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Preseason Q&A with Coach Cal (Part 1): On summer workouts, defending a title

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Last month, John Calipari spent about an hour with reporters answering questions about Kentucky basketball heading into the 2012-13 season. We will be posting the interview in three parts over the next three days. Here's part one:

When you did this last year, you kept cautioning us several times about how it's really hard to tell much about your team at this point in the year, so I'm wondering how much difference did the summer workouts make.

Calipari: There are times when the more information you get the more confused you are. That's kind of where I am with this group. What I would have thought, some of the questions I would have had, now I have more questions, one of them being how much can we play two big guys together. It's funny, I said to Coach (Joe B.) Hall, "You know, we're going to have to sit down and talk about this two big guy thing." He said, "I've got some good stuff for you." But we're going to have to figure out do we play with those two together and do we play with three big guys together. How much does Archie (Goodwin) play point, because if he's a two, he's a lot like Tyreke Evans. With Alex (Poythress), the question is how close can we get his motor to Michael Gilchrist? Can we even get him in the same ballpark? Will Julius (Mays), who makes shots, be able to make them in this environment when he's not playing 35 minutes a game yet you've still got to make shots? So we've got a lot of questions. We're going to play fast. We're going to play the Dribble Drive. How we get into the Dribble Drive, we change every single year I've been here. We're going to play defense. Will we play some zone this year? I can say yes and then the chances are slim to none, but I'm going to tell you this year we're going to think about playing some zone this year. I talked about maybe a 2-3 with the two big guys on the wings, 7-foot and 6-11. Then I thought maybe we can play a 3-2 with the two bigs down low, which means they cover the corners, which those two can. One covers the corner, the other under the basket, the other covers corner, the other one under the basket, and then maybe a Kyle (Wiltjer) or Alex in the middle covering the low post. There's different ways we can do it, but we could be longer than we were a year ago at times.

Question: Who is your most pleasant surprise in those summer workouts?
Calipari: Willie (Cauley-Stein) is the guy. First of all, I never saw him play in a high school basketball game. I saw him play football a bunch. I went to the high school and he had a tennis racket. We're walking around he's got (a racket). "Kid, do you ever play basketball? Do you ever think about that sport?" He was a kid that would play wiffle ball. I told him when we recruited him, "You don't even know how good you're going to become. You have no idea." He and I were sitting in the lodge the other day and I said, "Are you kind of amazed?" He said, "Yeah yeah." I said, "You're better than you thought, aren't you?" "Yeah." So he's taken on the sport for the first time where he's really focused on this sport. He's gained weight - 20 to 25 pounds - his skill set is absolutely improved, he's fast, he's nimble. You see him on the football tapes. So now he gained ground on Nerlens (Noel) because Nerlens wasn't here those eight weeks of conditioning and weight training and 16 one-hour workouts, putting him on a different level than Nerlens. Now, I'm good with that because now when Nerlens catches up, you'll see the improvement of his game. "He's not as good as we thought." OK, so when he's drafted really high, you'll say, "Well, he was that way when you got him." Wait, you just said he wasn't what you thought. "Yeah, I was just saying that."

Question: So many coaches talk about the challenges of repeating. With a new team, do you even address it? How do you treat it, the fact that you won it last year?
Calipari: We've already talked. That thing is done. None of these guys were even a part of that. We're worried about being the best team we can be and does that mean can we be better than last year. What is being better than last year? Being really good. That means that the team is really close, and that means a team really share sacrificed. (That's) the No. 1 thing if the team is the same. But we're not worried. That thing is over and done. This is a new team. We don't even know how we're going to play. Literally, we don't know how we're going to play yet. And that's the disadvantage (when you have a new team). You have all these teams that know how they're going to play. They have the same team back, they're just going to touch up, they added a couple of guys to see if they can get better, and then they build that base. Well, we have no base. It affected us that we could do some this summer. I don't know if I had a senior team, junior team whether I would have liked the stuff.

Question: I remember Bill Self saying after he won a title that he thought he was prepared for all the stuff that came with that and then he wasn't as prepared as he had thought he was. Have you reached out to any guys that have won titles in the past for things that are unexpected or the aftermath of it?
Calipari: First of all, you're at Kentucky. I can ask the guy that sat in this seat. Other than that, you're asking someone who - this is a different animal. But I did sit down with Nick Saban, and we spent an hour talking about 2010, what happened in 2011, and now it's 2012, what are you going to do different? He and I sat down for an hour and it was really good stuff. The difference is he had returning players from that team. He said, "I have some guys that were on that 2010 team that are now on this team and they are not letting that happen." A lot of it is you take your eye off the ball. We talked about as a group, you step back. I read the article, I think it was in USA Today a couple of days ago. We talk about drinking the poison all the time, but this is different here because this is a brand new team. I mean, it's not like OK, you won, how are you going to guard against complacency? How about we change the whole team and no one is on the team (from last year). There's one way of changing it. The only thing I can do is what I do, which is I'm worried about this team, how good can we be. When we lost six games in our league, I kept telling you guys I like my team, we're going to be fine. We're losing by four, we're losing by two points, I like my team, we're going to be fine. What ended up happening is if we had played better against Connecticut on that day, we would have won the national title. I kept telling you, there is no team out there that scares me. I don't know enough about beating the teams coming up, but I do know the first two teams we're playing are going to give us some problems. You're talking about veteran teams that their whole summer has been thinking about Kentucky, both of those teams. And so we could go 0-2 to start off and still have a really good team. We don't even know how we're going to play. It'll be interesting.

