LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Brad Calipari calls his coach "Dad" and that’s the way John Calipari wants it to be as long as his son is playing at the University of Kentucky.
“He tells me not to call him coach and he wants me to call him dad,” he said. “He pushes me hard and he pushes me harder than a lot of guys. He wants to see me to do well. He also knows I have made strides and how far I have come.”
When it comes to pressure, Calipari said it’s a mixed bag of emotions, but feels like he handled it well last season.
“Obviously you got some people they want to see you do great,” he said. “And you have people that want to see you fail. You feel like you need to show you can do this and that. I think that’s where the pressure comes in.”
In an effort to elevate his game, Calipari played to a team in the Global Sports Academy in Croatia last summer and averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. Although mostly a shooting guard under his dad, Calipari played point guard while overseas.
“It gave me a lot of confidence going over there,” he said. “Obviously the game is different (and) guys are not as skilled, but the skill level is still high even though they’re not driving by you and dunking on you, like you have guys (doing) here.”
Calipari not only had to get used to his new surroundings while in Croatia, but also playing for a coach other than his dad.
“It was (different) but at the end of the day, you’ve got to play the game and that’s just how the games go,” he said. “We had a lot of great coaches over there and it wasn’t as different as you might think, but it was still different.”
Although the competition wasn’t at Kentucky’s caliber, Calipari said he gained more experience, which he said will carry over into his second season with the Wildcats.
“I gained confidence,” he said. “I played point guard over there and I think that really helped me.”
In addition to his experience on the court, Calipari learned more about the culture in Croatia.
“It was a beautiful site, right on the water,” he said. “It was nice to see how everything was done,” he said. “They’re very clean and it was unbelievable how clean the streets were. It’s different how they live and it’s something I didn’t mind doing. It was great.”
Overall, Calipari, known primarily as a shooter, has worked on other aspects of his game in the backcourt.
“I’ve really focused on my ball handling,” he said. “I think that really helped me and conditioning has helped me to be able to play longer.”
One of three sophomores on the team, Calipari likes the team his dad has assembled for the upcoming season.
“Everyone enjoys spending time with each other,” he said. “On the court, the communication is unbelievable and I think that will help the team come together a lot. Guys aren’t afraid to assert what they can do and I think that helps each person.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.