In his first few days on the job, John Calipari has been conducting practices at the Craft Center. The workouts have two primary purposes: 1) to see which players can actually play and which would be better suited playing elsewhere and 2) to improve the image of the program with the fans, former players and boosters.
If Coach Cal is anything, he is demanding. He wants every one of his players to be the best they can possibly be, and if he feels they aren't doing what's necessary to reach that goal, he will do whatever is necessary to motivate them. Sometimes that motivation is a pat on the back. Other times it's a kick in the ass.
UK senior-to-be Perry Stevenson recently experienced the latter. During a practice drill, Calipari called out Stevenson for his lack of strength and told him that it would DEFINITELY change before next season.
That comment solicited some concealed laughter from some former UK players in attendance because it reminded them of Rick Pitino. Back in the 90's, such a statement usually meant some long, grueling hours in the weight room with Rock Oliver.
Hearing what Calipari said to Stevenson reminded me of what players such as Henry Thomas, Andre Riddick, Aminu Timberlake and Walter McCarty had to endure in an attempt to pack on the pounds.
The sight of those guys going to McDonald's in the morning and being forced to down 3 or 4 Egg McMuffins along with two orders of pancakes and a 2,000 calorie protein shake used to make me cringe. It would only get worse as the day wore on with their special servings of lunch and dinner at the training table. The day would not be complete without their nightcap of another 2,000 calorie protein shake. It was enough gluttony to make even Brad Pitt throw up.
And it's those memories that would make me feel a little sorry for Perry Stevenson if it weren't for the fact that he should have been in the weight room 3 years ago. Even if you have difficulty putting on weight, as Thomas, Riddick, Timberlake and McCarty did, you can always get stronger.
Much was made about Billy Gillispie alienating so many people around the UK program the last two years--something that was not lost on Kentucky's new coach. While holding these practices, Calipari has extended invites to watch the workouts to various people in the community. If you were fortunate enough to make it into one of these practices, you might see anyone from WKYT General Manager Wayne Martin and WDKY morning anchor Jennifer Nime to former UK Standout Kyle Macy and Claiborne Farm President Seth Hancock.
Calipari's attempt to repair fractured relationships seems to be working quite well, and Hancock is a perfect example. He is said to be so impressed with Calipari and the way he has handled himself in his first few days as UK's coach that Hancock wants to be involved with the program again after distancing himself the last couple of years. And that's great news to Calipari and Mitch Barnhart.
If Kentucky is to race back up the standings to the top of the college basketball world, it would certainly help to have a thoroughbred of a booster in your stable!