LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach John Calipari says it’s not hard to understand why bringing former players back to UK is important for them and fans.
Kentucky will have two exhibition games Saturday at Rupp Arena involving former players, who are also here to help with the John Calipari Fantasy Camp that includes a visit from ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale today.
“The ’96 guys have been fabulous by the way. It’s been unbelievable. They are appreciative to be here. They already told me to tell everybody to get to this game because we are not losing. We will not lose a quarter. Some of them want to play with the current players that are in the NBA which we said fine. So it should be neat.”
Calipari admitted there will be not a sellout crowd at Rupp Arena for the games to benefit various charities, but still expects a sizeable crowd.
“It’s a summer event during football season. You are bringing people back. It’s not a free thing but the money is going towards charity. However many people decide to come, they are going to have a ball. They are going to say that I am so happy. It’s not going to be televised, so anybody waiting for television, it won’t be streamed because the NBA won’t allow it,” Calipari said.
“It’s either you are in the building or you’re not. We are going to do some special things as we raise banners. We have won eight national titles and a lot of those guys are going to be back. I’m really hoping we can get Wah Wah Jones back. We want to honor all of those guys. You got Mike Pratt and that crew coming back. They are not playing but they are coming back. Sam (Bowie) and all of the guys and coach Hall will be there so it should be a great celebration of the history of the program.”
That celebration could continue this season, or at least that is what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist predicted by saying the Cats could win the title again this year like his team did last season.
“I’m really excited about the kind of people we have on this team. They understand, we are not as physical as we were. Obviously we weren’t very experienced last year, but we had more than we have this year,” Calipari said. “We had three guys who had been in the Final Four. But, like I said a couple years ago, if I had my choice of teams, I’m taking this team. I don’t see anybody out there that scares me. Like a couple years ago, if we had beaten Connecticut, we probably would have won the national title two years ago.”
“No one scares me and I can tell you right now without the ball going up, we can go 0-2 to start the year. We have got a veteran Maryland team and a veteran Duke team we have to play right out of the gate with no other games. We can be 0-2 and have everybody in the state in full blown panic and they’re looking at me and I’m saying we’re fine. At the end of the year, our team will be fine. We’ve got size, we’ve got speed, we’ve got some athleticism, they’re just really inexperienced.”
Calipari acknowledged that Louisville and Indiana, a team UK¿is not playing during the regular season, will be “two of the better teams” in the country.
“Duke is going to be one of those teams. They have everybody back. They have more unity than they’ve had in the past,” Calipari said. “You have a team like a Syracuse, whose still going to be really good. Whereas, Ohio State, how much are they going to dip? Penn State is going to be really good. You got some teams in the Big 10 that are going to be really good, so it should be interesting.”