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Video: Antigua on taking USF job, time at UK

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Calipari hopes to rebrand one-and-done

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John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ever since a record-setting five Kentucky players went in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, the "one-and-done" label has been pinned on John Calipari and his program like a tail on a donkey.

For better or worse, Kentucky has become, reputation-wise, the place to go to play for a year and then head to the NBA after one season.

Calipari, who has long maintained that he's against the one-and-done rule but is playing by the rules, doesn't understand why kids are criticized for pursuing their dreams if the opportunity presents itself.

"Until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are," Coach Cal said on Monday on his weekly radio show. " 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

Greg Anthony, a former UNLV star and analyst for CBS, spoke on a Final Four teleconference earlier in the week and said he is sick of hearing about the one-and-done rule altogether. After all, UK isn't the only program that went after the John Walls and the Anthony Davises in high school; it just so happens to be the one that landed the most.

"I'm so tired of everyone talking about the one-and-done from this standpoint: Every one of those damn kids for Kentucky, everyone else would have signed them if they decided to go there," Anthony said. "Every high-school kid coming in as a freshman would go one-and-done if they had ability for the most part."

It's worth noting that one-and-done talent like Andrew Wiggins went to Kansas, Aaron Gordon went to Arizona and Jabari Parker went to Duke.

But the one-and-done rule is a hot subject again at this week's Final Four because of the unprecedented youth and potential NBA players Calipari has brought to Arlington, Texas. On its road to the Final Four - a path Coach Cal called a "mine field" - UK has relied heavily on its youth, starting five freshmen throughout the tournament and getting 89.8 percent of its points from freshmen.

As a point of reference, the famous Fab Five accounted for 75.3 percent of Michigan's scoring during the 1991-92 season. The Cats' freshmen, many of whom will have an NBA decision to make after the NCAA Tournament run ends, have accounted for 81.8 percent on the season.

With all that said, a young player helping a team to the Final Four and then weighing his pro aspirations at the end of the season is still perceived negatively among the masses.

"One-and-done has now become a bad connotation," Coach Cal said.

And until the rules change, the negative perception is here to say, Calipari realizes. No matter how many times he says they don't talk about turning pro until after the season, it's going to be viewed in a dim light.

So Coach Cal has a solution: a new name.

"We're going to break out something new this week to get you guys off this one-and-done so that we can think about (it) in another term, which is trying to help these kids do what they're trying to do as college students, as where they want their careers to go," Calipari said.

The idea behind the rebranding is to change the idea that just because a player may turn pro early that he isn't a college athlete.

"Does a player have to be here four years to be a terrific college player?" Calipari said. "The last four years, our grade-point average has been a 3.0. Our (NCAA Academic Progress Rate) is as high as anybody in the country. They're college students; they're just not college students for four years in most cases, but in some they are."

So, Calipari hopes to unveil something this weekend - perhaps during the next media availability on Friday - that will get that message across. What it is remains to be seen, but Coach Cal did ask for answers on his radio show earlier in the week and actually received some via social media.

Among the best were "Succeed then Proceed," "Learn then Earn" "Learn and Turn."

They're all better than the one-and-done label in the eyes of Calipari.

"All I got to say to Cal is when somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when my mom would give me a pork chop or a piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, 'No, one-and-done,' " Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.

Ryan is confident that if the name isn't going to change, the rules will soon. Perhaps the bad connotation will die with it.

"We're (Calipari and Ryan) both on the board of directors with the NABC and we have talked about this quite a bit," Ryan said. "I'm sure there's something coming down the road that's going to alter that. But all we know is we just want our players to get the most out of the experience and I think we both are coaching guys that understand what that's all about."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

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If you are looking for 'Cats 2014 Final Four merchandise, look no further than the official store of UK Athletics, UKTeamShop.com. UK Team Shop has the best choice of Final Four apparel, including the Nike Locker Room T-shirt the players wore after the big win over Michigan. Click on the link below to see the full selection.

http://www.ukteamshop.com/source/bmbh_ukfinal4

Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Julius Randle was a high-school junior sitting in study hall when he first found out.

