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John Clay: With Calipari there's no off-season

John Clay
John Clay

At his media opportunity Friday, John Calipari opened with a (sort of) joke about how nuts it is that it's August and this much attention is being paid to a basketball team preparing to play three exhibition games against Canadians.

"It's too early for me to be standing in front of cameras and having mikes shoved up in my nose," the Kentucky basketball coach quipped, and then, "Only in Kentucky, would they televise this — to 14 states."

Of course, by the end of the news conference — but before Calipari had used WLEX's Alan Cutler as a blocking dummy to demonstrate a football blocking drill — Calipari had inflated the number of states to 22. But who's counting?

"Only in Kentucky, does this stuff just keep coming at ya," said Calipari.

Only Kentucky basketball.

Poor Joker Phillips. Here he is, the brand new head coach of the Kentucky football team, and on the eve of his first fall camp grid scrimmage news breaks that Calipari has picked up his third commitment from a top-10 player in the class of 2011.

Name's Anthony Davis. Perhaps you've heard of him. He seems to have been having some trouble lately with a Chicago newspaper.

When news of the Davis commitment broke, adding the 6-foot-10 Illinois native to a group that already includes commitments from Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, CBS's and Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis tweeted, "As expected, Anthony Davis commits to Kentucky. Calipari's three-class recruiting haul is best since I've been covering the sport."

Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

Anthony Davis won't be in Lexington until next season. Same for Gilchrist, and Teague. This year's Cats aren't in the Bluegrass either, having traveled across the border to Windsor for this odd trio of games, which will not only be televised to numerous states, but will be streamed live over the Internet, etc.

What can we expect to see? Passes being thrown into the third row, to borrow an early Calipari prediction from last year. No one will foul out, and there is an unlimited number of timeouts. He said he might use eight timeouts per half. He facetiously joked that TV would love it.

(I joked to Calipari that might cut the broadcast back to four states. Now that I think about it, however, if all those timeouts mean extra commercials, TV will love it.)

"It's nuts," said Calipari on Friday.

It's even more nuts now. To some, Kentucky basketball has always been a 24-7 point of interest. But the combination of Calipari and the Internet have opened the floodgates. And Cal knows how to combine the two, from CoachCal.com to his audio clips on Lexy.com to his million-plus Twitter followers.

Plus, there's the sheer force of Calipari's personality. With him, there's always something going on.

And, oh yeah, recruiting.

That said, after two days recently of watching his practices in preparation for the Canada trip, it's easy to see Calipari's appeal. There was no screaming, no degrading. No one was trying to tear a player down with the intent of building the player back up in the future.

Not that Calipari is soft on his players. He rides them, in that never-stop persona of his. He reminds you of the guy who just won't leave you alone. But Cal rides his players to play faster, quicker, and in the open floor.

In one practice, when the team wasn't pushing the ball fast enough for his liking, Calipari sarcastically said, "We can set 22 screens and throw a bunch of passes, if that's how you want to play."

That's not how today's kids want to play. Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague have confirmed that. So have the kids that will be playing up in Canada, starting Sunday night.

Yes, it's way too early, and it's nuts, and it's everywhere.

That's Kentucky basketball.

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