Coach Calipari Holds First Practice Thursday Night

Memphis coach John Calipari yells at officials during the first half of a men's NCAA college basketball tournament regional semifinal against Missouri in Glendale, Ariz., Thursday, March 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

From UK Athletics Blog: Cat Scratches

Not even 36 hours after John Calipari was hired to become the 22nd head coach in program history, Calipari held his first practice Thursday night at the Joe Craft Center. Cat Scratches had an exclusive look at Kentucky's first practice under Calipari. Here are some observations from the Wildcats' first workout:

Practice started at 8:30 p.m. and lasted about an hour and a half. Per NCAA regulations, teams are allowed two hours of drill instruction per week until April 15.
The entire 2008-09 roster was there, including senior Jared Carter.
The practice was extremely instructional. Calipari's demeanor was pretty intense, but he doesn't teach by yelling, calling out players, stomping his feet or any of that. He was very hands on and very talkative. Calipari would stop drills if he didn't see what he liked, but he also didn't hesitate to stop practice and single out a player if he was doing something right.
Dribble, dribble, dribble. Calipari mentioned his love and philosophy for the Dribble Drive Motion Offense in his introductory news conference, and he wasted no time implementing it in his first practice. The first hour was dedicated solely to dribbling and driving the ball to the bucket. Calipari started the players off with different dribble-drive layup drills, and then increased the number of defenders as practice wore on until they finished with a three-on-two drill.
Of course, the main component of the Dribble Drive Motion Offense is dribbling. The only negative I drew from the practice was the Wildcats' sloppiness in handling the ball. I heard Calipari say a couple of times that they were going to have to get much better handling the ball.
Calipari wants them to play extremely fast. He doesn't want any hesitation when they have the ball and he even stopped a few players a couple of times for slowing up. No matter who has it - Calipari said he's going to teach everybody, post players included, to drive it like they were guards - he wants them taking it straight to the basket as fast as they can for a layup or lob pass.
One of the biggest things I took out of practice was Calipari's message of simplicity. He said he's not running the And 1 team and wants to make the game as simple as possible for them.
Calipari likes the ball in the air. The only bounce he likes is when it comes to dribbling. He's not against bounce passes all together, but he doesn't like wrap-around passes or bounce passes underneath the basket because guards can come in and pick them off.
As much as the practice was about the dribble drive, it was also about layups. Calipari said the point of the offense was to get easy layups. Part of that, he said, is they have to make all of them. UK missed quite a few in practice, and Calipari said they'll eventually chart every single shot in practice, from layups to 3-pointers to half-court shots. He said if you can't make them in practice, you won't be able to make them in the game.
Just an observation, but I believe Darius Miller is going to flourish in Calipari's system. I thought he had a phenomenal first practice under Calipari, and the coach even praised him one time for his ability to drive the ball to the basket. Calipari told Miller he was going to "drive his brain out" playing for him.
Kyle Macy came by practice and watched the entire session. Calipari came over during and after practice to shake Macy's hand and talk with him for a few minutes.
And finally, practice was extremely upbeat. The guys were constantly clapping, very attentive and looked like they were just having a good time.

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