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From the Pressbox: Calipari a master at coaching talent

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It's one thing to identify talented college basketball players and convince them to come and play for you. Kentucky's John Calipari is universally lauded as one of the best in the business in that area. But as CBS' Ian Eagle recently pointed out in an appearance on the Kentucky Sports Radio show, Calipari also gets "the right ones" for his program.

In this run of three straight top-rated recruiting classes, Kentucky has avoided any major ego or chemistry issues.  Some pundits have suggested there may be as many as six first-round draft picks on this current UK squad and yet the Wildcats are continually praised for how hard they play and how tough they are defensively. Those are the less-than-glamorous traits that are not always associated with teams awash in highly rated prospects.

"A lot of coaches are scared of them (one-and-done type players) but there's no reason to be scared of them if you do your background work on them. John has never brought a guy into his team that would be a selfish teammate," ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes told "The Leach Report" show. "I think (he) does a great job of evaluating those kids and he holds them to it. The worst mistake you can do is bring in a one-year guy with his own agenda because it can destroy your team."

So how does Calipari do it? He says it is definitely something they are thinking about when they're chasing recruits.

"It starts in the process of how you recruit them. First thing we tell them is 'this is the hardest place you could come and play basketball. I'm not promising you'll start or how much you'll play or how many shots you're going to get. What I'm promising is 'you're going to be on a terrific team that's going to be coached and going to be challenged.'  We play young people so if you're good enough to play, you'll play.  Watch us play and if you're not willing to do that, don't come here," Calipari said on a recent pregame show on the UK IMG Sports Network. "We're not going to talk about other programs. We don't care who is recruiting (them)."

Dykes says Calipari is as good as any coach in the college game at getting the right kids for his program and then getting them to buy into his way of thinking.

"He has a great way of communicating with those kids, how he gets his point across to them. Not everyone can take that highly talented player and get them to play hard. That sounds simple to do but it ain't," said Dykes.

CBS' Kevin Harlan watched a UK practice last season and was taken aback by how frank Calipari was in dealing with his players.

"The one thing I noticed about John that's different from a lot of coaches is that he's very direct with these kids. He doesn't try to flatter them--he's after them. I think a lot of kids want to be led and he goes right at them," said Harlan. "I think they're looking to get better and looking for somebody who is going to be honest with them."

For Calipari, it's about finding players who "fit" into this very high-profile program at Kentucky. And he says just as important as that evaluation is in the minds of the coaching staff, it is just as important to know if that player thinks he fits.

"'Are you the type that can prosper in this type of environment?' You're being coached every day and on every play.  You're being challenged not only by the guys within our own practice but then, let's go outside of practice and every game we play is someone's Super Bowl and it's sold out. 'Are you ready for that, are you up for that?'

"That gets them in the mindset that they understand that this is not 'we're going to run everything through you and you're going to get at least 15 shots a game.' We don't any of that and anybody we've recruited will tell you that.

"Most kids know if they're right for a situation or not, unless you try to convince them otherwise. I've lost kids and then I look back and I see why. The kid knew better than I did. The ones that aren't right for here don't come here."

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