Calipari’s Expectations Still High for Wildcat Basketball

by Dan Bodner
Columnist

Situated almost halfway through Southeastern Conference play, the University of Kentucky Wildcats find themselves struggling against lower-ranked opponents. Nevertheless, Kentucky is still right in the thick of a conference championship race.

Though winning its 47th regular-season conference championship is an intriguing prospect, it is clear that fans’ expectations are much higher. And while head coach John Calipari is typically reserved in his public approbation of the team, it seems that he, too, shares national title aspirations.

“I’m looking around; everybody’s getting beat,” said Calipari. “Everybody’s in a close game. So why not us? That’s what I keep saying. Why not us?”

It seems only logical then that Kentucky, who has beaten three of the country’s current top-25 teams, could conceivably make a run at the Final Four by the end of the season.

Yet, in order to do so, this year’s team will have to outperform its more highly publicized and talent-laden predecessor, which fell just short of the Final Four in a loss against West Virginia University.

Could this year’s team really surpass John Wall and company?

Coach Calipari believes that it already has — at least in some respects.

“This team is executing better than last year’s team,” he explained. “(Last year) we turned (the ball) over all over the place. We took bad shots. Then we’d still block a shot, get a steal and run down the court.”

Of course, this should come as no major surprise. The team is executing better because it has no other choice, due largely to its lack of depth.

“We just don’t have as many pieces,” said Calipari. “When a guy last year didn’t play well, what did I do? Eh, they don’t play as much this game. We’ll play this guy and we’ll play two seniors who started a year ago. This year, two guys play poorly? That’s it.”

If the Wildcats want to make some noise in March, each player will have to live up to his full potential. Calipari was not coy in detailing what his expectations are for each individual.

“My goal for (Terrence Jones) by the end of the year,” said Calipari, “is everybody saying, ‘There’s not a more well-rounded player. There’s not a better player who does more than Terrence.’ ”

Expectations are equally high for Brandon Knight.

“I want Brandon to be the best point guard in the country who scores,” Calipari said.

These high goals also extended to Darius Miller.

“I want Darius to be one of the best players in our league,” said Calipari. “He does everything well.”

As for Doron Lamb, Calipari explained that he wanted the freshman to be the person about whom everybody says, “Wow, he’s the best freshman scorer in the country.”

Finally, the Kentucky coach made it clear that none of these players were close to meeting these goals just yet. He also tempered these goals with a bit of realism when he explained that not all of these visions would necessarily have to come true in order for Kentucky to be successful.

What is essential, however, is that each player on Kentucky’s roster be willing to pay the price to achieve these goals.

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