First it was the Dribble Drive Offense. Then it was all about “Positionless” Basketball. And don’t forget the annual late season “Tweak” to build momentum for March Madness.
So what’s next in Coach John Calipari’s bag of tricks as he leads the nation’s new No. 1-ranked team back into action on Friday night at Rupp Arena?
Well, in a word, it’s “Random.”
Now in his 11th season at Kentucky, the Hall of Fame Coach wants to avoid too much structure on the offensive end, at least early in the season, as his young team needs to find ways to create their own scoring opportunities.
“When you’re a freshman, everything was run to you. You took every shot...every play was to you in high school. Now you’re here and we’re trying to play random. Why am I trying to teach them random basketball? That’s where the game’s going..where it was positionless, dribble drive...the game is random now.
“When you have 17 and 18 year olds, they’re not used to playing random. You watch them and you say, ‘They’re a little lost out there’ and he is because he’s not used to being ready to make a play before he catches the ball. He’s not seeing what’s there before he catches it. A high school player catches the ball and says, ‘What do I have’ and then it’s too late. So it’s going to be until January or February until we can play as random as we want to play.”
Of course, the one exception to the rule is when someone gets hot and emerges as the “go-to-guy” within the Kentucky offense. That’s exactly what happened when freshman Tyrese Maxey scored 26 points in his very first college game (a school record) to lift the Wildcats to a 69-62 win over previously top-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night.
“You won’t believe this...I’m just watching the game and I’m like “Holy Geez” did you see that?” said Calipari. “Put it in his hand again. Let’s go side pick-and-roll (and) let’s see what he’ll do. Let’s put him in a fist five (and) let’s see what he’ll do. You see it and you go.
“If anybody gets it going, we’re riding them,” he continued. “If you know me...you’ve followed me...you know that’s how I am. If someone gets it going, they’re going to have the ball in their hands. The rest of you (players) have to accept it.”
The Wildcats, 1-0, host Eastern Kentucky on Friday night to kick off the first of six non-conference home games in November. The Eagles, who opened the season with a 79-68 win over Chattanooga, play an uptempo style and will press in the full court. The good news is that the Wildcats should be able to get some easy baskets in transition.
“We’re still figuring it out offensively,” said Calipari. “I’m going to do some different things today (Thursday) to help a couple of guys. I just don’t want this to be too structured offensively.”