UK Basketball: Calipari said he has big expectations for young Wildcats next season
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday that incoming freshman Alex Poythress, left, seen playing in the McDonald¿s All-American game in March, ¿is a beast. He is going to be another wing that runs and can make plays and score the ball. He shoots good, but he has to get more consistent.¿ (AP Photo / June 26, 2012)
However, Calipari was also quick to note that “I like my team” and has big expectations for his new roster.
Three freshmen — guard Archie Goodwin, forward Alex Poythress and center Willie Cauley-Stein — are already on campus and because of a NCAA rule change that allows coaches limited workout time with players this summer, Calipari has had a chance to work with the trio.
He says Poythress and Goodwin are “two different kind of players, but both have looked really good” during workouts.
“Archie is a slasher, scorer who can play both the one and two (guard spots), which is going to be vital. When you are not playing 10 guys and are playing seven or eight guys, you need guys who play multiple positions,” said Calipari. “Alex is a beast. I think Alex and Willie do not understand how good they can be. He (Poythress) is 6-7, has long arms and plays bigger. He is going to be another wing that runs and can make plays and score the ball. He shoots good, but he has to get more consistent.”
Calipari says he has been “blown away” by Cauley-Stein, the lowest rated freshman in UK’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class that also includes Nerlens Noel, who is not yet on campus.
“I knew he was good, but on his official visit he was 215 (pounds). He’s over 230 now and loving it,” Calipari said. “He is soaking it all in. He is one of those guys that just blossoms.”
Calipari said counting Noel, the top-ranked player in the 2012 recruiting class, that UK has “four pretty good guys” coming into the program. The Cats also add Wright State transfer Julius Mays along with Ryan Harrow, who sat out last year after transferring from North Carolina State.
The UK¿coach said sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is “bouncier than I¿have ever seen” before joking that “he is still not shaving.¿He does have hair under his arms.¿I did see that.”
Calipari also said that Jon Hood, who missed last year with a knee injury, and Twany Beckham will have “their opportunity this year” to help the team.
Kentucky is coming off a 38-2 year in which it won the NCAA championship and dominated Southeastern Conference play. Kentucky should have six players off last year’s team picked in Thursday’s NBA draft, including No. 1 overall choice Anthony Davis. At least three more — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Terrence Jones — are expected to also go in the first round and both Doron Lamb and Darius Miller have been listed in some mock drafts as first-round picks.
That leaves Wiltjer as the only returning player who played significant minutes last season.
“I have had to replace three teams here. This is my fourth new team I’ve had to coach (at Kentucky),” Calipari said. “If I had my druthers, I do not like the one-and-done. I wish we could go back to the 70’s and 80’s and have guys for four years, and it would get scary (at how good UK¿could be).”
Calipari said “starting all over” with new players is not a daunting task for him.
“I am going to be honest, it is exciting,” he said of the new roster. “The job I have every year is not to say here’s how we’re going to play, this is called Cal ball. What will we do? You’re going to defend, we’re going to play fast, you’re going to be unselfish – all those basic things. You’ve got to be mentally and physically tough to play at Kentucky. You’re everybody’s Super Bowl.
“But how we play the dribble-drive, how we get into it, to be honest has been different every year and we’ve had to figure it out, and some teams it takes us months to figure out. I have no idea with this team yet how we will play and get into dribble drive, but I do know we can play two big kids at one time, the 7-footer (Noel) and 6-11 (Cauley-Stein). We can do that if we choose to. Now we may not start that way, but we can go into that rotation and have two huge guys on the floor.”
Calipari stressed that last year’s team had a 3.2 grade-point average with 10 players making a 3.0 or better.
“We have good players. We have got good kids,” Calipari said. “I expect this team may do better off the court (academically). If they could ever do on the court what last year’s team did, it would be a great story.”