June 28, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari (middle) greets former players Anthony Davis (left) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (right) before the 2012 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: La Familia

Since Head Coach John Calipari’s arrival in Lexington, he’s preached family. In his messages to recruits, current players, former players, fans and staff, the one recurring theme is how much Kentucky Basketball is, and must be, a family.  And Coach Cal practice what he preaches. Whether it’s shielding his players from blame for bad losses or even helping those that transfer find the best fit, it’s obvious he cares about their well being both on and off the court.

The one aspect of Calipari’s recruiting is that he’s bringing in not only highly talented guys, but high character guys. And yes, a good majority leave with eligibility remaining, but that doesn’t make them any less students of the University of Kentucky.  While other campuses (UCLA, North Carolina) have had some issues with the NCAA in the recent past, the Wildcats have remained blemish free, despite the efforts of some famous, or infamous, national writers that seemingly have a vendetta against our beloved coach.

May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nerlens Noel is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best things that John Calipari has done is his focus on reconnecting with former players and making them feel welcome to be in around the program.  Whether it’s Scott Padgett or Marquis Estill on the coaching staff or his reaching out to the storied past of Kentucky Basketball and asking members of the past championship teams re-raise the championship banners during last year’s Big Blue Madness, Calipari is embracing the one thing no other school in America has: UK’s basketball history. He’s invited those players that have left early to comeback to campus during the summer and work on their degrees, with Jodie Meeks currently on campus doing so.

On Thursday night, June 27, Nerlens Noel will be the 10th former Cat, under Calipari, to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. Which, for the record, is more than any other school.  With a national championship to show, Coach Cal is proving that Kentucky players can dominate on the court and will be good citizens off the court. Because we are the Big Blue Nation and we ARE family.

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