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March 19, 2013

Calipari promises changes after NIT season

Things are going to change for Kentucky after the 2012-2013 season comes to a close.

But don't expect it all to come from John Calipari.

Before the 2012 NCAA championship, many questioned Calipari's strategy of recruiting one-and-done playera. After the Wildcats brought home the hardware in New Orleans last season, Calipari quieted critics, at least for a season.

Now with the Cats - a top-five team in the preseason - surprisingly finishing the season in the NIT, Calipari doesn't plan on changing his recruiting philosophy. He was adamant about that when asked on Monday, as his team prepared for Tuesday's NIT opener at Robert Morris.

"Nope," Calipari said. "Nope. No. I like that national title."

But Calipari didn't exactly say he would welcome every player on this year's roster back next season with open arms. He'll evaluate and meet with players after the NIT.

"Well, we'll sit down and all that stuff when the time is right and that's when the season is over," Calipari said.

And don't talk about next season yet with junior Jon Hood. While Calipari looks ahead and talks about next season and the future of Kentucky basketball, Hood wouldn't look past Tuesday night's game against the Colonials.

"Who cares about next year?" Hood said. "We're playing right now. I don't understand. It's silly to be thinking about the NIT and thinking about next year when it's not next year.

"Nobody cares about next year right now, we're playing basketball this year. Next year comes when it gets here."

While Hood won't talk about the future, it's on the minds of many in the Big Blue Nation.

Since Calipari took over at UK in 2009, 12 players have left early to enter the NBA draft while two have transferred. Turnover from season to season is nothing new.

But next season could be different.

"This may be a group of four-year players," Calipari said. "There's nothing wrong with that. Why is everybody panicked? So they're four-year players? So?

"You move, you get another group and now you have a nice big team and you take on the world."

In theory, Calipari - with another top-ranked recruiting class likely - will be able to banish players to the bench next season if their effort isn't to his standards, something he hasn't been able to do this season.

"You're more patient (developing long-term players)," Calipari said. "It doesn't matter that you're this way you better get it the next year and we're bringing in other guys, so you're going to have to step up, but you're here."

Calipari won't stop recruiting the best of the best, but if he does adjust his recruiting philosophy it will be to examine prospects' personalities more beore offering.

This season Calipari seemed to do more mental coaching than focusing on X's and O's. In the future he'll try to do more to prevent having to play mind games.

"Guys that can deal with us as coaches, me as a head coach, and can play with a mentality we want them to play with...," Calipari said. "There's a certain toughness that you've got to have in this thing and I've always had (players who had) it."

But this season things changed.

"When you don't have it, you know," Calipari said.

The Cats have six players signed for next season and hope to sign more, and while Calipari and UK fans hope for a different result in the future, lessons learned this year might help down the road.

It could be that next season's sophomores will learn from their freshman mistakes. Calipari certainly will take lessons from a season he called "humbling."

"Again, learned a lot of lessons that our staff has taken into account as we go forward," Calipari said. "What kind of team we have, what kind of personnel we have, what kind of mentalities we have, the guys we've always had in the past. It's a great learning experience."


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