His schoolwork done, Randle came across the news that the Final Four would be coming to AT&T Stadium in 2014. Thinking two years in his future, Randle pictured himself a college freshman playing for a national championship mere miles from where he grew up.

He hasn't stopped thinking about it since.

"It's been my screensaver for about two years," Randle said.

A year after he first found out North Texas would host the Final Four, Randle was in AT&T Stadium. Watching Florida and Michigan play in the Elite Eight just weeks after committing to Kentucky, Randle's focus only intensified.

"I just wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to get back there," Randle said. "It's just added motivation that it's in Dallas, but any kid wants to play in the Final Four. I don't care if it's on the moon. You want to play in the Final Four. But for it to be in my hometown, it's special as well."

It became even more special last weekend when playing in the Final Four went from dream to reality for Randle.

Randle's mother, Carolyn Kyles, was in Indianapolis as her only son played in the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals. She saw all of UK's comeback victory over Louisville on Friday, but had to leave Randle's Elite Eight game against Michigan early to catch a flight home so she could work first thing on Monday morning.

"I knew she was going to have to leave so I just wanted to make sure we won so I could see her again," Randle said.

Randle -- the Midwest Region's Most Outstanding Player -- delivered. Now, he gets to go home and play on college basketball's biggest stage in front of his mother.

"She's really excited," Randle said. "I don't know much she's going to be around because I know she wants me to focus and stuff, but she's really excited and so is the rest of my family."

To Randle, that kind of unselfishness is what defines his mother above all else.

"Just seeing her every day get up, go to work and just take care of me and my sister and for her to do it by herself and for her not to have much and to make sure me and my sister felt like we had everything we needed and wanted just goes to show how strong of a woman she is," Randle said. "She did it all by herself."

Of course, paying his mother back for all she's done helps drive Randle to be the tireless worker he is on and off the floor. But Kyles has refused to let that overwhelm her son.

"She's always telling me just to enjoy being a college student, not to worry about her, not to worry about taking care of her," Randle said. "She says to enjoy being a college student because she doesn't want to put that type of pressure on me and there's no need to. I'm just blessed to be here, play basketball at Kentucky and that's all I can really focus on."

It's that kind of perspective, character and strong family background John Calipari saw early in Randle's recruiting process.

"The best thing that has happened for him is that he surrounded by good people, and they all tell him the truth," Calipari said. "They tell him the truth. ... His mother is solid; she left the game early because she had to go to work."

The same goes for the Harrison twins, who will also be returning to their home state for UK's Saturday national semifinal matchup with Wisconsin. Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Randle give Coach Cal three players from the Lone Star State, which was unthinkable 20 years ago.

"When I was back at UMass and went into Texas, the coaches asked if we were Division I or Division II, so we didn't do real well then," Calipari said.

Doing well in Texas has become more and more important over the years. Though the state is still known for the bright lights of football, basketball has come a long way.

"Where Texas was always just about football, it still is, Friday nights and all that stuff," Calipari said. "But the coaching in Texas, the high-school coaching, has gone from the (football) line coach coaching the basketball team, to basketball coaches, basketball junkies, coaching basketball now. So now all of a sudden you're getting skilled players."

UK's Texas trio certainly fits that bill, benefitting from solid coaching on both their high school and AAU teams. The Harrisons, however, did dabble in football before switching to basketball full time. Andrew Harrison was a running back but was too lanky at the time to continue into high school.

"If it's not during the season, you have to do 7-on-7 or something like that," Andrew Harrison said. "We wanted to play basketball."

Based on the volume of ticket requests the Harrison twins are receiving for this weekend, they might have converted some football lovers with that choice. Aaron Harrison reported around 50 friends and family have asked for tickets and his brother the same, while Randle is forwarding all such requests to his mother.

"You can call my mom," Randle said. "I'm not dealing with it. I changed my number."

But not his screensaver

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are two in-game situations that will almost always divide fans and coaches alike.

