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Calipari, Wildcats go about their business preparing for season amid college recruiting scandal

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

John Calipari was pressed to delve into the FBI investigation into several college basketball programs, one which included instate rival Louisville, during Kentucky’s annual media day Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

Calipari didn’t dodge several questions and touched on a subject that led to Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s suspension and exposed other collegiate coaches of wrongdoing during the past two weeks. Calipari said the ongoing issues at Louisville are “unfortunate.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari answers a question during the team’s annual media day Thursday at Memorial Coliseum Big Blue Madness is set for Friday at Rupp Arena. (Keith Taylor/Kentucky Today)

“What’s out there right now is a black eye,” Calipari said. “But here is the thing for everybody here: I don’t want to come across as uneducated or dumb. None of us know where this thing’s going. So for me to really comment much on it, I mean, I don’t know where all this is going.

“Obviously, what’s happened to this point isn’t good. At this point I don’t think me commenting without knowing all the facts is the right thing to do.”

Calipari also said Kentucky hasn’t been contacted by the NCAA concerning the widespread investigation and it hasn’t been a distraction for his program.

“We haven’t been contacted,” he said. “The NCAA hasn’t contacted us. We’re going about our business of coaching this team.”

Calipari’s eighth team at Kentucky is one that will be younger than any squad he’s coached at the school. The roster features eight newcomers, a few returnees and no seniors. Jarred Vanderbilt, Jemarl Baker and Tai Wynyard have been hampered by injuries, leaving the Wildcats short-handed in practice and lagging behind on both ends of the floor.

“I’m a little bit worried because we’re so far behind in all their habits,” he said. “Defense is about having great habits individually and then collectively having habits. When things happen, we react a certain way. We’re not there yet. We’re just so far from that. We’ve had I think six practices. We’ve had to have a couple days off because of injuries, because we would have been practicing with six players.

“Everybody talks about this being a great shot blocking team. Maybe, could be. We’re not in shape right now. We’re not in the kind of condition we need to be.”

The Kentucky coach said his current team will be a work in progress, more so than the other team’s he’s coached at the school.

“They’re going to be thrown into the fire,” he said. “We’re all going to have to be patient. I stop every practice at some point and tell them to tell me to be patient. Coach, be patient. We’re good kids. We’re good players. We just don’t know anything. Be patient. Then I go, Because I’m ready to choke some of you right now. That’s every day I have to do that.

“But I’m enjoying it. This is what we do here. This is what it is. Wave of kids come in. They have no idea, I have no idea. We all grow together, figure this out. We make decisions based for them on the program or a system, what’s right for them, then we roll with that.”

One of Calipari’s current freshmen, Kevin Knox, is starting to come out of his shell and pieced together a couple of impressive practices this week, giving Caliapri optimism the heralded freshman is starting to turn the proverbial corner.

“We had a really good practice (Wednesday) and Kevin Knox was unbelievable,” Calipari said. “He made a little bit of a breakthrough yesterday. I had hope. I took my foot off the panic button yesterday after practice. I still got both hands on it, but my foot is no longer on it after (Wednesday’s) practice.”

Although Calipari said things likely will be ugly early, he’s looking at the bigger picture.

“We love on them, they love on each other,” he said. “The stuff usually works out.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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