John Calipari

John Calipari: ‘We’re chasing perfection’


John Calipari missed out on the best prospect that has come through the high school ranks since he’s been at Kentucky, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Wildcats will enter this season as the No. 1 team in the country.

And it doesn’t change the fact that they are the favorite to win the national title, a fact that is backed up by Vegas. He still has the greatest recruiting class of the modern era at his disposal, and enough high school all-americans on his roster that his second five is probably talented enough to be a top 25 team this season.

Most importantly, missing out on Wiggins isn’t changing Cal’s outlook on the season. He’s still expecting greatness.

“We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game,” Calipari said. “What I like about that, people say, ‘Pressure!’ Man, pressure brings out the best.”

“Now, I’m not sitting there saying, ‘If we los a game, it’s not a successful season.’ No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that? ‘Well, we want to talk moment to moment and we’re not putting that on the kids.’ Well, we are. Any pressure on these kids when they come here? It’s on us.”

I like that attitude. I don’t think that Kentucky is going to be able to go undefeated this season — not with the non-conference schedule that they’re playing — but there’s nothing wrong with striving for it. No one plans to lose games, and when you are the No. 1 team in the country, you should, theoretically, be the favorite in every game that you play.

The doubters will cite the disappointing performance that last year’s Kentucky team had, dropping to the NIT and losing to Robert Morris in the first round. But it’s important to remember that: a) Kentucky didn’t have a point guard that was good enough to lead them; b) the Wildcats lost their best player to an ACL injury in the middle of SEC play; and c) Kentucky didn’t have a leader last year.

As Cal put it, “The alpha males that we didn’t have a year ago, I think we have.”

I’ve said this over and over again: what made Kentucky so special in their run to the 2012 national title wasn’t the fact that they were overly talented, it was because their two best players — Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — were essentially complimentary pieces. They were glorified role players. Davis was a defensive force that dominated the paint on both ends. MKG was a junkyard dog, a defender and a rebounder that epitomized that ‘alpha male’ description.

Which players on Kentucky’s roster will embrace those roles this season?

If Cal can convince his guys to accept the fact that there won’t be any stars on next year’s team — that Julius Randle is needed to rebound, and Willie Cauley-Stein’s job will be to block shots and dunk, and that the Harrisons will need to be distributors and jumpshooters — than there is a chance that Cal’s goals of going undefeated could end up being realized.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

PHOTO: Baylor shows off new uniforms

Scott Drew
Associated Press
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Wednesday afternoon the Baylor basketball program sent out some images of its uniform combinations for the upcoming season, and the volt color way that first made a splash in 2012 is back. Baylor’s got four different uniforms it can wear this season: home (white), away (green) and two alternate uniforms.

While there is some volt green in each of the four uniforms, its presence is relatively tame compared to the uniforms Scott Drew’s program wore back in 2012. Of course those uniforms were part of adidas’ AdiZero uniform release (Baylor is now outfitted by Nike), with two other schools (Cincinnati and Louisville) wearing colorful uniforms with shorts that had “interesting” patterns on them.

While some of the new uniform designs in college sports have received some pushback from fans and alums, this stuff is about the players and recruits programs look to land for the future. Everyone likes free stuff, and when it comes to apparel for young athletes having something that’s both free and “exclusive” is seen as a positive.

Pressure is on new coach Steve Prohm at Iowa State

Steve Prohm
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AMES, Iowa (AP) Five months ago, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm was the coach at mid-major Murray State. Now he’s in charge of one of the big favorites in the Big 12.

Prohm officially began his first season in charge of the Cyclones on Tuesday with the team’s annual media day.

Iowa State has all the pieces to make a run at the league title and more – provided that Prohm can handle coaching college basketball at the highest level, of course.

In the minds of Prohm’s players, the Cyclones have nothing to worry about.

“Coach (Prohm) is in here earning our trust and our respect every day,” said senior forward Georges Niang. “Even though he’s not trying to cross any of our toes, he puts his foot down when he needs to and lets us know that stuff needs to get done. I think he has a great combination of how to keep us motivated…and still be stern and be able to get the most out of us.”

Fred Hoiberg’s departure for the Chicago Bulls after five mostly successful seasons gave Prohm a shot at a national title. The roster Hoiberg left behind for Prohm is loaded.

Niang, a likely preseason first-team All-American, second-team All-Big 12 point guard Monte Morris and league defensive player of the year Jameel McKay headline one of the nation’s most talented starting units. Throw in veterans like Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and transfer Deonte Burton, and Prohm might just have the best roster a new Power Five coach has inherited since Bill Guthridge took over for Dean Smith at North Carolina in 1997.

Guthridge reached the Final Four with his first team.

Prohm isn’t shying away from the notion that Iowa State is among the handful of teams with serious national title aspirations.

“Yeah, they’re realistic,” Prohm said when asked about the sky-high expectations for this year’s team. “I think we have the opportunity to have a very special season.”

The similarities between what type of styles Prohm and Hoiberg use was cited as a big reason why Iowa State hired him. Hoiberg even lobbied for Prohm to athletic director Jamie Pollard during the hiring process.

To that end, Prohm is going to let his players have a ton of input on how they play. Prohm doesn’t plan many changes, just tweaks that mostly involve techniques to improve Iowa State’s somewhat inconsistent rebounding and defense.

“I don’t need to say, `This is the way we’re doing things guys because this is the way I did it.’ That’s stupid,” Prohm said. “I need to meet these guys halfway.”

Prohm also acknowledged that he’ll be doing quite a bit of learning himself this season. But Prohm said he intends to embrace the unique opportunity he’s been afforded.

“This is a great situation to walk into. No question,” Prohm said. “Is there pressure? Yeah. But who wants a job with no pressure?”