Men’s basketball preseason report

John Calipari waits for the team to huddle during the first half of men’s basketball vs Transylvania at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, November 1, 2013. Photo by Eleanor Hasken

By Josh Ellis

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The wait is almost over, Big Blue Nation. Only 21 days separate the world of UK basketball from coming back to life on Nov. 2, when the team will open its first exhibition game against Ottawa. Here is a preseason report on what the Cats have been up to in preparation for the season.

Sunday Practice

UK held a nationally televised practice for the second consecutive season Sunday night, providing a glimpse of what fans will see this upcoming season. Sunday’s practice was televised live on ESPNU with Doris Burke, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg on the call.

The practice began with some conditioning, transitioned into agility and shooting drills and then ended with  3-on-3 and 5-on-5 scrimmages. All 30 NBA organizations attended Sunday’s practice.

Big Blue Madness

For the first time in Big Blue Madness history, the SEC Network will air the extravaganza live and in its entirety on national TV. The two-hour broadcast – with Dave O’Brien, Sean Farnham and Kara Lawson on the call – will feature both the men’s and women’s team introductions, drills and scrimmages. The event sold out within the first 25 minutes of availability, UK announced.

Big Blue Madness will be held at Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. Friday. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

Hawkins, Willis Injuries

The Cats are already facing adversity before the season has even begun. Juniors Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis have both suffered injuries just weeks prior to Big Blue Madness.

Hawkins is expected to miss about four weeks with a broken bone in his right hand, forcing him to sit out both Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White game. “He was so much more confident, so much more skilled. There was no doubt he was in the rotation, and now he’s just got to get back and stay in shape,” head coach John Calipari said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back in November.”

Willis will miss two weeks after being sidelined by a finger injury on his left hand. UK announced the injury occurred during Saturday’s practice, but Willis should be expected to return in time for the Blue-White game. “It’s nothing serious and he will be back in a couple weeks, but I’m disappointed for him because he had been doing so well,” Calipari said. “He deserved to show his stuff (Sunday). He’s made great strides and will bounce back from this.”

Skal yet to be cleared by NCAA

Skal Labissiere, UK freshman and 2016 projected first-pick of the NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared by the NCAA as eligible. The news was first broke last week by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello. Labissiere’s guardian, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed that Labissiere hasn’t been cleared to play, but would not comment further on the situation.

UK spokesman Eric Lindsey said UK doesn’t confirm a student-athlete’s eligibility until the first game of the season.

Blue-White Game

The SEC Network will televise UK’s Blue-White scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27. Tickets for the event went on sale Sept. 29, and have not yet sold out. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster online or by phone (800-745-3000). Fans can also call the Rupp Arena Box Office (859-233-3535) to order tickets. Upper level tickets cost $5 and lower level tickets cost $10.

This will be the final chance Big Blue Nation has to see its team compete before exhibition play begins just four days later.