Grant and Other SEC Rookies Meet the Media

BIRMINGHAM - SEC Basketball Media Day began with the conference's three new head coaches talking with the press Thursday morning. Kentucky's John Calipari has instantly become the centerpiece of all basketball discussions in the conference with his remarkable early recruiting success, but Alabama's Anthony Grant and Georgia's Mark Fox come with impressive achievements on their resumes as well.

Calipari's a smooth guy, and his comfort with the media throng that comes as an accessory with the UK coaching job was evident. Watching him deal with press only further emphasized what a poor fit Billy Gillispie was for the expectations that come with being the head man in Lexington.  

Calipari's clearly excited about his freshman class but also is figuring out how they'll fit in with the Wildcats existing talent. He says touted freshman point guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will definitely play together on the floor often and may even both start. A question Calipari's still trying to answer is who can be a third point for UK, because he made clear DeAndre Liggins "is not a point guard, he's a wing".  

Anthony Grant was his usual soft spoken self as he addressed the media. The former Gator assistant didn't make it 10 minutes into his hour with the press before someone asked about Alabama's football team, but he's shown he's comfortable with Nick Saban's squad being the headline attraction in town. When getting to talk about his own team rather than Saban's, Grant made clear it's a work in progress.  

"We've got to make sure we understand how hard we need to play, and we need to focus ever single day on getting better," said Grant. "Where that leads us, we'll find out."  

Grant will not only have to go take on friend and fellow former Gator assistant John Pelphrey twice a season now, he'll also have to go head to head with Billy Donovan for the first time. Grant played against Pelphrey two years ago in a tournament, so he has a little experience with what that will be like.  

"The most difficult time is leading up to the game," said Grant "Once the game starts, it's your guys on the court against the other team's guys."  

"Before the game starts and at the end of the game, there's friendship and history involved. Those are never easy."  

While Calipari and Grant walk into situations where there's been some recent success, things have been pretty bleak for years at Georgia with the exception of the tornado aided miracle SEC tournament run in 2008. For new coach Mark Fox, eradicating that mindset has been a priority.  

"Number one thing for us what just changing the culture around the team in many ways," said Fox. "How we function in the classroom, how we function on the floor, the culture in that locker room was something we needed to address on day one."  

Fox says the goal for Georgia will be eventually to play an uptempo game, but with their current personnel they'll have to play "as fast as they can play well".  

One thing that does help Fox is his connection with LSU's Trent Johnson, the man he replaced at Nevada after serving as his assistant. With Johnson having made the jump from Stanford to LSU last season, Fox says he followed the league extremely closely and often talked with Johnson about the challenges that came with coaching in the conference.


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