Cal says SEC will be much better this year

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

By Larry Vaught

Contributing writer

Kentucky coach John Calipari made a rare August appearance on ESPN SportsCenter to promote his team to a national audience and left no doubt that he believes the Cats could be special this season.

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“My best teams have been young players, talented, with veterans who were also talented. And you mix them together. We have that this year,” the UK coach said. “We got good young players, good young guards, two seven-footers — they’ll tell you they’re 7-2. So we’ve got some size.

“I’m liking what I’m seeing. And more importantly, they’re really getting along together. So you’ve got a young group, but they’re really excited and it should be fun.”

Kentucky has won just one NCAA Tournament game in the last three years and not been to the Final Four since 2015. Big Blue Nation expects a Final Four run but Calipari warned even with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class it is not easy to do that.

“Our league is way better, so we’re gonna be prepared to go into March. You’ve got to be healthy. And again, the talent where you have a couple guys that can just take over a game, where you have great rim protection, those have been my Final Four teams,” Calipari said.

“So I’m looking at this group and our whole thing is, ‘Let’s just get better every day. We showed this summer what we can do. Now let’s get stronger, let’s get more consistent shooting the ball, skill-wise.’

“Young players are not sturdy enough to be really consistent. That’s why it’s really important, the summer and when they return to campus in the fall. This is a good group in that way. I mean, they love being in the gym. I go into my office, and I look out there, four guys are in there playing. And they play a lot of pickup, which is really important too.”