Comes now Jerry Tipton, he who always does his best to find the dark cloud in the silver lining, with an article on Calipari's talk to the Lexington Rotary Club. In it, despite my diligent search, I could find nothing but good news about the nascent 2013-14 Kentucky basketball team. Let's look at a few of the positives:
Freshman James Young, a relatively lesser light in UK's freshman constellation, apparently made the strongest impression on these pro people.
"He's the best player in the country right now," Calipari said he was told by the two NBA types.
There are a few of us in the Big Blue Nation who are holding on to hopes that Young might be back for another year. Honestly, I don't think that's likely. Young is an exceptional talent, in ways that even Aaron Harrison is not. He is the perfect size for an NBA 2-guard, much like Archie Goodwin, and he has the added ability that Goodwin has yet to develop — consistent perimeter shooting out to NBA range and beyond. Not only that, he is longer and more athletic than Aaron Harrison, and every bit as athletic as Goodwin was.
I will suggest to you that if Young had been in last season's draft, he would have been a lottery pick. I don't know if he can make it that high in the 2014 NBA Draft, which is going to be, in the style of comedian Ron White, "Loooooooaded," maybe even historic. But based on what I have seen, and what I expect, he's a mortal lock for the first round, and this just confirms that perception.
A lot can change, though, in a year. But I'd pretty much pencil him into the draft.
Calipari touted this Kentucky's team's prowess in the so-called dribble-drive offense. "Best team since maybe the next-to-last Memphis team for the dribble-drive," he said in reference to the 2007-08 team led by Derrick Rose.
Calipari predicted that if Kentucky proves to play the dribble-drive as well as he thinks, opponents will be forced to retreat into zone defenses.
Here is another reason why Young is likely to go — if things go as currently planned, he's going to be getting a ton of perimeter shots when teams do go zone to try to slow down the Dribble Drive Motion. I remember how Calipari's 2006-07 Memphis team took apart Kentucky with the DDM in the Maui Invitational, and that team was significantly inferior to the 2007-08 team that lost to Kansas in the NCAA final.
Which brings to mind a memory that I now find bitter — I actually cheered for Kansas in that game. It just shows that when you accept what is said about a person without looking into it, you can be profoundly wrong due to your ignorance. I hate being deliberately ignorant, but I confess, I was at that time about Calipari.
Confessions aside, it is extremely exciting to see, perhaps for the first time, a team that is built to run the DDM. I admit I'm still a bit skeptical since we haven't seen them play yet, but to be fair to my skepticism, in each of the three prior years we have seen Calipari talking about running offenses other than the DDM, like post-ups and pick-and-rolls. The one team you thought would have been built for the DDM, 2010-11, turned out to be a better pick-and-roll team. Go figure.
Then there is this:
In a span of seven practices, Randle took only two jump shots, Calipari told the Rotarians.
"He's not where he'll be in a month," the UK coach said of Randle. "If he gets his head and shoulder by you, he's almost impossible to stop,"
That's pretty exciting, isn't it? Randle is the guy you can always count on to get into scoring position inside, and with the embarrassment of shooters UK is going to have on the perimeter this season, it's just hard to imagine how anyone is going to stop the offense.
What remains unknown is how well these offensive-minded young guns will defend. I confess to being a bit anxious about that part of our game, although when I feel I need comfort, I just go to Kenpom.com and see that, with the exception of last year, Kentucky's defensive statistics were always top 20. Combine that with what is likely to be an offensive machine, and the rest of the NCAA should be very afraid. We needn't fear, if history is any guide, that Coach Cal will neglect to coach defense, or fail to sit players that don't play defense down beside him. I'm looking at you, Darnell Dodson.
Compare and contrast this from the early talk from last season, where Calipari warned repeatedly about the team's deficiencies and being ranked way too high:
"Good players, good kids, they're trying. Just young. Don't play hard enough. Don't play full possessions. Out of control. Don't know each other, which isn't surprising. We have no roles right now. We're all trying to figure out who's who."
I want to make a point about this, and that is that these exact same comments were true about last year's team at the end of the season. It's almost frightening how spot on this description would be for the March 2013 Wildcats, and it was made in October of 2012.
Calipari's not evading the "team to beat" of talk this year, and that should tell you something — something really good. If his comments at the top of this article are still true in March, I think #9 is definitely on the way.