Sosa, Garcia praise Calipari; alumni game possible
Edgar Sosa is a Louisville guy. That isn't going to change.
But the former Cardinals point guard now is playing for the Dominican Republic National Team, with an eye on making his way into the NBA. And the coach guiding him on his current basketball journey, John Calipari, happens to be the head man at rival Kentucky.
Sosa's cool with that.
"At this point in my life, I no longer go to Louisville," Sosa said Friday. "I'm always going to be a Cardinal, but right now, I'm playing for the Dominican National Team, I'm no longer playing for Louisville. And I'm not going to lie: I love playing for Coach Cal. He's given me a lot of opportunity and a lot of freedom to show my game, and I'm excited."
Sosa and former U of L teammate Francisco Garcia now are teammates for the Dominican team, which will face a team of ex-Kentucky NBA players Monday night at Rupp Arena and Tuesday at Louisville's Yum! Center.
They'll admit it's a little odd to be training in Lexington and playing for their rival's head coach, but neither has any complaints. And they hope Cards fans will understand.
"I've got a very good relationship with Coach (Rick) Pitino," Garcia said. "The truth is the truth. I don't think (U of L fans) would be mad at me or anything like that. I'm not at Louisville anymore. I love Louisville and my times there were great. A great three years, and I will always remember those times. Right now, I'm playing for my national team, and Coach Cal's doing a pretty good job."
Sosa was even more effusive in his praise for Calipari, who has coached a string of first-round draft picks at point guard over the past four seasons: Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight at Kentucky.
"Watching Coach Cal's point guards on TV is not the same thing as actually playing for him," Sosa said. "At the point guard position, you have so much freedom, so much opportunity to create for yourself. I think Coach Cal is telling me right now to create for myself first, and that opens up things for me to create for my teammates."
Sosa said it's "so much fun" playing for Calipari, a sentiment he knows some Louisville fans won't blame him for expressing.
"You have those fans that understand that game and know that this is a great opportunity for myself and everyone on this team, and then you have those fans that's going to get on the blogs and say 'He's a traitor. He's not really a Card because he likes playing for Coach Cal,'" Sosa said.
Alumni game a possibility?
Brisk ticket sales for Monday's game at Rupp Arena indicated to Calipari that Kentucky might need to explore the possibility of an alumni game there in the future.
North Carolina and Illinois have brought back former players for alumni games in recent years, and Calipari said it's something to consider.
"One, we need to get more involved with the former players," Calipari said. "I don't think there's any question about that. I've tried in two years, and we're getting better, and they're getting more comfortable but we've got to get them back. There are things that North Carolina's done and other people have done that have those kinds of events for charity or those kinds of events for the scholarship foundation, something like that. We'd probably consider that. After seeing this turnout, the powers that be ought to be talking about it."
Cal qualifies 'best' player quote
In a recent interview with ESPN's Andy Katz, Calipari called Doron Lamb Kentucky's "best basketball player." On Friday, he clarified that quote.
"Doron's not the fastest guy we have, he's not the biggest guy we have, he's not the quickest guy we have, he's not the greatest with the ball," Calipari said. "What he is, as you saw in the Connecticut game (at the Final Four), he has a feel for the game and lets the game come to him and he plays it the way the game's played. If he comes back in great shape, if he comes back and he improved his ballhandling and he's gotten better, he'll be a top 15 player. That's what I mean."
Calipari said Lamb needs to come back in great shape for the start of his sophomore season and needs to continue working on his ballhandling in order to meet that top 15 mark.
Jones bulking up
Terrene Jones is up to 250 pounds, and Calipari said the 6-foot-8 forward has a new attitude.
Jones, Calipari said, is "walking around without a shirt on everywhere, looking at himself in mirrors and looking at the TV to see if he can see himself (in) the glare."
Jones is "on a mission," Calipari said.
Hood surgery successful
Jon Hood's father tweeted on Friday that Hood had successful surgery on his torn anterior cruciate ligament, and though Calipari didn't definitively say Hood would redshirt this season, he gave a strong indication that's the direction UK will go.
Calipari said he had hoped Hood "would have a breakout year," but said he can use the year to grow and mature.
"Now you come back with a different purpose, and I think he will," Calipari said. "It was just so unfortunate, because he is such a nice kid. You want him to do well."