Cats held commitment meeting, then hit boxing bags to unite


UK’s Josh Harrellson pulls up a shot during the first half of the University of Kentucky’s basketball game against Boston at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on 11/30/10. UK led the game at half 40-33. Photo by Mike Weaver

UK head coach John Calipari has been trying to get his Cats committed to various aspects of the game.

Defense. Rebounding. Effort. Leadership.

But heading into UK’s game against Tennessee, Calipari made it hyperpersonal. In a meeting, every player had to say what they were committed to. Giving a voice to the ideas gave the idea of commitment a different aspect. Now it was out in the open.

Josh Harrellson’s pledge was to get back to doing the little things that got him the accolades he had earned earlier in the year. He said a self-inflated ego was a possibility after his success.

“For two weeks, he was BS-ing,” Calipari said. “He was. There’s one person you cannot fool – yourself. You’re not fooling yourself. You can fool everybody else.”

And another team activity: boxing. Calipari said he brought out the “heavy bag” and was teaching the team how to jab. He accompanied these words with actual air jabs at the postgame podium.

“We had to hit the bag and not each other,” Harrellson said. “We only got 10 players. We can’t knock one of them out.”

Harrellson poked fun at the team recounting it. He said Calipari told Jon Hood to hit the bag harder, then adopted a girly voice to imitate Hood saying “I can’t.” Harrellson said Doron Lamb was hiding in his locker scared.

Terrence Jones wasn’t having any of it.

“I’ll take a punch from anybody,” Jones said. “No, I don’t know. Stacey (Poole) was hitting the bag real good.”

Harrellson said the team went over to Calipari’s house and watched the Super Bowl together. The team activities are part of Calipari trying to create a closer team.

“I put on the board, refuse to lose, man,” Calipari said. “It’s that time of the year. Refuse to lose. Figure out a way.”

It was a familiar phrase last year – and one UK often lived up to – but it hasn’t manifested itself just yet. Calipari was quite literally lost for words trying to describe UK’s play, resorting to head shakes and sound effects.

“You owe it to each other to come and look at yourself and say, I’m going to try to be my best,” Calipari said.

Harrellson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins have often been urged to be the three consistent performers for UK. Against Tennessee, they were. Liggins had 19 points, and although Miller missed some shots, Calipari complimented him on his aggressive rebounding. Their play allowed UK to keep rolling even when Brandon Knight sat out the last 10 minutes of the first half and Terrence Jones got off to a bad start in the second half.

­“How about this?” Calipari said. “We made a run with Brandon sitting on the bench. We also made a run when I took Terrence (Jones) out early in the second half.”