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Kentucky Basketball: Takeaways from John Calipari’s SEC teleconference

Calipari focused on his bigs, scoring balance, and dealing with pressure.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional Practice Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari was on the SEC teleconference Thursday morning to talk about his 2018-19 team, and most of the focus was on his frontcourt. He did also talk about the expectations this team will have, and the balance he wants to have with a roster this loaded.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Calipari’s comments.

Reid Travis will provide veteran leadership ... once he gets comfortable

Travis is the most experienced player on the team, and there’s no doubt that’ll come in handy. But first he has to get acclimated to his new team. Luckily, he has a coach that acclimates a ton of new freshmen every single year.

“We go through this every year, not just with Reid,” Calipari said. “The turnover here is a part of what we do. The trust level dictates if this team will become special.”

Calipari has high hopes for the veteran leadership role that Travis will play once he’s acclimated.

“I see with him the ability of a veteran leader because he’s a veteran, even though he’s not been here.”

Nick Richards getting comfortable

While Travis is working on getting comfortable, Richards appears to finally be to that point, Calipari said. The 6-11 center struggled to be a dominating presence down low, but Calipari said his confidence is improving and he’s becoming more physical, which is just what he needs to do for next season.

Calipari has previously said Richards can be a lottery pick if he puts it all together. It sounds like he’s making good progress toward that goal.

Balanced scoring is a focal point

With a roster as loaded as the one Kentucky will bring into next season, Calipari doesn’t want to have to rely on any one guy for scoring. He said he wants six or seven guys averaging 10+ points per game, and he doesn’t want anyone averaging 20.

On a roster that could go 10 deep, there’s going to be plenty of competition to be one of those guys scoring in double figures. On the topic of roster competition, Calipari echoed the statement he made when the team greeted fans in Midway.

“This isn’t communism,” Calipari said. “If you don’t deserve to play, you don’t play.”

Calipari has said that he doesn’t want to play everyone, so the rotation might not go much deeper than those top six or seven scorers, but the depth is there, and anyone who’s capable will get minutes.

Pressure is to be expected

Kentucky is the No. 1 team on a lot of early top 25 lists, and it’s likely that they’ll be the No. 1 team when the initial AP Poll is released. They’ll also be the betting favorite to win the National Championship. That doesn’t seem to bother Calipari, seeing as this is Kentucky basketball.

“It’s what this is here,” Calipari said. “It is what it is, and these guys know it.”

That pressure comes with the territory of being a Kentucky basketball player. Calipari says that culture is a great opportunity, but it’s something his players have to be up to dealing with.

“Here is what the culture of Kentucky is, but it won’t carry you,” Calipari said. “You have to carry the culture. You have to take it to the next level. If you don’t move the culture, this culture means nothing.”

Calipari also said he thinks he’s got a good group, though they’ve only had one practice session. He’ll find out more about his team as this week goes on and he uses up his allotted four hours of practice time.