John Calipari thinks Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere needs to toughen up, so he concocted an old-school mugging drill in practice this week.
“We made Skal post up,” Calipari said. “We threw him the ball, and had two managers with those arm sleeves whack at the ball.”
The coach threw several air punches at his Friday afternoon presser to illustrate the drill’s physical nature.
“He didn’t have to make a move,” Calipari said. “He didn’t have to do anything. Don’t lose the ball. And the two managers were just whacking at it with one arm sleeve each. It went to where he was going like this [bends over in surrender].”
Once Labissiere was thoroughly defeated, Calipari called senior Alex Poythress into the ring.
“Alex grabbed the ball,” Calipari said. “And those two just hit him and hit him. He’d put (the ball) out. They’d hit it. Until Skal was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you CAN do that.'”
What brought about this primitive approach? Calipari has been upset with Labissiere’s inefficient rebounding and lack of tenacity on the floor.
“I’ve got to leave him on the court and let him play through some mistakes,” Calipari said. “Part of this is his confidence that he can hold his own. It has nothing to do with skills. But when he’s doing things right, I’ve got to leave him in and let him do it.”
“It’s painful to watch sometimes. I’m sitting there, too, watching it. It’s painful. But it’s part of the growth of players.”