1. John Calipari Was Exhausted
From the opening moments of Calipari’s remarks to the media, he made mention of getting in very late the night before. That theme remained throughout the presser as he referenced his fatigue regularly. Based off his Twitter posts, we know that Cal has been on the West Coast for the past few days, presumingly recruiting five-star power forward Jaden McDaniels.
Calipari’s exhaustion allowed for some interesting dialogue during Thursday’s event, starting with Calipari opening up by asking “Is this media day or coaches day?” in reference to last year’s comments from the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton.
Calipari was also asked several questions about the hoops trial that is currently taking place in Manhattan. For the most part, Calipari deflected the questions and even referenced his late flight as a reason he didn’t know much about what had been said during the trial.
However, he did acknowledge that the whole thing was a major black eye for college basketball as a whole and admitted that he doesn’t have all of the answers to fix things. I find it impossible to believe that Calipari is not very well versed on just about everything that is being said in that courtroom and don’t buy for a second that he isn’t keeping up with it. But it’s obviously a very tough question for someone in his position to answer right now.
Here was Calipari’s full quote when asked what his thoughts were on the allegations that were being revealed during testimonies.
“I haven’t -- I’ve been going like crazy. If you guys know, I got in last night about 3:30 in the morning, so I haven’t followed all the stuff. It is a black eye. It’s not good for basketball. I hope the decisions we’re making out of this are all based on what’s best for the kids, not to change just for change’s sake. But I do think it brought the outliers in, that this has brought light to, like, this can’t be done. Other than that, I’m really literally not -- I don’t know what’s been said or -- I’m like in, and I just got in a little while ago. You won’t believe this. I didn’t come in at 8:00 this morning since I got in at 3:30, 4:00. This thing that we’re all doing, hopefully it brings about bringing this stuff together. Let’s just not make decisions that aren’t good for these kids, and our evaluation of them or whatever else that may be.”
2. Keldon Johnson is Ultra-Competitive
This is news that probably won’t shock many, but it became a recurring theme throughout my interactions with players at media day that Keldon Johnson does not like to lose, at anything.
Time after time Johnson’s name was brought up by his teammates as a vocal leader on the court who will trash talk the hell out of whoever he is playing against. When asked who was the best trash talker on the team, Johnson responded “Oh that’s me!” without any hesitation.
In my opinion, the writing on the wall seems to clearly point at Johnson as being the guy that will step up and lead this year’s team. Sure, Kentucky has grad-transfer Reid Travis along with several returning players, but after being around the guys, I just get the sense that they will all look to Johnson as the player to mold their intensity around.
The Big Blue Nation held its collective breath when Johnson went down screaming in pain after rolling an ankle during the Pro Day. The very first question when Calipari took the podium was a request to address Johnson’s injury.
Calipari wasted no time by saying, “He’s full to go today.”
That is obviously great news for Kentucky that it sounds like it was just a standard ankle roll and nothing more serious. Johnson was also directly asked how his ankle was healing and he stated that he wanted to play the very next day, but Calipari wasn’t having it.
I would expect Keldon Johnson to participate in Friday’s Big Blue Madness festivities.
3. Kentucky Downplays Season Opener vs. Duke
One of my very favorite moments of media day was the way in which John Calipari responded after being asked if the opening game against Duke may help prepare the team for a big game in March, here is what Calipari had to say.
“I would say that game will be just another game for us at that point unless we win. Then it’s huge. It’s a huge game. But the reality of it is, it is so early, it’s a game that we’ll learn about where we are at that point, and so will they. Where are they and where they need to go.”
That is the same way that I am looking at UK’s opening round match-up against the Duke Blue Devils. If Kentucky loses, ah no big deal, it’s just a regular season game. But if Kentucky wins, I will be singing from the rooftops how the Cats won one of the biggest regular season games of the Calipari era.
Asking the players how they felt about the Duke game became a common theme at media day as well. Shout out to whoever helps the player’s with their media training because they all deflected the question in the same manner. Well done, boys.
Calipari also had this to say when asked if he would change his preparation strategy for the November 6th match-up in Indianapolis against Duke.
“You would know. I’m not -- we agreed to do it, but it’s just a hard game -- it’s a hard game for Duke, too. They’ve got young guys. It’s just a hard game out of the gate playing a program that has really good players and is really well-coached and is not intimidated by the scenery, and that’s who we play right out of the gate.
But it also wakes you up early in the morning. You’ve got to -- you just know that let’s not get too far ahead. And at this point, I can’t tell you exactly what we’ll have in. We won’t have everything in. It’s going to be November whatever. But we’re going to have enough to try to say, this is how we’ll play this game, and hopefully we have enough in that we can compete with that team playing with what we have in.”
Is it just another game? No, right?
4. The Sky is the Limit & These Cats’ Know it
There is a stoic confidence to this group of guys that leads you to believe they completely understand how incredibly good they can be. From the first game in the Bahamas I left with the impression that this team has players who not only understand their roles, but embrace them.
I know that I mentioned Johnson as the team’s vocal leader but you could probably make a case for a number of other guys. Kentucky really is nearly 10 players deep, although Calipari said that could be cut to 8 as the season progresses.
But you just don’t get the sense that there are 6 superstars trying to coexist. It feels like a cohesive unit that wants to win a title and understands that will take a selfless approach. This entire paragraph is sounding very 2012ish. I like that!
5. Reid Travis Wins Worst Dressed Award
I took the opportunity to poll each player on the Kentucky roster about who they believed was the worst dressed player on the team. Interestingly enough, almost every single player was mentioned at least once by one of their peers. Even if it was a an honorable mention for dressing poorly, there was nobody who went unnamed. But it was grad transfer Reid Travis that ultimately received the most votes.
“Probably Reid. He just dresses like an old man.” Tyler Herro said laughingly on who is the worst dresser.
The theme of Reid Travis dressing like an elder remained prominent. Someone even went as far as to detail his “bootleg cut” jeans.
The 2018-2019 team seems poised for success, potentially bringing home the school’s ninth national title.