Morehead State Coach Preston Spradlin captured the rationale for Kentucky’s for-charity exhibition against his team Monday night.
“It’s one of those situations where everybody wins . . . ,” he said at a Thursday news conference touting the game. “The real winner here is much bigger than basketball.”
UK and Morehead State are two teams with a large influx of newcomers. So the game makes both teams winners by giving players a needed third exhibition game.
Of course, the NCAA allows only two preseason exhibitions. But the NCAA permitted a third such game this year if the proceeds go to relief from recent natural disasters involving hurricanes that hit Houston, Florida and the Caribbean, plus wild fires in California.
UK Coach John Calipari said the game was an opportunity to “leverage who you are to help others.” The game had a fund-raising goal of $500,000, he said.
“Let’s do what we do at Kentucky,” Calipari said. “Let’s fill the building.”
To help increase attendance, Calipari pointed out that the game will not be televised. So only fans who attend will see the latest retooled Kentucky team play a Division I opponent for the first time.
For those who cannot attend, donations can be made by texting KYCARES to 87872.
Several injuries have reduced Kentucky’s available scholarship players to eight, Calipari said.
On a positive note, Calipari said freshman Jarred Vanderbilt was no longer wearing a protective boot on Tuesday. Vanderbilt injured a foot early in the preseason. The initial diagnosis was he would not be able to play before January.
“Now will be the process of seeing where is he exactly.” Calipari said. “Is he going to be able to play? Or are we going to have to wait? I guess they did the MRIs and all that stuff and everything looked good. So we’ll see.”
On a less-positive note, Calipari said it appeared freshman guard Jemarl Baker would be undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Friday. Knee soreness has limited Baker’s participation in drills much of the preseason. He came to Kentucky billed as a shooter, a skill that has been much discussed as a need for this UK team.
“The operation he did back in California before he got here, for some reason, it didn’t heal the way it should have,” Calipari said. “They’re probably going to take another look in there and see what it is.”
Both coaches spoke of having many newcomers this season.
Spradlin said his Morehead State team included six freshmen and four junior-college transfers.
UK has eight freshmen, counting Hamidou Diallo, plus three scholarship sophomores who played sparingly last season.
“I’m not sure we can beat a top-50 RPI team right now,” Calipari said. “We’re just trying to stay in a (defensive) stance for 30 seconds.”
Calipari joked (?) about not enjoying watching video of UK’s Blue-White Game.
“My wife thought I was sick . . . ,” he said. “I watched tape of the scrimmage, and I started sweating. Oh my gosh, how much work do I have to do?”
Toward that end, Calipari said he was emphasizing conditioning, in part to deal with multiple players cramping during the Blue-White Game.
“Conditioning like no other team I’ve coached here,” he said.
Meanwhile, Calipari said he would try to be more accepting of mistakes made in games. For instance, the first exhibition game is Friday against Thomas More.
“I’m still trying to figure out who they are,” he said of the current Cats. “Which means I’ve got to back up and accept some of the stuff which normally I don’t accept. The question is can I do that?”
All three games in Rupp Arena
Friday: Thomas More, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Monday: Morehead State, 7 p.m. (No TV)
Nov. 3: Centre, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)