One is the debate over whether to call a timeout when you have the ball to win the game. The other is whether to foul when your team is up three to prevent a game-tying 3-pointer.

Coach Cal found himself in both those situations against Michigan.

First was when the Wolverines tied the game with 27 seconds to go and the Cats got the ball with a chance to win on the final possession. Under normal circumstances, Calipari would have let his guys play so the other team couldn't set up defensively, but like he did against Florida in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, he called timeout.

Calipari said after that game that he wanted to kick himself for calling timeout, but not this time around.

"There was so much at stake here, we had to know what we were doing," Calipari said on his weekly radio show Monday night. "And part of the reason is they had a foul to give, so I figured we had to start a little bit earlier so they would foul earlier so that we would still have a lot of time to get a shot off, which they did."

The timeout allowed him to call up a similar play to the one in the SEC Tournament finals, which was a handoff for James Young to take it to the basket; only this time it called for Aaron Harrison to get the ball.

"I wanted it to be Aaron because he wouldn't be afraid to miss," Calipari said. "Not that James is, but Aaron now in the last five games has been an assassin."

Aaron Harrison had the option to dribble it or pull up. When he fumbled the handoff and the shot clock started winding down, he elected to go up with it.

Once Michigan had called timeout and the officials reset the clock to show 2.6 seconds left, Calipari decided not to foul because there wasn't enough time left on the clock. With only seconds left, he didn't want one of his players fouling the shooter in the act.

He also put Marcus Lee on the inbounds pass in hopes of tipping the pass and taking the shot out of the equation altogether.

Bigger isn't always better

Dominique Hawkins doesn't have the look of a lockdown defender - at 6 feet, he looks to be at a size disadvantage - but the Kentucky reserve re-emerged from the bench during UK's two games in Indianapolis to help contain Louisville and Michigan's best scorers.

Against U of L, Hawkins locked down and limited Russ Smith in the second half, and against Michigan, Hawkins slowed down Nik Stauskas after his fast start.

"We weren't going to win that game until he guarded that kid," Calipari said Monday of the Hawkins-Stauskas matchup. "And he was a pit bull."

Stauskas, who at 6-6 had torched his competition all year long because of an ability to shoot over most defenders, had six inches on Hawkins.

"A lot of times, putting a little smaller guy on a bigger guy bothers 'em," Calipari said. "I don't know why. Just does."

Hawkins knows why. It's the competition he goes against every day in practice. Matching up with players like Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young, he's learned a few tricks to neutralize the length.

"Those three, I feel like they could be the best player on any other team if they went on another team," Hawkins said. "They help me out on my defense in practice a lot, so I feel like when I was guarding him that it was just like guarding James or Aaron or Andrew off the ball in practice."

One and done with

Fed up with the label that gets thrown on his program for allowing players to go to the NBA, Coach Cal said on the radio show Monday that he wished someone could come up with a new term that doesn't have the negative connotation that "one and done" does.

The Big Blue Nation listened and responded. Among some of the best responses from fans on Twitter:

  • Succeed then proceed
  • Learn and turn
  • Learn before you earn
  • Progressive freshmen

Of course, Coach Cal has not wavered in his stance on the current one-and-done rule. He has said he does not believe in it and wishes it would go to at least two years, but he's also not going to hold kids back if they have an opportunity to leave.

He just wishes the negative connotation of letting players pursue their dreams would go away.

"I know some people can't get their mind wrapped around anything other than a four-year program," Calipari said. "Well, you also can't get your mind wrapped around social media. And until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are. 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

An all-time run

It's already been well-documented that UK's road to the Final Four has been one of the all-time runs.

Not only have the Cats knocked off the defending national champion, last year's runner-up and an undefeated No. 1 seed, they've become the first team ever to knock off three of last year's Final Four teams.  

But according to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, UK's run may be the all-time run.

Eisenberg's research says that the seeding tally of UK's opponents (16) is only outdone by LSU in 1986, when the 11th-seeded Tigers beat the top three seeds in their region to reach the Final Four - the only team to ever accomplish such a feat.

