Cal wants Cats to become a ‘machine’

Published 10:16 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Kentucky coach John Calipari knows what he’s getting each time his team takes the court, whether it’s at home or away.

“We’ve established that we’re one of the better teams,” Calipari said Friday ahead of Saturday’s home game against Florida. “It’s established now. Now let’s see if we can improve on it. Let’s see if we’re playing against ourselves. Let’s practice and prepare in a way that we’re not satisfied, we stay hungry, yet, we’re humble.”

That in itself presents a challenge for Calipari, who traditionally scales back practice time the closer the Wildcats get to the postseason. He also is considering expanding his team’s workouts in an effort to give backups Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins, and Lance Ware an opportunity to be prepared for the madness that ensues in March.

“Is that smart this time of the year?” he asked. “Normally, I don’t do it, I’m going to talk to the team about it. … I just don’t like going body to body and every game we play is a war. Every game is a rock fight and so you’re getting into rock fights a practice or two. Is that enough to keep us climbing? … We still have 23 days. Can we tune things up and go? Can you do it without scrimmaging? That’s the challenge I have.”

Calipari also doesn’t enjoy lengthy film sessions this time of the year.

“We’re not having two-hour film sessions. Not doing it,” he said. “I don’t want to do it. … We’re just trying to get sharper, more consistent, and more disciplined, and most of that is mental.”

What he does know, however, is he has a team that features plenty of depth and one that is sure of itself, largely because of the veteran leadership.

“We all play to our strengths,” Kentucky guard Davion Mintz said. “It could be anybody’s night, and that’s why you come in and you have a deep roster like this, but everyone knows their role and meshed together. We’re really just now tapping into ourselves, especially being able to play big games on the road and being able to play big games at home.”

Kellan Grady agreed and added the fifth-ranked Wildcats (20-4, 9-2) have a “very complete team” stocked with unselfish players who have been through the gauntlet of a grueling schedule.

“Everyone is aware of their roles and they’re so focused every game,” he said. “I think that we’ve done an exceptional job of that.”

While Calipari and his players know their identity, they also understand teams such as Florida cannot be overlooked.

“They won their last four games,” he said. “They’re coming in here expecting to win.”

The team’s future schedule includes LSU, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

“For the entire season I do not make one game bigger than the other,” Calipari said. “There are no Knute Rockne talks prior to the game. It’s about everything being a day-to-day improvement. Stay in the moment. Let’s become a machine.”

Gametracker: Florida at Kentucky, 4 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytodaycom and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.