Darius Miller made a strong first impression on John Calipari, the Kentucky coach recalled Friday.
Recalling his first introductory practice for holdover UK players in the spring of 2009, Calipari said, "The one that impressed me the most was Darius. ...
"He had a feel for the game. He had a middle game (mid-range game)."
Miller showed he could shoot and handle the ball, Calipari said.
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The UK coach also decided he needed to make Miller more assertive, a process he said that continues.
"The way I coached and the way he played, the only thing I had to get in him was the eye of the tiger, a little bit of viciousness, which is a process," Calipari said. "That doesn't happen overnight."
Calipari saluted Miller's gentlemanly persona off the court. "He's a wonderful young man," the UK coach said. "There's no question about that."
Calipari noted the need for a more ruthless approach on the court.
When asked if Miller projected as an NBA player, Calipari said, "Oh yes. Yes, he is."
Calipari suggested that the televised practice on Wednesday was a ratings bonanza for ESPNU.
"They were really surprised at how strong it rated," the UK coach said.
Besides being more highly rated than regular ESPNU programming in that 3-5 p.m. time period, the practice "rated as high as some basketball games they've had in prime time," Calipari said. "That's kind of crazy. It makes you laugh (and say), 'You've got to be kidding me.'"
The UK coach invited reporters to confirm that appraisal of the ratings.
ESPN spokesman Michael Hume said that the UK practice got the second-highest rating on ESPNU Wednesday. The Rutgers-Notre Dame game that evening drew more viewers, he said.
The UK practice drew a larger audience than some prime-time games on ESPNU, Hume said before adding in an email, "Very safe to assume it wasn't higher than ESPN or ESPN2 prime games."
Ole Miss marks the fourth UK opponent on a Saturday that played a game less than 48 hours earlier.
Earlier this season, Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings questioned the fairness of Kentucky playing a quarter of its SEC schedule against such opponents.
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy took a philosophical attitude toward playing Vanderbilt at home Thursday night in a 9 p.m. EST tip-off, traveling to Lexington on Friday and tipping off against the Cats at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"I understand, at the end of the day, that television makes some decisions based on the windows and where you can get exposure," he said. "Where they tab us to play, certain nights, I don't put a whole lot of thought on why us or why this time or why not somebody else.
"I just think it's fruitless."
Calipari saluted Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks' phenom.
"What everybody's missing is he took advantage of an opportunity," the UK coach said. "I saw him get 30 against Connecticut, and cheered the whole game."
Knowing the sometimes contentious relationship between Calipari and UConn Coach Jim Calhoun, reporters laughed. But Calipari suggested that he meant only praise for Lin as a player for Harvard. Calipari saluted Lin's perseverance. Two NBA teams cut the player before he suddenly began thriving in Mike D'Antoni's point-guard oriented system.
Cal as shrinking violet
In saluting Lin's perseverance after being cut by two teams, Calipari said, "All of us in here would say, 'That's it. I'm done.'I'm included. That if I got cut twice, not that I have an ego or anything. ..."
■ Ole Miss is 0-14 against No. 1 teams. Eleven of the losses came against UK. Only twice was the margin less than 20: 64-52 in 1978 and 84-66 in 1955.
■ Clay Malvick and Joe Dean Jr., will call the game for the SEC Network.