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June 25, 2012

Calipari gets an early look at 2012-13 Wildcats

It's a new year and a new look for Kentucky basketball.

By now you should know the drill.

On Thursday, the NCAA champion Wildcats expect to see six players selected in the NBA Draft. That means that coach John Calipari is charged with the task of replacing a half-dozen pros. He's getting used to that sort of overhaul job.

"I've had to replace three teams here," Calipari said Monday on the Southeastern Conference's summer basketball teleconference. "This is the fourth 'new' team that I've had to coach."

And though Calipari admits he'd prefer the days of the 1970s and '80s, when he'd have coached stars like John Wall, Brandon Knight and Anthony Davis for three and four years, you won't catch him complaining about his annual roster makeover.

"For me to start all over every year, I'm going to be honest, is exciting," Calipari said. "The job that I have every year is not to say 'Here's how we're going to play. This is called Cal Ball.' It's not what we do."

Instead, Calipari tweaks each team based on personnel, and he'll have plenty of adjustments to make in 2012-13. Gone are Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.

In their places are fresh faces like Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel. Goodwin, Poythress and Cauley-Stein already are working out with UK coaches on campus.

"Archie's a slasher/scorer who can play one and two both," Calipari said. "He can play both positions, which is going to be vital, because when you're not playing 10 guys, when you're playing seven or eight, you need guys to play multiple positions."

Poythress, Calipari said, is "a beast."

"He's going to be another wing that runs and can make plays and can score the ball," Calipari said. "Shoots it good. We've got to get him more consistent."

Cauley-Stein, meanwhile, has been among Calipari's pleasant surprises in the NCAA's newly-allowed summer workouts.

"I'm blown away by him," Calipari said. "I knew he was good. I watched him. But he's gained (weight). For his official visit, he was 215. He's over 230 pounds now. And he's loving it. He's soaking it in. He's one of those guys that just blossoms and blossoms."

Wright State transfer Julius Mays is on campus now, Calipari said. Noel has not yet arrived, but Calipari said that Noel along with Goodwin, Poythress and Cauley-Stein will give UK "four pretty good guys." He said UK is likely to start at least three freshmen.

Still, the Wildcats also will have some veteran leadership. Sophomore Ryan Harrow, who practiced with the team last season while sitting out after a transfer from N.C. State, will run the point. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer will look to fill a bigger role after contributing off the bench to UK's title run.

"Kyle's bouncier than I've ever seen him," Calipari said. "He's still not shaving. We're going to know he's going to start hitting stride when he shaves. He does have hair under his arms, though, I did see that."

Though he's seen a limited sample size, Calipari said he likes his team on and off the floor, and said he sees potential for the Cats to be even stronger in the classroom than a season ago, when Calipari said UK posted a 3.2 grade-point average.

"I expect this team may do better off the court, and boy, if they could ever do on the court what last year's team did, it would be a great story," Calipari said.

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