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Close-knit Cats have team chemistry

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Madness 2009 UK Basketball 92.jpgOn a team with very few weaknesses, one of the perceived concerns entering the 2009-10 men's basketball season was team chemistry.

With six highly touted recruits joining seven returners, many thought head coach John Calipari would have much more on his hands than just the Xs and Os of the Dribble Drive Motion Offense.

With big-name talent comes the chance that you'll nab a prima donna or two. When you recruit the best of the best players, they know they're that good, too. Some come in with big-heads and an aura of cockiness. That, of course, never sits well with the returners, who sometimes feel like it's their time to shine.

Meshing those types of players and those personalities was thought to be one of the key hurdles in the Cats' season. The only problem with that prediction is that Calipari never recruited those kinds of players. He brought in kids with good hearts, and meshing this team together has never been a problem, according to Calipari and the players.

"It's a great team chemistry," freshman sensation John Wall said. "Everybody thought it was going to be tough with the six incoming players coming in because we were so highly recruited, there was so much hype with us and there were seven returning players coming back. We all had to make sacrifices to get this team where we want it to go. In pickup (games) we have our little arguments, but we once we step off the court we're all like brothers again."

Brothers would be the best way to describe it. They joke with one another, push each other around, steal each other's shoe - yes, Patrick Patterson likes to steal DeMarcus Cousins' shoes a lot, according to Cousins - have nicknames for each other - the "Three Amigos" (Wall, Cousins and Eric Bledsoe), "Yogi" (Cousins) and "Boo-Boo" (Bledsoe) - and they even bicker from time to time.

When they're on the court, they're all business, but off it they've put their talents and potential aside and become a family.

 "We know that we've got to bond and come together, understand one another and get to know each other and become a family," Patterson said. "This team is different, this team is new. We've got a bunch of newcomers so we knew we had to come together to develop that chemistry and relationship."

Although some of the newcomers had started to mix in the summer, the team didn't start to really bond until head coach John Calipari showed the team the movie "Remember the Titans."

"There is a race element to (the movie), but it is about people from different backgrounds coming together, learning to respect each other, learning to have some affection, which eventually turns into love, the type of love where grown men will cry to each other," Calipari said. "When you have that kind of love, you care about the other person more then you care about yourself. If we get to that point with this team, we won't lose many games."

Even though they're getting along now, it will take a while for the players to really rely on one another as they go through the battles and wars together, Calipari said

"It is kind of like you are in a fox hole, who do you send for ammo? Who is coming back?" Calipari said. "We are trying to figure each other out right now. But I tell you what, it is a good group of guys and they know we need each other."

The epitome of that bond might not be more evident than the relationship of Wall, Bledsoe and Cousins.

There was a notion when Wall signed with UK that he and Bledsoe would be unable to co-exist. There are only so many shots to go around, critics thought, so one of them would have to go.

But instead of clashing, Wall and Bledsoe have become as close as anybody on the team. Calipari said Wall's best friend is Bledsoe, and along with Cousins, they call themselves the "Three Amigos."

"We're like brothers," Bledsoe said. "We just came and fell in love with each other."

And they've been inseparable ever since. They're the most competitive battle on the court during practices. Bledsoe and Wall have been so impressive that Calipari is seriously considering starting both Wall and Bledsoe

"We're both competitive," Wall said. "We go at each other in pickup. We try to make each other better to prepare us for the season, because when we suit up together, it's going to be trouble."

Cousins said he didn't understand why people thought there would be tension among the superstar recruiting class. Cousins said he and Bledsoe were from the "same dirt" and got along from day one, and the rest of the players are just too good of people not to get along with one another.

"I'm not surprised at all because that's just the type of people we are," Cousins said. "There's no selfishness, there's no arrogance or big-headedness. There's none of that. We're all just cool down-to-earth people."

Calipari is hoping those relationships will continue to trickle down to the rest of the team. On a team this talented and this potentially good, he knows it'll be one of the defining keys to the season.

Can the superstars co-exist?

"It's got to be respect, affection, love," Calipari said. "A real emotion bond that they won't give up on each other."

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5 Comments

You have got to LOVE this team! Can hardly wait to see them play! Madness was a wild ride!

I so love this team...already...cant wait till basketball season starts and we can watch them kick some butt!

does anyone know if that is Tayshaun Prince in the background with the navy blue jacket on??

GO CATS!!!!

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Recent Comments

  • Eric Lindsey: Yeah, that's Tayshaun. Picture was taken at Big Blue Madness, which Tayshaun attended. read more
  • ryan: does anyone know if that is Tayshaun Prince in the background with the navy blue jacket on?? GO CATS!!!! read more
  • Shelley Gover: I so love this team...already...cant wait till basketball season starts and we can watch them kick some butt! read more
  • Andrea Gillis: Go Cats~RAWR!!! read more
  • Cheryl Wright-Watkins: You have got to LOVE this team! Can hardly wait to see them play! Madness was a wild ride! read more
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