Top-ranked Kentucky opens doors on practice

Kentucky opened its practice on Wednesday, allowing students,

faculty, staff and a national television audience to watch the

top-ranked Wildcats’ workout and scrimmage.

”I want the students into it, I want the players alert and

focused through the week,” coach John Calipari said. ”Our

practices are pretty consistent in how we go about it, then it

turns into … `Why don’t we call ESPN?’ Then it was like, `I bet

it rates higher than games.’ It’s Kentucky. That’s the Kentucky

Effect.”

The Wildcats are trying to become the first team since 2003 to

finish the Southeastern Conference undefeated. Next up for Kentucky

(25-1, 11-0) is Mississippi (15-9, 5-5) on Saturday.

They also have games remaining at Mississippi State, home versus

Vanderbilt and Georgia and the regular-season finale at Florida on

March 4. The Wildcats’ rotation includes highly touted freshmen

Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle

Wiltjer to go with sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones and

senior Darius Miller.

”The way we’re playing, I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied. I’m

just not satisfied because I want to make sure we’re getting better

and I’m looking for areas where can we grow,” Calipari said. ”I

guess we could be more perfect, but the reality is I’m happy how

we’re playing, but I’m not satisfied. I want us to improve on

that.”

Calipari decided to open practice after what happened in the

days leading up to Kentucky’s only loss. The Wildcats beat North

Carolina by a point on Dec. 3, but fell at Indiana on Christian

Watford’s buzzer beating 3-pointer exactly one week later after he

gave the team two days off. He also downplayed that any team would

gain an advantage watching the practice on television.

”You say, `Well what if this doesn’t work?’ I know the other

doesn’t work, because I lived it,” Calipari said. ”The other

thing we did absolutely didn’t work after North Carolina. So I’m

trying something different. Maybe it won’t work, but we’ll see.

”We’re really not changing anything.”

The afternoon practice drew about 2,000 people to the 8,000-seat

Memorial Coliseum who received free tickets as students, faculty or

staff at the university. The Wildcats wanted to make it open to the

public, but parking around the campus while school was in session

proved to be too logistically complicated to solve on short

notice.

Calipari was also unsure if they’ll be able to do a similar

event in the future or if the NCAA will outlaw similar live,

televised practices.

”If it’s allowed. It may not be allowed” in the future, he

said. ”But I’m not worried about that. What I do is worry about my

program and my team and that’s it. We go from there.”

The practice included a question-and-answer session with

Calipari from fans, drills, a shooting contest that included

students and a scrimmage.

Calipari said his favorite part of taking the Kentucky job in

2009 has been walking into a sold-out Rupp Arena every time the

Wildcats play there, where he’s 48-0 since he’s taken over. He also

was asked humorous questions like who would win a beauty pageant

among his players and who he would rather coach – Kobe Bryant or

LeBron James.

Calipari took the high road on each, drawing the most laughs

when he said he’d love to coach Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin over

the other two superstars.