UK establishing more toughness



UK’s practices left their mark on the players.

“We got a little scratches here and there, a few bruises,” freshman Jarrod Polson said. “But that’s definitely a good thing for us.”

UK head coach John Calipari had promised to make practices tougher following what he perceived as a lackluster performance in the Cats’ first exhibition match against Pikeville. The practices were comprised of competitive drills, with a winner and a loser in each.

“If you weren’t tough and you weren’t competitive, you were going to be on the line running,” Polson said.

The scratches and bruises stood in contrast to what Calipari said the players received during the game – glitter from the cheerleaders on the sidelines.

“Instead of blocking out, you just stood there, he throws you into the cheerleaders, you slide along the floor and – boom – into her, and there’s sprinkles on your face,” Calipari said. “That happened about three times. We had towels over there wiping sprinkles off faces.”

Calipari used film to show the players what he deemed “soft” plays.

“Stuff like not getting a rebound he thought we should have gotten or plays on defense where we stopped playing,” freshman Stacey Poole said.

Calipari’s displeasure with the exhibition game led more intense coaching on the sidelines during practice. He said the players were “shellshocked” after seeing how hard he coached.

“Within 15 seconds into the game, it’s on,” Calipari said. “They were like, ‘he coaches this hard?’ That shocked them.”

Calipari said he is going to have to “manufacture” a culture of toughness, which he didn’t have to do last year.

“If they are who I think they are, they have fight in them,” Calipari said. “You just have to bring it out of them.”

But if UK can’t find the toughness, a question lingers.

“If NAIA schools can push us around, then how are we going to survive in the SEC?” Polson said.