John Clay: Playing two years will be an adjustment for Calipari

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 25, 2014 

Will John Calipari know how to act?

Just from force of habit, the Kentucky basketball coach will be teaching his team a basic drill early next season when one of his players will hold up his hand and ask a question.

"Coach, didn't you teach us this last year?"

"Did I?" Calipari will say. "Oh yeah, I did."

The former home of the one-and-done has now opted for let's-play-two-or-more.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison are coming back. The twins out of Texas announced Friday they will postpone their NBA leaps of faith in favor of sophomore seasons at the Joe Craft Center and Rupp Arena.

This BBN good news nugget follows on the heels of both Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress saying they will return for their junior years. (Is that even allowed?) Meanwhile, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are returning for their sophomore years.

Now toss in another knockout freshman class that includes 7-footer Karl-Anthony Towns (the nation's fifth-best class of 2014 prospect as rated by Rivals.com), Trey Lyles (13th), Tyler Ulis (21st) and Devin Booker (29th) and you can bet your Big Blue Bottom dollar Calipari's Cats will be preseason No. 1 all over again in next season's polls.

In fact, you might even hear talk of the 2014-15 Cats going 40 and — nope, not going there.

By the way, Rex Chapman was right all along. Calipari will be coaching the Lakers next season. The Lexington Lakers.

Rim shots aside, Calipari will be going to a bit of a new place come October. He'll be going to a practice court with familiar faces.

The coach will not be relying almost exclusively on rookies. He won't have to open the textbook at the first page of the first chapter and start from scratch. There will be carryover. Welcome back institutional knowledge.

No one must be happier about this new normal than Calipari himself.

On the one hand, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program and the Kentucky coach has been a ridiculous recruiter since his arrival in Lexington.

On the other hand, starting all over again with a nearly new roster year after year after year has to be more taxing than a book tour.

It's not like Calipari has never coached a veteran team, either. Before being branded as the poster coach for the one-and-done, Calipari had but a handful of early-exit players at Memphis and UMass. That didn't seem to hurt his success rate.

Plus, Mr. Ripley, this is not the first time this has happened under Calipari at UK. Terrence Jones, now starting for the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs, returned for his sophomore year. Doron Lamb, a member of the NBA's Orlando Magic, returned for his sophomore year. Those two now own NCAA championship rings.

Fun fact: The recruiting gurus tell us there are nine McDonald's All-Americans on next year's roster. Google tells us there are at least nine McDonald's locations either inside or just beyond New Circle Road in Lexington.

Yes, next basketball season promises all kinds of fun. The Cats will be ridiculously tall thanks to a trio of 7-footers in Cauley-Stein, Johnson and Towns — not to mention the 6-10 Lee and the 6-10 Lyles. They will also boast a veteran backcourt in the Harrisons.

Oh yes, the Harrisons. The twins had a topsy-turvy first year in Lexington. Their body language was sometimes an issue. Their production didn't always meet the excessive expectations. Their play was often the subject of criticism.

Come tournament time, however, the plot lines changed. Andrew guided an offense that won five NCAA Tournament games. Aaron helped win three of those knuckle-crackers with last-minute marksmanship. It was as if the duo grew up right before our eyes.

They have more growing to do, a message they surely received from NBA scouts. Instead of succeed-and-proceed, they will return-and-develop.

So forget one-and-done. These are the coming-back Cats.

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

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