Brandon Knight

Kentucky’s ‘Camp Cal’ could turn the season around

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John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats lost two straight, one at home snapping a 55-game home winning streak and marking the first time Calipari has lost inside Rupp Arena while on the UK sideline and if that wasn’t enough, Kentucky went from being No. 8 in the nation to be unranked…in a week.

Safe to say Coach Cal is not happy and so the emergence of ‘Camp Cal’ has occurred.

For the past two days, the Kentucky roster has gotten up at 7 a.m. for workouts, followed by an afternoon practice. This will continue until Calipari is satisfied with his team, that started entered the season ranked No. 3.

Camp Cal started after Calipari was unhappy with his team’s efforts in an 88-56 win over Samford, a game in which the Wildcats only outscored the Bulldogs by one in the second half. Calipari certainly wasn’t happy with Saturday’s loss to Baylor.

This lack of effort, especially in Tuesday’s second half against Samford, sparked Coach Cal to use a “forced breakfast club” to get players to begin their days together with training. Classes have already ended at UK, meaning more time has opened up for extra workouts. However this could all be over soon – or extended through Christmas break – depending on the Wildcats performance against 3-5 Portland on Saturday

“We’ve got a good group of guys, we really do,” said Calipari. “They just don’t know how hard you’ve got to work or what kind of investment you have to make in this sport. I’ve always had a couple of guys on the team that could drag others. We’re still trying to find that mix.”

One of the main issues with the team thus far is the uncertainty at the point guard position. Junior point guard Jarrod Polson was great for the season-opener against Maryland in Brooklyn. But in a John Calipari team, the point guard has always been critical, whether it be Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, or Marquise Teague. That floor general was suppose to be Ryan Harrow, who has been unable to find a role after battling illness and dealing with a family matter the first few weeks of the season.

Since then, Archie Goodwin, making the transition from the two guard has filled into that role.

“I worked out like three times on Thursday,” said Harrow. “I was just trying to get a workout in and I’ll work out tonight. … We want to be in shape. We need something.”

At 5-3, this isn’t where Kentucky was expecting to be, but Camp Cal – whether it ends on Saturday or continues through the holiday season – this could make or break the Wildcat’s season.

“It may be a month and half before you really see,” said Calipari. “It won’t change overnight.”

Kentucky has three games remaining on this current home stand – Portland, Lipscomb, and Marshall – before a Dec. 29 road game against rival, Louisville.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Abdul Gaddy is the key to Washington’s season

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy had made a career out of being a pretty good point guard for the Washington Huskies.

He came of the bench as a freshman, spelling Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas. He moved into a starting role as a sophomore, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 assists before tearing his ACL that January, and followed that up with averages of 8.1 points and 5.2 assists as a junior. Throw in two NCAA tournament trips in those three seasons, and Gaddy has had himself a decent collegiate tenure.

The problem with Gaddy having a ‘decent collegiate tenure’ is that he was supposed to be oh so much more.

A McDonald’s All-American back in 2009, Gaddy was the No. 2 point guard in the class, sitting squarely behind John Wall. By comparison, the No. 2 ranked point guard in the Class of 2008, according to ESPN, was Kemba Walker. In 2010, it was Brandon Knight. In 2011, it was Myck Kabongo. Impressive company.

This season is Gaddy’s final chance to prove that he is capable of living up to those lofty expectations, and it happens to coincide with a year where Washington desperately needs to him to be a star.

Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar may have lost Terrence Ross after last season, but there are still plenty of pieces at his disposal, particularly on the wing. Scott Suggs and CJ Wilcox are both big, athletic wings capable of putting up 20 points on any given night, while sixth-man Andrew Andrews looks like he has the chance to be really good down the road. Aziz N’Diaye anchors the front court, and while he isn’t much more than a shot-blocker and a rebounder, Desmond Simmons has had a solid start to the year, averaging 9.0 points and 7.0 boards through three games.

But it all comes back to Gaddy, the tie that binds.

