As the calendar rolls into October, basketball talk starts to roar back to life. For most of this month, John Calipari will be doing the press junket and talking about his team to virtually every media outlet. Trust me, we are going to know this team very well by the time Big Blue Madness rolls around. John Calipari talked to CBS Sports recently and here is some of what he had to say.
CBSSports.com: A big part of your success the past five or so years has been due to elite guard play. Do the freshmen you brought in this year have a chance to take a seat at that table?
Calipari: Andrew and Aaron Harrison have got some myths to bust. You talk about two great kids who when it’s time compete at that level will be ready. Now there’s been times when the competition wasn’t high or they got bored and they stepped back. My challenge is to keep them involved. I think you’ll find that they’re different than guys I’ve had. They’re bigger. They’re 6-5, 220. Derrick Rose wasn’t that big. I don’t think Tyreke Evans was that big. John Wall was kind of in between that and he was faster. Brandon Knight wasn’t as big but could really shoot the ball. He was a different type of point guard. I think Aaron and Andrew bring great size. They should be two great defenders. They’ve got to be in shape. They’ve got to be used to staying in a stance. But they should be two great defenders.
CBSSports.com: You talked a lot two years about how important it was to have a sixth man like Darius Miller. Could James Young be that for this team?
Calipari: He could be. I think we have seven starters with Willie, Alex, Dakari Johnson, James, the twins, and Julius. We’ve got seven guys who can all start so two are going to come off the bench. In a normal season, the sixth man always seems to get the most minutes on my team. I don’t know, but the rotation works out that the sixth man gets the most minutes and even the seventh man is going to get around 20 minutes a game. It will be interesting to see.
You can start lining up for Big Blue Madness at 5 AM on Wednesday and the ticket distribution will be on Saturday morning. Last year’s event was spectacular and organizers of BBM will be hard pressed to replicate it. But of course, they are always trying to up the previous years event.
Of the hoped-for fan reaction, Schlafer said, “We want them to expect the unexpected.”
UK officials acknowledged the pressure to outdo previous UK hoopaloozas.
“After every year you immediately have the sense that it was the best ever,” said Nathan Schwake, an assistant athletic director for marketing and licensing. “Then you remember you felt that the year before. … We try to be creative. We’re competitive people.”
This year UK has a tough act to follow. Last year’s Madness featured a sentimental nod to the program’s tradition. Representatives of previous national championship teams helped re-raise banners recognizing those achievements. It also had a wow moment when the term “projection cloth” entered the UK basketball lexicon. After workers quietly laid out the cloth in a darkened Rupp Arena, the court suddenly was transformed into a pseudo video screen.
Credit goes to Bob Stoops, the technical services manager at Rupp Arena. Stoops, no relation to UK football coach Mark Stoops, takes Madness ideas from UK and works to bring them to life. He’d seen the projection cloth used at a Super Bowl halftime show.
If John Wall would have stayed all four years at Kentucky, he would be starting his rookie campaign with the Washington Wizards. Instead, he has three NBA seasons and a maximum contract under his belt and is poised to break through this year to the upper echelon of NBA guards. John Wall talked about honors like All Star games in his future, but Wall acknowledged that his team would probably need to improve before he gets that recognition.
On his chances at being an all-star next season: “I feel like if I’m winning games and I have my team in the playoffs and I’m doing okay, leading my team, I feel I have a great shot at that. But if you’re not winning. It’s very rare if your team’s not in the playoff race or one of the top teams. It happened last year for two guys [Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday], but it happened because other guys were injured. But those guys were deserving.”