Team success leads to individual success.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari has tried to convey that message to his players this month.
“Just remind them that in my best teams . . . those players benefited the most,” Calipari said on the Southeastern Conference’s “summer teleconference” Thursday. “. . . Which is why I keep saying it’s about the team during the season. It’s about individuals after. . . .
“The better our team, the better opportunities everybody within the team is going to have.”
For example, UK’s 2012 national championship team made NBA Draft history by having the first two overall picks: No. 1 Anthony Davis to New Orleans and No. 2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Charlotte.
And UK’s 2014-15 team, which made NCAA history by winning its first 38 games, had four lottery picks: No. 1 Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 6 Willie Cauley-Stein, No. 12 Trey Lyles and No. 13 Devin Booker.
Even at this ultra-early stage, the UK team of 2019-20 already can be likened to the 2012 national champions. Like the champs, it has a so-called “breakfast club,” which is a group of players who participate in voluntary early-morning workouts. Kidd-Gilchrist was the ring leader in the 2011-12 season. Calipari credited freshman Tyrese Maxey as the organizer this month.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to have a hell of a team that everybody looks at and says the same thing, ‘How in the world do they get a new team every year to play this way?’” Calipari said. “And, ‘How do they get really good players to share and be about each other.’
“And that’s the challenge every year.”
Calipari was asked about reviving the Kentucky-Indiana series, which has been defunct since 2011-12. In essence, he said that will not happen anytime soon. UK’s schedule is full of such non-conference commitments as the Champions Classic, the CBS Sports Classic, the SEC-Big 12 Challenge and the annual game against Louisville.
Of Kentucky playing Indiana, Calipari said, “I’m not sure here in the next four or five years if even talking about it does anything.”
Calipari said he proposed a continuation of the series at neutral sites. He said he offered IU a two-year extension with both games played in Indianapolis. Indiana declined that offer, he said.
“Which at that point was, like, OK,” Calipari said. “Now, we’re moving on because I can’t present anything that’s any better.”
When asked if there was a reason for not wanting to continue playing at each team’s home arena, Calipari said, “Yeah. We have enough home-and-homes right now.”
SEC coaches seemed to shrug off the NCAA moving the three-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches from the basket to the international distance of 22 feet, 1 ¾ inches next season.
“I wish the line was (moved) back last year,” Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl said. “It would have helped us even more because we had so many guys who could shoot it, and shoot it from great distance.”
Good shooters will adapt, Pearl said, while poorer shooters will take fewer three-point shots.
Auburn took and made more three-point shots than any other SEC team last season. The change of distance will not impact how frequently his players shoot threes, Pearl said.
“If we take fewer threes, it’s because we lost some great three-point shooters,” he said.
Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, who ranked first and third among SEC players in three-point baskets last season, departed.
Widen the floor?
Buzz Williams, the new coach at Texas A&M, said there was a cause-and-effect with rules changes. He suggested a widening of the lane will result from the longer three-point distance.
Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland would not stop there.
“I just wish they’d widen the floor,” he said. “There’s very little room between that sideline and that three-point line now. Let’s go ahead and widen the floor a little bit more.”
Howland offered a specific distance for this proposed widening of the basketball court in order to create more room for players to operate in the corners.
“Just add 3 more feet,” he said. “Eighteen inches to each side. Let’s give us a little bit more room to work with out there.”
Follow NBA example
No SEC coach voiced objection to the change in the shot clock. After an offensive rebound, the shot clock will be re-set to 20 seconds rather than 30. All welcomed speeding up the pace of play.
Georgia Coach Tom Crean would press the accelerator further.
“Anything that makes the game faster, I’m for,” he said. “I wish it’d go to a 24-second clock. . . . The NBA has such good basketball rules. I wish we would take even more of them.”
Erasing the past
Vanderbilt made SEC history by losing all 18 of its conference games last season.
Of his players, new Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse said, “They’re really excited to put last season behind them. And they’re working extremely hard.”
When asked if there were lessons to be learned from last season, Stackhouse said, “I honestly think it’s still in the back of their mind a little bit. It’s going to take some early success before it’s totally gone.”