Calipari urges Kentucky fans to “turn the page”
Kentucky coach John Calipari raised his hand, calling for
silence from the 22,000 who packed Rupp Arena on Friday night for
Big Blue Madness.
He gave a brief rundown of his dizzying first season with the
Wildcats, when Kentucky won 35 games, the Southeastern Conference
championship and produced five first-round NBA draft picks.
Then, pausing as if to stress the point, Calipari delivered a
”It’s time to turn the page,” he said. ”We must focus on this
Even if most of the focus during the team’s first practice of
the season – which was equal parts pep rally and sloppy scrimmage –
centered on who wasn’t on the court.
While fellow freshmen Brandon Knight, Stacey Poole, Terrence
Jones, Doron Lamb and Jarrod Polson ran up and down the court,
center Enes Kanter could only stand on the sideline.
The 6-foot-11 Kanter must sit out team activities while the NCAA
determines whether he lost his amateur status while playing for a
Turkish club team in 2008-09.
Kanter walked through pillars of smoke clad in a black hat
similar to the one sported by professional wrestler ”The
Undertaker,” one of Kanter’s role models.
He held his hands above his head as the crowd – some of whom
wore ”Free Enes” T-shirts – roared. Then, he walked to the
sidelines and watched as the newest batch of Wildcats went to
Calipari has stressed it’s not fair to compare this year’s
recruiting class to the one he landed a year ago after leaving
Memphis for Kentucky.
That class featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe
and Daniel Orton, all of whom are now playing in the NBA.
Calipari said comparing any other class to last year’s isn’t
fair because ”you’ll come out on the short end.”
Maybe, but the departed stars paid homage via video message to
the campus. Wall even busted out his signature dance move, the one
that became a local YouTube sensation after he debuted it during
last year’s event.
Several Wildcats tried to follow in his footsteps, with mixed
results. Jones, Poole, Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson all busted
a move during their introduction.
All lacked the showmanship of Wall, but that might not be a bad
A year ago, Calipari turned his initial Big Blue Madness into a
rock concert complete with an appearance by rising hip-hop star
There were no celebrity guest appearances this time, maybe
because Calipari knows he’s got his work cut out. The Wildcats must
replace their top four scorers and live up to the expectations of
one of the nation’s most exacting fan bases.
Calipari knows those expectations come with the territory. But
he pleaded for patience as the Wildcats try to find themselves.
”I love this team, but we have a long way to go and I cannot
wait to get started tomorrow to help these young men realize their
dreams,” he said.