John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are hoping for a complete turnaround after going 9-16 and missing the NCAA Tournament last season.
Over the offseason, the club added three highly ranked recruits in TyTy Washington, Daimion Collins, and Bryce Hopkins to go along with experienced transfers like Kellan Grady (Davidson), Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia), Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia), and CJ Fredrick (Iowa).
The Wildcats also return key players Davion Mintz, Keion Brooks, and Jacob Toppin, as Coach Cal will have a nice balance of youth and experience in 2021-22.
“We dabbled in the transfer market, as you know, most of it being graduate transfers, and they added something to every team that we had,” Calipari told the media at a recent press conference. “This year, because of the rule, we also took a couple undergraduate transfers who are going to add to this team. But if you think about my best teams, we had really good young talent, but there was veteran leadership within the team. I had one team that went to the final game that started five freshmen. That is unusual.
“But this is more like a team that we’ve got depth. They’ve done some really good stuff together, the seven, eight weeks this summer. They came together as a team. They did good stuff. They started, since they’ve come back, doing team things. You never see one or two guys. You see six or seven. There’s going to be great competition, but it’s good competition. It’s going to bring out the best of guys.”
With the competition at practice set to be a battle, Calipari expects his Kentucky team to bring plenty of versatility this season.
The head coach has already made it evident that he will be inserting lineups with four positions requiring guard skills, no matter the size of the player.
“The biggest thing that we’ve done and I’m telling them, we’re going to have four positions that are guard positions,” the 2012 national champion said. “That doesn’t mean I’m starting four guards, but if you want to be in one of those four positions, you’re going to have guard skills, which means you’d better be able to get in that lane and lane touch. You’d better be able to make shots. You don’t have to make them all. You just can’t miss them all. And if you don’t have guard skills, you’re going to be playing as one of our big guys.”
The Wildcats’ roster isn’t the only part of the team with new faces either. Calipari’s son, Brad, a former guard at Kentucky and Detroit, will be on the coaching staff as a graduate assistant.
With Brad now getting into coaching, his father continues to remind him that moving up in this profession requires working harder than expected every single day.
“What I’m making him do right now, I make him do stuff just to do it,” Calipari said. “Brad, go get me coffee. Then I throw the coffee out. I didn’t want any coffee. I just wanted him to go get it. I need you to sweep that floor down there. But I want him to do more than expected. I’ve told him that. If you want to move in this profession, you do more than expected. So there will be things he tells me after practice. He’s very good about it. He’s not trying to step in. He loves to add value to the players, and it’s something that I want to be around my son.”