UK's Derek Willis, Marcus Lee draw lofty comparisons from Calipari

jtipton@herald-leader.comOctober 7, 2013 


From left, forward Derek Willis, forward Marcus Lee, center Dakari Johnson and guard Aaron Harrison during photo day for the Kentucky men’s basketball team at Joe Craft Center.

PHOTO BY JONATHAN PALMER — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

At the annual Tip-Off Luncheon on Monday in Louisville, John Calipari mentioned two surprising players in talking about early practices: Dennis Rodman and Bobby Jones.

Actually, Calipari compared two 6-foot-9 freshmen to those highly decorated former NBA players.

Marcus Lee has been like Rodman. "An energy guy" who must get playing time somewhere, Calipari said.

Derek Willis has been like Jones, an effective defender. "Julius (Randle) has trouble getting off his shot" against Willis, Calipari said.

The UK coach said Lee and Willis have been "way better than I thought."


Calipari cited Randle as an example of a coach putting a player's interests ahead of his own. Because of an altruistic coaching philosophy, Calipari said he will let Randle play on the perimeter some rather than keep him near the basket in an all-out effort to win games.

"Now he has to realize how to rebound from 17 feet as opposed to three," he said. Randle must learn to "start as a guard and finish as a 'big,'" Calipari said.

Calipari noted Randle's desire to improve. "How can I get better? That's his question," the UK coach said.

Injury update

Calipari said Willie Cauley-Stein would probably return to practice on Sunday. Cauley-Stein sustained a minor hand injury, UK had announced earlier.

Alex Poythress has missed a few workouts because of a hamstring problem, the UK coach said. Hood, Polson better

Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson have shown improvement. "So much better," Calipari said. "I'm not afraid to put them in a game."

Opposition research

Calipari noted the importance of UK players matching the zeal opponents will possess.

UK players are not aware of when the Wildcats play, say, Florida or Louisville, Calipari said.

"Does everybody know when they play Kentucky?" he added. "Oh, they know."

Opponents not only want to beat a highly-ranked team, they also want to prove they're better than the heralded UK players, he said.

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

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