UK Men's Basketball

Calipari gives fans taste of UK 'flavor'

UK Coach John Calipari signed his book for Robert Foushee as Foushee held his son, Ben, on Wednesday at Barnes & Noble bookstore.
UK Coach John Calipari signed his book for Robert Foushee as Foushee held his son, Ben, on Wednesday at Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Brothers Rusty and Adam Weaver drove 16 hours from the Orlando, Fla., area.

By comparison, Eddie and Julia Huffman had a short (five-hour) hop from Columbus, Ohio.

When asked what compelled him to come to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Lexington on Wednesday, Eddie minced no words.

"Get this book signed," he said, "and meet the coach."

In addition to signing copies of the new paperback edition of his book, Bounce Back, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari also shared his views of the 2010-11 team and the overall status of the program.

"It'll be different," Calipari said in comparing this coming season's team with his first at Kentucky. "We'll have to be more of an execution team."

Calipari told the fans his first UK team was big and talented enough to make execution less of a priority. "We just bowled you over," he said.

At the other end of the court, blocked shots erased whatever defensive mistakes occurred.

"This year we'll have to be a better team defensively," the UK coach said.

Calipari expressed concern about Daniel Orton's viability as an NBA player but voiced confidence about the four other first-year pros from UK.

"I believe the Rookie of the Year will come out of that group," he told the fans.

In less than 18 months on the job, Calipari has returned Kentucky basketball to elite status. He recruited the top-rated recruiting classes of 2009 and 2010, and sparked much speculation that UK's haul in the high school class of 2011 might be better still.

"We're kind of like the flavor of the month now," Calipari told the fans. Then he noted how such programs as Duke (the mention of which drew boos), North Carolina, Florida and UCLA enjoyed most-favored status for a while before receding.

"Right now, it is Kentucky," he said.

Calipari then spoke of a recent conversation with Gonzaga Coach Mark Few, who saw Kentucky's flavor-of-the-month status having the chance to be long-lasting.

"You're at Kentucky," Few said according to Calipari. "It can be that way a long time."

Judging by the fans who attended the book signing (about 75, Barnes & Noble staffers estimated), the passion for Kentucky basketball will not abate.

Justin Bright, 17, and his sister, McKenzie, and mother Tammy came from Marion County. They arrived two hours before the start of the signing and were first in line.

"He says he's the biggest UK fan there is," Tammy said of Justin.

"That's because I cry when they get beat," Justin said. "I cried after the West Virginia game."

West Virginia beat UK in the NCAA Tournament East Region finals last March.

The Huffmans left Columbus at 5 a.m. Wednesday. Eddie, who grew up in Pikeville, said they planned to make the signing part of a "mini vacation" that included driving to Gatlinburg, Tenn., later Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Weaver brothers drove from Lake Wales, Fla., simply to get Calipari's signature on Bounce Back. They left home at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. After the book signing, they planned to eat and start the return trip home.

"We have stuff to do," said older brother Rusty, 28. "Fantasy football drafts."

Calipari's book-signing tour includes stops in Prestonsburg on Thursday night, Middlesboro on Friday, Louisville on Saturday, Shelbyville on Sunday, Ashland on Monday and Frankfort on Wednesday. The stop in Louisville will come before the UK-U of L football game and be staged at a counter tops store, Triton Stone.

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