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Calipari gets first look at next year’s squad, prepares for Team USA tryouts, NBA Draft

By Keith Taylor
KyForward Senior Sports Writer

John Calipari got a glimpse of next year’s basketball team Monday night and the Kentucky coach came away impressed.

“I was able to get them all in the gym and work guys out, which made my day,” he said during a summer teleconference with media members Tuesday. “I went home with a smile on my face, because it’s what I enjoy doing. To get them out there with that environment, was good for them too.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari will coach the FIBA U19 Team USA in the World Cup set for July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt. The Kentucky coach also plans to attend the NBA Draft on June 22 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Keith Taylor)

Although the workout wasn’t indicative of what to fully expect next season, Calipari said a majority of next year’s squad participated, with the exception of incoming freshman Jarred Vanderbilt, who injured his foot in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 15.

“It will be probably be two weeks before he will get really get full bode into what we’re doing here,” Calipari said. “I think he will be fine. Like I told his family, this is June. I just want to make sure when we hit November, he’s in his stride and right now, he’s taking a couple of weeks off. He will be fine, he’s in good shape.”

In addition to getting familiar with his own team, Calipari will start assembling the 12-man FIBA U19 U.S. Basketball team during tryouts slated for June 18-22 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Three of Calipari’s players — Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington — will be among 28 players vying for 12 spots on the roster. The FIBU World Cup is set for July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt.

Calipari said the experience will be good for each player, including his own core group.

“When you bring a group of really good players together, and they get a chance to play five-on-five, even it’s semi-pick-up and a little more organized, it’s good,” Calipari said. “The guys who are coming up for three of five days and there will be 16 (players) after the first three days, you get a chance to play and any time you get the chance to play against really good players, is good for a lot of things. No. 1, where am I right now compared to these other guys? Then the second thing is, if you’re there all week and you’re really playing, it elevates you, because you’re doing it against other guys.”

Calipari’s coaching staff will include Colorado coach Tad Boyle and Wake Forest coach Danny Manning, both of whom Calipari coached at the University of Kansas early in his coaching career. Calipari welcomed the opportunity to coach with two of his former players.

“The greatest thing is that I’m going to learn,” Calipari said. “That’s the great thing about coaches coming together. We don’t get enough of that and we don’t get a chance (to do) that, when the next top players in the United States come together. I think it’s a great experience for the players and I think it’s a great experience for the coaches.”

With tensions in the Middle East on the rise and the threat of terrorism also increasing globally, Calipari isn’t worried about his team’s safety and said the squad will be in good hands under former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Martin E. Dempsey. Dempsey is currently chairman of USA Basketball.

“Whether you are in the NBA or the Olympics, traveling around the world has changed a whole lot,” the Kentucky coach said. “USA Basketball has recognized that. I feel I’m going to be responsible for 12 kids and their parents and I just want to make sure where are we on all this? At this point, there are two levels of security USA Basketball will have. The President of Egypt is involved in this. I was very curious of how we were going to do this and at this point, I’m very comfortable that this team will be in a god position when we travel and go over there to play.”

While keeping an eye on his own team and the other on the FIBA World Cup, Calipari also will be keeping watch on the NBA Draft, set for June 22 in Brooklyn, New York. Two of his former players — De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk — are projected to be lottery picks next week.

“I’m excited with how it’s unfolding for the kids,” Calipari said. “I think are where about where I thought they would be, even what’s happening for Isaiah (Briscoe), Isaac (Humphries), Dominique (Hawkins), Derek (Willis) and Michael (Mulder). Up and down the line, they are showing well, which makes me really happy.”

In addition to the past and present, Calipari addressed the future and said he would be in favor of the NBA adopting a rule similar to baseball, where players can elect to play professionally out of high school, but can’t declare for the draft until after their junior season of college if they attend school instead of jumping to the majors straight out of high school.

“My concern is the kids and what is the best thing? Would the baseball rule work in my mind, yea, heck yea,” he said. “I would love the baseball rule. I would love the baseball rule for the kids. They have a chance to go (pro) right out of high school to an NBA roster and if they’re a lottery pick, they will make $20 million dollars. I love it, but the issue is, the NBA doesn’t want to do that. They don’t want to go back to drafting high school players. Whatever you’re hearing, I can’t see that happening, but if it did happen, I would love it. I think it would be great.”

Calipari also addressed the possibility of the Southeastern Conference adopting a 20-game league schedule in the near future. The Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 10 also are considering a possible scenario in the near future.

“I would not be for it,” he said. “I’m not going to get a vote on it. I just think what all of us do outside of our league, is very important. There have been teams on those leagues you talk (to), let’s do a home-and-home series and they all say the same thing. If we have 20 games, I’m not going to do that. What you do is, you take away some of those kind of games that have been good to us. North Carolina, for example, if they go to 20 games, I don’t think we’ll have any move on having any more (home-and-home) series with North Carolina. I’m not for it.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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