LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Although an exhibition game, Kentucky has a point to prove when it takes on Georgetown College Sunday in the first of two preseason contests.
“We just want to show that we’re tough,” Kentucky freshman Keion Brooks said Friday “Coach (John Calipari) believes that could be the only thing standing in our way from doing something special. We just want to show our toughness and how we go out and compete, especially on the defensive end taking what we do in our drills in practice and translate it into 5-on-5 against somebody else.”
Calipari said toughness involves more than just “pushing and shoving” and holding your ground. The Kentucky coach said toughness also isn’t “what your body looks like.”
“Toughness is a mental toughness of you can be pushed and you don’t cave in — that toughness,” he said. “A toughness of playing somebody before they catch the ball because you’re alert and you’re in it even though you’re tired. How about playing before you catch the ball? Knowing where your teammates are. Being alert mentally. It’s as much mental toughness as it is physical. Physical is part of it. If you are standing up and not in a stance, you can’t be physically tough here. You’ll get pushed around.”
Although Tyrese Maxey is an early front runner in the most toughness category, Calipari said he’s not sure who will come through in the clutch for the Wildcats as the season begins.
“We don’t know (who will be the toughness player),” he said. “It will develop.”
In addition to displaying toughness traits, the Wildcats are looking forward to competing with another team instead of each other.
“We’ve been going at each other’s necks for about almost two months now,” Brooks said. “I’m just excited to finally get out and all play together and play against somebody else.”
Veteran Nich Richards said he’s anxious to see how the team responds.
“I just want to see how hard we play as a team,” he said. “As a team, we just want to show how connected we are and how our chemistry has gotten better since the summer time until now.”
Calipari is a proponent to teams playing in August and “making it like spring football.”
(We spend) 10 days, two weeks and let each of us get five or six days during that period of time to practice and maybe play games and play games against each other like we’re doing in these first scrimmages, but sell them and let them be on TV,” he said. “Do them on weekends so you’re not missing class. Whoever travels, their expenses are paid for by the other team. Now you have content for August for the SEC Network and now all of the other Power Fives have networks. I think on a lot of fronts it would be good.”
He said money is the lone road block preventing the idea from becoming a reality.
Kentucky’s projected lineup in the exhibition opener will include Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.
“We’ve still got a couple of days, and really it doesn’t matter,” Calipari said. “I’m trying different combinations now in practice. … We’re just trying different things.”
Gametracker: Georgetown College at Kentucky (exhibition), 5 p.m. Sunday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.