John Calipari says No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats not ready to go


On paper, Kentucky appears to have it all as it prepares for its season-opening matchup against Howard on Monday.

But John Calipari isn’t convinced this team is ready to go — at least not yet.

On Tuesday, Calipari tweeted a video that aimed to temper expectations around a Kentucky men’s basketball team that boasts Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning Wooden Award winner, and multiple standouts who helped the Wildcats earn the No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll.

Kentucky’s nonconference schedule includes four top-25 teams: Michigan, Gonzaga, Kansas and UCLA.

“We’ve got the player of the year and another first-team all-conference [player]. We’ve got good young guys, but let me explain to you and you know I’m honest about stuff,” Calipari said. “We’re not where we need to be right now and I’m looking at November and December saying, ‘We could be a little shaky.'”

It’s an odd message for a head coach who has struggled to avoid controversy within his fervent fan base in recent months. A loss to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season extended the program’s Final Four drought to seven years.

Later, Calipari called Kentucky “a basketball school” and asked the university to fund a new practice facility for his team during an exhibition trip to the Bahamas. The comments were interpreted as a shot at Mark Stoops and his emerging Kentucky football program. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart told reporters a new practice facility was not a priority right now.

At Big Blue Madness, Kentucky basketball’s midnight madness event, Rupp Arena lacked the vibe the men’s basketball program had enjoyed during its best years under Calipari.

Tshiebwe, who was in a walking boot that night, said he will return to play in the team’s first game next week following a knee procedure. Chris Livingston and Cason Wallace, a pair of five-star recruits, are in the mix, too. Sahvir Wheeler is expected to be a major contributor again after dealing with a minor knee injury in recent weeks. And Jacob Toppin, the brother of former lottery pick Obi Toppin, could have a breakout campaign.

In his video, however, Calipari asked fans to be patient and “enjoy the ride” as the team aims to build momentum entering the SEC season.

“What we’re building to and what we’re doing every day, these guys are giving everything,” Calipari said. “I love the pieces. I love the teammates. But what we have to do to win at the highest level is going to take us a little time. I’m saying this for me as well as you.”

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