LEXINGTON – November 23, 2020 – KEITH TAYLOR
John Calipari isn’t worried just yet, but after watching a scrimmage Sunday, the Kentucky coach has every reason to be concerned going into Wednesday’s season opener against Morehead State in the Bluegrass Showcase.
“I’ve got two feet and two hands on the panic button,” Calipari said Monday. “If I was worried about (the University of) Richmond right now, I would have my head pushing it down, too.”
Calipari hopes the preseason rut has his team anxious for the season to begin, a process that has taken longer because of the ongoing pandemic that has placed a dose of uncertainty on the upcoming season.
“I’m just hoping that they needed to play against somebody else and they just got tired of each other. Because if not, I’m going to have to be the most patient soul on the earth when we start the season like 0-6,” he said.
Kentucky guard Davion Mintz agreed with Calipari and is hopeful the Wildcats “got the kinks out.”
“We wrecked the car yesterday just to get it back rolling for Wednesday,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where I feel like it has to happen, and it was a humbling experience. I think we’re just fine. I think we’re tired of playing each other. That was like the biggest problem for the flaws yesterday.
“I think we’re just really excited to get out there and play other people. I mean, it’s been the same faces for I don’t even know how many months now. We’re right there at the finish line. We’re just ready to get it going.”
Olivier Sarr added the Wildcats “didn’t bring energy from the jump” which led to a dismal practice session.
“The second team really punched us in the mouth from the get-go,” he said. “It took us time to react. Stay organized. A lot of mistakes are going to happen, but we’ve got to stay locked in.”
Overall, Calipari has been pleased with a revamped roster that features just one player — Keion Brooks — who played significant minutes last season. Brooks is listed as day-to-day as he recovers from a leg injury he sustained in practice last month.
“We’ve got good kids,” he said. “We’re asking guys to do stuff they’ve never done before, which means they’re going to be a little uncomfortable. Asking them to create habits they’ve never had before, which means they’re a little bit uncomfortable.”
Calipari’s biggest disappointment has been his team’s lack of blocks in the post, which had left the Kentucky coach puzzled, considering the team’s roster features 10 players who are taller than 6-foot-6, including Sarr, who is listed as 7-foot.
“We have shot blockers — we just don’t block any shots,” he said. “I don’t understand it, but we don’t. We have length but we’re not really good defensively right now, and I think a lot of it is team defense.”
In addition, Calipari said the team’s demeanor has been somewhat of a disappointment during preseason workouts.
“(We) can’t have body language (and we) can’t have meltdowns,” he said. “You’ve gotta be with these guys and really locked in. Yesterday showed us that we have that in us. Oh my gosh. Let’s hope we got it out (Sunday), because if that becomes who we are, whew, going to be rough.”
Gametracker: Morehead State at Kentucky, 6 p.m. Wednesday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.