UK Media Day notes: Building a champion comes bit by bit, Calipari says

jtipton@herald-leader.comOctober 15, 2013 

Amid the palpable sense of great things ahead this season, Kentucky Coach John Calipari preached patience.

"Everybody keeps saying, well, I sound different," he said at Media Day on Tuesday. "Well, there's a process. ... I don't need the team in October playing like it's January."

UK has not installed any defensive schemes yet, he said, and the first rebounding drills were Monday.

When asked later about the ingredients to a championship team, he cited defense, rebounding and sharing the ball.

As for offense, Calipari pooh-poohed the staple of many teams, the pick-and-roll, where two players actually play and three teammates act as spectators.

"What I like are instincts of players," he said. "Instincts are normally right. They're not thinking. They're instinctive. That makes it fun, especially as fast and aggressive as we play."

Playing time

When asked about finding playing time for so many talented players, Calipari recalled how Dean Smith would substitute five at a time. The "bomb squad," as Calipari called it.

But UK's youth and inexperience works against trying a similar ploy.

"He had a veteran team ... that didn't need that extra time," Calipari said of Smith.

UK might start as many as five freshmen, although not likely, Calipari said. All those freshmen need experience.

Dunk you very much

Calipari noted how unheralded freshman Derek Willis dunked on Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson in practice. Or did he? UK players disagreed on what exactly happened.

Randle and Johnson denied that Willis dunked.

"That's a lie," Johnson said with a smile. "It was a tough layup. It wasn't even a dunk. I don't know why everybody's gassing it. It just rattled in. I guess it was surprising because it was Derek, who we didn't know could jump that high."

Johnson added that Willis can play. "He really can shoot the ball, especially for a 6-9 player. He's very versatile. He fits well in this offense, just moving around the perimeter and stuff like that."

But, did Willis dunk on Randle and Johnson? Willis offered a vague, "It was just a play."

Senior Jon Hood said, no.

"Not at all. Not at all," Hood said. "Julius blocked it off the backboard and it hit Dakari's hand and it went in. That was not a dunk. It was a good, tough layup."

So why did Calipari promote the play as a Willis dunk on the more heralded freshman?

"He likes to make fun of Dakari and he likes to make fun of Julius," Hood said. "Because they just bully people all the time. That's what it's about."

Twin spin

Much is expected of twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. But like with all players, there is room for improvement. Calipari noted that the twins must do a better job of shrugging off missed shots.

"Just move on to the next shot," Aaron Harrison said. "Coach has been talking to me and Andrew a lot. We're not expecting to miss shots. And, of course, we know we're going to miss shots sometimes. It's just shots where we don't think we're supposed to miss, we get down sometimes. But we're working on it."

'Like a little girl'

Freshman guard Dominique Hawkins said having played football for Madison Central helps him compete against the Harrisons in practice.

"I definitely think that helps," he said. "The Harrison twins are really strong, and when they're driving to the rack they sometimes just shove me out of the way, like I'm a little girl or something. But with the football strength, I can kind of hold my own."

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

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