John Calipari quick to point out that this year’s Kentucky team has absolutely nothing to do with the team from last season. He goes so far as to tell the team that he doesn’t even want them to think about last year. The reason is that he doesn’t want, nor think he is going to have a chemistry issue as the team prior.
“I don’t want them to think about last year,” Calipari said. “They have nothing to do with last year. The only thing we’re talking about is: How do you get better, how do you come together as a team, how do you sacrifice for your teammates? Do you know we played Louisville in the Final Four (in 2012)? No one on the team took more than nine shots and we won the game.”
That’s a particularly instructive example because of an early similarity Calipari sees between the championship team and this year’s squad.
With that team, the newcomers were familiar with one another from the AAU and high-school all-star circuit. They visited campus together and bonded with their veteran teammates. That’s happened again.
“They got along together before they got here kind of like other teams I’ve had where, before you walk on campus, they know each other and they like each other,” Calipari said. “…This group, you could tell they’re hanging around each other, they’re following each other.”
With most of the roster on campus for classes and workouts during the summer, that process started immediately. Even before the official start of practice, one UK returner is already thinking of his teammates as “siblings.”
“I don’t see any cliques,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Everybody does everything together, whether we’re in one room playing video games or we’re out getting something to eat or we’re just out doing something walking around campus. Which is crazy because we have 16 people and we’re all just squadded up together having fun.”
Dakari Johnson echoes the sentiment.
“We’ve bonded,” Johnson said. “When we came in this summer, we bonded with the rest of the guys. And it’s crazy because we’re so close. Every day we’re doing something, we’re doing some kind of activity. I think that’s good when we have all this training and stuff. It’s a long day and you can come back home to jokes and laughs and playing video games with your friends and stuff like that.”