UK Men's Basketball

Cats get 'history lesson' on MLK Day

Martin Luther King Day did not go unnoticed or uncelebrated by the University of Kentucky's basketball team.

UK Coach John Calipari noted how the holiday could be a teaching moment for his players. Toward that end, he invited P.G. Peeples, the president and CEO of the Lexington Chapter of the Urban League, to speak to the players before practice.

"Kind of an old-fashioned history lesson" is how Peeples described his 30-minute discussion with the players. He said he spoke to the players about King's philosophy, the inequality in the country in the 1950s and 1960s, the obstacles put in King's path and the advancements made.

"How life is better today for some of us and they have benefited from that," Peeples said. "They should know it and appreciate it and be thankful for what people went through in the '60s."

King's dream of a color-blind society in which equality exists for all remains unfinished business, Calipari said he told the players.

"They have to understand there is still a ways to go," the UK coach said, "and because they're content, there still is a reason to stand up if you see (something) unjust. ... If you don't say anything, you agree with it."

Calipari said he gained a new appreciation for King's work in the Civil Rights movement when he coached at Memphis. In that time, he visited a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the movement, he said.

Veterans of the Civil Rights movement told him of the difficulties they faced and overcame.

"No way," Calipari said of his disbelief that conditions could be so bad for African-Americans.

"Oh, yes, way," he said was the the reply.

"It kind of shocks you," Calipari said.

Courageous Cal

Terrence Jones saluted Calipari for participating in the ESPN's "Content of Character" town hall meeting Friday marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Martin Luther King Holiday.

"I told him he did a good job," the freshman said. "It takes courage to go up there (on the panel) not being an African-American."

Jones said he appreciated Calipari saying that as a white person he could not fully appreciate what life is like for an African-American in the U.S.

"That's why he's one of the great leaders in my life," Jones said of Calipari. "Because he has a lot of courage and he's a great speaker."

On the road again

Calipari said he could not be sure whether his freshman-oriented team learned lessons from its last road game, a 77-70 loss at Georgia.

"Georgia just beat us up," he said. "They were more physical than us."

Josh Harrellson said the lesson was "just that we have to be prepared from the start of the game. We cannot let them take it to us. We have to initiate everything. We have to be the first ones to score, first ones to — I guess you could say — throw the first punch. And from there keep taking it to them, and not back off."

Fuzzy memory

When asked about the experience he can lend to his freshman teammates, Harrellson said, "I remember my first year here against Alabama. I played over 20 minutes. So I have a little bit of experience against Alabama."

According to UK's media guide for last season, Harrellson played 12 scoreless minutes at Alabama in the 2008-09 season.

Darius Miller played 33 scoreless minutes, although he did grab seven rebounds and block three shots.

DeAndre Liggins scored 11 points and had three assists in 23 minutes.

Tougher to defend

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he would "probably agree" with the growing number of people who say Kentucky is more difficult to contain this season than last. He noted how UK can spread the floor with shooters and "really skilled" players.

The game pits Alabama, which leads the SEC in field-goal defense (foes making 35.8 percent of shots) and points allowed (56.8 ppg) against Kentucky, which leads the league in scoring (80.0 ppg) and three-point accuracy (41.2 percent).

Alabama had allowed opponents 60 or fewer points in five straight games before losing 70-65 at Arkansas on Saturday. Grant talks repeatedly of developing defense as a team identity.


Alabama is one of only four SEC teams unbeaten at home this season. The Tide's record is 9-0. The other three are UK (9-0), Vanderbilt (9-0) and Georgia (8-0). ... Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Shannon Spake will call the game for the SEC Network.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader