UK Basketball: Cal wants Cats to become 'special' team
Archie Goodwin has developed into a solid point guard for the Wildcats. (Sun Photo by Bo Morris / November 28, 2012)
“I’m not looking for us to just be a good basketball team,” the Kentucky coach said Wednesday. “I want us to be special. To be special, we are not close yet. We’re OK. We can win some games, beat some people, but that’s not what this is about. This is about — when it’s all said and done — were we the best version of what we could be as a team, were individual players the best version of themselves and were we having more fun than any team in the country.”
Calipari likes his team's development following the first five games, but added that the Cats have plenty of room for growth going into December.
“We could be very good,” he said. “We could be very good. We just are not right now. Should we be? If we are, then we were practicing double time in the summer. We are what we are right now. I’m fine with it.”
The Wildcats (4-1) have played three of their first five games at home and two at neutral sites and will take on Notre Dame Thursday night as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge in the team's first true road game of the season. The Irish (6-1) are undefeated in five home games this season and topped the Cats 77-67 in the last meeting between the two teams in South Bend three years ago.
“They do well in that building,” Calipari said. “They are a good home team, so it will be a tough challenge.”
Calipari added that he's eager to see how his young squad responds to adversity.
“We don’t know what we are going to get from our guys,” he said. “It’s our first road game, first hostile environment, but I think this team from what I am seeing, what I know, and what I don’t know — it will be until February until we figure this out. Hopefully, we can go in good enough and win the number of games we need to be winning to stay alive, but we are learning. This will be another chance for us.”
Kentucky veteran and junior guard Jon Hood thinks the team's younger cast of players won't be intimidated by Notre Dame's home crowd and added that it could serve as a motivational tool.
“When you play in your first road game, you thrive on it,” Hood said. “You love when everyone boos you, and they will be hyped up for it. They will be ready for it.”
Kentucky split its first two games, before winning three straight contests at home, including a 104-75 rout of LIU Brooklyn in its last outing last Friday night at Rupp Arena. The Cats were successful in the absence of point guard Ryan Harrow, who returned to the team last Sunday after battling health and personal family issues.
Archie Goodwin, named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week Monday, has played the point in Harrow's absence and has handled the transition with ease. Calipari said Goodwin will remain the team's starter at the point-guard slot and share time with Harrow and Jarrod Polson.
“He is our point guard,” Calipari said. “He has earned the position and he is our point guard. Now, he isn’t our only point guard. We have three point guards, that’s even better. It really is better and you can have two point guards on the floor at the same time, which is even better against zone, against pressing, so it’s good for us. He is doing good learning the position and getting better game-to-game, so he has earned his spot.”