Half-dozen ex-Cats enjoy the memories at Calipari's camp

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJuly 31, 2013 

Wednesday was another day in paradise for Kentucky basketball junkies.

No fewer than six NBA ex-Cats were on hand in Memorial Coliseum for Coach John Calipari's Procamp.

In addition to Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin, who met the media earlier in the week, there were Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins.

With 900 kids on hand throughout the week, the pros seemed to have as much fun as the campers.

"Basically, we're kids ourselves," Bledsoe said.

"I don't think people realize that me and Eric would have just finished our senior year," Cousins said, ... "so we're basically still kids."

"I just like being here," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "Old memories. All my friends here, too."

Earlier in the day, it was revealed that Davis' New Orleans Pelicans will play an exhibition in Rupp Arena on Oct. 19, taking on John Wall and the Washington Wizards.

"It's going to be fun to get back to Lexington and the University of Kentucky," Davis said. "It's always great to come back and play where you went to school, so it should be a fun game."

Davis is coming off a rookie year in which he averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.

More recently, he took part in a USA Basketball mini-camp, in preparation for next year's World Championships. Davis picked up valuable international experience last year as the only non-NBA veteran on Team USA's Olympic gold-medal team.

"Great," Davis said of his mini-camp experience. "You always want to represent your country. ... Last year was fun. But I'm trying to do the same thing next year and, hopefully, I can make it."

Kidd-Gilchrist called his participation "a humbling experience. ... I was surprised I made the mini-camp. Hoping I make the team."

Cousins, who averaged 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his third season with the Sacramento Kings, also participated in the mini-camp, as did Wall.

The sometimes-temperamental big man indicated he has settled down.

"I'm 22 now and in my fourth season," he said. "I've matured."

Suns and brothers

Bledsoe, after three seasons in a backup role with the Los Angeles Clippers, is now with the Phoenix Suns.

"It's been a great experience," said Bledsoe, who averaged 8.5 points, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals last season. "Playing behind (NBA All-Star) Chris (Paul), I learned a lot. Now I get a chance to play the point. ... It's a great feeling that I get to orchestrate a little bit."

His Phoenix teammates include recent first-round draft pick Goodwin.

"Archie's only 18," Bledsoe said. "He's got a lot to learn and he's still growing as a person, too. Archie's going to be a pretty good player in the league."

■ Kidd-Gilchrist on what he misses from his UK days: "In college, it was a brotherhood. Now, it's just grown men around me. I'm just growing up fast."

■ After seeing Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan on an almost daily basis, Kidd-Gilchrist no longer has stars in his eyes.

"But when I first got there, I was shocked," he said. "And I was shocked I was the No. 2 pick in the whole draft. He taught me a lot. I talk to him like every week, so it's a good feeling."

Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists as a rookie.

Coming soon

Who among Kentucky's incoming freshmen have impressed the pros?

Julius Randle, Cousins said.

Randle and the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew), Bledsoe added.

Dakari Johnson and Randle, Kidd-Gilchrist said.

"Everybody they said," Davis chirped.

■ The second annual UK Alumni Charity Game in Rupp Arena is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 9. Members of all four of UK's Calipari-coached teams will participate, but it will boil down to 2010 vs. the 2012 national championship team.

Asked whether he will participate, Cousins playfully answered: "If the money's right."

Davis raised some brows when he said, "I'd say 2010 will win."

After a pause, he added, "Nah, 2012. We're proven winners."

Said Cousins: "Nothing I can say to that."

■ Calipari's second annual Fantasy Experience is set for Sept. 7 to 9. Last year's inaugural camp raised more than $300,000 for charity. Attendees (age 35 and older) receive instruction from Calipari, his staff and former UK greats. There also are social events, including a dinner at Calipari's home.

For details, go to Johncalipariexperience.com, call (513) 745-5850 or email mchacksfield@procamps.com.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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