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Coach Calipari likes Kentucky basketball's growth potential

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Coach Calipari likes Kentucky basketball's growth potential

Post  BestdamnUKfanperiod on Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:31 am

Coach Calipari likes Kentucky basketball's growth potential

Miller's recent spurt promising for Cats

By Brett Dawson • bdawson@courier-journal.com • January 24, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. — There are 11 games left in his basketball team's regular season, and University of Kentucky coach John Calipari figures that's plenty of time to improve.

On Monday, Calipari said his team has as much room for growth between now and March Madness as anyone.

“I really like my team,” Calipari said on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference.

“I think there's no team in America that has more upside than this team, based on the fact that individual players, I believe, aren't playing to the level I believe they're going to play in another month or so.”

There's no shortage of examples — or of reasons why the Cats (15-4, 3-2 SEC) haven't clicked the way Calipari thinks they can.

Freshmen Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb lack consistency. Juniors Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins and senior Josh Harrellson still are adapting to new, more prominent roles than they played in their first two seasons at UK.

“I can go up and down this team and tell you, this team's upside is enormous because individual players are playing 50, 60 percent of what they're capable of doing, and they're doing everything in spurts versus, ‘Let's keep it on people,'” Calipari said. “But they're learning and they're trying.”

Miller in particular has made strides in recent games.

Before Saturday's 67-58 win at South Carolina, Miller said he, Liggins and Harrellson met about providing more veteran production for the Cats.

Miller responded with a season-high 18 points, his fourth-straight double-digit scoring game.

In the past four games, Miller is averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. Before that stretch, he'd hadn't scored in double digits in back-to-back games in his UK career.

“When we've got (Miller) scoring the basketball, rebounding the basketball and playing hard, we become a tough team to beat,” Knight said last Saturday. “Then we've got more than two guys scoring; we've got a lot of guys scoring the basketball. And we've got more than two guys rebounding; we've got two or three guys crashing the boards every time.”

Calipari wants Miller to continue advancing, and he wants other players to make similar strides.

Jones can be too passive at times, Calipari said. Knight — a scorer in high school — still has ups and downs in running a team and knowing when to look for his own shot. Lamb, a sharp-shooting freshman, still lacks the consistent “motor” Calipari wants him to play with, and his intensity fluctuates in games.

Liggins is doing well defensively, Calipari said, but he could grab more rebounds than the 3.9 per game he's averaging and could be more of an offensive factor.

But even as Calipari asks his players to make individual improvements, the coach admits he's still seeking his team's collective identity.

Long known for his run-and-gun, dribble-drive motion offense, Calipari said last Saturday that this team might be best-suited to slow the game down a gear.

“We may be an execution team that has to grind it a little more than I would like,” Calipari said. “But if that's how we have to play, then that's how we'll play.”

Defensively, the full-court press “looks as though that's going to be something good for us,” Calipari said, and he might use some of UK's downtime this week — the Cats are off until they host Georgia on Saturday — to work more on it.

But Calipari is mostly focused on individual improvement. If he can get his players closer to 100 percent effectiveness, he figures team improvement will follow.

“I told them before our last game that I really believe in them, to a point that I probably believe in some players more than they believe in themselves,” Calipari said. “At some point, you've go to trust yourself and you've got to work and put yourself in a position where you can be special, and don't be afraid of that.”
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