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The best of SEC Media Day

With SEC Media Day now in the books, it’s time to take a look at what head coach John Calipari had to say about his team, the need for improvement and the rest of the league.

There’s a lot to get to, so without further ado, here are the thoughts of Coach Cal, Terrence Jones and more:

  • John Calipari on his team’s high preseason ranking: “They can rate us high all they want, but there are 40, 50 or 60 teams right now we could not beat. Maybe more. Maybe 100, because we’re just not ready to play a basketball game. We have no pace. We barely have an out-of-bounds play. If you pressed us, oh my gosh.  And don’t play a zone because we have no zone offense right now.”
  • Calipari again takes on the top 25 voters: “(The voters) did that on purpose (ranked UK high) to try and put pressure on us. I don’t know; I think they’re out of their minds.”
  • Calipari on helping his team improve: “I’m trying to keep them playing against each other right now to compete. The reason Darius Miller has improved so much is he’s going every day against Michael Gilchrist. And if you don’t show up for practice, you’ll get dunked on. And so will Michael. Michael’s not gone against a guy like Darius every day.”
  • More on improving: “Terrence is going against Anthony Davis every day, so if he does not get into his body to shoot a ball, the kid’s blocking it. If you don’t go above the rim to rebound the ball, you’re not getting the ball. Then you have Doron Lamb going against Marquis Teague every day. So you’re talking two physical players. Then you have Kyle Wiltjer going against Eloy (Vargas) every day. Now we have to start changing around. We’ve got to get ready for that top six or seven being on one side and the other guys on the other side. We’re just not there yet.”
  • Calipari on Eloy Vargas: “If he would have made three two-footers (in the Blue/White game) … and what he does is show the ball to the defender too much. I got a call the other day that said (Eloy) was in the basketball facility working on his game at 10:30 (p.m.). You have to understand, Terrence was the last guy in (to practice last year) and a step before him was Eloy. If Terrence didn’t finish last in running, it was Eloy. You start changing that part of you and changing that self-esteem. If I have to build that self-esteem, the minute I get on them it goes away. If they build their own (self-esteem) … Eloy made a play in practice and I blew the whistle and was like, ‘Who was that?’ Eloy said, ‘That was me.’ Now he’s building his own self-esteem.”
  • Calipari on Terrence Jones’ improved work ethic: “He’s in the best shape of his life. He’s in the best shape of anybody on the team. He’s the first one out to practice; last year he was the last one out at practice. If you try to play on his left hand now, he will take you right and try to dunk on you. He finishes first every run. He finished last on every run a year ago.”
  • Jones on this year’s UK team: “This is its own team. Last year’s team, we had a whole different role than we have this year. Last year, us being more of an underdog, we had to go out and prove what we had to do every game in the tournament. I think this year’s team will be one of  the top-dog teams and are expected to win and go there and get it (a championship). It’s going to be two different teams with two different situations, but we’ll have to go out there and get the wins the same way.”
  • Calipari on UK’s spacing and how it affects shot selection: “You shoot a lot of 3s, you space the court. The one advantage I have being in the NBA, college basketball’s always been about motion, movement, and the NBA is solely about spacing. So you learn that, and now when you watch my teams play we don’t play the wings; we play the deep corners. You want to get to the wings? We’ll get you to the wing, but we’re not starting there because we want good court spacing. So I think the more spacing you have, the more you try to get penetration or post-ups, the more opportunities you’re going to get for 3s.”
  • Calipari on Vanderbilt: “An NBA team went up and watched them, then watched us, and they said, ‘Cal, they’re really good.’ That’s what they said: ‘They’re really good.’ Well, what’s making them really good? (The NBA guys said), ‘They all do what they’re supposed to do. Right now, they could play games.’  And they looked at my team (and said), ‘You could not!’ They’re going to be really good.”
  • More of Calipari’s thoughts on Vanderbilt: “He’s (Kevin Stallings) got NBA-level players on that team and they’re seniors too. It’s unusual. Not only does he have good players, he’s a terrific coach and they’re veterans.”
  • Stallings on Kentucky’s team: “I don’t know anything about his (Cal’s) team. They’re all freshmen, or a lot of them are freshmen. I know Terrence Jones is good. All those guys coming back from his team a year ago are good. The other guys, I don’t know about them yet. I’ll know more about them when we have to start preparing for them.”
  • Calipari on SEC realignment, and going from two divisions to one: “The problem was if one of the divisions was down, the best team in that division got crushed (by a negative national perception). It doesn’t matter how good you are, they’re going to say, “Well, you didn’t play (enough good teams).’ So now that team is hurt, and it’s not fair. The other side is, in the half that’s so strong, a fourth- or fifth-place team that’s maybe an NCAA tournament team gets rocked because of its schedule. You go to one division, it’s not going to be perfectly balanced, but it comes back into check. If I remember, there was a time in this league when the West was way better than the East. Then it switches a little.”
  • Calipari on NCAA academic reform: “We’re doing all this academic reform and we had a 3.14 GPA last year.  Our APR (Academic Progress Report) was a 974, which is the highest in the SEC. If someone suffers academically in the APR, whose picture is in the paper? If they have a 893 (APR), whose picture is in the paper? My picture is in there. (UConn coach) Jim Calhoun’s picture is in there.”
  • Calipari on expansion: “We’re going to put a league together where you’re going from Boise to South Florida? That’s what we’re doing? Let me ask you, how is your golf team going to get there? They usually van it from Boise? Are they going to take a  month off? I just need to know. This is about academics. My point being, let’s not say this and then go and say we’re having a Texas team, a New England team and a Washington team and all be in the conference tournament. What?”
  • Calipari on putting the players’ best interest first:  “Here’s what I’ve said: If every decision we make is based on these young people, we’re fine. There won’t be a bad decision, but they don’t make them (decisions) because of (the kids). Why aren’t they (the players) sitting at the (negotiating) table. No disrespect for the Division III school that says, ‘I don’t want to have texting.’ ‘No one is texting you my man. What are you talking about?’ I’m talking about the athletics at his level needing a seat at the table. We’re representing these kids.”