UK Men's Basketball

Calipari finds plenty wrong with Cats

"Stinks" was the word of the day at Kentucky Coach John Calipari's exchange with reporters on Wednesday.

"Our execution stinks right now," Calipari said. "It stinks because everybody's trying to get theirs."

A few minutes earlier, Calipari said, "We need to get a little better rhythm. Our rhythm stinks right now. In other words, we race it up, that means shoot it fast. No! You race it up to try to put pressure on (the defense). So they all get in the lane, you pass, pass (to get an uncontested shot)."

Calipari spoke of a big question about how best to use practice time: Use drill work to improve fundamentals or scrimmage to improve the players' sense of rhythm?

Given that choice, Calipari said, he would emphasize scrimmaging.

"We need to scrimmage more," he said. "I can tell them about the pace of the game. We need to go up and down.

"Drills? We need them so bad, desperately, to create habits. Do we want to be a good drill team? Or a team that understands pace?"

Perhaps trying to inject perspective into where his first Kentucky team (2-0) stands going into Thursday night's game against Sam Houston State, Calipari noted that no team masters all phases of the game.

"You're not going to be great at everything," he said. "... There's no such team. You're going to be good at some things, not so good at other things. Most of us try to attack weaknesses."

With his freshman-oriented team, Calipari said he figures he will spend an hour a day showing the players videotape of how the game should be played. He said he spent five or 10 minutes per day in such activity with his older, more experienced Memphis teams.

Sophomore wing Darius Miller serves as an example of improvement.

Calipari became shot doctor with Miller, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Maysville. By prescribing that Miller shoot while rising straight up, the player got better results against Miami (Ohio).

Miller made four shots against Miami after going scoreless in the opener against Morehead State. The adjustment to stop fading back as he rose for the shot made the difference, player and coach said.

"I was shooting kind of short when I was fading back," Miller said.

The UK player acknowledged that his confidence suffered a bit while he struggled to shoot and play better.

Calipari said he noticed two weeks ago that Miller's shoulders were pulling back as he shot. The UK coach got caught up in other things and forgot to mention the flaw, an omission Calipari said led him to apologize to Miller.

"I told him, 'Don't change your shot,' " the UK coach said. " 'Just don't throw your shoulder back.' When you do that, there's only one way to shoot it: flat."

Earlier, Miller said he was trying to find his niche in UK's new dribble-drive motion offense. On Wednesday, he said he would not initiate offense, but would be ready to take passes and score.

"I just have to be ready to finish plays," he said. "John (Wall) and Eric (Bledsoe) do a great job creating."

As for big-picture changes, Calipari and his players talked about the good that could come from the 18-point deficit against Miami (Ohio). Rather than berate players during timeouts, Calipari was Mr. Encouragement.

"He just tried to keep us focused on picking up our intensity," Miller said before adding, "I'd never really seen anybody be positive when you're down 18."

In his post-game news conference, Calipari said he was "ecstatic" the Cats fell behind Miami by 18. This crisis revealed the players' character.

On Wednesday, Calipari suggested that "ecstatic" might have been an over-statement. "I wish it wasn't 18," he said of the deficit. But the deficit paid dividends."Did you see the defense?" he asked. "It went up a full notch.

"Did you see the offense? It didn't get much better, but we made enough plays."

To rally from a large deficit, defense must lead the way, he said.

Meanwhile, the Miami (Ohio) game provided another service. The possession-by-possession second half opened Calipari's eyes.

"Today, we're going to start doing some situational work," he said. "Because it appears we'll be in some closer games."

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