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September 5, 2013

Calipari hopes alumni offer insight into current Cats

John Calipari is excited to get some of his former players back to Lexington for Monday's Kentucky Basketball Alumni Charity Game.

It's a chance to see familiar faces and give away perhaps as much as $800,000 to charities, Calipari said Thursday.

But Calipari also wants to know what some former Kentucky players can teach him about his current pack of Wildcats, who will try to put some shine back on the brand after last season's first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris.

"(Former players) were mad," Calipari said. "And so these guys will hear it. 'You better not be doing what you did (last season).' That's why Eric (Bledsoe) and DeMarcus (Cousins) were so happy when they played pickup against them. 'We're back! Yeah!' And we're not back. We got a long way to go. But as far as what we look like, we're back. Now we look like we've always looked like."

Calipari is talking about a freshman-heavy but talent-laden roster including forward Julius Randle and guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, along with sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein.

He's hoping his current players get the chance to play against his previous ones while they're in town for Monday's 7 p.m. exhibition game that will pit many of Calipari's former Cats currently playing in the NBA against one another.

The game initially was billed as Calipari's 2010 team (featuring John Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson) against his 2012 NCAA title team (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb).

"A couple of the guys, because of contract stuff, will be here but may not be able to play," Calipari said. "So it may not be exactly '10 against '12 teams. It'll probably be a bunch of the 10's and a bunch of the 12's with other guys mixed in, because a couple guys have contract stuff that they're waiting on, which means they can't play."

As of Thursday, about 17,000 tickets had been distributed between sales and giveaways, UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said. At least 3,000 more were expected to be available via Ticketmaster.

The game will generate somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000 for 15 charities: 4 Paws for Ability, City House, EverFi, Hope For The Warriors, Hope House, Kentucky Army National Guard, Louisville Zoo, Red Cross for the Bluegrass, Samaritan's Feet, Save the Children, Starkey Hearing Foundation, Streets Ministries, Team Focus, UK Healthcare and the Lexington Urban League

Those organizations will receive checks, Calipari said, presented by former UK players.

"So there's a lot of things going on, and you want the guys to know: You come back here, you still have an impact (on) people," Calipari said. "It's funny, you have guys calling you to come back."

Some of them are long past their playing prime, but still plan to play in the night's first game, a 5:15 p.m. tipoff that will feature former Cats playing against All-Stars from Calipari's fantasy camp.

Among the scheduled participants in that game are Kenny Walker, Andre Riddick, Jared Prickett, Randolph Morris, Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs. Wayne Turner and Jack Givens also may play.

Calipari's hope is that whoever returns can give him an update on his 2013-14 Cats. He has limited court time with them for now.

"Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus went crazy when they played them," Calipari said. "Well, let Terrence (Jones) and those guys -- come in here and play these guys and tell me what you think. So I'm hoping in the next few days they get to play against the guys and we have an idea of who is who."


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