Question: You talk a lot about playing fast this year and how you're going to be up-tempo. The one guy you do have returning, Kyle Wiltjer, isn't the quickest guy in the world. How does he play into that playing style?
Calipari: Perfectly, and I'll tell you why: He'll be behind the ball all the time. So now he'll take it out, we are flying, and if he rebounds it, he'll be behind it. If he doesn't rebound it, he'll still be out ahead and he'll be fine. And we still may try him into a dragging screen. What I like is we fly and as the ball comes back, it's coming back to his hands. Now you have a skilled player. I'm not trying to compare him to somebody, but later in his career that's what they did with (Larry) Bird. From that position, they would go pick-and-roll, dribble handoffs, he'd shoot the 3. After it went here, we go, it's not there, give it to him and now play through him. I see that being one of the things. I see us running random pick-and-rolls with him a bunch because, what happens is, there is pick-and-pop, but they'll say, "Well, you can switch because you don't have to guard him in the post," but he's a really good post player. If you're too small, he will score on you in there. Right now he's having to score against these two long ones (Cauley-Stein and Noel), and when we put Anthony (Davis) and those three together (for a picture), two of the three were bigger than Anthony. I didn't really have them put their arms up, which, if I had to do it over again I would have made them do it and maybe I will next time, but Willie's arm-length reach is longer than Nerlens. With Kyle having to score over those guys, you put a little guy on him, he's scoring baskets.

Question: In terms of his value, maybe being the glue, you talk about turning over the whole roster. It seems like he's already taken - at least with his videos anyway - some of these guys under his wing. How important might he be to at least be that one guy to maybe anchor the new guys to the success you've had?
Calipari: What I keep telling these guys is you can't just work by yourself. You've got to drag some guys with you. I came over one night, I was here until about 10:30, 11 o'clock, and the light was on. I heard the ball bouncing and I look outside my office window and it was Kyle, who had grabbed a manger, walked across the street and had a great workout. I grabbed him after and I said, "Why wasn't someone here with you or a couple of these guys? Don't come over here by yourself. Drag a couple guys with you. We've got to start doing that." The other side of it is they played the other day with Anthony. So I called Anthony into my office after and I said, "Tell me what my team looks like." And the first thing out of his mouth, he said, "Kyle is way better, way stronger, can do more things. I really like where Kyle is right now." So that was one of the things he said which was kind of neat.

Question: Who do you suspect may be your Darius Miller piece, the older guy, the experienced guy, the rock among those young guys? Is Julius in a position even though he's new to the program? Is he in a position to do that? Or is there somewhere else that can fill that role?
Calipari: I don't even know if we'll have that role. This team is going to be different. Could it be Julius coming off the bench? Yeah. And it could by a guy like Willie coming off the bench. We're going to have six or seven starters again like we did a year ago. And so whoever comes off (the bench), you want them to add to what we're doing. I don't know who that will be yet.

Question: What things do you like about Julius that made you want to add him to this program?

Calipari: Great kid who had performed at a high level, who could make baskets, especially jump shots, and that wanted be a part of this and understood what it meant. Like, we don't make any promises. Are you good with coming off the bench? Are you good if that's the case? "I'm good, I'm good." He knew what he was walking into. It's hard. People say, "Why don't you just go out and recruit a top 50 or 60 player that understands he's going to be the seventh or eighth man?" Well, good luck. A top 50 or 60 player, what does he think, Larry? (Start). What else? (Score). What else? (NBA). How long until the NBA? (One year). You understand, to say you just don't find that guy, it's impossible. Those guys think that they're starters and they think that they're one and done. It's hard to do.

Question: Did Ryan Harrow get what you wanted out of last year? Did you see him accomplish some things in that year he had (to just practice)?
Calipari: Yeah, he got beat up playing against a pit bull (Marquis Teague) every day. He was just letting him know. The thing I said about Ryan is I want Ryan to be the best layup shooter in the SEC. I don't need any cuteness. Get to the basket, shoot layups. If they absolutely back off like they tried to play Marquis Teague, he shoots it a little bit better. But I want you to shoot layups, and that's what you're doing, which means you've got to play through bumps and keep going. "Well, the guy is big." You better shoot it over him. And that's what we want. The good news is you have Archie right there who can play the position too. We've got flexibility. You can do Archie and Julius. You can do that. You can do three guards and two bigs. You can do Alex as a four. I'm going to be honest, Alex is a three (or) four. Now you put him at a four, do you know how quick he is? Oh my gosh. There is no four in the league that can guard him off the bounce. They would just have to back away and hope he's not making shots. So there is a lot of stuff that, we've just got to play games. You've got to play the games. Those first two are going to be major learning experiences, and we've got to use them that way. We won't win every game we play. But the biggest thing is, we've truly got to learn and experiment and mess around because we'll see something like we did two years ago where it's like alright, we've got this, and they get it. It's not just me getting it; they get it. And all of a sudden they start getting confidence in who's doing what and how they're going to play and what they're going to do. These guys haven't played together.

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