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Blue/White Scrimmage to be Coach Cal's laboratory

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Darius Miller and the Kentucky Wildcats will play in the Blue/White Scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Darius Miller and the Kentucky Wildcats will play in the Blue/White Scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In two seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has proven himself willing to change his coaching style to fit his personnel.

In his first season, he adjusted to fit both the open floor ability of John Wall and Eric Bledsoe as well as the power in the post of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. In 2010-11, he developed a dribble handoff game with Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson.

With a versatile, talented and deep roster this season, there isn't a thing Calipari has taken off the table in terms of how his team will play. The way his players talk about all the different philosophies and sets the team has toyed with in practice, Calipari almost sounds like a mad scientist.

"I honestly couldn't tell you what Coach Cal has up his sleeve," Miller said. "We've tried just about everything it seems like. We've been doing dribble-drive, pick-and-roll, posting up, everything. I don't know exactly what we're going to do or how we're going to play but it's going to be fun to watch."

In the Cats' first scrimmage on Monday, Calipari was able to see how his team executed some of the things he installed in a game-like setting. Wednesday's Blue/White Scrimmage at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena affords him another such opportunity, but this time fans will get to bear witness to his ongoing experiments.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly how we're going to play, but I know it's going to be fun to watch, very exciting and a high-paced game, so hopefully they enjoy it," Miller said.

The pick-and-roll has been the hottest topic when it comes to X's and O's this preseason. Adding it to the mix has actually reenergized Calipari in some small measure.

"You have the same lesson plan for 10 years, you kind of get bored with it and this changes what we're doing," Calipari said. "We're doing different drills and we're even doing different things in the dribble drive."

In the past, Calipari has resisted the pick and roll because he believed it did not fit his personnel. Coaching the Dominican Republic National Team this summer, Calipari came to see just how effective it could be in studying it closely for the first time.

Also helping Calipari is the fact he has NBA resources at his disposal. UK's talented roster has professional coaches banging at the door of the Joe Craft Center to watch the Wildcats practice. Pick and roll is a staple for nearly every NBA team, so Calipari sets a precondition for all those coaches hoping to see Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showcase their wares.

"Any NBA coaches that watch my team, they have to come early and I start picking their brains about different angles and what I've seen," Calipari said. "If you want to come watch my team, you have to talk pick and roll so I can get some stuff from you."

Very quickly, Marquis Teague has shown himself to be an excellent fit for the pick and roll. With the skilled big men that set picks for him and the dangerous shooters that dot the wing, Teague and the Cats could cause fits for opponents.

Calipari's experiments haven't been limited to pick and roll. Dribble handoffs have once again been a key fixture, and the Cats' size across all positions has caused Calipari to at least try out posting up nearly every player who figures to be in the rotation, from Teague to Miller to Kyle Wiltjer. Fans should even expect to see tweaks to Calipari's signature dribble drive motion offense. In coaching the Dominicans, Calipari noticed the way the team played the corners naturally and has incorporated some of that with his team already.

On defense, Calipari is evaluating nearly as many options as on offense. His team's athleticism figures to translate well to his traditional man-to-man approach, but he also wants to press.

"We started in a press with this team and I didn't like it so we're already to a different kind of press that suits this team better," Calipari said.

Calipari has pressed before, but can you imagine the Cats scoring on a pick and roll, then dropping back into a zone defense?

"This team, I hate to tell you, may be a zone team because we're just so long," Calipari said. "It's ridiculous how long we are. It takes away when teams just jam it into the post."

With so many offensive and defensive options on the table, basketball junkies have plenty to look forward to in tomorrow's scrimmage.

"I don't know how we're going to play yet," Calipari said. "We're going to play hard, we're going to play unselfish and we're going to be a great team from defense to offense and a great team from offense to defense. We're going to do it together and we're going to be our brother's keeper. Short of that, we're just trying to get it all figured out right now."

It may sound like Calipari is toying with altering the coaching style that brought UK trips to the Elite Eight and Final Four over the past two seasons, but the fundamental principles that underlie everything the Cats do will remain the same, no matter how many experiments Calipari may have going on.

"I'm not going to change how I coach," Calipari said. "We're not going to change our style. We may change how we get into our style depending on personnel. How we defend, we may do it different ways but we're going to end up being a great defensive team."

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