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December 14, 2012
As practice toughens, Cats start self-coaching
Ask Archie Goodwin who's the most competitive player on Kentucky's basketball team, and he doesn't hesitate in saying, "Me."
If you asked each of his teammates, they might tell you they each held that honor. Goodwin begs to differ.
"If they told you that they were, they're lying," Goodwin said Friday, "because I'm the most competitive person on this team."
He finishes first in sprints, not "to tickle my fancy," he said, but because he's driven to do it. He wants to win. Always.
And so Goodwin has paid particularly close attention to John Calipari questioning the Wildcats' desire to win.
"Anyone that is a true competitor takes that to their heart," Goodwin said. "That's something that I did. These last few weeks, I've just really been focusing on trying to really show how much of a competitor I am and hopefully spark it for the other guys to do the same."
He's not the only one who's stepped it up in practice.
Since last week when Calipari instituted early morning conditioning drills to pair with afternoon practices, the Cats - who host Lipscomb Saturday at Rupp Arena - are making strides, and not just the literal ones it takes to run sprints.
"We're getting better, but you got to go and perform on the basketball court," Calipari said.
The Wildcats (6-3) are riding a modest two-game winning streak into Saturday's game, but those wins came on the heels of back-to-back losses against Notre Dame and Baylor, the latter Calipari's first loss at Rupp Arena as the Kentucky coach.
Since a Dec. 4 win against Samford, Calipari has been a practice taskmaster. He's pushed his players harder than before. When one guy makes a mistake, everyone's on the baseline for a run. If the Cats don't complete it in 34 seconds, they do another.
If Calipari gets mad, the limit drops to 33 seconds. If he gets really mad, 32.
The result is a team that's beginning to coach itself. Players, tired of running sprints for teammates' mistakes, are demanding that the entire team shapes up.
"Guys are starting to be a lot more vocal, and we're holding each other accountable more than we were," Goodwin said. "That's something that's helping us out, because you don't want to be that one person that's going to be picked out for doing something wrong."
The Cats are improving as a result, Calipari said.
But there's more improvement to be made, and Calipari conceded on Friday that he should have instituted the extra conditioning and more rigorous practices at the start of the season.
At the time, he said, he didn't know what kind of team he had.
"That's why you've got to play the kind of schedule we played early on to find out what we truly were," Calipari said. "Now, hopefully, this helps but there is no given. This is us saying we're going to get tougher. It doesn't mean we're going to be better, but we're going to be tougher. We're going to be mentally tougher. We're going to be held accountable. We're going to try to play through possessions."