March 9, 2012

NBAPA's Billy Hunter addresses team before tournament

NEW ORLEANS -- With the end of the college basketball season less than a month away and questions about the NBA draft still hanging over many of John Calipari's players, the Kentucky head coach brought in an expert to talk to his team about their future - short and long term.

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA Players Association, spoke to the Wildcats in Lexington before they left for the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Wednesday.

"I brought him in just to (explain), it's hard man," Calipari said. "These kids, they moved up (NBA deadline) dates and did all kind of stuff, and I'm trying to take that off their plate, which is why I did what I did."

The NCAA moved its deadline for players entering the draft as underclassmen to April 10 this year, even though the NBA's deadline isn't until later in April. That leaves just eight days after the NCAA championship game for players to decide whether to enter the NBA draft or return to school for another year.

Hunter, who has led the NBAPA since 1996, spoke to the team about the importance of focusing on the task at hand before turning their attention to the NBA. As many as five UK underclassmen, including three freshmen, will likely have to decide whether to return to school for the 2012-13 season or leave for the NBA.

"You together collectively have a chance to do something special," Calipari said. "Worry about this. And no one other than yourself can help you with anything after this year. So you have to do it. So there's no reason to be talking, thinking - just do your thing. You help yourself and don't worry about anything else. There's time to worry."

White's clean slate

Calipari reiterated Thursday that he has no animosity for LSU's Malcolm White months after the forward committed a hard foul on UK's Anthony Davis during the Wildcats' 74-50 win over the Tigers in Baton Rouge on Jan. 28.

"Everything's good," Calipari said. "He should just go out and play basketball, and I think that's what he'll do. We're fine."

With 15 and a half minutes to go and Kentucky holding an 18-point lead, Davis stole the ball and tore down the court for a layup. White fouled Davis from behind as the freshman center went for a layup, bringing him to the floor.

Davis remained on the floor for about 30 seconds before standing up. White was called for a flagrant foul and was ejected.

After, he sent a letter to Davis apologizing, which Calipari accepted on his behalf. Calipari said he doesn't believe Davis holds any ill will against White either, though the two haven't spoken since the incident.

"That's the heat of the moment," Calipari said. "They're playing the No. 1 team in the country and we start beating them bad, and the kid gets frustrated; he grabs (Davis). I don't think he meant to hurt anybody, but I think he was like, 'OK, I'm going to foul this kid hard,' and he did. But it looked awful. I don't think the kid has any ill will toward us or Anthony or anything like that. It's just one of those things.

"It's the same thing with the kid at Vanderbilt. People play against us, they're reaching down, trying to grab whatever extra's in their body to try to beat us, and sometimes that stuff comes out."

Night in New Orleans

Thanks to Kentucky's first round bye, Calipari let the team out of the hotel on Wednesday night to explore the Crescent city.

The Wildcats held a short practice, went through a shoot around, watched film as a team and ate together before Calipari turned the players loose.

"I just said, 'Hey, some of you've got families here, so it's a good night to go hang out with your families,'" Calipari said.

It's a city Calipari is more than familiar with. He holds a 15-0 career record against Tulane and the Wildcats played their first two games of the 2010 NCAA tournament in New Orleans.

"This is a great place for this kind of venue," Calipari said. "I kind of know where I'm going, I know the hotel and know where I have to go and I've got my little spots I like to hang out in."

The team won't have any more nights like Wednesday, though.

"I want them to enjoy their families and all that stuff," he said. "But after the meal, it'll be all basketball. And then if we're lucky enough to win, it's another noon game and not a lot of time for anything else. So this will be the last couple hours they'll be able to spend with their family."


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