John Clay's notes: Unselfishness could make these Cats unique

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 12, 2014 

Random notes from watching the televised Big Blue Bahamas blowout tour:

■ It is August. The competition is not Arizona or Kansas, but how could you not be impressed with the way UK has shown its A-game in Atlantis?

■ John Calipari said last week that freshman Karl Towns is better than the Kentucky coach thought. These first three games, Towns has showed us in games what he showed Calipari in practice. He can rebound. He can score. And he can pass the ball.

■ His no-look bounce pass from the top of the key was a Monday highlight. His perfect spin move on the left baseline for a finger-roll basket was a Tuesday highlight.

■ This might be the best passing team Calipari has had at Kentucky. It has shown promising signs of unselfishness. And it loves the lob.

■ Tyler Ulis will be a crowd favorite, and it doesn't matter whether the freshman guard stays one year or all four. He is talented. He is quick. He is small. Basketball fans love small guys who can play. Ulis more than fits the description.

■ In the past, Calipari has said, "I like my team," and we have wondered whether he meant it. This year he will mean it.

■ The first three ESPNU telecasts have been veritable Big Blue infomercials. You can't buy that kind of air time.

■ This might be the Big Blue Bahamas tour, but opposing college coaches have to be green with envy concerning the amount of positive televised publicity Kentucky has received.

■ ESPN analyst Jay Bilas: "The Kentucky Wildcats are legit."

■ Is Calipari relaxed or what? He has a new hip. He has a new team. Life is good.

■ As promised, Calipari has let his assistants coach. It's a long year and he doesn't want the players growing weary of the sound of the head coach's voice.

It also speaks to the comfort level he has with this team. With his past two squads, dominated by freshmen, my guess is Calipari would be doing more hands-on coaching under these early circumstances.

■ People are going to make an issue of how Calipari will keep everyone happy in terms of playing time, but I don't think it will be that big of an issue.

The same was said of Rick Pitino's 1996 Kentucky team — which won a title, by the way.

■ Along those lines, besides the 10 practices and six games, this Bahamas trip is a team-building exercise that no doubt would have benefited last year's team.

■ The Harrison twins have improved. One thing that helps is they will not have to shoulder as much of the load this season.

■ The change of pace Ulis gives when subbing for Andrew Harrison at the point will be difficult for teams to match.

■ Alex Poythress looks like a different player, in a very good way. He has been energetic and aggressive.

■ Dakari Johnson is noticeably leaner. The Harrisons have dropped weight. There were rumblings last year, especially during the harder times, that Calipari was questioning the program's conditioning plan. That appears to have been an offseason emphasis.

■ The local media that saw the team's pre-Bahamas practices will attest that Devin Booker is a much better shooter than he has shown in the Bahamas. Maybe he only has trouble outside the states.

■ And did we mention that Karl Towns is very impressive? Oh yeah, we already did that.

■ And, as has been mentioned before, Calipari will have a healthy Willie Cauley-Stein and a healthy Trey Lyles in October. Doesn't seem fair.

■ Alabama football coach Nick Saban had former UK basketball star Antoine Walker talk to his Crimson Tide players about how to handle money when you play professionally. Walker is a cautionary tale of what not to do with that money, of course.

■ In case you haven't heard, the SEC Network launches Thursday (6 p.m.), but then I'll bet you've heard that. About a million times.

■ Speaking of the SEC Network, you have to like that promo commercial featuring the league's 14 football coaches with Johnny Cash singing, The Man Comes Around. Good stuff.

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

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