And never was that more clear than on Saturday night, as Washington knocked off Seton Hall 84-73 in overtime in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

In the first half, the Huskies looked utterly dominant. They shot 61.3% from the floor, they scored 49 points and they went into the break with a 16 point lead. And Gaddy? He was sensational, finishing with 14 points, five assists and just a single turnover while shooting 6-8 from the floor. He hit a three. He drove the lane and finished at the rim. He penetrated, drew defenders, and found the open man. He showed off a decent mid-range game.

“He played as good a first half as any guard around, I thought,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. “When he plays that way he makes our team play at a high, high level.”

And when he doesn’t?

“If no one else steps up, we’re just not that good. We don’t have much ‘superstar’ on our team, so if a couple guys aren’t performing at a high level, there’s not a lot of margin for error.”

That was evident in the second half.

As good as Gaddy was for the first 20 minutes, he was that bad in the second 20. Well, maybe bad is the wrong term; nonexistent is probably more accurate. He took just three shots from the floor. He didn’t score a single point or notch a single assist. He turned the ball over twice, but that’s not really an outlandish number.

Perhaps the biggest sign of Gaddy’s struggles were Washington’s struggles, as they blew that entire 16 point halftime lead. Seton Hall made went on a 31-9 run, eventually taking a 66-60 lead, as the Huskies struggled to get open looks and, at times, to simply get the ball across half court.

And that’s where Gaddy’s importance lies.

It’s not simply the points or the assists; it’s initiating the offense and getting the ball to the right people in the right spots at the right time. It’s facilitation more than simple production. And when he’s doing that effectively, the points and the assists are going to be a by-product.

The Huskies need him to be a leader, to be able to reliable on his consistent production.

It’s the difference between being a tournament team and a team that blows 16 point leads to Big East also-rans.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Are top 75 prospects Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell a package deal?

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Jared Terrell and Abdul-Malik Abu are not only teammates on Boston’s Expressions AAU team, but both players currently ranked in the top 75 in the Class of 2014.

Both Terrell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, and Abu, a 6-foot-8 forward, have offers pouring in and, well, their lists seem a bit similar. Providence, Iowa State, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Rhode Island, Temple. There is a reason for that, it turns out: Terrell and Abu are, more or less, a package deal.

“If a better situation comes along, we might have to part ways,” Terrell told NBCSports.com. “But for now, it’s what we want to do.”

Providence (Ed Cooley, Andre LaFleur), Rhode Island (both Hurley brothers) and Pitt (Brandon Knight) all checked out the duo on Thursday at Hoop Group’s Summer Classic East, a day after programs like Virginia, Virginia Tech (James Johnson), Maryland (Mark Turgeon) and North Carolina (Hubert Davis) gave them a look.

“We don’t want to hold each other back, but I bet we end up together,” Abu, who picked up an offer from Michigan State, said. Terrell also has offers from Miami, St. John’s and UConn.

While it’s unclear — and will be for a while — where these two will end up going to college, one thing that is for certain is that both players are well-schooled on how to handle the summer’s media attention.

Both players said, independently, “my recruitment’s wide-open.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Are Kentucky players really overrated and underprepared?

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Kentucky has become the go-to program for players looking to get onto the fast-track to the NBA.

In 2010, John Calipari sent five players to the first round of the NBA Draft. Last year, Kentucky had four more players draft, two of which went in the top eight. This year, as many as six former Wildcats could find themselves getting picked in the first round of the draft.

But according to one NBA scout, Kentucky’s system hides the flaws of those players.

“The interesting thing, and its not a knock, but there is this Kentucky mystique that Calipari has done a great job creating and perpetuating.  The best part about Kentucky’s system is that can hide so many flaws at first glance,” the scout told Larry Vaught. “MKG is a good defensive player, but he isn’t as good as people believe.  Having Davis camped around the rim allowed players to play defense in a way which minimized their weaknesses. … The threat of the lob made Teague out to be a better point guard than he really is.”