Eisenberg points out that LSU caught a break by playing its opening-weekend games in its backyard in Baton Rouge, La.

Did Bo Ryan take a dig at BBN? Cal doesn't think so

On Monday's Final Four teleconference, some thought Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was taking a dig at Kentucky fans when he answered a question about what basketball means to the Cheese State.

"The people here in this state are crazy about basketball," Ryan said. "They realize that they didn't invent it like some other states believe."

Did he mean Kentucky when he said that? It goes without saying that UK fans are known throughout the country for their passion for basketball.

Told Tuesday of Ryan's comments, Calipari, who has a good relationship with Ryan, brushed it off.

"Our people don't think they invented it; they just made it better," Coach Cal said. "And our fans do have all the answers to every issue concerning basketball. They're crazy. They're nuts. They watch the tapes more than I do. I bet you there are fans out there that have watched more Wisconsin tape than I have. There's no question."

Bo knows

Some other notable gems from Ryan on Monday's Final Four teleconference:

On Kentucky ...
"For me to say Kentucky is good, I'd be slighting them. They are very good."

On the contrast in styles between UK and Wisconsin ...

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

On why he doesn't use a coaching board ...
"Have you ever watched a huddle, where the players' eyes are while the coach is making 15 lines? You look at that thing and you swear it was your 4-year-old granddaughter who just made a drawing for you."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Video: UK heads to Texas

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Departure and arrival from Kentucky Wildcats TV


Hotel arrival from the NCAA


James Young is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range in the postseason. (Chet White, UK Athletics) James Young is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range in the postseason. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The more John Calipari called this group a great shooting team, the more it seemed to miss.

Clanks here. Bricks there. Some shots would just outright miss everything.

Coach Cal's words seemed hollow.

Then something happened right at the start of the postseason. Suddenly the Wildcats started making shots.

Since the postseason began at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, UK is shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range, up from 31.6 percent in the regular season.

To give you some perspective, Creighton led the country this year in 3-point field-goal percent with a 41.4-percent mark. Undoubtedly, the ability to make shots has given UK a different dimension.

"Aaron (Harrison) and James (Young) are really knocking down their shots, making big shots for us," Andrew Harrison said.

Aaron Harrison and Young especially have been better since the postseason began. The former is shooting 50 percent in the postseason (22 of 44) from behind the arc and the latter is making them at a 41.4-percent clip (12 of 29). Both are noticeable increases from their regular-season numbers.

"We're shooting with a lot more confidence than we have been," Young said. "We're getting a lot of extra shots up, coming in each day shooting at least 30 minutes worth, and really just staying confident with all our shots."

Young said they've been having really good pregame shoot-arounds, which he says have spilled over to the games. But perhaps there's more to it than that.

In the loss at South Carolina, Kentucky's shooting woes got to the point where the Cats almost seemed to ditch the perimeter shot altogether and just drive to the hoop in hopes of getting fouled. The strategy turned into habit and habit turned into bad shot selection.

Since the well-known "tweak" Calipari made before the SEC Tournament, the offense appears to have opened up. It isn't just that shots are going it; it's that shot selection is better.

"I think Andrew's really starting to create shots for us," Aaron Harrison said. "We're just trying to knock them down."

And as they've gotten better shots, their confidence has gone up, allowing them to brush off the misses. They've learned to put the previous play behind them and not worry about misses, a revelation for a team that struggled so mightily with it earlier in the year.

"If you miss a shot, you just have to go on to the next one in your head," Aaron Harrison said. "It's just a mental thing."

That probably explains why Aaron Harrison was able to shine so late in the Michigan game after struggling so much early.

After missing all four of his shots in the first 32 minutes of Sunday's game, Aaron Harrison shook the adversity off and made the final four, all from 3-point range and all in the biggest moments of the game. In the previous game, against Louisville, Aaron Harrison hit the go-ahead 3 with 39 seconds left after making just two of his previous 12 shots.

The most important one of the weekend, of course, was the game-winning 3-pointer vs. the Wolverines from the top of the key with 2.6 seconds left.

