For those who thought "Camp Cal" was a catchy way of referring to Kentucky Coach John Calipari's insistence on taking the "break" out of the semester break, check that. Turns out it's short for Camp Calorie.
Talk of calorie intake and depletion spiced Calipari's routine day-before-a-game exchange with reporters Friday. So did individualizing target heart rates for players.
"I'm not going to talk about what we did because it's really interesting (and) outside the box," teased Calipari. "... I don't know if anybody else is doing it. It makes you really aware if you're working or not."
Willie Cauley-Stein spoke of players expending as much as 2,500 calories in a Camp Cal workout. When asked how he could cite a specific number, he said that staffers chart the calories each player burns in a practice.
On the other end of the food-fuels-energy digestive system, Calipari used his website earlier this week to lament NCAA restrictions on athletes' dietary habits. The NCAA restricts the times meals can be served, he said. For instance, dinner must be eaten between 6 and 8 p.m. And the NCAA prohibits the taking of food to dorm rooms, he added.
"It's stupid," Calipari said.
Likening UK players to top-level athletes like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Calipari said the energy used in multiple workouts requires greater food consumption.
"My deal is if you have a kitchen there, why wouldn't you put stuff there whenever they want it?" Calipari said.
It was a rhetorical question. Moments later, Calipari acknowledged that the NCAA's desire for a level playing field brings restrictions because not every program can afford the same quantity of food. (Left unexplored was a supposed nanny-state NCAA turning a blind eye to UK basketball players having a chef on staff in the new Wildcat Coal Lodge.)
"You can't right now," Calipari said of hypothetical midnight raids on the lodge refrigerator. "I'd probably be suspended three games."
Like the 20-hour weekly limit on time devoted to a sport, NCAA restrictions on food apparently don't apply during the time between semesters. Cauley-Stein spoke of the players eating at restaurants each night and taking whatever leftovers they'd like back to their dorm rooms.
The players are eating correctly, gaining weight and restoring energy levels to a proper setting, Calipari said.
As for details, the Paula Deen of coaches said he wanted to make a comprehensive presentation that would be difficult to refute. That would take another couple of weeks or so.
"Look, I like to have experts talk," Calipari said. "Not someone that says, 'Well, you don't have all the facts.'
Calipari said he wanted to get "professionally done" evidence to support the Camp Cal activities.
"So we know, here are numbers," he said. "These don't lie."
The UK players are putting in a full day, beginning with pre-dawn conditioning and continuing until dinner. Players spoke of going to sleep by 9 p.m.
"It's the life you chose," Cauley-Stein said. "It doesn't get any better than that: eat, sleep and play basketball."
As for basketball, Cauley-Stein and Calipari spoke of progress being made. The players are running fewer so-called "suicides" as punishment for mistakes, Cauley-Stein said. "But (still) too many suicides. I mean, not as much as when we first put it in there. But we're still running too many suicides, in my opinion."
Cauley-Stein continued to downplay the notion that Camp Cal is improving the conditioning level of players who have been formally practicing since mid-October and participating in various workouts and weight-lifting sessions since summer.
"Feel the same," he said of his fitness. "Just a lot more intense now."
Calipari noted improvement, but he insisted that the proof of great competitiveness and zeal must come in games such as when the Cats play Marshall on Saturday.
"The follow-through, the carryover to games is what we'll all watch for," he said. "Are they really going to compete at a really high level? Are they going to battle?"