John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats open SEC play Thursday night and the big storyline is going to be how far PG Ryan Harrow can lead his team. The early season struggles seem like a thing of the past and according to Calipari, this is all due to one big change in his teams chemistry:
“His teammates trust him now,” Calipari said.
The UK coach noted how Harrow spends extra time with teammates. For instance, he stays in the gym after completing his individual workouts.
“Talks to them, encourages them,” Calipari said of Harrow’s extra involvement. “He’s become that guy we needed him to be.”
Harrow has learned how leadership translates into service to others, Calipari said.
“You’ve got to be around (teammates),” the UK coach said. “They’ve got to know you’re for them, and then they’ll follow. Then you can lead.
“Leadership is not about walking on the floor and barking orders.”
Calipari repeated recent observations that Harrow has progressed to where the UK coaches believed he could be at the beginning of the season. Now, the question becomes where to go from there.
When asked where Harrow can go, Calipari said, “Why not try to be the best point guard in the country? Why not? Why would you not chase that? Why do anything short of that?”
Yesterday, we looked at the new UK locker room at Rupp Arena. It truly is quite an upgrade from the previous setup and like all things, come at a cost. The price-tag for this came to about $3.1M. So who paid for it? Well, a familiar name paid for the bulk of the locker room upgrade:
Joe Craft, the coal magnate behind the Joe Craft Center and the Wildcat Coal Lodge, will donate “the majority” of the $2.5 million that has been raised to date for the “Joe Craft Basketball Suite,” DeWayne Peevy, UK’s executive associate athletics director, said during a tour of the renovated complex Tuesday.
Also, $1 million has been given by the Healy family, Sarah Healy and the late Jerry Healy of Lexington, whose names adorn the entrance to the circular, wood-panelled locker room.
Now that the annual Kentucky/Louisville basketball brawl is over, the focus turns to recruiting and 2014 big man Jahlil Okafor, who is the top recruit in the class. And as expected, both Calipari and Pitino are interested, but Pitino appears ready to sell his soul to get him:
Kentucky and Louisville are certainly paying attention.
UK assistant Orlando Antigua watched Saturday’s game, and Okafor was one of the first 2014 prospects to receive a scholarship offer from the Cats.
He doesn’t plan to take any more college visits until after the high school season but said that Lexington would “definitely” be on his list of destinations when that time comes.
“Kentucky speaks for itself with all of the NBA players that they’ve produced,” Okafor said. “That’s my dream. That’s a school that could help me out with that. … It’s definitely an attraction for me.”
Louisville is another possible landing spot.
Rick Pitino traveled to Chicago earlier this season to attend one of Okafor’s practices. They spoke about how he could fit in at Louisville, where Okafor’s friend and former AAU teammate — sophomore Wayne Blackshear — starts for the Cards.
Okafor said Pitino talked to his father — an assistant at Whitney Young — for 20 or 30 minutes. That conversation yielded some interesting info from Pitino, who has never had a one-and-done player.
“He told my father he feels I’ll be a different big man,” Okafor said. “One-and-done is something he mentioned that I can do at any school. But he would like for me to do that at Louisville.
Let’s all recall that just a few months ago, Pitino lamented the fact that he could never coach a player for just 8 months, but apparently looking at 2013’s recruiting class has made him change his mind. The story mentioned that some coaches are trying to get Okafor to reclassify in 2013 and I would bet money it’s not Calipari. Wonder who?