UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notes: Calipari looking for love

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari made some quick substitutions when players didn't do their job as #1 Kentucky  defeated  Boston University 89-65 on Friday November 21, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari made some quick substitutions when players didn't do their job as #1 Kentucky defeated Boston University 89-65 on Friday November 21, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

It's not enough that Kentucky has nine McDonald's All-Americans, has been ranked No. 1 from preseason to present, is hailed as historically great and is compared favorably to NBA teams.

Coach John Calipari also wants his team to be — sniff — loved. By everyone.

Following up on a theme he spun after Tuesday's rout of Texas-Arlington, Calipari suggested Friday that a bias against Kentucky or himself lessens the praise due UK.

Either that or Calipari will not let blowout after blowout dull his desire for us-versus-them motivation.

"What I don't get (is) if this was another school, they'd say this is all what college athletics is all about: sharing, team before everything else," the UK coach said. "Can you imagine? This is what it should be. I'd be called before a congressional hearing down in D.C. 'Coach, what are you doing to make this about college athletics?'

"Instead, the dialogue becomes, 'He can't keep these guys happy.' 'There's no way these guys can be happy.' If it were at other schools, 'Wooo, is this great for college athletics.' 'Is this refreshing to see in this me society and narcissism and all that.'"

Calipari offered his idea of the proper perspective on Kentucky's team.

"This is the greatest thing," he said. "We all (have) got to follow this team and cheer that this works.

"Wooo, it's not happening that way."

With that, Calipari ended what appeared to be theatre (light comedy?) with an exit line.

"But (pause), I got to go," he said. "There you go."

Relaxation technique

Dakari Johnson credited relaxation as a reason for his dramatically improved free-throw shooting Tuesday (12-for-14).

"I think I was just more relaxed," he said. "Taking my time at the line (and) not rushing my shot."

Johnson, who had made 12 of 25 free throws in UK's first five games, said he shot accurately from the foul line in high school. "I don't know what happened when I got here," he said with a smile.

When asked if the thought of 24,000 fans watching him shoot free throws in Rupp Arena might be a factor, he said, "A little bit. That's just a matter of staying focused. That's just a mental thing."

Calipari said much the same thing. Noting the good shooting Tuesday, the UK coach said, "So what gets in the way of him making (12 of 14), the 6 inches between his ears.

"They weren't like bouncing around and in. He swished them. So he's capable. Now, he has to have his own confidence."

Job description

In noting how confidence can make the critical difference in free-throw shooting, Calipari said, "My job is not to make them feel good about bad play. My job is to make them understand how good they can be as individual players. And the only thing holding them back in most cases, it's themselves."


Calipari confirmed that Kentucky will play UCLA in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. The Cats will play at UCLA next season with the Bruins coming to Rupp Arena in 2016-17.

The home-and-home series will fill a gap created when North Carolina asked that its traditional series with UK be suspended for two seasons, Calipari said.

"You won't believe this: This is all based on what we need," Calipari said facetiously. "Don't care about anybody else. You don't want to play us? Listen, don't play us.

"So it takes off two years. We plug in UCLA for two years."

North Carolina has sent UK a contract to resume the series in the 2017-18 season, Calipari said.

Calipari then defended the strength of Kentucky's schedule against a critic he did not name.

"I don't know if it's the guy's hope or he really believes (UK has a soft schedule)," Calipari said. "We have as good a schedule as anybody in the country. We always have a brand-new team, and it's fine. It's what we do. That's how we do it here."

Double teams

As part of Basketball 101, opponents try to combat UK's size by double-teaming the player with the ball in the low post.

To counter, Calipari said he's advised Willie Cauley-Stein to widen his stance when posting up and Karl-Anthony Towns to lower his stance — or in basketball parlance to "sit down" — in the post.

"He plays too erect," Calipari said of Towns, "which means he ends up getting pushed out."

The same applies to Marcus Lee, the UK coach said.

"They're not going to surrender," Calipari said of opponents. "So they've got to fight you. The question is will you fight back? Fighting back means will you get lower than they are, so you have leverage not to get pushed around."

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