MILLER: Cats focused, ready to go

It's Kentucky, and the expectations remain high despite losing five players to the first round of the NBA draft last season. As the Wildcats prepare for their annual Blue-White scrimmage today, Darius Miller talks about this year's team, their preparation, his outlook on prospects for success, and more.

The 2009-10 version of the Kentucky Wildcats accomplished many things, including winning the Southeastern Conference, the SEC tournament, earning a # 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and finishing 35-3 on the season. After the season, five Wildcats were drafted in the NBA's first round--a record never before earned by any school. Is the talent level down in Lexington?

"We definitely (still) have a lot of talent, just in different ways," UK wing forward Darius Miller said. "We will be able to get as much done, just playing a different style. This year we don't have a Demarcus Cousins or Patrick Patterson sitting underneath the lane. We really have to switch it up a little bit. They could dominate a game at any point in time anytime they felt like it. We will have to play more dribble-drive than we did last year. "

Missing a dominant big man like Cousins and Patterson may cause the Cats to look differently this year. But Kentucky may have an ace in the hole, if 6'11 freshman Enes Kanter is cleared by the NCAA.

"Enes could be a dominant player in my opinion, from what I have seen of him," Miller explained. "He is a tough player, he will be a match-up problem for a lot of players." If Kanter becomes eligible, not much will change for their offense, though, Miller said. "Coach Cal hasn't changed anything since the time he has been able to practice with us. we're still running the same type of offense, he really hasn't changed a lot."

Practices have gone well in the early season. "Practice is going really well. Everybody is doing a great job of being focused and being ready to go," Miller said. "We are already getting better as a team. Everybody is getting the offense down pretty quickly, and we are working on everything quickly, especially defense. New players are picking up the offense and defense pretty well. They are doing a great job working really hard, and they are focused every day."

Kentucky had the opportunity to travel to Canada in August and play three exhibition games. As part of that trip, they were also allowed to have ten full team practices. Miller believes that trip will pay dividends for Kentucky this season.

"The Canada trip helped us a lot, it gave us somewhat of a head start knowing what we have to be doing and what to expect," Miller said. "Coach Cal's offense is different than anyone else's in the country, so when you step into it is kind of different, and the Canada trip definitely helped to get us off to the right start.

One bright spot in Canada was the play of the heir apparent to the vacated point guard position, Brandon Knight. Knight assumes a heavy load trying to fill the shoes of the # 1 pick in the NBA draft, John Wall, who left after his freshman season. All Knight managed to do in Canada was to average 25 ppg while dishing 25 assists to only five turnovers. Can UK fans expect that kind of performance all year?

"We expect Brandon Knight to play as well as he did in Canada, and, if not that, better," Miller affirmed. "That was really early into the season, and he picked up on it really quick, as you see. He did a great job If he doesn't play that well or better, all of us that know him will be surprised."

Stay tuned for Part II of this exclusive interview with Darius Miller. In Part II, Miller will talk about his role on the team, the role returning players like Jon Hood will have, the departure of the five NBA draft picks, and the team goals for this season.

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