"I think we all just learned that it's all about winning," Aaron Harrison said. "It doesn't matter individually what you're doing. You just have to do whatever you can for the team to win."

Since that big shot, Aaron Harrison has been nicknamed a number of things by the fans, including "Mr. Big Shot" and "Big Shot Aaron." Calipari, on his weekly radio show Monday night, called him "an assassin."

"A couple of kids have said stuff about it," Aaron Harrison said. "I feel like the big man on campus, really."

His teammate Dakari Johnson had a much more colorful description of his fortitude, but unfortunately it's PG-13 material on a PG site.

"Yeah, I (heard) it," Aaron Harrison said. "It's pretty funny. It's not surprising from Dakari. Pretty funny."

All jokes aside, if the Cats need another big shot at the Final Four and it comes down to a last shot again, don't be surprised if Coach Cal goes with the hot hand again.

Asked on Tuesday if he would lobby for the last-second shot should the situation come down to it against Wisconsin, Aaron Harrison tried to play off the big-game heroics.

"I don't know," he said, smiling. "It depends on what Coach calls."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Willie Cauley-Stein sat out UK's win over Michigan on Sunday with an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein sat out UK's win over Michigan on Sunday with an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the 2013-14 season, UKathletics.com and CoachCal.com will be here to serve as your primary source for Kentucky basketball coverage. From feature stories to game coverage, video and more, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things UK basketball. However, nobody can paint the picture quite like the people who create the artwork. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the players who make the stories will share in writing a season-long blog to share with the Big Blue Nation their experiences, their thoughts and how the year develops in their own eyes. In the latest entry, Willie Cauley-Stein takes us through his injury from last weekend, how he's dealt with it and what the experience of the late-season turnaround has been like for him.

By Willie Cauley-Stein (follow him on Twitter @TrillGeta15)

What's going on, BBN? It's Willie here.

Let's just get this out of the way. Don't have much of an update on my ankle at this point. I'm kind of just playing it by ear right now. I'm going to do a bunch of treatment on it in to see if I can start to jog on it or run on it, but we'll have to see what happens. It is doing a lot better and I can put pressure on it now. Before I couldn't.

How it happened is kind of crazy. I remember we turned the ball over and I tried to steal it. Wayne Blackshear was throwing it down the court and when I turned around, I just felt pain. I tried to walk over to the huddle, but I kind of knew right away something was wrong the second I tried to put more weight on it. I knew I probably wasn't going to be able to come back. It hurt to take off my shoe and I didn't really want to take it off. All I could think about was I wasn't going to be able to play.

When we went back to get it looked at, I really didn't know what was going on. It was just a lot of pain. I was trying to get back on the court just to sit on the bench in street clothes, but they wouldn't let me so I had to watch with Will Barton and Mike Malone on the TV. At halftime, everybody just came in and gave me daps and was like, "We're going to win this for you." All the coaches came in and said the same thing.

If I'm being honest, I felt kind of hopeless at first. I felt super sad because I couldn't be out there to help, but then I got really hyped when we started making our comeback and snapped out of it once I started cheering. When we first got back there, I had our student athletic trainer, Blake Copass, tell me the score. When we got it to 10, I told him we got this. I thought if we could get to 10 by halftime we had it because we always do that for some reason, fall behind and then come back. So I wasn't really worried about it. I knew we could keep chipping away in the second half and get some stops, and that's exactly what we did. It never went through my head that we were going to lose. I thought if we could get the lead, there's no way they can beat us. Once we got the lead, I said it was a wrap.

But yeah, we were going nuts in the back. Mike actually stayed in the bathroom for the last nine minutes of the game because when he went in there we started making a comeback. When he came out it sort of stopped, so we told him to go back in there and he stayed in there for the rest of the game. He didn't even watch it. He sat in the stall the whole time.

