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John Calipari loves UK’s potential on defense, but he is concerned about toughness

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This UK team has the potential to be an elite defensive team, but are they tough enough?

Calipari Sea of Blue

Thus far, John Calipari has been very high on this year’s basketball team.

After a few practices, Cal is already impressed with them on the defensive end. With that said, there will be problems early, as there always is, and the biggest one right now to Calipari seems to be toughness. He spoke on both of these topics, and many more, on an interview with KSR on Wednesday.

It’s no secret that this team has the opportunity to be special defensively with the length and size they have both on the perimeter and in the paint. It, also, doesn’t hurt to bring back Ashton Hagans, who was one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders we’ve seen at Kentucky during Calipari’s tenure and won Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season.

“We have the returning (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year in Ashton (Hagans) and a player that guards almost as good, maybe not as physical, but almost as good in Tyrese (Maxey). Immanuel (Quickley) has gotten way better and has a better idea of team defense off the ball.

“You’ve got shot blocking behind it and a guy that stood out in the Pro Day was Keion Brooks. He blocked shots, rebounded balls, mixed it up. You’re talking 6’8” and long, really long. Kahlil (Whitney) has the physical strength to do it.”

It may take some time to understand and really get it going against other competition, but defense is where this team will hang their hat and what will make this group a contender.

Toughness is always an issue early on in the year because the fact of the matter is that these players are young. Nate Sestina and Nick Richards are the only impact players who have played more than a year of college basketball.

Even with that, Sestina hasn't consistently played against the competition the Wildcats will face on a night to night basis, both in non-conference and the SEC, and one of the knocks that has always followed Richards is his lack of physicality. These teams always have to find it throughout the season, and they always do, but there will be growing pains that come with that until it’s found.

“I think we should be terrific defensively, but I worry about the toughness because I think people will just try to beat us up. It’s not as though you’re not going to know it. You’re going to have to be physical, have some toughness to you and have all that stuff. Expect it, and not have it affect your game. That’s going to take some time for us.”

If this team can find that physical edge and pair it with their ability on the defensive end, this team has the chance to compete with anyone in the country.

Defense and toughness are two things Calipari has talked about since he opened up at Media Day last week. Every team Calipari has had here has eventually found some kind of defensive edge throughout the duration of the season.

If this teams finds their physicality and places that piece of the puzzle in early as well, they will have the opportunity to win a lot of ball games on the defensive end, whether the offense is going or not.