Devin Booker made history Monday by becoming only the fifth player named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week three straight weeks. Now, Kentucky Coach John Calipari wants him to make improvement.
During the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference, Calipari suggested ways that Booker can improve.
"I want to see him attack the basket better," the UK coach said. "Right now, when he attacks the basket, he doesn't avoid people. He'll be flailing a little bit. I don't want him to just be a catch-and-shoot player. I want him to be an offensive threat."
Given Booker's many contributions, that sounded like criticizing Jennifer Lawrence for having a freckle on her forearm. He's made 51.2 percent of his shots this season, 50 percent of three-point attempts and 83.3 percent of free throws. The accuracy has improved in league play: 56.1 percent overall, a he-can't-keep-this-up 59.1 percent from beyond the arc and 84.2 percent from the foul line.
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By three-peating recognition as SEC Freshman of the Week, Booker joined Kentucky's John Wall (2009-10) and Nerlens Noel (2012-13), James Robinson of Alabama (1990-91) and LSU's Chris Jackson (1988-89) as the only players to win it three straight times. Wall and Noel won four in a row.
Missouri Coach Kim Anderson, whose team plays Kentucky on Thursday, sounded impressed.
"He's playing way too good," he said with a chuckle.
Anderson, an assistant coach on the Missouri teams that included Booker's father, Melvin, noted Booker's 50-percent accuracy from three-point range.
"That's pretty salty," he said.
Calipari likened Booker to teammate Aaron Harrison. Each should look for driving opportunities as well as jump shots. "Don't settle, man," the UK coach said. "Take that thing to the rim.
"I'm not telling you not to shoot threes. But attack that basket. Get to that foul line. Put (opponents) in jeopardy. We're doing different things to get him to that best version of himself."
Not for the first time, Calipari acknowledged his surprise at how well Booker has defended.
The UK coach said that during the recruiting process, he saw Booker play in a game featuring 45-year-olds, including his father, Melvin Booker.
"He couldn't guard anybody in that game," Calipari said (in jest?). "Now, all of a sudden, he's guarding."
That's not the only improvement Booker has made, Calipari said. The UK coach noted how he's gotten Booker to be better prepared to shoot before catching the ball. The shot is released quicker.
"You can't wind up," Calipari said. "It's not high school. The guy guarding you is not 5-7."
Calipari's quest for improvement extended beyond Booker, and beyond No. 1 Kentucky.
Calipari revived the enough-is-enough attitude of two weeks ago (Ole Miss and Texas A&M had given UK enough close-game tests) to say coaches and media types needed to dispel the notion that the SEC simply isn't all that good.
"We all — every coach and any media that's watching — has gotta stop it!" he said. "Just because we're really good doesn't mean the league is not good."
Calipari also offered ideas for ways college basketball can improve. He said he'd like to see college teams play "real exhibition games. ... Like the NBA."
Those games could be on weekends in the preseason, he said.
Not for the first time, Calipari suggested that the NCAA permit teams to play exhibitions in foreign countries more often that the current limit of once every four years.
He cited the telecasts of UK's games in the Bahamas before this season. "College basketball should own August," the UK coach said. "Should own it."
As for the much-discussed proposal to reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds to, say, 30 seconds, Calipari seemed to shrug. "In most cases, we're going to shoot it within 20 seconds," he said.