CRAWFORD | Cal finds new ways to deal with expectations
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The addition of Stanford transfer Reid Travis and the reclassification of point guard Ashton Hagans has amped up the speculation that University of Kentucky and head coach John Calipari are in position to make another serious run at the NCAA championship.
Both ESPN.com and CBSSports.com elevated the Wildcats to No. 1 after Travis' announcement.
When asked about the added pressure in the SEC's annual summer teleconference, Calipari's response was basically, what added pressure?
"I have that (pressure) in me every year that I coach," Calipari said. "I mean, I don’t know this to be a fact that if we are (ranked) No. 1 this will be my 10th year (at Kentucky) and I imagine six or seven of those years we’ve been ranked No. 1. Four of those years we’ve been to Final Fours. Probably eight of those years we’ve been to Elite Eights. It’s what this is here. We won the national title in 2012. Probably could have won a couple of more but didn’t. It is what it is. And these guys know it."
Calipari was close. If UK is preseason No. 1, it will be the third time in his Kentucky tenure, and the third time in the past seven years -- a span in which Kentucky has been either No. 1, 2 or 3 in the preseason poll.
With those kinds of expectations, Calipari said he continually is looking for ways to put them into perspective for young players joining the program. A recent whistle-stop train ride through the region around Lexington was part of that.
"We just took a train ride where – the reason I did it, initially, was because I wanted time with them and we did a lot of team building," he said. "Part of that was talking about the expectations that are always on this program . . . The biggest thing I had to talk to them about is here’s what the culture of Kentucky is. It won’t carry you. You have to carry the culture. You have to take it to that next level. If you don’t move this culture, this culture means nothing. But, this is what we built the program on and around.”
Calipari said he likes the beginnings of the chemistry he is seeing with his team.
"Well, we just started but I think we’ve got a good group," he said. "I walk in my office one night and it’s about 10:30 and I look out the window and they’re all in there. Not playing; they’re just hanging out in the practice facility. In the morning or evenings you’ve got different guys working out; some on their own. We just started together yesterday. We’re going to do today and tomorrow together, and then a couple of days next week and a couple of days the following week. By that time we get ready for the Bahamas and we have a lot of practice time, so I’m not trying to kill them right now. But I’m trying to give them an idea of what – you know, how we’re going to try and play with this group."
Kentucky begins its four-game Bahamas tour with a game against the Bahamas National Team on August 8.
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