The Michigan game was hard at first for me. There would be times where I'd watch a play I would normally make and I started thinking to myself, "That changes if I'm playing," or "I would have had a field day if I was in that game." It would have been fun to play in that game because I felt like it was a game I would do really with. I feel the same about Saturday's, if I can play. So that kind of entered my head that it couldn't be set up more perfect for me, but then I lost myself in my teammates again. I realized I couldn't do anything about it so I might as well remember what's good about it, and that's when I got hyped again.

I'm sure you all saw my video on the sidelines by now.  I was honestly just fooling around with the camera. I was in the locker room and saw it and I was like, "Let me take this on the bench." Tim Asher, our video coordinator, he's crazy and was like, "Yeah, sure, let me teach you how to use it." And then he didn't get a chance to teach me how to do it so I didn't think would be able to get it.

I honestly didn't know to use it and was just playing around with it on the bench and figured out how to use it. I didn't know how much life it had so I got the starting lineups and then I just quit using it until the end. I made sure I got the last five minutes of the game. Looking back, it's really cool I got to do that. Like, I don't think anybody has ever done that before. It kind of gave people a chance to see what it's like to win and go to the Final Four - to feel what guys feel like. People watch it on TV and wonder what they feel like and it kind of gave you that first-person experience.

After we won, I did like a vertical leap on one foot from the bench to get on the stage and then I just started hopping. Jon Hood was going to come chest bump me but then he remembered and was like, "Oh, no, no, no, no." You see that on the video and I was like, "Screw it, it doesn't even matter." I was just so hyped and then everybody dog piled. I was kind of in the back and I was like, uhhhh, there's no way I'm not getting into this and just jumped on everybody and then rolled off. You see that picture with me and Marcus, that's right when I rolled off the pile.

We were all just so happy for each other. I know my teammates are all saying they are trying to win it for me, which is cool, but it just shows how much we've grown, how much everybody's really invested in each other. I've repeatedly told them coming in I've never won a championship before and that was kind of what I was playing for. I wasn't playing for anything else but to win a championship, so I think that kind of carried over to everybody else. Obviously people think that, but I think there a lot of guys that don't play for just that. I think that's why we'll be down 15 and come back and win every game. That's just that will to win. That's that fight in us now.

It's just surreal how everything changed. I feel like we were so close last year but at the same time so far from it. I feel like going into the SEC Tournament, I felt the same way as I did last year because we came off those two losses and I was like, 'We just gotta win the first game. If we win the first game, I think we'll be alright.' So I had that same feeling and then from that moment that's when everything changed. I feel like last year would have been the same way if we would have gotten over the hump. We just didn't get over it at the right time.

To be where we are now, I'm just trying to soak it in. Like, it doesn't seem real. From being as far as we were from it last year, from the farthest from being in the Final Four, to the whole year Coach saying, 'You're going to be in the Final Four,' or guys saying, 'Wait 'til we get to Dallas,' it's just crazy. You're kind of like, 'Oh yeah, wait 'til we get to Dallas,' but it's happened. It's real. It's just crazy how everything came together exactly like Coach Cal said it would.

It makes all the struggles we've been through worth it. It almost seems like it goes by too fast. From the start of it, from playing K-State to Wichita to Louisville to Michigan, it doesn't seem like all those games. That's a lot of games. It's weird because the Wichita State game feels like forever ago. It was, what, last week, two weeks ago? That's nuts to me. And then to beat three teams that were in the Final Four last year, that's just crazy. You don't think about that when that's going on. That thought process wasn't even in our heads when we were playing those games. We were just playing, having fun and enjoying the tournament. And so after you look back it, it just shows how underrated we were.

I think it's going to be an interesting weekend. It's going to be fun going back to Dallas. Hopefully it's better weather this time. I'm just excited. I remember a year ago saying that I wasn't satisfied and wanted to come back and win a championship. It's just surreal that we have a chance because you don't really think it's going to happen until it actually does. The fact that we're here after all the stuff that we went through and everything we overcame to get to this point, that's amazing to me.

