UK Men's Basketball

UK taking advantage of 'head start' in Canada

Gather together and sing Kumbaya. Get a better appreciation for each other as people and players. Maybe gain a few basketball insights.

Coach John Calipari spoke of those objectives as Kentucky prepared for a three-game exhibition series in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, beginning Sunday.

"I think we should shoot the ball better and all that," Calipari said Friday. "But what we're doing on this trip is let's come together, let's learn about our team, let individuals learn about themselves and let me learn about them.

"That's what this is about."

Calipari jokingly noted the importance of winning since the three games will be televised in "22 states." The games, which will be played Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the University of Windsor's St. Denis Centre, will be televised on UK's Big Blue Sports Network, Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Ohio.

"Is Fox California taking it?" Calipari quipped.

But, really, the trip is not about beating the University of Windsor (Sunday and Tuesday) and the University of Western Ontario (Monday).

"If we go up there and we really learn about our team, and they beat us, they're better than us," Calipari said. "Just as long as we learn, we'll be fine."

Calipari mentioned one basketball insight that might be learned: which UK player will want to take the clutch shot? The UK coach noted the many times John Wall or others came through in the clutch last season.

"There's going to be some baskets (where fans will say) that was the basket," Calipari said. "Did he make it or miss it? How did he respond to it?"

One reason UK runs drills that have a winner and a loser is to condition players to carrying that onus, he said.

When a reporter asked about the trip serving as a bonding experience for a group of mostly newcomers or veterans assuming enhanced roles, Calipari said, "What you said is the No. 1 thing."

In that regard, the trip is well-timed. NCAA rules permit such pre-season trips only once every four years. The Canadians invited Kentucky last year, but an NCAA rule forbidding incoming freshmen to participate before the beginning of classes contributed to UK's decision to pass.

When the NCAA changed the rule to allow incoming freshmen to play if they pass three hours of summer classes, UK agreed this year.

"Last year's team was like that (he clasped his fingers together in a two-handed fist)," Calipari said.

That would be especially important with a group of highly decorated freshmen who came to Kentucky on the strength of a recruiting pitch largely based on the individual goal of getting to the NBA as quickly as possible.

UK's coaches fostered that togetherness by having the players watch movies and using the analogy of coal miners who rely on each other in their dangerous underground work.

"We're trying to get them to be together that way and respect each other," Calipari said.

Kentucky acknowledges that the competition will be largely unknown. Earlier this year, Windsor Coach Chris Oliver noted his team's ability to play competitively with NAIA schools.

One of UK's veterans, DeAndre Liggins, noted that winning is part of the objective.

"Oh, we want to win," he said. "We want to win all three games."

Then he added, "the ultimate goal is to learn and get better."

In preparation for the trip, Friday's practice was UK's 17th in the permitted 10 days. Learning the dribble-drive offense has been the focus of much of practice, Darius Miller said.

With three low-post anchors last season, Calipari played to that obvious strength and used a lot of pick-and-roll action. All three — Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton and DeMarcus Cousins — are NBA rookies now.

Calipari said he anticipated about 90 percent of UK's scoring effort to be a product of the dribble-drive, which he said contrasted to a 30-percent reliance last season.

Miller described the practices as "a lot of just trying to get down the offense.

"As simple as it might look to people, it's difficult to run. Nobody's ever played that way in their life."

The variance from conventional basketball complicates the learning process, Miller said. The dribbler must beat his man and be confident of where his teammates are ready to receive passes.

"Everything has to be perfect timing, really, for it all to work," Miller said.

The practices and the trip to Canada can enhance Kentucky's ability to learn.

"It's kind of like a head start on everything," Miller said. "And I definitely think that's going to help us."

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