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Notebook: Coach Cal's summer no vacation

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John Calipari's busy summer will including coaching the Dominican Republic National Team and attending the NBA Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) John Calipari's busy summer will including coaching the Dominican Republic National Team and attending the NBA Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Basketball truly never stops for John Calipari. Whether it's the college season in the Bluegrass, preparing players for the NBA Draft or coaching the Dominican Republic National Team this summer, Calipari usually always has his hand in something. He would get too bored otherwise. He even said as much himself Tuesday afternoon.

That's the way Calipari has always been, however. Whether in his first two stops at Massachusetts or Memphis, or now in his fourth year at Kentucky, Coach Cal works tirelessly with those around him to set himself and his program apart from the rest. That is all-inclusive. 

Tuesday was the first time since five of Kentucky's underclassmen players declared themselves eligible for this year's NBA Draft that Calipari had talked to the local. And he had plenty to talk about.

Calipari reiterates traditionally non-traditional stance for Kentucky basketball

Neutral sites, new non-conference opponents and triple-headers were the subjects of much of Calipari's message to the media and the fans. As the college athletics evolves, so must the programs in which they are composed of, and the head coach of Kentucky is way out in front of the curve.

"We're just trying to separate from the pack," said Calipari. "Whatever we do, (Executive Associate Athletics Director) DeWayne (Peevy) and I, we'll sit down and say, 'How do we just keep separating?' There are some things we're thinking about doing, if I said them to you right now, some of you would be very angry, because we're going to do some new things that are different that you're going to look at and say, 'When did you have the time to think this stuff up?' "

Being the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky is no easy task, but for Calipari, he continues to shine in the spotlight. That is what he has and will continue to try and accomplish for his basketball program. In order to do that and take this program to new heights, the things that he and his staff do are all for the betterment of the University, the athletic program, and his basketball team. 

Kentucky basketball is the "gold standard" and it is clear that he would like to keep it that way, even if his actions and words do not always appeal to everyone. Even if long-standing rivalries have to end.

"Bobby Knight decided that he thought the series (between Kentucky and Indiana) should be neutral, and when it was neutral it was huge," said Calipari. "Battle of the flags, and all of those others things. And he was the first one that made it neutral."

"I liked the idea because we had to move someone (on our schedule) neutral. Someone was going to have to go neutral. And it was logical it was (Indiana). We couldn't really find a place in Kentucky, so to make it more beneficial to them, we told them we'll play two years in your state."

Of course, the two sides could not come to an agreement, and at the moment, there will be an Indiana vs. Kentucky series in men's basketball no more.

While rivalries are important, national championships are paramount. And that is why when Calipari makes the schedule each year, especially in looking forward to how the game is ever changing with non-conference match ups and tournament play in mind, he sets dates with a Kentucky-first mentality.

"I'm scheduling for us," said Calipari. "I like the fact that in 1948 Adolph Rupp played eight neutral games. I like the fact that Rick Pitino played five and six neutral games. And so did Tubby Smith. It prepares you for the NCAA Tournament. The one thing that's changed... we're one of a few that can go to football stadiums regular season."

Why would they do that?

"Because we can," said Calipari. "And no one else can."

He may be right. Maybe other programs can't do the things that Kentucky does. But it has always been that way. Kentucky continues to be different, and in that, they have always been traditionally non-traditional.

"I sat with Coach (Joe B.) Hall at dinner last night," said Calipari. "He said what Coach Rupp did was play eight neutral games around the country to make the program a national program, and from '48 on, that's what it's been. He did that. I looked at him and said, 'It was non-traditional, wasn't it?' Coach Hall said, 'Yes it was.' "

Six former Wildcats prepare for NBA Draft

As is customary for Kentucky basketball teams in the last three years, several players from last year's 2012 national championship team will be eligible in the 2012 NBA Draft this summer. Darius Miller, a senior, as well as underclassmen Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are all likely to hear their names called on June 28 by NBA Commissioner David Stern. 

Calipari feels very confident that all six players will become NBA players next fall, but where the chips will fall is anyone's guess. But even Calipari feels pretty confident that his National Player of the Year Anthony Davis has a pretty decent chance of being the first one called.

"I think it's pretty clear Anthony will be the one pick," Calipari said. "From there I think Michael will be next, and then I think Terrence will be next. How does it play out with those other three? I think all three of them are in great shape. They've proven themselves, now they've got to do it again.

While the championship run has given his players great national exposure and plenty of opportunities for scouts to salivate over their potential, there is still plenty of work to be done and impressions to be made. Calipari likens each workout that his former players have done to a job interview, and only there will the most important impression be made.