Notes: Cal, Cats 'ecstatic' for Antigua

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Orlando Antigua was named head coach at South Florida earlier this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Orlando Antigua was named head coach at South Florida earlier this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
By Annie Dunbar, CoachCal.com

As the University of South Florida gained a new head coach in Orlando Antigua this week, Kentucky lost a lovable assistant and one of the game's best recruiters.

Antigua, who has been with the Wildcats since the start of the Calipari era, has built an impressive résumé during his coaching career - 10 NCAA tournament appearances, seven trips to the Sweet 16, four Final Fours, one national championship -- and was hired as head coach of the Bulls on Monday.

Even though Antigua is moving forward in his career and UK is losing a valued assistant in the process, John Calipari and the players are happy for Antigua and his long overdue opportunity.

"The guys were ecstatic for him," Calipari said. "They were happy. Willie (Cauley-Stein) got on the phone with him and said 'You know you owe me now. I helped you get that job.' It's just funny. This is a little different deal here. The guys aren't separated from the players, they create relationships with them and these guys are happy for them. ... It is the right job for him."

Calipari believes the University of South Florida is the perfect match for Antigua because of his heritage and position as the head coach of the Dominican Republic National Team.

"Being South Florida, one of his home bases is going to be the Dominican Republic, which he will be able to recruit," Calipari said. "So now you're talking South Florida, a little Latin flavor. They also need someone to excite their fans, their campus. Well, that's him. That's who he is. That's why I say it's a perfect fit, in my opinion."

But Cal isn't the only one cheering about Antigua's new coaching job; the Kentucky players are happy for him as well.

"We're extremely proud of him," Marcus Lee said. "He's a really great guy. If I can think of someone who has more energy than I do going through practice, it's him. He's the most energetic person I've ever met, and that's saying something. So I'm real proud of him. He's done a lot for me and the team, so I'm loving what he's doing."

Antigua will stay with Kentucky to finish out the Wildcats' tournament run.

"I'm excited for him," Andrew Harrison said. "We're going to miss him around here, but he was a great coach and they're lucky to have him."

Cal's friendship with Bo Ryan

Saturday's Final Four showdown with Kentucky and Wisconsin is more than just a game for Coach Cal and Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.

The two head coaches have a close friendship and connected over the relationship Coach Ryan had with his father. Calipari and Ryan spoke Monday, and according to Cal, he was the only person Ryan answered the phone for.

"Well, let me tell you, he and I talked yesterday for about 15 minutes and what I told him was I watched the end of your game and I watched the interview and I got emotional because he talked about his father," Calipari said. "The reason we got to know each other was because I got to see how he was with his father. His father would go everywhere with him. Every year. And I'd see his dad, and we'd talk. It's like Billy (Donovan). I like Billy, but what I respect the most is what he is with his dad. His dad sits on the bench. So are you coaching tonight? I grab him - 'What are you coaching tonight? Rebounding? Defense?' But, the same with Bo and his father. Coaching and all that - I don't care. Wins, national championships, that doesn't matter."

Calipari plans to honor Ryan's father, who died in August, at the Final Four banquet before the games.

"To see him and how he was and then know that and watch that postgame, he and I have planned a toast to his father at the function that they do for all of the teams," Calipari said. "So, we're both going to have a beer and toast to his dad. I said we're going to toast him yesterday and he said great. I told him I wish we weren't playing each other because one of us has to lose. I'm happy for him. He's a good man. He's a good guy."

AT&T Stadium take two

Playing in AT&T Stadium on Saturday for the Final Four isn't the Wildcats' first rodeo with the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Back in December, Kentucky dropped a 67-62 decision to the Baylor Bears in Arlington, Texas. Heading into Final Four action, the Wildcats are hoping to block that loss out of their mind and this time around, produce a different outcome.

"It's a huge place, very nice place," Andrew Harrison said. "We did play there earlier this year, but we want to forget that game and just go in there with a new life, a new team, a different team."

Aaron Harrison said they had no idea if they would make a return trip after that Baylor game. Their thoughts were focused simply on the heartbreak of the loss.

