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‘Soft tape’ part of UK’s get-tough preparation

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

As part of his effort to get Kentucky players to adopt a more tough approach to basketball, Coach John Calipari said he prepared what he called a “soft tape” for them to watch.

He also issued an order before the opening credits. “We’re not laughing,” he said.

The complication of “soft” plays or efforts against Pikeville College on Monday was not a comedy. It wasn’t a tragedy, not in the first week of November. It was more of a cautionary tale with the message being that getting pushed around by Pikeville bodes ill when future opponents are North Carolina, perhaps Michigan State and the Southeastern Conference teams.

“We’re going to come up against bigger teams than them,” freshman Stacey Poole said. “We are just going to do what he says. We’re going to have to be a tough team.”

Kentucky gets another chance to show toughness in Friday night’s second exhibition against Dillard University.

Since the victory over Pikeville on Monday, Kentucky has concentrated in practices on creating toughness. Or, perhaps more correctly, bringing toughness out of the fuzzy-cheeked kiddie Cats.

“If they are what I think they are, they have fight in them,” Calipari said. “You’ve just got to bring it out of them.”

The “soft tape” must have been no selected short subjects. That would have been the “seven or six” plays in which UK displayed toughness against Pikeville, Calipari said. Those plays were edited out of the tape.

When asked to define the “soft” plays on the tape, Calipari said, “You get pushed into the cheerleaders (and) you get sparkle on your face. . . . That happened about three times.”

Calipari acknowledged that the game against Pikeville was a coming-out-party for a freshman-oriented team, therefore not the ideal place to see experience and toughness.

“They were shellshocked,” the UK coach said of many of his players’ being introduced to live college competition. “Within 15 seconds of the game. It’s on.”

Calipari noted that some players did not know where to go or what to do during pre-game introductions. “The second guy went over to shake hands with the officials like in high school,” he said.

Kentucky doesn’t have a lot of time to get familiar with what’s expected. After the tuneup against Dillard, the Cats have only a week before the opener against East Tennessee State, a team that made the NCAA Tournament last March.

A week after that, Kentucky plays in Portland, Ore., as a stopover on the way to the always ultra-competitive Maui Invitational.

Poole’s facial expression seemed to concede that asking freshmen to push their weight around is asking a lot. But Kentucky does not have alternatives.

“We’re out here,” Poole said. “We’re here. We’re just going to have to play. We have to do what we have to do.

“The other guys are older. But we’ll be fine.”

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