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Calipari forcing himself to remember patience as season begins

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John Calipari and the Wildcats take on UNC Asheville in their season opener on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari and the Wildcats take on UNC Asheville in their season opener on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For close to 24 hours a day, John Calipari is going nonstop. Bouncing from meetings to practice to recruiting calls, the Kentucky head coach hardly has a chance to breathe.

There is an exception.

Recently, one of his assistants found out about it too. Orlando Antigua, coping with the responsibilities of being a head coach for the first time, called Coach Cal to tell him where he found he got his best thinking done when everything else was spinning around him.

"So Orlando hit me this summer and said, 'You won't believe this: I'm in the shower thinking of stuff' getting ready for the Dominican (National Team tournament)," Calipari recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, when you get all these thoughts, they gotta come out somewhere.' "

Calipari found himself in that familiar mode on Thursday morning. A day removed from a practice that left him upset -- though it wasn't as bad on second review -- he reworked his entire plan for the afternoon in his thinking zone of choice.

"So a practice plan I had set last night, when I woke up this morning and thought about it, I walked in and changed it," Calipari said. "Tore that one up and did another one. I don't know if I've ever done that before."

Coaching the nation's preseason No. 1 team, Calipari has found that himself searching for every possible means to inspire the Wildcats to reach their vast potential. But on the eve of a season opener against UNC Asheville in Rupp Arena, he's having to remind himself that the Cats will ultimately be measured by what they do in March, not on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

"Look, I was thinking about it today, I was driving over here and I starting doing 'November, December, January, February, I've got four months to get this thing right,' " Calipari said. "Four months. And if I try to do it in two weeks, I'm going to cheat the kids and drive myself crazy."

Coach Cal believes that starts with identifying a rotation.

In both of UK's exhibitions, all 11 healthy scholarship players saw the floor. Each one is talented enough and likely deserving of playing time, but Calipari learned in 2009-10 -- with an assist from the late John Wooden -- that a team can't play at its best in his system with a rotation that deep.

"We need to get a group of seven guys -- maybe eight but more likely seven -- playing together and let them play," Calipari said. "That's the main thing we gotta do."

Calipari won't (or can't) say who fits in the group right now, only that it must include two point guards and other players capable of playing multiple positions, but he has one in mind for Friday's game. By no means, however, is it set in stone.

"We're going to start seven, having a group of seven, and then: Is that the right seven? Does that change? Add or subtract?" Calipari said. "There's foul trouble, there's injuries, but we have a nice grouping of players that we have enough guys that we can start narrowing in."

Andrew Harrison is all but certain to be part of that group regardless.

The freshman point guard missed UK's two exhibitions with a knee contusion, but returned to practice on Wednesday. Harrison's presence could go a long way toward addressing some of the issues that Calipari noticed during his absence.

"It's like you're playing your football game and your wide receiver is your quarterback," Calipari said. "Now you're quarterback comes back and you're like, 'OK, now guys are in the right spots.' "

In this case, Aaron Harrison was the wide receiver trying to play quarterback. As identical as he may be to his twin brother, the elder of the two Harrisons is more comfortable on the wing. That was apparent when Calipari moved him back to his traditional shooting-guard spot against Montevallo.

Andrew Harrison, however, has been a point guard since a young age.

"He's a floor general," Jon Hood said. "You guys will see: He can play. He's really good."

The situation reminds Hood, a redshirt senior, of one that the team he played on his freshman year faced. The 2009-10 Wildcats, like this year's edition, had the nation's consensus top freshman point guard, but John Wall had to miss two games early.

"You couldn't judge my freshman year team because John (Wall) missed the first exhibition game and you didn't know how good we were going to be once we were all healthy and once we were all on the court," Hood said. "It's the same with this team. We just have to all get healthy and all get on the same page and we'll go from there."

Hood has been a part of the process of building a team out of a collection of talented, young parts four times now, so he's practiced in the art of patience when it comes to such matters.

Calipari is too, even if it takes an occasional shower brainstorm to remember.

"I've got four months," Calipari said. "To help this team put them in a position of how they're going to play offensively and defensively to do something special. It's just we are what we are right now."

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