Kentucky Basketball: Toughness still on learning curve for Wildcats

In News, SEC by Ken Cross

By Ken Cross

John Calipari was at his best last night after the Kentucky Wildcats slipped Texas A&M, 74-73, in Rupp Arena.  Calipari is still totally concerned about this Kentucky team developing a tough mentality and then being able to carry that game to game.

He was alluding to missed free throws in the clutch by and then the Wildcats missing a switch which gave the Aggies’ D.J. Hogg an open three which would have given Texas A&M a one-point lead.

“We got closer,” said Calipari, “But still that’s going to be a work in progress. Until we get really good at that, we’re going to be who we are. Every team that plays us is going to have a chance.”

Calipari defines the role of toughness within his vision of the team concept.  He says the Wildcats must develop until they put foes away.  As they are 3-1 in SEC play, Georgia, LSU, and Texas A&M all had chances to beat Kentucky.

“Toughness doesn’t mean roughness,” said Calipari, “Toughness means that you’re engaged, that you’re playing people before they catch the ball, that you’re meeting people before the ball hits the rim when you rebound, that you’re sprinting the floor every time and bouncing, and you’re talking.”

Calipari never misses a chance to needle the media who cover Kentucky, so he asked them who is the toughest player on the team.  Long time Kentucky beat writer Larry Vaught immediately named Washington.

“Larry has been around a hundred years,” said Calipari of his illustration of toughness as it applies to the media, “The rest of you were so quiet because you don’t know s–t. Excuse me and instead of saying the wrong name, you stay silent. Larry had the courage to step up and say P.J.”

Point made. Coach Cal wins again.

Even though Washington missed late free throws, he is still providing the Wildcats the most solid play across the boards in what is generally an eight-man rotation right now.

“Where they are now, you have to admit, P.J. is not even the same player he was a month and a half ago,” said Calipari Would you say? He’s not even the same player. You look at Wenyen (Gabriel) getting better. Looking at Shai, no one knew. Nick (Richards) has taken a little step back. It’s all based on toughness, staying engaged.”