"After a loss you always have to have some negative thoughts," he said. "But it was just another game really, so it wasn't that big of a deal."

Capacity for the Final Four will be 77,122. Having played there once already, the Cats aren't worried about shooting sight lines or playing on a stage, especially after their experience there the first time and this past week at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

"It's huge and it's just going to be fun," said Julius Randle, who is returning to his hometown for the Final Four. "The atmosphere, the environment, so many people there. The last time it was an ice storm, so it was a big arena but it wasn't too many people. I'm just looking forward to this time playing in front of a big crowd and competing again."

UK broadcast

Viewers of the Final Four will have two options for watching the game on TV.

They can stick with the usual national broadcast on TBS, which will feature Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr, or they can watch an alternate, UK-specific version on TNT that will be called by local broadcasters Rob Bromley (play-by-play), Rex Chapman (analyst) and Dave Baker (sideline reporter).

Turner Sports and CBS are experimenting with team-specific broadcast during the Final Four to give fans the option of watching the game through the view of one team. Each team in the Final Four will have a team-specific broadcast.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Marcus Lee had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in UK's Elite Eight win over Michigan. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Marcus Lee had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in UK's Elite Eight win over Michigan. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the last few months, Marcus Lee toiled in anonymity. Well, as much anonymity as is possible for a 6-foot-9 former McDonald's All-American on the UK campus.

That came to an end in a big way after he exploded to help lead Kentucky to the Final Four, and at no point was that clearer than on Tuesday morning.

Walking into a marketing class of about 200, Lee was welcomed by a standing ovation.

"It was just awesome," Lee said. "If you could see me blush, I was probably blushing."

Lee, after a 17-point collegiate debut, found himself buried on the bench due to an illness that caused him to drop 15 pounds and the play of Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. But an injury to Cauley-Stein in the Sweet 16 created an opportunity and Lee -- delivering on a prediction of a big game by John Calipari -- capitalized.

An afterthought on Michigan's scouting report, Lee had four put-back dunks in the first half alone en route to 10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a spot on the Midwest Region All-Tournament Team. Since then, on top of his lecture-hall greeting, Lee has been treated to a barrage of text messages and calls from friends from his home of Antioch, Calif.

"They were just so proud of me, so I'm just glad that they have my back," Lee said.

But if you're concerned about Lee letting a little success go to his head, you can rest easy. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Lee could hardly make it through two questions without having to dab sweat from his brow after what was clearly an intense pre-practice workout.

"That's what right now is for, is just to get in the gym and keep up what I started to make sure I'm always working to better so they're not just looking at one thing I can do," Lee said. "I'm just broadening my horizons as we go."

Lee surely won't be sneaking up on Wisconsin when UK plays for a spot in the national championship game at 8:49 p.m. ET, so the broader his horizons the better.

Cauley-Stein remains doubtful for the matchup, leaving the Wildcats to deal with talented 7-footer Frank Kaminsky without their most versatile post defender. Kaminsky leads the Badgers in scoring and rebounding and has 3-point range, hitting 37 of 98 (37.8 percent) of his attempts on the season.

"He's going to be a handful," Calipari said.

It's a handful the Cats are thankful to have to deal with.

UK is one of just four teams still dancing, a fact the players celebrated wildly on Sunday. Back home in Lexington, fellow students took to the streets, which wasn't lost on the Cats.

"I've seen pictures on Instagram and stuff," Andrew Harrison said. "That's pretty crazy. That just shows how much school spirit we have."

That display of school spirit in the rearview mirror, the Cats go back to work. As plain as the joy on players' faces was to see in a postgame dog pile and receiving the Midwest Regional trophy, UK is having no problem with that.

"When you realize you're going to the Final Four of course you're going to celebrate, but, look," Julius Randle said, nodding his head toward Aaron Harrison and James Young firing jumpers on the Joe Craft Center practice floor, "guys are in the gym working right now. So we're not done yet."

If that's true, it could be more than Lee getting in-class standing ovations a week from now.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: The song is "The Mighty Rio Grande" by the band This Will Destroy You. read more
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