John Calipari previews 2021-22 basketball season at Media Day

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 4:59 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - Injuries, scheduling, and COVID-19 plagued the Kentucky basketball team in 2020-21.

The Wildcats finished 9-16, and, for the first time in 30 years, UK finished a basketball season with a record under .500.

The season was historic for head coach John Calipari, too. It was just the second time in his 29 seasons as a college head coach that his team finished under .500.

“I feel bad for the kids. I feel bad for the students. What an awful thing. It’s done. Last year is a blip. That’s so far behind me, what we went through, and I learned from it, and you move on,” Calipari said.

Ahead of the new season, Coach Calipari is liking what he sees from the team.

“I told them yesterday, we have not had a bad practice yet. I said, we go through seasons without a bad practice here. Seasons. Those are the teams that are winning 38, 35, 32, those are those teams.”

Three things are standing out to Calipari so far during his team’s practice: depth, experience, and speed.

“Yes, we do have depth,” Calipari said. “So now you have guys that are similar skills offensively. Who would you play now? It’s you. They’re very similar offensively. Who are you going to play? It’s done in practice but how about defends better, rebounds better, takes care of the ball better. Those guys get a leg up, and I keep telling them, you’re competing with each other, yet I’ll play as many deserve to play.”

The 2021-22 squad will add four transfers: CJ Fredrick (Iowa), Kellan Grady (Davidson), Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia), and Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia).

While each player brings experience and depth to the court, playing at Kentucky just feels different, according to Kellan Grady.

“The first few weeks of September weren’t my finest,” Grady said. “But I’ve been pretty happy with myself the last month. I’ve been making shots at a much higher rate and the game has really slowed down.”

“Every practice has been a dog fight. Every point matters. That’s been the best part of my experience here,” Grady added.

Calipari also likes this team’s speed and he will look to exploit that advantage this season.

“The biggest thing when you run fast to most of these players, their feet are moving real fast and their minds are moving just as fast,” Calipari said. “Well, you can’t play that way. You’ve got to run fast and have a slow look at what’s going on around you. So we’ve been working on it.”

The speed of the game at the college level has been an adjustment for freshman Bryce Hopkins.

“It’s been an adjustment, coming from high school,” Hopkins said. “Coming in here, I did have to change my speed.”

The goal for Coach Calipari this season? His team still playing at the end of March and into early April.

“I want them to know if they spend the time and you sacrifice and you’re about each other you’ll win your share of games, and you’ll have a chance to be the last team standing,” Calipari said.

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