Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

Championship wrap-up: Unselfishness defined 2011-12 champs

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
The Kentucky Wildcats are still reveling in the national championship they won on Monday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) The Kentucky Wildcats are still reveling in the national championship they won on Monday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

"Don't compete with each other; complete each other."

Of all the John Calipari teaching tools we've heard throughout the season, maybe none stand out and define the 2011-12 basketball team more than that one.

On a team that could have as many as six players drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft - Coach Cal hopes six of them go in the first round - nobody took more than 369 shots, and only 67 field-goal attempts separated UK's player with the most shot attempts (Doron Lamb) and it's player with the six-most attempts (Darius Miller).

That's particularly impressive when you consider that at least 100 people in the college basketball regular season alone took 400 or more shots. Kansas' Thomas Robinson took 25 percent of Lamb's total shots for the entire season in just six NCAA Tournament games.

Coach Cal managed to take a group of 18 and 19 year olds who averaged the most shots on their AAU and high school teams and convince them to share the ball. It paid off with a championship.

"What a lesson for these young people, that if you share, you give up some of yourself for everyone around you, if you care more about your teammates than yourself, it's amazing what you can accomplish," Calipari said. "It doesn't matter your age. That's the lesson in this."

Anthony Davis, winner of all but one of the major national player of the year awards and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, took 337 shots, fourth most on the team. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, widely considered a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft should he decide to turn pro early, attempted the fifth-most shots with 326 field-goal attempts.

"Everybody wants to go back, that they're all 19 and 18 years old," Calipari said. "Yeah, they are, but they're special young people who really decided that we're going to do this together."

Returning players like Lamb, Miller and Terrence Jones could have fretted they were asked to do less with more around them, but they embraced their roles this season and improved their draft stocks in the process.

"It just comes from just getting along and like each other so much, just being friends and brothers off the court just makes it easier on the court," Jones said. "We just built chemistry all over the summer that made us play real well together. We got along. No one cared who got the accolades. The main goal was getting to this point and winning."  

Befitting of his selfless career, Miller finished just three points shy of averaging exactly 10.0 points per game, which would have meant six players finished in double-figure scoring for the first time in program history.

"I wanted them to feel this, to understand the rest of their life, it's about servant leadership," Calipari said. "It's about teaching all those guys how to lead. It wasn't just one guy. I wanted them all to learn how to lead."

Friends, family happy for Coach Cal

Calipari was asked over and over again in Monday's postgame news conference how great it felt to finally capture that elusive national championship and "get the monkey off his back."

Coach Cal never wavered in telling reporters that his career was not defined by one game.

"Guys, I feel the same as I did before the game," Calipari said. "I don't feel any different. I'm not going to change who I am. I'm here for these young people, and they know that."

"I don't feel any different. I'm not going to feel any different in the morning. I'm going to go to mass in the morning. I'm going to be the same guy I am. I'm telling you, it's over now. I can get about my business of coaching young people and not have the drama of all the other stuff."

The victory, however, did mean a lot to his family, friends and players who wanted so badly for him to win his first championship.

"For us as players, it means a lot just because he gives us so much credit anytime we win and he'll take all the fault if anything goes wrong," Jones said. "Just to win for him is something special."

"I'm thrilled for him," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "A couple people have said golfers' careers are defined by majors and basketball coaches are defined by national championships. ... I'm happy for Cal. He's a guy that's given a lot to a lot of people. He is a great giver and you have a lot of takers in this business. He's been a great giver in a lot of different ways. He gives to our state, he gives to our university and he gives to his players. For him to be able to enjoy being a national championship coach is really, really special."

Maybe nobody was happier for Calipari than his father, Vince Calipari, who relished in the championship with his son on the court.

"It was time," Vince Calipari said, according to the New York Daily News. "It was his time."

As father and son embraced on the court, the younger Calipari thought of his mother, who passed away a year and a half ago.

"I hugged him and said, 'I bet you Mom loves this,' " Calipari said.

Rarefied air

In arguably the greatest 1-for-10 performance in the history of the NCAA Tournament, Davis became just the fourth freshman to win Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.

Davis' fingerprints were all over the game. He finished with six points, 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and three steals. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he blocked or altered 15.7 percent of the Jayhawks' 2-point attempts in the title game.

He finished with 29 blocks in the NCAA Tournament, the second most in NCAA Tournament history, and he helped the Wildcats set a record for blocks in a national title game with 11.

Davis ended up finishing the year with 186 blocks, the top NCAA mark for a freshman.

As a team, Kentucky finished with 344 swats, 29 more than the previous NCAA record.

Calipari the best of the best

Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Tom Izzo - Calipari stands above them all.

Over the last five years, Calipari owns the best record in college basketball with a 173-20 mark. His 89.6 winning percentage ranks better than Self (87.2), Krzyzewski (83.5) and Williams (79.9).

He's the only coach to make the Sweet 16 the last five years and the only coach to have been to three Final Fours over the past five years.

His fourth Final Four appearance ties him with Jim Calhoun for the 12th most all time.

Coach Cal ties Coach Cal

Monday night's victory marked the 38th victory of the season, tying Memphis' NCAA single-season mark of 38 set during the 2008 season.

Who was at Memphis in 2008? None other than Coach Cal.

Record it


Calipari famously threw the tape of the 2008 national title game out the window after losing to Kansas as the head coach of Memphis.

He doesn't plan on doing the same with this national championship film.

"I'll watch this tape now," Calipari said. "Anytime I'm down and disappointed, that tape's going on."

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://cstv.collegesports.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/33657

Leave a comment




Recent Comments

Rotating image