Kentucky coach John Calipari excited to work with new group of Wildcats

Kentucky coach John Calipari cannot hide his excitement to begin working with his latest No. 1 national recruiting class.

Speaking Wednesday during his pre-draft press conference, the UK boss said his next team will have the potential to be special.

"We should be one of my better defensive teams," Calipari said. "... We should be great defensively, and we should be a great shot-blocking team and rebounding team.

"We’ll have to figure out how we’ll play. I can’t tell you exactly how we’ll play. I’ve watched more tape of different teams playing positionless, space basketball -- pick-and-roll basketball. And you know I did more pick-and-roll last year than ever because of Tyler (Ulis). Now I’ve got a couple guys that I think would be great in pick-and-roll; we’ve just got to figure out how we play.”

Those two guys are McDonald's All-Americans De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk at the point and shooting guard positions, respectively. Both are dynamic off the bounce, drawing some comparisons to Calipari's first backcourt tandem at UK -- John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.

"De’Aaron Fox, people just come to him," said Calipari, who has nicknamed the Texas native 'The General.' It's a daunting task for a player looking to fill the shoes of unanimous All-American and fan favorite Ulis.

"He’s one of those kind of guys," Calipari said of Fox. "He makes everybody better, and he’s got John Wall kind of speed. Gotta get him shooting more consistently.

"Malik Monk, I don’t even believe knows how good he is, and when he gets in a regimented program -- he had a great high-school coach and program and all that, but a college program where the other guys are just as good as him -- I think his game is going to go to another level because he’s got Derrick Rose (qualities). Like the bounce, but he can shoot it a little bit better than Derrick did."

Calipari said his new team better be ready to run with the young Cats.

"I want to be a great team from defense to offense," he said. "In other words, when we block it or get that ball, we’re flying.”

In the post, the Cats will have something they sorely missed during the 2015-16 season -- a physical presence in the form of the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Edrice "Bam" Adebayo. He averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds per game at High Point Christian Academy in North Carolina.

"You have a beast," Calipari said. "We’ve missed a beast for a year... Bam is what he is and can dominate a game." 

Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are intriguing due to their athleticism, long frames and versatility.

"They're different," Calipari said. "One's 6-11, one's 6-10. But one's more of a wing (Gabriel), one's more of a 4/5... I'm anxious to see Wenyen play a wing position at 6-10 and be that big and do it with other really good players so that he's not forced to do stuff he can't do. Do what you do. I'm anxious to see -- because Sacha has just gotten so much better -- how he keeps growing. He's 6-11. He may be 7-4 by the time he gets here."

Calipari said he's already getting good reports back on how well the incoming class has bonded prior to enrolling at UK for the summer.

"That’s a big part of how we’ve been able to do this," he said. "They’ve all been recruited the same way, knowing that it’s going to be hard, and no one was given anything or promised anything. There’s not this rosy picture that you come with us and life changes. No, it isn’t. It’s hard. Some guys come in with that, ‘I got Kentucky. That means we win and I go pro.’ (mindset). Really? And then they get in here and they’re like, ‘This is really hard.’ Yeah, it’s really hard. Harder than anywhere you can go.

"So, these kids have gotten together. They’re all great kids. My wife said to me the other day, ‘Every year, we’ll have a group come through and I’ll say there’s no way next year’s group can be as nice as that group.’ And then next year’s group is nicer than the group before. I would say when she meets this group she’s going to say the same thing.”

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