UK head coach John Calipari stood at half court of the Joe Craft Center practice floor, wearing his new, white long-sleeve UK shirt and blue warm-up pants. He looked right at DeAndre Liggins, a rising sophomore, and told him what could be.
If Liggins does one thing: Play the way Calipari wants him to.
â€œIf you play the way I ask you, they wonâ€™t even recognize you,â€ Calipari told Liggins during Wednesdayâ€™s practice.
Calipari has been part of Big Blue Nation for a mere week and a half, but that has not stopped him from implementing his famed dribble drive motion offense. As 20 local media members sat in the upper level of the Joe Craft Center, Calipari gave a first-hand look of what could be expected.
Gone with former head coach Billy Gillispie is the high-low offense. Welcome a fast-paced, fun to watch, layup-oriented offense.
During the 45-minute practice, Calipari preached the importance of getting to the rim, attacking your defender and not allowing the excuse of being fouled enter his teams mind. The Cats, rising senior Jodie Meeks included, started Wednesdayâ€™s practice with layups while getting hit with handheld pads.
â€œWe have to play through bumps,â€ Calipari yelled to his team. â€œIf you donâ€™t, itâ€™s going to be hard for me to play you.â€
Another thing that will keep players on Calipariâ€™s bench is the inability to beat a player off the dribble. The famed dribble drive offense is just that â€” beating your defender to either get a layup or set up your teammates.
However, Calipariâ€™s demands donâ€™t stop there â€” he doesnâ€™t want to see any blocked shots on his team. During a drill that saw six consecutive blocked shots, Calipari firmly blew his whistle to address his team.
His cure for the shot-blocking problem: put the ball high on the backboard when shooting layups. Calipari told UK by doing this, not only will the shot not get blocked but, if the shot is missed, it allows for an easy put-back for UK.
â€œWeâ€™re going to try and take 50 layups a game,â€ Calipari said. â€œI donâ€™t want any shots blocked. Shoot the ball above the square if you have to.â€
One of the players that impressed Calipari was rising sophomore Darius Miller, who consecutively made high-floating runners in the lane during a drill, that challenged the players to go two-on-two.
What did not impress Calipari about Miller is his short steps and fooling around with the ball â€” something he pointed out to both Miller and Liggins during practice. Calipari wants to see his team take long strides and attack their defenders without many dribbles.
â€œWeâ€™re just trying to win,â€ Calipari said to his team. â€œWeâ€™re not trying to do pretty stuff, just win.â€
Michael Porter has decided not to remain with the team for next season, UK Athletics announced. Porter, a junior, started all 36 games for the Cats this past season, averaging 4.1 points, while hitting 32 3-pointers. Porter played in 90 career-games for UK.
â€œThis has been a decision weighing on my shoulders for a while,â€ Porter said in a UK Athletics news release Wednesday. â€œBeing married, and now with my little girl on the way, my priorities have simply changed. I love basketball and will miss it a lot, but I think itâ€™s the best thing for me and my family at this stage of my life. This wasnâ€™t an easy decision to come to, but with a lot of thought and prayer, I have come to peace and am looking forward to the next phase of my life.â€
Porter is expected to graduate in May with a business degree.
According to Scout.com writer Evan Daniels, Cousins has committed to UK for next season.
Cousins is a 6-foot-9 forward from Mobile, Ala. He originally committed to Memphis, but when Calipari accepted the UK job, Cousins reopened his recruitment.
Cousins called Calipari on Tuesday and informed the newly hired coach of his decision.
â€œI just committed (Tuesday night),â€ Cousins told Scout.com. â€œIâ€™m going to UK.â€
Cousins is ranked as the No. 6 recruit of 2009 in Scout.comâ€™s rankings. Rivals.com lists Cousins as the No. 2 player in the country. According to Rivals.com, Cousins has the ability to both â€œdominate the interiorâ€ and â€œoperate on the perimeter.â€
Cousinsâ€™ decision to play for UK came on the same night as Michael Porterâ€™s