monday. "I like that national title (in 2012)."

In his first three seasons as coach, Calipari guided UK to finishes in the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the national championship. Nothing's broke, so there's no need for a fix, Calipari suggested.

But he acknowledged that there might be greater attention paid to how well recruiting prospects can handle playing for a program like Kentucky and a coach like himself.

Kentucky will put a greater emphasis on "guys that can deal with us as coaches (and) me as head coach," Calipari said, "and can play with the mentality we want them to play with. We've got to be more precise in that. There's a certain toughness you've got to have in this game."

Calipari did not rule out asking a player or players with remaining eligibility not to return next season. "We'll sit down ... when the time is right," the UK coach said. "That's when the season's over."


An NIT first-round game at Robert Morris returns Calipari to his hometown. His high school, Moon Area Township, is less than a mile from the Robert Morris campus along University Boulevard.

Calipari called his high school coach, Bill Sacco, Sunday night with the news that he'd be coming to the Pittsburgh area.

"I thought, 'You're coming up for what?'" Sacco said.

Calipari then told him of the NIT game.

Sacco, who still coaches on the high school level, marveled at the difference in venues: UK's 24,000-seat Rupp Arena and Robert Morris's Charles L. Sewall Center, which has a listed capacity of 3,056.

"You have that many in the men's room down there in Rupp Arena," Sacco quipped.

Calipari also informed his former coach at Clarion State, Joe DeGregorio, of Kentucky's game at Robert Morris. When he took the call, DeGregorio was at his vacation home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He and Sacco planned to be at the game.

Calipari downplayed the notion of a sentimental trip home.

"I told my wife, 'Don't even come,'" the UK coach said. "Too quick. Not worth it."

No regrets

Although his streak of NCAA Tournament appearances ended at seven, Calipari said he was not second-guessing his approach or tactics this season.

"I have no regrets because I tried everything," he said.

Calipari labeled the 2012-13 as a humbling experience. "Because it's probably the first group in a long time that wouldn't respond and change," he said. "... It's a great learning experience. Hate going through it. I'd like to learn from somebody else's issues than my own."

'Deep wound'

Julius Mays lamented how his college career will end without a NCAA Tournament appearance to cap his final season.

"It's a deep wound," he said. "It's going to hurt me for a while."

Teammate Jon Hood noted the stunning experience of not hearing Kentucky's name called on Selection Sunday.

"Kind of speechless for a while," Hood said of the Cats' reaction. "Nobody really knew what to do."

Big Blue event

Robert Morris expects to set a school record for home attendance. The existing record is the 3,227 who attended the Colonials' game against Mount St. Mary's for the 2009 Northeast Conference Tournament championship game.

Classes were called off Tuesday, in part to free up parking spaces, spokesman Jim Duzyk said.

Coach Andrew Toole, a 2003 graduate of Penn, said the game might be the biggest event to ever happen on the Robert Morris campus. For comparison's sake, he cited Bill Clinton's appearance for his wife Hillary during the 2008 Pennsylvania presidential primary campaign.

"The amount of buzz the last 18 to 20 hours has been immeasureable," Toole said.


Bob Wischusen and Jimmy Dykes will call the UK-Robert Morris game for ESPN.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog:

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