"That workout is an interview," Calipari said. "That's what it is. That's your interview right there. You're going to go in that gym, and you're interviewing against five other players. Is your interview better than their interview?"

Regardless of where the dominoes fall and wherever the destinations for these former Wildcats may be, there will be, once again, a Big Blue presence at this year's NBA Draft.

Calipari finds comfort level with new crop of players

North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow did not play a minute last season. But that does not mean he didn't play a role in that team's success. In fact, Calipari and Marquis Teague have often credited Harrow's daily presence in practice on the scout team for Teague's continued improvement during the course of the season.

Due to transfer rules, Harrow was forced to redshirt during the 2011-12 season, but the point guard knows what to expect when it becomes his turn for the 2012-13 schedule. Calipari's track record with NBA-level point guards is unmatched, and Harrow hopes to be just the next in line in Calipari's illustrious point guard lineage.

With a full season's worth of practice under Coach Cal, Harrow will have a leg up on what those other young point guards before had. This gives Calipari a sense of comfort in knowing what to expect from the similar, yet unique point guard. 

"I'm happy because I have a feel for Ryan," said Calipari. "Not only does he have a feel, I have a feel for him. And I think he's going to be fine. He's different than all the other point guards I had. How does he compare? Well how did Marquis (Teague) compare to those other guys? They were really good; he's really good. I don't know what to tell you. They were all different."

But this will be Harrow's third year in a collegiate basketball program. Most of the point guards that came before him were entering Calipari's system without a second of college experience. But that doesn't mean Harrow is a finished product.

"Ryan may be a little bit more of a shooter like Brandon was," said Calipari. "And he's not the physical, tough bulldog that Marquis Teague was, but he shoots it better. The way we play, he's gotten tougher but he's going to have to continue. He's going to have to get stronger. But that's why he came here."

Harrow will be joined by yet another top recruiting class comprised of Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein.

This summer, thanks to a new rule change that gives coaches more access to their athletes, Calipari will be able to learn more about his latest haul of basketball talent with individual workouts. Although just two one-hour sessions a week is hardly enough to get a good feel of his players, it certainly beats the alternative.

"Think about what I'm saying: two one-hour workouts a week," Calipari. "Let me say this, it's better than no workouts all summer. I'm more concerned about them getting in great condition, physically getting stronger. We'll put in the dribble-drive, but the reality of it is the way you get better is every day you're working at it, then a day off and you come back every day. This is like sprinkled in. It will help some, but it's not going to have the impact everybody thinks." 

Dominican National Team hopeful for Olympic run under Calipari

In a bit more of a limited role than he held last year, Calipari is holding camp at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky. as the Domincan team hopes to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. 

Calipari was named head coach of the Domincan team last season as it competed in the 2011 FIBA Americas Tournament, a tournament he felt it had a better opportunity in. This time around, he believes it will be a difficult task to lead this team to its very first appearance in the Olympics. But it's a challenge he gladly accepts.

"It's another challenge of trying to get a team together in a short period of time," said Calipari. "And this one's hard. I mean, last time, we had a chance to go to the Olympics, and we came up just a few buckets short."

While the competition may be stiffer, the fact that Calipari is in his second year in coaching this group may give this team a bit of an advantage compared to last year.

"It's going to be really hard. This will be way harder than the stuff we did in Argentina," said Calipari. "The good news is, I think we're a little bit ahead because I have a better feel for what I'm doing with this group. Now does that translate, I don't know."

Calipari notified the Dominican team that he would have a more limited role if he came back to coach them this year due to other conflicts and priorities, but the players called him and requested that he come back to train and coach them any way. 

"(They) will leave on the 15th to go to Puerto Rico. I will not go to Puerto Rico," said Calipari. "I'll probably go down for one or two days, then I'll go to the NBA Draft. After the draft, I'll meet them in Caracas. I'm not gonna be the 24/7 that I was a year ago (with the DR team). I explained that to them, and they still wanted me to do this. We'll have them mostly down in Puerto Rico, and Rod Strickland will have them down there too."

While this may likely be the last year that Calipari will coach the Dominican national team, he has not ruled out coaching another national team in the future: the United States of America.

Duke head coach and current USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has said that this will be his last season coaching the USA team, leaving an opening for the position. Calipari said he would feel honored to be considered, but knows full well there will be several other strong candidates for the job.

"There are a lot of qualified coaches and I don't think any of us coaches would say no," said Calipari. "To have an opportunity to coach for your country is the ultimate honor, but I wouldn't be mad (if I didn't) because there are quality coaches out there who are probably more qualified than me. Obviously, that would be quite an honor."

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