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From UK Media Day: 5 Things That Give Me Hope; 5 Things That Give Me Concern.

By Dr. John Huang

Welcome to UK Basketball Media Day, the annual dog and pony show which signifies the real start of another championship quest. Year after year, it’s Coach Cal as the ringmaster, with all his media minions looking to distribute all the stories and soundbites that BBN wants to hear.

Fear not, because I’ve sorted through all the expected clichés, endless rhetoric, and coach speak to bring to you everything important you need to know. Better yet, I’ve parsed it down for you—fifty minutes of Coach’s incessant rambling condensed into the following few sentences.

Surprisingly, Calipari appeared right on time—with his trademark tan—as if he had been recruiting on the Riviera.  

Anticipating the questions in advance, our hall of fame coach began the presser by saying that he didn’t have an opinion just yet about the California ruling on college players getting compensated for their likeness. He said he needed time to digest it and find out what’s really in the bill.

When pressed, he emphasized that the most important thing was NOT to minimize and diminish education. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” he tried to say. In other words, don’t let the one percent of players who will make it to the NBA directly out of high school ruin the possibility of a good college education for everyone else.

Here are 5 things about the team that give me hope for this year.

1) Whenever a team has three good point guards, good things happen. Kentucky has three good point guards this year. Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans have been battling each other right from the get-go. Immanuel Quickly returns as a completely different player with a whole new mindset. There’s plenty of depth and talent in the backcourt for a championship run.

2) Johnny Juzang can shoot the ball, something that Calipari implied had been a real weakness of his past teams. “When Johnny shoots it, everybody thinks it’s in,” Cal said. Johnny and Khalil Whitney are natural scorers, so much so that the main challenge so far has been to get them to pass the ball. We haven’t heard comments like that since the days of Jodie Meeks. It’ll be different having aggressive shooters willing to take (and make) the big shots for a change.

3) Nick Richards returns with a lot more confidence this year. He’s in the best shape of his career. It’s showtime for him—but we’ve all heard that before.

4) EJ Montgomery is much more physical and can do a lot more with his skills. Everyone wanted him to get more minutes last year. Guess, what? He’ll have all the minutes he wants or needs this year.

5) Nate Sestina has been a great addition. He’s a vocal leader, something direly needed for the past few seasons. The graduate transfer from Bucknell has been almost too vocal—to the point that Cal has had to tell him to tone it down a bit in practice.

Here are five things about the team that give me cause for concern.

1) The team is thin on bodies. There are only nine guys playing on scholarship. It’s asking a lot for associate head coach Kenny Payne to lace them up just to have enough guys for a practice session. The team can’t afford any sort of injury bug.

2) The team has thin bodies. Keion Brooks is really skilled with the ball, but his body has yet to catch up with him physically. That’s not something you can readily rush.

3) Dontaie Allen has been doing some work in the gym but has not been practicing with the team. Cal thinks he’s still about a month away from being ready.

4) Cal asked rhetorically several times, “Are we going to be physical enough? Do we have enough mental toughness? How do we rebound?” We’ll find out sooner than later, as Michigan State is waiting to punch Kentucky in the mouth on November 5.

5) If you’re the impatient kind of fan, then you might want to go follow another team. “This team doesn’t become what they become until January, February,” Cal cautioned.

Yeah, we’re used to all that. Remember—it’s a process.

That’s about it. The rest of the time was all fluff—just listening to the usual Calipari infomercial about all the players he’s put into the NBA. Here’s the complete transcript of what Coach had to say.

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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