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December 19, 2011

Cats will focus on hoops during break from classes

There are no classes. There is no limit on practice hours.

Between now and early January, John Calipari can do whatever he wants on the court with his Kentucky basketball team, can put his Wildcats through whatever paces he sees fit.

What he really wants is for his players to put in overtime on their own.

That's why he's particularly pleased with the "Breakfast Club," a group of "four or five" UK players, Calipari said, who are meeting for early-morning weightlifting sessions then having their first meal of the day together.

"I'm not going to say who's in it because I don't want to do it," Calipari said. "But it's a good group of guys. The guys that you would expect to be in it are in it, and hopefully other guys will join in and do it."

The third-ranked Cats (9-1) have a jam-packed schedule this week with a pair of games - Tuesday night against Samford, perhaps without injured sophomore Terrence Jones, and Thursday afternoon against Loyola (Md.) - before a short Christmas break.

While you're scarfing cookies and sleeping with visions of sugarplums, Calipari's Cats will eat, sleep and breathe basketball between now and Jan. 11, when classes resume for the spring semester.

"You're playing basketball, you're eating and you're sleeping," Calipari said. "We may (practice) four times a day. You may have breakfast, practice, dinner, practice, and then film at my house."

And even that might not be enough to placate Calipari.

Doron Lamb, for example, is logging major minutes outside of practice, showing up before it starts and hanging around after it ends to work on his ballhandling, conditioning and pull-up jumper.

"I'm just trying to get a sweat before practice, just trying to get ready for practice and games," Lamb said.

Extra work was the theme of Calipari's meeting with reporters on Monday. Calipari lauded Lamb, saying he's been "terrific," and pointing to his pre- and post-practice workouts as a template for teammates to follow.

"So if you do what he does, you're going to have that (result)," Calipari said. "'Well, I don't want to do that. I just want the result.' It doesn't happen. You have to put in time."

Calipari focused Monday on the importance of putting in work outside of scheduled practices and gave particular praise to the "Breakfast Club" members who are logging their extra time together, saying that Michael Jordan once organized something similar with his Chicago Bulls teammates.

One player started the early morning workouts on his own, Calipari said, but the coach prefers his players use the workout team as team bonding.

"Because we're not bowling, we're not wrestling and we're not playing tennis," Calipari said. "There's a group of us that started building a bond that, we're not caving in; we will do this together. So that's a neat thing that's happened and that's that next step to us becoming a little better team."

There will be other key steps in the coming weeks.

Though the Wildcats' schedule is game-heavy early this week - including last Saturday's win against Chattanooga, UK will play three games in six days - Calipari still will stack multiple practices into days between games.

It's all part of building toward Southeastern Conference play - and a significant nonconference game prior to the start of league play.

"It's a great time to work hard this week, these weeks we've got without school," Lamb said. "We all will get better as a team and as individuals. So we've got to keep working hard in practice and I think we'll be ready for Louisville when it comes."

The goal is to iron out some kinks between now and the New Year, senior Darius Miller said.

"I think we can get a lot from this," Miller said. "We should benefit a lot from this, especially with how hard the team works and how disciplined we are. I think we'll get a lot out of it. I think we'll be a way different team when the break is over."


Game Information

Samford at Kentucky
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.

TV: ESPN2
Radio: UK IMG Network
Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: None

No. 3 Kentucky (9-1)
Coach: John Calipari (476-151; 73-13 at UK)
Samford (3-6)
Coach: Jimmy Tellette (221-206 at Samford and overall)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Marquis Teague Fr. 6-2/189 10.8 2.2
G Doron Lamb So. 6-4/210 15.8 4.0
G Darius Miller Sr. 6-8/225 9.2 3.2
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Fr. 6-7/232 13.2 7.4
F Anthony Davis Fr. 6-10/220 11.8 10.0
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Devin McNeil Fr. 6-0/180 6.3 2.8
G Will Cook So. 6-4/185 10.0 5.3
G Jeremy Merritt Sr. 6-6/205 9.9 6.6
F Tyler Hood Fr. 6-6/200 8.9 3.1
C Drew Windler So. 6-9/200 11.7 4.2

Key Storylines

Finger Watch
Terrence Jones played sparingly last Saturday against Chattanooga with a dislocated finger on his left hand. The sophomore might play against Samford but isn't expected to start.

Size Matters
Samford starts one player taller than 6-foot-6 and none heavier than 205 pounds, so with or without Jones, the Wildcats should have a big advantage on the front line. Expect UK to dominate on the glass against the Bulldogs.



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