Kentucky coach John Calipari touched on variety of topics Monday during the SEC coaches summer teleconference.
CALIPARI: We've got a lot of new players, and it's going to be interesting. I know I hear all the comments about our incoming freshmen 'They're this' and 'They're that,' but at the end of the day, if you want to do something special, you've got to be a terrific team. I will tell you having talented players doesn't guarantee you'll win, but having bad players will guarantee you're going to lose. So I think we have a talented group, but how good we're going to be all depends on how they come together, how hard they're willing to work for each other, (and) how much leadership we get from within the team and some of the returning players.
But it should be interesting. I compare this team a little bit more to our team my first year than I compare them to the 2012 team. This will probably be a team that won't be a great, great execution team because there's so many new guys, yet a team that can physically do things -- athletically, skill-wise -- even though they're not the greatest execution team.
Q: Can you talk about the summer that Alex (Poythress) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) have had and what you're pushing them to get done this summer?
CALIPARI: Both of them are challenged. I think part of the lesson that we learned (during the 2012-13 season) and I did as a coach is that you can't protect players. Competition is what brings out the best in all of us. And if it doesn't, you must learn that you can't blame... you can't hide from it. It needs to bring out your best. It needs to wake you up earlier in the morning. It needs to get you working harder. It needs to get you being smarter about what you're doing in your training, more disciplined, more conscientious.
Last year, we had eight guys on scholarship and we had an injury. We were playing only seven scholarship players (at the end of the season). I did it somewhat to protect guys in the program, and you really can't do it that way. You've really got to have the full complement (of players). And what happens is, now there's competition. Now you really see guys blossom. Right now, Willie's challenged by the other big guy (Dakari Johnson). Alex is challenged by Julius (Randle) and the other guys. And so all of the sudden they've elevated their game. And if you make an excuse, you're sitting... You sit there (on the bench) because now we've got other guys. So I think what you've seen this summer, and it's been just a short period of time right now, but what you see is they're on a mission like some of my best teams have been on.
Q: What's the status on the three freshmen (Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and James Young) who are not on campus yet?
CALIPARI: The school year was longer for them, but the other thing is they had some things to finish up academically. I think they're going to come in this weekend. What we're hoping is that they're able to throw into the six-week session, and if they're not, they'll stay a couple of long weekends and they'll be fine. I'm excited about those three. I wish they would have been here for the eight-week, but it's happened before with Nerlens (Noel) and some other guys that we've had who had things to finish up, but they're fine.
Q: What are your thoughts on the SEC asking its teams to submit non-conference schedules for approval?
CALIPARI: I think what the league wants is to be a resource for guys who are struggling with their scheduling, to be a sounding board more than 'No, you shouldn't schedule that team.' I think what the league wants to do is, if you're confused about what's a good came, call us. Call us, and we'll tell you. If you are in a jam and you have to schedule XYZ, explain it to us. Why are you scheduling this team and not that team? Why would you not go for a 2-for-1 versus what you're doing? Maybe you should play a Division II school versus playing that team. I think it's good in that they're being a resource for us.
I doubt very seriously that this league, knowing the commish like I do, would ever step up and say 'Nope, you're not scheduling those teams.' I just don't see (Mike Slive) being that way. But he's saying to us, 'Use us. We have some expertise now. Ask us. We have some guys who understand the RPI, and we'll help you walk through this. I think it's more that than anything else.
Q: What's your take on the influx of talent into the league this year?
CALIPARI: You've got teams... it's going to be some exciting stuff. You talk about Florida and Stokes comes back at Tennessee. I think they're going to be good. You start talking LSU and what they've got coming back and the guys coming in. Any time you're adding talent, there's hope. And I come back to talent doesn't guarantee you'll win, but bad players are going to guarantee you're losing. Just how it is. If you tell me there's a guy out there who says 'Well, I like to coach them up,' well you go coach them up and let me go get talented guys. And then I'll figure out my challenge, which is how do I get them to play together? How do I get them to sacrifice for one another? That's the challenge.
The great thing about coming into this league as an All-American, you've got no choice. I don't care if you're a McDonald's All-American or what you are, if you don't play with your team, your team is losing. You're forced here, because of the league and going on the road and having to win in these buildings, which are tremendous, and the coaching that goes on in this league... I think it's great.
I don't know how many (high-profile recruits) come into the league this year, but it's a big number, and it's not just us. They're not afraid to go after those level players. That's the first thing. You can't be afraid to hear 'No' every once in a while. I mean, if everybody thinks we get everybody we want, you're out of your mind. We hear 'No' a lot... It happens sometimes.
Q: What are your thoughts on Archie Goodwin going into the NBA Draft?
CALIPARI: Well, I still think he'll have a chance in the first round. He's got a bunch of those teams in the late first who are still looking at him. His age is working in his favor. His athleticism, his toughness and his ability to get to the rim is working for him. The last thing those teams worry about is his shooting, so I don't think that will work against him as much as everybody thinks. I think he's going to be fine.
My thing, when we sat down, was "Here's the worst that can happen. Can you deal with this?" "Yeah, coach, I can. I want to do this. I can do this." I'm convinced he's in the frame of mind that he's prepared to deal with what's the worst that can happen. He's ready to deal with it. Hopefully it's not what happens. Hopefully he goes in the first round. But if it's not, he'll go do his thing.
I leave this stuff up to the players. Would I rather have Archie back? Sure I would have. Would I have thought that it was probably in his best interests to come back? Yeah, maybe. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn't matter. I can give him the information, and he's got to make that decision because at the end of the day, whatever he did, come back or go, he's got to make it work. I can't make it work for him. He's got to make it work. He's got to have both feet in, one way or the other. His feet were in. He was "I can do it." Willie and Alex decided they wanted to come back. They did that on their own. We didn't have 10 meetings. We talked once, maybe twice, and those two said that's what I want to do. Archie said he wanted to go, and obviously Nerlens is 1, 2 or 3 in the draft, so he was going to go.
What it appears is, the players, even though it was a disappointing year for our staff in a lot of ways -- and people ask what did I get from the season, well, I was humbled. How 'bout that? -- but our players benefited. They benefited.... Kyle (Wiltjer) was the sixth man of the year. Julius Mays helped himself. He went to New York, and now it looks like he's going to get an overseas contract. Even Jon Hood and Jarrod (Polson) helped themselves; Ryan (Harrow) helped himself for that matter. There were a lot of things that I was disappointed in, but in a way for the players, they still benefited by it.
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