College basketball coaches across the country were able to begin practicing with their entire teams on Sunday.
The 2013-14 edition of the Wildcats got to work on the first day, according to UK coach John Calipari, who rushed back from a West Coast recruiting trip in order to be with his new squad.
“I am so excited that the 15th finally came,” the UK boss said in a video released on CoachCal.com. “… I got right off the plane, walked right in the gym, and said this is what I live for – being in this gym, coaching basketball, bringing a team together.”
Prior to Sunday, coaches were limited to individual instruction for groups of players no larger than four. They now get two hours per week to work with the entire team. On Sept. 27, NCAA rules permit 20 hours per week, the figure which stays in place during the season.
The initial workout reminded Calipari of how difficult it is to build a new team from scratch with the current climate of one-and-done players. Kentucky has reeled in yet another No. 1 recruiting class, headlined by five-star players like twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and power forward Julius Randle, but that means blending eight new personalities in with veterans like Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress.
“We have so far to go,” Calipari said. “It’s amazing. I know now why people say ‘How do you do this? How do you build a new team (every year)?’ The stuff I went over (Sunday) was the stuff you go over the first day – terminology, trying to make things simpler for them, trying to get them to understand what we’re going to develop.”
Calipari outlined some of his goals on the marker board for Day 1:
“To be the best version of us – to be the best version of you and us – develop a love of learning. Be curious. Continuous growth. You’ve got to keep improving skillsets. Compete on every possession and drill. Attack. More back to the dribble-drive (offense). Humbly succeed. Be humble, yet hungry. Grace in the face of adversity. Body language… the body language. That’s what we’re zeroed in on for each of these individual players.”
Calipari said one of the big obstacles with talented new comers during early practices is convincing them that it doesn’t matter what the play looks like.
“All we care about is making the plays that help us win basketball games,” he added.
The UK coach also noted that, with six players on the roster standing 6-feet-8 or taller, the Wildcats will invest a lot of practice time in throwing the lob pass.
“We knocked out the shot clock,” he joked of the first day’s attempts, “… but I was saying ‘Great, keep throwing them, because you know that’s what we throw. We throw lobs. This is a big team.”