When John Calipari announced his team’s annual tweak a few weeks ago, many (including myself) speculated on what changes could be in store for this team.
Sure enough, whatever the Kentucky staff is doing differently is working. Since losing to Seton Hall, they look like a completely different team and appear to be headed in the right direction.
At this week’s SEC coaches teleconference, Calipari shared some things that have changed in practice that have led to the Wildcats’ dramatic improvement. Most notably, he discussed better spacing on the court and better defined roles for each player.
“I said from day one that this should be my best 3-point shooting team that I’ve had since I’ve coached here and it’s becoming that now,” Cal said. “Early in the year we weren’t willing passers, which made shots tough. We were slow getting shots off and most of them were contested. We didn’t have great spacing where we posted the ball.”
The Wildcats have certainly improved their shooting. After shooting only 33% from behind the three-point line in the first six games of the season, Kentucky has made over 40% of their attempts in the last three outings.
“Well, we really had to define roles a little bit better and I had to help them with that,” Calipari said when asked about their focus during Camp Cal. “As we did that, people rolled into those positions and started playing better.”
At the press conference in preparation for Saturday’s match-up against Alabama, assistant coach Kenny Payne echoed Cal’s sentiments.
“It’s been huge for us this Camp Cal period of defining roles, but more importantly than just defining them, having them work on the roles that they’re going to be in,” Payne said.
He went on to discuss specific roles of certain players and noted that they are still trying to figure some guys out, specifically EJ Montgomery.
“He’s learning and then he’s a good basketball player and we have to get him out there on the floor to allow him to be successful,” he said. “Also, just fitting in with this team and finding space for him to succeed. We need everybody. Every hand on deck has to produce. So we need EJ Montgomery to come in and play, and play with confidence, and play with energy, and effort and rebound, and make a shot and to just play winning basketball.”
How well will the new roles transition to success in SEC play? We will find out on Saturday in Tuscaloosa as the Wildcats take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:00 p.m.