UK Men's Basketball

Calipari makes three wishes: Monk is tamed, Fox is unleashed, Cats are crowned

John Calipari’s Wildcats are expected to be ranked in the top five in the nation this preseason.
John Calipari’s Wildcats are expected to be ranked in the top five in the nation this preseason. AP

Malik Monk needs to be tamed. Fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox must learn to used his John Wall-like speed. For all the accomplishments of the last seven seasons, John Calipari expects to enjoy the biggest thrill yet: coaching his son.

Those were among the insights the Kentucky coach shared with an audience of about 700 Monday at the 2016 Wildcat Tipoff Luncheon.

Ultimately, Kentucky can win the national championship, Calipari said.

“How blessed am I to be your coach,” he told the crowd. “How unusual is it that when I get in my car, the first thought every morning is my team has a chance to win the national championship. Every year.”

Calipari said Monk’s creativity on the drive reminded him of Jamal Murray at this early stage last year.

“When he comes down the left side, you have no idea what he is about to do,” Calipari said. “Neither does he.”

That got a laugh from the eager-to-be-amused crowd.

Of Monk’s ability to wow, Calipari said, “At least four or five times a game you will say, ‘oh my.’”

Fox is expected to start alongside Monk and sophomore Isaiah Briscoe in Kentucky’s backcourt this coming season. Calipari suggested that Fox can evoke memories of Wall as a point guard.

Wall realized and utilized speed as his “No. 1 weapon,” said Calipari, who then added of Fox, “I’m trying to make his speed to be his No. 1 weapon. But that’s not his habit right now.”

The reference to Brad Calipari, the coach’s son and a freshman walk-on this season, came late in the 30-minute appearance. With Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond playing question-and-answer with Calipari, the conversation turned to the best thing about being at UK.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be coaching my son,” Calipari said. “I’m going to love it because when you’re coaching, your kids and family sacrifice the most.”

Elsewhere in his almost 30-minute appearance, Calipari:

▪  Emphatically rejected the suggestion of playing zone defense. “We’re not playing zone,” he said.

▪  Predicted that UK will “rebound like crazy,” dunk a lot and be “kind of a great swarming team” in 2016-17. He suggested UK might resemble the Denny Crum teams at Louisville that featured versatile players who could guard multiple positions.

▪  Said Derek Willis has been “unbelievable.” Willis has “stayed after every practice,” the UK coach said. Willis has better work habits. “He’s now the first one in and the last one out,” Calipari said. Recalling how Willis complained about body aches after a breakout performance, the UK coach said, “I think last year scared him.”

▪  Welcomed how Briscoe and Fox have engaged in a practice competition that can benefit both. “Going nose to nose,” Calipari said. “It’s a war.”

▪  Relished how two ex-Cats, Wall and Anthony Davis, finished 1-2 for an NBA public service award. With the 28 drafted players, the routine team grade-point average of 3.0 or better and, of course, the winning, Calipari said, “You can do it all at Kentucky.” That prompted, arguably, the biggest cheer of the luncheon.

▪  Proposed college basketball mimic college football and have a condensed period of offseason. “Why don’t we have August basketball?” he said. Teams could practice and/or play foreign teams on campus during a 10-day period. “There’s nothing going on in August,” he said. “. . . It’s too good an idea, believe me. Plus, it’s mine. It’ll never happen.” The crowd laughed.

Outside the ballroom, a silent auction was held to raise funds for four scholarships annually given to students from Jefferson and Oldham counties.

Among the items being auctioned were a vodka gift package (minimum bid $50), a three-night stay at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel (minimum bid $500) and autographed photographs of Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Harrison twins (minimum bid of $40).

Minutes before the auction ended, the photographs of former UK players had not generated many bids. Towns’ photograph had the most bids with three. There was only one bid for Poythress, Murray, Kidd-Gilchrist and the Harrison twins.

Then again, the theme of UK’s Tip-Off Luncheon is the future, always the future.

John Calipari talks about Isaac Humphries, "Bam" Adebayo

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

Important upcoming dates

Oct. 14: Big Blue Madness

Oct. 21: Blue-White Scrimmage

Oct. 30: Exhibition vs. Clarion

Nov. 6: Exhibition vs. Asbury

Nov. 11: Season opener vs. Stephen F. Austin