Cal: Winning isn't priority on Bahamas trip

John Calipari says he wouldn’t be surprised if his Wildcats don’t win a game on their Big Blue Bahamas exhibition tour. He’s A-OK with that if it happens.

And if you buy that, the ultra-competitive coach has some white sand beach property in Bardstown to sell you.

Kentucky opens its exhibition tour today at 1 p.m. ET on ESPNU against a group of professional players from Puerto Rico. The Cats will play six games in eight days against similar international squads from France and the Dominican Republic.

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Obviously, Calipari would love to see his UK team return home with a handful of victories, but the extra practice time and a chance to see how his talented newcomers gel with a rare corps of experienced veterans are the main priorities.

“I don’t want it to be about winning and losing right now,” Calipari said. “I want it to be about development. Are we getting better? Are we learning to play off of one another? When adversity hits, how do we deal with it? All those things, we’re trying to learn, and that’s what I want to use the experience for.”

The trip will also give him opportunities to view different lineup combinations for his deep squad. Can freshman point guard Tyler Ulis be used on the floor at the same time as the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron? Can UK’s big men – Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Karl-Anthony Towns – be used in certain combinations together? (Fellow big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles are recovering from injury and not able to play on the trip.) Is Alex Poythress better suited for the 3 or the 4 on this particular team?

Calipari indicated he may do wholesale five-for-five substitution “platoons” on the trip, but would also like to experiment with personnel groups.

“We may (experiment a little),” he said. “… Play six minute periods or segments. Let them play that way and see what it looks like.

“There are all kinds of things you can do. You can play seven guys in a rotation. And then have the bomb squad come in, five guys come in for five straight minutes. Then you rotate those other guys for seven minutes. I mean there are all kinds of things that we can do. At the end of the day, you want to win. Yet, early on in the season it is more important that you learn.”

Calipari added that the exhibition games will also give him a better idea if the team can play certain styles, such as full-court pressure or zone defense.

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