Apr 032013

CHICAGO – A little unsolicited advice for John Calipari: Invest in a referee’s shirt and some boxing gloves.

That might be the only way to settle what’s about to go down in the Joe Craft Center.

Based on what Calipari’s six McDonald’s All-Americans have said this week, the UK coach will have his hands full during next season’s practices, which are already being billed as knock-down, drag-out auditions for playing time among a bunch of highly motivated players with through-the-roof expectations.

“With people that hate losing, there’s bound to be fights,” forward Marcus Lee said. “The big men and the guards — we just go at it so hard. Especially during practice. I wouldn’t doubt that there would be fights.”

Just to be clear: Lee is predicting actual, physical fights. And he’s not alone.

Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle – three players considered to be as competitive as anyone in the country – concurred with their future teammate.

“Yeah, I can see that happening,” Randle said. “Just because everybody that’s going in there is a competitor, and if you hate to lose, I can see it. It happens all the time.

“Just make sure you’re prepared when you step out on the court, make sure you’re a unit. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to bust our butts.”

UK’s 2013-14 roster could easily include 10 players who could start for the vast majority of Division I programs. Of course, only five can start for the Wildcats next season.

Which five get that honor will be decided largely on the practice floor.

Aaron Gordon won’t be among those battling it out in the Craft Center next fall. The top-10 prospect committed to Arizona on Tuesday, picking those Wildcats over UK and two other schools.

But just a couple of minutes after announcing his decision to play in Tucson, Gordon talked about the intensity level in Lexington.

“Each practice is going to be like an NBA-style practice,” he said. “There’s so many good players there. It forces you to step your game up. If you don’t step your game up, you don’t get playing time.”

To a man, UK’s six McDonald’s All-Americans said the chance to play against one another – and the returning Wildcats – was a big factor in their decisions to commit to Kentucky.

When getting to the NBA is the dream, improving your game is the goal. If competition breeds improvement, then UK’s players will probably see more of it in practice.

“I think at this point it’s, ‘Who else do I want to play against in practice?’ I feel like the practices are going to be a lot harder than the games at this point,” Lee said. “Going against Randle and all these other major players. I think it’s more, ‘Who wants to fight to be on the court?’ than it is, ‘Who are we fighting against?'”

Calipari can be plenty loud in practices and in games, but he didn’t have a vocal leader on the court this past season. There were no John Walls, Brandon Knights or Michael Kidd-Gilchrists to get teammates in line when things got tough.

Next season, he’ll have the constantly yapping Harrison twins and the ever-intimidating Randle. And of, course, Calipari will surely get in his fair share of yelling.

Between the coach and the competitiveness, the decibel level in the Craft Center is bound to be high once practices begin.

And that’s the way these Cats want it.

“I’ve never been afraid of someone yelling at me,” Lee said. “I’ve never cried because someone yelled at me. When I see people get mad because a coach is yelling, I never really understand. I’m like, ‘Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do?’ That’s his job. When coaches get paid trillions of dollars to coach, I expect them to yell.”

Andrew Harrison doesn’t expect any hard feelings to leave the practice center. You go all out or you get yelled at. Then you move on to the next day.

“Off the court, all of us are great kids and we want to get along,” he said. “It’s a whole lotta love — a brotherhood.”

So what happens on the practice floor will stay on the practice floor. But UK’s next point guard reserves the right to bust your butt while your there.

“If you don’t come to play, you’re gonna get killed,” Harrison said. “I just want everybody to keep that in mind.”


  6 Responses to “Kentucky’s stars preparing to fight for playing time”

  1. Starting 5
    Andrew Harrison
    Aaron Harrison
    James Young
    Julius Randle
    Darkari Johnson
    Bench Rotation players
    Marcus Lee

  2. Oh I would love to be able to watch some of those practices and next season there wont be a lack of communication on the court and there arent any shy players that are coming in so a lack of intensity during games will not be a problem.

  3. It is all a guess, we don’t know…Right now I think Harrisons at 1 & 2,,Randle at 4…If he chooses UK, Wiggins will be the 3…If not it will be Young…I expect WCS to start at 5, but DJ will play about as much..If Wiggins plays, Young will back him up and also play some 2…Poythress and Lee will get minutes at 3/4 slots…The kid from Richmond will back up at point…Sorry Kyle, going to be a tough year for you, not to mention Polson and Hood if they return..

  4. EVERYONE will be in the rotation somehow next year. Book that. They’re all that good.

  5. i don’t see dominique hawkins jumping polson in the rotation next year if he comes, just don’t see it … i really don’t understand why people are expecting anything out of him at all … i’d rather try to get purvis who can’t even play next year, but could go in 2014 (which would probably be the first time hawkins would see the court anyway)

    i don’t understand why we can’t just get a guy ranked in the 50-150 range to be our backup pg, hawkins is not even close to that

  6. Hawkins Is way underrated. He is already a far better player than Polson, and do you really want to take another guy from NCState who averaged 8 ppg? Didn’t work out so well with Harrow. Hawkins would likely play more next season than you think, this team is good enough to get game margins in the 20 point range consistantly, meaning alot more pt for the bench guys.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.