Plenty of work ahead for Cal, Kentucky

John Calipari

The college basketball season is a long one each and every year, even for the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. Coming off their first national title with John Calipari at the helm, the inexperienced group has an uphill battle ahead of itself in order to defend their crown.

The general conception with Kentucky basketball nowadays is that John Calipari can simply replace blue-chip recruits with new ones on the way to deep NCAA Tournament runs. It seems like the case, but the 2012-13 version of the Cats doesn't have any veterans on the roster with considerable experience.

Without players with at least surface knowledge of the culture and system at UK, the transition to the next season has been that much harder.

"Everything we are doing is practically new to everybody," said Calipari at SEC Media Day Thursday. "We have good players, but not a good team."

While the initial report may not be good for the defending champs, who are still ranked in the top-5, it does not mean that their head coach is frustrated or against the new norm of his highly-touted players heading to the NBA after stellar freshmen seasons.

"No," he reaffirmed. "I'm happy for their families. That's what their families thought was best at the time."

The NBA, and a quick path to it, has been linked to Calipari and UK since he took over before the 2009-10 season. Ironically enough, he said it's not something he has stressed to any big-time recruit. Not Derrick Rose, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins or 2012 No. 1 prospect and current Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel.

"We don't talk about the NBA, I don't have to," he said. "It's the white elephant in the room."

With the 2012-13 version of his bunch, Calipari admitted to the amount of work needed to be done in order to compete in the SEC, much less for another title. He is the self-proclaimed leader of the team at this point, another sign of inexperience. He worries why his team does not communicate with each other. He even wonders when certain players will not rely on their athleticism for the betterment of the team.

Archie Goodwin is in that mold.

"He has a little bit of Michael Kidd (-Gilchrist) in him," said Calipari. "We're trying to get Alex (Poythress) the same way. It's all a part of the growth of a player.

"But he (Goodwin) can't go 110 percent all the time, he'll run people over (and get called for fouls). We need him at about 90 percent."

Noel, who has similar defensive skills to Anthony Davis, is unfairly compared to last season's National Player of the Year, says Cal.

"It's not fair to compare anyone to Anthony Davis. He had the nimbleness of a guard and the body of a center."

"Nerlens is quicker," the coach continued. "He has better reaction time to shots and the ball."

Kentucky fans have been able to see examples of Cal's coaching and the new core of the team on All-Access Kentucky on ESPN. The reality show has drawn criticism to the program and specifically Calipari, who nearly didn't go through with it.

"I kept saying no, we don't need any more exposure or notoriety," he said. "The only reason we did it was the players and for who they are.

"It gives people who wouldn't normally know the opportunity (to see them)."

Calipari said he doesn't use it for recruiting, unless a recruit sees how hard he works his players in practices and doesn't want to go at that level. Then, Cal says, "We don't want him." Instead, he wants to put his players on display so that fans can realize that the players put in considerable work despite the conception that he reloads with top-tier classes for easy victory.

And he'll be the first to tell you that this season won't be easy.

Said Calipari, "What's making me tired is how much work I have to do with this team."

AllWildcats.com Recommended Stories