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From the Pressbox: Calipari a master at coaching young talent

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"They're using a really unique concept. When they see an open man, they pass it to him."

That was the refreshingly concise analysis from ESPN's Jay Bilas on last Sunday's "College Gameday Scoreboard," after Kentucky defeated Baylor 82-70 to advance to its second straight Final Four.

"The stereotype of the guys leaving early for the draft is that they're thinking about themselves. I don't think there's a selfish player on the Kentucky team," Bilas added on that show.

Speaking of refreshing, did you catch CBS analyst Charles Barkley on last Saturday's studio show, decrying the double standard when it comes to Calipari and the so-called one-and-done players? Barkley accurately pointed out that Duke has a player leaving after one season for the second year in a row and there's no drumbeat of criticism of the program doing something to damage the college game.

Most would agree "one-and-done" is a bad rule for college basketball, John Calipari included. But it's up to the NBA to make the change. Until they do, wouldn't it be refreshing to see a take that says 'this is a flawed system but at least Calipari is the most honest with his kids about operating within that flawed system and consequently, they pay him back by playing as a team on the court and fulfilling their academic obligations off the court. That's making the best of a bad situation.' That is the fact. And if the pro game doesn't work out, those players are welcomed back at the University of Kentucky, with financial aid, to pursue an academic goal, if they so choose. Players know who is "real" with them and who isn't and you can tell by their actions that they trust Calipari is looking out for their best interests.

The 3-point shot changed the game and the coaches who were the best early-adapters flourished. This rule changed the landscape of recruiting and Calipari is one of, if not THE best at understanding this and adapting himself as a coach to succeed in this environment.  

ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes says Calipari is outstanding at finding the right players for his program.

"I think he's as good as there is in the college game right now at doing that. He just has a great way of communicating with those kids, just how he gets his point across. Not everyone can do it, take that highly talented player and get them to play hard. I think he does that as well as anyone in the college game right now. That sounds easy to do but it ain't," Dykes told tomleachky.com.

"There's no reason to be scared of them as long as you do your homework. John has never brought anyone into his program that's a one-year player that is going to be a selfish teammate, making sure they understand that 'if you come and play for me for one year, it's going to be how I want you to do it' and he holds them to it," he added.

UK point guard Marquis Teague says "age really doesn't matter." But he also acknowledged at the pre-Elite Eight media session that the Wildcats are aware of the criticism of their coach's approach.

"We're aware of it. We hear it all the time, that young guys can't get it done. But we feel like we can get it done," Teague said, "if we just go out and play our game."    

"Times have changed and freshmen and sophomores have become what juniors and seniors used to be," CBS analyst Steve Kerr told "The Leach Report" radio show.  "I give John Calipari a ton of credit. You judge coaches on how hard their teams play and do they play together and Kentucky's got both. Even with their youth, they've got the right stuff."

"I think it speaks volumes about the young men and it speaks about the way coach Calipari has been able to manage and lead (them)," said former Wildcat Jamal Mashburn, who covered UK in the SEC Tournament while serving as an analyst for the Westwood One Radio Network. "These guys have done a great job of understanding the tradition of University of Kentucky basketball and what it's about. It's not about glorifying the star as it is about glorying the unit to win a national championship. Coach Calipari has done an outstanding job. He understands the pressures of being the coach and he keeps the pressure off the kids."

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