LAHAINA, Maui, Hawaii — With Enes Kanter's eligibility in serious doubt, Kentucky Coach John Calipari set a modest expectation for his team's other centers.
"We have to get a double-double out of our center position, Josh (Harrellson) and Eloy (Vargas)," Calipari said Sunday. "Just combine, points and rebounds. You do that, and the rest of us do our thing. Then Jon Hood gives us something. We have a solid eight."
Through two games, Harrellson and Vargas are averaging a combined 6.0 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Calpari traced the greater contributions from Harrellson so far this season to better conditioning. Harrellson grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds at Portland. He had only 27 rebounds all of last season.
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"The conditioning he's doing is making all the difference in the world," Calipari said. "What you see it in is his own self esteem."
With a healthier self-image, Harrellson sees himself making greater contributions. Calipari spoke in make-or-break terms when discussing the senior from St. Charles, Mo.
"You can B.S. only so long," Calipari said. "Then everybody starts calling you out. (You say) 'I am what I am.' Or you change. You change your body which changes your mind.
"Then all of a sudden he has a different self-esteem (and) a different approach to what he's doing."
Harrellson reverts to a person who looks to avoid responsibility or total effort, the UK coach said. But he's bringing that approach more consistently.
"It's also a challenge for Eloy," Calipari said. "Now Eloy has to step it up."
Hood as eighth man
Calipari noted the progress made by Hood.
"Really come on as our eighth man," the UK coach said.
While saying Hood looked like Rex Chapman in a recent practice, Calipari hinted that the sophomore from Madisonville had to believe he could play that well in games.
"I just think he has that thing over top of him that he has to break through," the UK coach said. "I told him, I've got a lot of confidence in you. ... It's just that thing. When they get over it, when they do it, they take it to another level."
Calipari said he implored the Cats at a Saturday meeting to get DeAndre Liggins more shots as a reward for great effort. Against Portland, Liggins took four shots and made one.
"DeAndre defended and did everything, and you all didn't get him enough shots," Calipari said he told the team. "He should take a minimum of 10 to 12 shots a game. Of those 10 or 12, five will be threes, and he'll make two or three."The UK coach said he saw the players not pass to an open Liggins at least four times.
"You've got to respect what he's doing and how hard he's running and how hard he's playing," Calipari said, "and make sure he gets shots."
A 'meaner' Miller
Darius Miller was everywhere at Portland, as reflected in 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, four blocks and five steals. Now Calipari wants to see something like that against tougher competition on Maui.
"This is going to be meaner," the UK coach said. "Now do what you did in a mean setting. There ain't no backing down. There's no moon walking. You play chest to chest."
Cal on Maui
This summer, Calipari voiced his reservations about bringing a freshman-oriented team to Maui.
Sounding like Patton applauding his Third Army for breaking off an advance, marching 100 miles in another direction and relieving soldiers surrounded at Bastonge, Calipari noted how his team traveled from Portland to Hawaii overnight Friday and had a "great competitive" practice Saturday.
"You think, how many teams could have done that," said Calipari, who acknowledged that he had to goad the Cats on Saturday. "Travel 20 miles (he meant hours), nothing to eat or sleep and go into battle. I told them to be proud."
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo lamented his team's many injuries. Most significantly, guard Kalin Lucas missed months (and still isn't himself) after injuring an Achilles last March. "You can't miss six months," Izzo said. "Michael Jordan can't miss six months."