That line of thinking really doesn’t make much sense to me.

For starters, the job of a head coach is to mask his player’s flaws. He is paid to find a way to utilize the strengths of the players on his time in unison, to whole team greater than the sum of its parts. If the threat of the lob makes Teague better, than it is in Calipari’s interest to make the lob a threat on every possession possible. If Davis’ presence around the rim makes his teammates better and more aggressive defensively, than Calipari better have Davis around the rim on every possession possible.

The other issue with that line of thinking is that the players that are being drafted out of Kentucky are freshmen and sophomores. Were you, as a 19 year old, ready to be a professional anything, let alone a professional athlete? How many players drafted after their freshmen or sophomore seasons are finished products as basketball players?

But my arguments are moot once you take a look at the results.

Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall haven’t exactly struggled in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight aren’t on the same level, but they are quality back court players. DeMarcus Cousins averaged 18 points and 11 boards last season. Daniel Orton has been disappointing, but Josh Harrellson was a revelation as a rookie.

It would be easy to argue Kentucky players are overrated and underprepared if they weren’t so, you know, good.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Report: Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones to declare for NBA draft

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According to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague will all leave Kentucky for the NBA draft.

It was reported earlier Monday that Terrence Jones would be headed to the draft, but this report confirms what many had been thinking almost all season.

Jones is projected to be the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft after averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds for the national champion Wildcats.

Davis averaged 14.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks for Kentucky, on his way to winning National Rookie of the Year and National Player of the Year.

He is expected to be selected with the first overall pick in June’s draft. The Charlotte Bobcats are the team with the highest odds of winning the NBA draft lottery and grabbing the No. 1 pick.

Teague, after being under criticism for his play early in the season, grew into his own and was integral to the Wildcats’ success in March.

On the year, he averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. The Indiana native is projected by Draft Express to be selected with the No. 18 overall selection.

He would follow John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Knight as one-and-done point guards coming out of John Calipari-coached programs.

The Wildcats will be looking to replace Teague with NC State transfer Ryan Harrow next season.

And Kentucky may not be done losing players.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb are also expected by many to declare for the draft. Earlier in the season, though, when asked about leaving for the draft, Kidd-Gilchrist expressed a desire to graduate from Kentucky, playing all four years.

Perhaps his opinion has changed since then.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

How do other hauls compare to Kentucky’s recent classes?

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Some things never change.

Kentucky landed 2012’s top prospect in Nerlens Noel Wednesday night, a move that’ll almost certainly give the Wildcats the top-rated recruiting class in college basketball. Consider coach John Calipari four-for-four while in Lexington.

(He’s not done yet, either. Power forward Anthony Bennett, another 5-star player, is considering Kentucky, as are 5-star forwards Amile Jefferson and Devonta Pollard. Bennett is the best bet for the Wildcats, though.)

That’s a run unlike any other in college hoops history and gives the Wildcats four of the top recruiting classes the game’s seen since 2002.

Per Drew Cannon, who’s done work analyzing prospects for Scout.com and Basketball Prospectus, only North Carolina’s 2006 class and Duke’s 2002 class can compare to any of the last four groups Kentucky’s gathered. He places all of the ‘Cats classes ahead of 2007 Ohio State – the Greg Oden-led group that reached the title game – and ’06 Texas, which boasted Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, Damion James and Dexter Pittman (!).

Here’s his rundown of the top 16 classes since 2002, a combination of highly rated prospects and number of guys in said class:

That makes 2012 the closest hoarding of elite talent at a select group of schools since 2006. And those were some good groups in ’06.

All of the above classes include at least one 5-star guy, most have at least two or three. Some, like ’05 Kansas, feature four 5-star guys. And many were extremely successful. At least four (’11 Kentucky, ’06 UNC, ’05 Kansas, ’06 Duke) provided the backbone for national title teams.

The only question I have: Where will Kentucky’s 2013 class fall on this list?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.