Unselfishness, teamwork secret to stacked Kentucky's success

by | College Basketball Recruiting Blogger

You won't hear Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or any Wildcats complaining about lack of shots. (Getty Images)  
You won't hear Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or any Wildcats complaining about lack of shots. (Getty Images)  

NEW ORLEANS -- John Calipari didn't go into Anthony Davis' living room and promise immediate college stardom. Calipari didn't tell Davis he would get the ball on every possession, putting up big numbers from day one.

In fact, the Kentucky head coach went the complete opposite direction, saying he would have to buy into a team concept or he wouldn't succeed.

"He tells you how it is from the first time he starts recruiting you," Davis said. "He told me, 'Kentucky is not for everyone and if you plan on shooting 15 shots a game, don't come here."

Calipari wasn't lying.

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Davis is fourth on the Wildcats in field-goal attempts. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the team's second-best player, is fifth on the team in field-goal attempts. On most teams, that wouldn't fly. On most teams with this much talent, players would be bickering about playing time and shot allotment.

Not on top-ranked Kentucky.

"During the season, it's about our team," Calipari said. "They have played together and they are about team, not about themselves."

There are at least five potential NBA first-rounders on the team, but no one averages more than Davis' 14.3 points per game. Terrence Jones is playing fewer than 30 minutes per game and shooting fewer than 10 times per game. Senior Darius Miller went from starting on a Final Four team to coming off the bench and playing 26 minutes per game.

We haven't heard a peep from either player about how it will affect their draft stock.

It's difficult enough to get so many five-star players on your roster; it's more difficult get everyone on the same page and buy into a system for six months.

"The whole point of this is getting a group of players to play together," Calipari said. "People ask me if it's hard to get those players to play together. I tell them, 'What's hard? Coaching bad players.' Coaching good players, if they are good-hearted people, they will do that."

Oftentimes, a collection of talent like this doesn't work out very well. With so many scorers, we normally see a couple of things: a lack of sharing the ball on the offensive side and a mediocre defense at the other end.

This team, though, might have the best defense in the country. With their versatility and athleticism, it's very tough to score points on the Wildcats. Moreover, there are six players averaging in double-figures.

Kentucky's personnel has been compared to NBA teams, and there's a contingent of people that think the Wildcats could beat the Raptors, Bobcats, Wizards, etc. Somehow, things like that have not been a distraction for Kentucky's relatively young roster.

It's not just a dream team of players. It's a dream team of unselfishness and determination.

"Kentucky is not the norm," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said.

The idea to buy into what Calipari wanted from his team started back in October. From the first practice, the quartet of five-star freshmen and the three returning starters meshed perfectly. Each player was a star on his high school team. But each player had to take a back seat to the team this season, putting his NBA prospects aside and buying into the idea of winning a national championship.

"I believed everything he said from day one," freshman point guard Marquis Teague said. "It's a big challenge and you have to be ready. If you're not ready for it, you won't be able to deal with it."

For most teams, putting so much talent on the court together wouldn't work. For Kentucky, it has worked perfectly.

The Wildcats' talent gives them separation from the rest of the field. But it's playing as a team that puts them head-and-shoulders above everyone else.


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