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.
Plenty of other schools had their own version of Midnight
At Durham, N.C.: Duke unveiled its fourth and most recent
national championship banner during a ceremony as part of the
school’s ”Countdown to Craziness.” Talented freshman Kyrie Irving
soaked it in, calling the moment ”kind of motivating.”
At Indianapolis: Butler, which lost to Duke in the title game,
went under cover for their opening practice. Players and coaches
boarded a team bus in the afternoon and drove about 25 miles south
of Indianapolis to Franklin College. They moved into their
temporary housing and prepared for their first official workout
At Storrs, Conn.: Fans at ”First Night” were distracted
keeping tabs on what was going on in Indianapolis where coach Jim
Calhoun and other university officials met for 12 hours behind
closed doors with NCAA investigators, hoping to convince them that
the school has done enough to punish itself for recruiting
violations in the men’s basketball program. Associate head coach
George Blaney said it was more important for Calhoun to return in
time for the first real practice on Saturday.
At Morgantown, W.Va.: The Mountaineers, minus three players from
last season’s Final Four team, showed off their recruits and a
returning group of veterans in a scrimmage for fans. The
celebration was tempered somewhat by West Virginia’s announcement
that guard Casey Mitchell was suspended indefinitely for an
undisclosed violation of team rules. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged
3.7 points per game last season.
At Chapel Hill, N.C.: North Carolina wasted little time putting
its touted freshman class front and center in its annual ”Late
Night With Roy” event filled with skits and jokes to kick off a
new season. It was clear the Tar Heels were ready to turn the page
on last year’s miserable 17-loss season. There was practically no
mention of last season and only a brief montage of highlights from
last year shortly before the team’s 20-minute intrasquad
At College Park, Md.: The Terrapins informally launched a new
season at Maryland Madness, an annual extravaganza designed to
introduce the team to its fans. Six new players made their debut at
Comcast Center, but the focus was on coach Gary Williams, now in
his 22nd season at his alma mater. After the players were
introduced, Williams was depicted on the video board flying a
fighter jet. The focus then shifted to the court. Williams walked
through the tunnel of the arena amid smoke and the sound of
guitars. He was dressed as a pilot, wore sunglasses and carried a
At Manhattan, Kan.: The Wildcats officially launched their
season with things they have never had since the formation of the
Big 12. The crowd of about 7,000 at Bramlage Coliseum for ”Madness
in Manhattan” were looking at the preseason conference favorite
and cheering senior guard Jacob Pullen, the preseason pick in the
coaches’ poll for Big 12 player of the year.
At Stanford, Calif.: The Cardinal kicked off the 2010-11
campaign with a full practice in the Arrillaga Gymnasium because
the women’s volleyball match between No. 2 Stanford and No. 7
Washington took place in Maples Pavilion.
At New York: Steve Lavin, taking over St. John’s after seven
years as an analyst for ESPN, opened practice at Carnesecca Arena
by introducing former Purdue coach Gene Keady as his special
assistant/adviser. Lavin’s first job was as a graduate assistant
with the Boilermakers in 1980.