John Calipari sat down for an interview this weekend with ESPN college basketball reporter Andy Katz in a segment called 'Katz' Corner. Here is what Kentucky's coach had to say on a variety of topics, including an update on heralded recruit Nerlens Noel's status.
Kyle Wiltjer will get a chance to win a second national championship ring this season
On his reflections of the 2012 NCAA national championship:
John Calipari: “It puts a smile on my face. We had an unbelievable group of young men that decided they would share the sacrifice, play for one another, be their brother's keeper. When the No. 1 pick in the draft takes the fifth-most shots on your team and the No. 2 pick in the draft takes the fourth-most shots on your team you know you have something special. They were efficient offensively. They defended. We led the nation in five different categories as a team. We were talented but we were also the best team.”
On how difficult it was to put that team together in a short span, especially the growth Anthony Davis showed throughout the season:
Calipari: “You know it's funny, (Davis') junior year his high school team won six games. His senior year they really notched it up a little bit and won seven games. That's when he was 6-10. He really didn't have a post game. What happened was he was able to be himself and was able to grow at his own pace because we had these other guys. Guys like Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones sacrificed and stepped back and gave time to Marquis Teague to grow. Then a kid like Darius Miller steps back and becomes a sixth man after starting for two years? It's his senior year. Then you have a Kyle Wiltjer who could have gone anywhere in the country and played 30 minutes a game and he's with us playing 15 or 16 minutes a game and fine with it. It was all about the group understanding when the tide rises all the boats rise and they all got drafted.”
On the upcoming 2012-13 season:
Calipari: “I've got an all new team again. I have Ryan Harrow, a veteran point guard for the first time in a long time and he's a very good player. He's really playing well. And we've got Julius Mays coming in as a senior who's going to play for us. We're going to be young, but we're going to be young every year. We're going to start three, maybe four freshmen again this year. But we don't have excuses. This is who we are. This is how young we are. You think anybody is feeling sorry for us that we lost everybody? It's like, 'This is our time to beat Kentucky.' But I'm telling you, I'm going to have a good team again. Now, will they be as good a team as we just had? I don't know. We weren't very good early in the year last year if you remember and then by the end of the year we were like really, really good. This year's team will have to do the same.”
On Nerlens Noel's academic and college enrollment status:
Calipari: “He's good. He's got to finish a class, I think, by this weekend, the two classes he has to have finished will be done so all of his academic requirements will be done. Obviously he could not come in the summer so he misses all of those workouts but I think he'll be fine.”
On comparisons between Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel:
Calipari: “He's going to block shots and he blocks them with both hands. Anthony told me, 'Coach, you know I can only block them with one hand.' I'm watching (Noel) and he's blocking them with both hands. But it's not fair to have any player compared to another player. Just be you and be a better version of you. That's what I tell every kid I recruit. The good news with us, when you're playing with us is you know you're going to have a team full of talented guys. You're not going to get double-teamed. They can't. We'll throw it to another good player. You can go at your own pace. You don't have to have the most shots to be the No. 1 or 2 pick. It's not on you, it's on (the coaches). That's why guys don't feel the crush.
“Let me say this, the guy no one is talking about – and I didn't even know, I said when I recruited him, 'Willie, you don't even know how good you can be.' Now I'm watching him and Willie Cauley is really good. Obviously, Alex (Poythress) and Archie (Goodwin) are very good but (in Cauley-Stein) you're looking at maybe needing to play a 6-11 guy and 7-footer together because Willie is all of 7-feet. He is 7-feet, maybe 7-1. They may need to play together.”
On his recent track record of success with one-and-done players:
Calipari: ”When you're looking at that (history) obviously if you want to be the No. 1 pick you probably should come and play for me.”