Three-spot from UK basketball media opportunity today:
1. Maybe it was just me, but John Calipari seemed a bit subdued in his per-practice comments to the media. That's probably to be expected, every for a personality such as Calipari. After all, it's just two days since the team learned it has lost its best player, Nerlens Noel, for the rest of the season. Calipari talked a lot about “blank slate” and how we are going to see now what kind of team this going to be the rest of the season. But it stands to reason that the team, and the staff, would be in a little state of shock right now.
It will be interesting to see what kind of affect that will have on Saturday's game at Tennessee. Often, teams rally together when they lose a star player and play almost above themselves. The full measure of the loss is felt later on. The former could be the case in Knoxville, though Kentucky will have its hands full with Jarnell Stokes, especially without Noel's shot-blocking ability.
2. Willie Cauley-Stein's time to shine. The freshman forward/center was one of the players the media was allowed to interview today. Cauley-Stein said his knee is fine, but he is concerned about his conditioning now that he will undoubtedly log more minutes. On that subject, Calipari said he has told Cauley-Stein to play six minutes or so, then sub himself out if he's feeling tired. Cal said he is looking for more players to do that, actually. In fact, he complemented players who asked Calipari to sub other players out who were not doing their best. (A visibly upset Julius Mays was telling Calipari to sub out Alex Poythress at one point.)''
Cauley-Stein said he is not Nerlens Noel and he should not be expected to be Noel. Echoing Calipari's them, Cauley-Stein said every player has to do a little more. The guards have to get a couple of more rebounds. Guys have to pick it up a little on the offensive end to replace Noel's points.
Cauley-Stein also said he has not talked or heard from Noel since the plane ride back from Gainesville.
3. Jon Hood's opportunity. Ironically, the player coming off a torn ACL could get more playing time because of a player suffering a torn ACL. Calipari said before practice that Jon Hood could see some more time on the floor now with Noel out. In fact, Calipari said that Hood had a very good practice on Thursday, that the junior was very aggressive.
Of course, Hood missed all of last year after tearing his ACL in the summer of 2011. His return this year was sidetracked by a flu-like illness that caused him to miss four games. Hood isn't a post player, of course, but he could contribute needed minutes to a team that is suddenly thin.
Video is on the way.