During the semester break, Kentucky Coach John Calipari is scheduling more than one practice per day. But it's not all work-work-work for the Cats-Cats-Cats.
On Sunday evening, Calipari gave the players a choice: another practice or go see the movie Invictus. The players chose the movie.
After the players posed for pictures, signed autographs and, according to Mark Krebs, "pretty much bought out the snack shop," the Cats watched Invictus, which tells the story of the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) tries to unite his countrymen and forge peace by bringing the Rugby World Cup to his country.
Calipari said he hoped the players got two messages: 1) Mandella's inspiring story of going from 27 years of imprisonment by the country's apartheid government to being elected president, and 2) seeing an athlete can be doing something that has a much larger purpose than simply playing well.
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In case the players did not get the messages, Calipari said he spoke to the team for 45 minutes about the movie before Monday's practice.
The UK coach said he encourages the movie excursions and tries to use non-sports techniques in an effort to get the players to think about others.
Not that Kentucky is spending a lot of time away from basketball. The team is practicing twice or three times a day.
"You pretty much eat, sleep and play basketball," Krebs said.
The good news is the practices are running shorter than the scheduled two hours each.
"They're getting it done," Calipari said, "and they're doing it with great enthusiasm."
SEC honors Cousins
The Southeastern Conference named DeMarcus Cousins its Freshman of the Week for last week.
Cousins averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in leading UK to victories over Drexel and Long Beach State. For the week, he had 33 points and 23 rebounds in only 27 minutes.
Cousins had 18 points and 13 rebounds in 14 minutes in UK's victory over Drexel. He then had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 13 minutes of UK's win over Long Beach State. It was his sixth double-double of the season.
Cousins, who has made 22 of his past 23 free throws, follows teammates Eric Bledsoe and John Wall as winners of the SEC Freshman of the Week award. A UK player has won it six times in seven weeks this season.
Calipari noted how well Cousins has responded to coaching. "Oh, he's been fabulous" in improving his free-throw shooting, conditioning and reaction to rough play by opponents, the UK coach said.
"The way he ran the last two days, I told him, if you make that you, you'll be the best player in the country," Calipari said. "But you may not choose to run that way because it's hard."
UK bills itself as the tallest team in the country with an average height of 6-foot-7.
Hartford's starting lineup has players at 6-8, 6-6, 6-1, 6-foot and 5-10.
"Their three-man could play center for us," Hartford Coach Dan Leibovitz said of UK. "When you play a high-level team, a lot of things can get you. Their depth. Their size. Their 'physicality.' You fight hard to stay in the game initially and see how many punches you can take and hang in. You try to do that for 40 minutes and maybe you have a chance to win. But you do expend a lot of energy."
When asked about UK's height advantage, Krebs said, "We have so much height, every team we play seems small. Which is a very good thing."
The nation's second-tallest team, Baylor, only beat Hartford 71-69 on Nov. 15.
Calipari downplayed the possibility of UK looking past Hartford to Saturday's annual larger-than-life game against Louisville.
"I won't watch any tape of the next game till this game is over and I watch the (Hartford) game," Calipari said. "I haven't seen any tape (of Louisville). I've seen clips of highlights."
■ Hartford (2-9) will be playing its first game since losing at home to Sacred Heart 18 days ago. "It was good for us," Leibovitz said of the time off. "When you're on a streak like Kentucky, you probably can't wait for the next game. When you're struggling, sometimes a break, you can take a step back and get guys to see the mistakes. It can be helpful."
■ Carter Blackburn and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN2.