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4-Point Play: Mark Pope hangs out with Kentucky royalty while Brad Calipari hits recruiting trail

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim06/13/24

It’s the calm before the storm in Lexington, Kentucky players getting settled into their new homes after moving in over the course of the last week. Summer classes are getting rolling with orientation in the rearview mirror for the freshmen. Now, it’s about that time for workouts and practices to begin starting next week — the fun stuff for all of us. Oh, and don’t forget about the first-ever meet-and-greet with Mark Pope and the Wildcats on June 15 through Club Blue.

Slowly but surely, it’s all coming together with basketball season a few short months away. Until then, how about some afternoon notes?

A legendary Kentucky trio meets in Orlando

One is a captain of one of the 1996 national championship team — seen as one of the best groups in the history of the game. You know him, you love him. Another was a member of that same squad with 24 starts before emerging as one of the best players in college basketball the following year until a knee injury ended his season (and a likely three-peat for Kentucky). Then there is the man known for throwing down one of the best dunks in program history, looking down at the rim while being compared to Secretariat.

Three Kentucky basketball legends: Mark Pope, Derek Anderson and Dirk Minniefield. And they came together in Orlando during the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week, Pope in attendance evaluating up-and-coming high school talent while Anderson and Minniefield served as camp staff members.

“So grateful for these 2 Kentucky legends!” Pope shared on social media, humbly leaving himself out of the trio of greats to come through Lexington.

A Kentucky takeover in Orlando.

A Cat takes over the Colonels

Speaking of that historic ’96 title team, the administrator behind the iconic Rupp Arena bus entrance recently recreated during Pope’s introductory press conference is now the Director of Athletics at Eastern Kentucky.

Kyle Moats previously served 14 years at the University of Kentucky, his final three (2000-02) coming as the associate athletics director for marketing. It was his idea to roll the buses in to unveil the championship trophy nearly three decades ago, and now, he’s returning to the Commonwealth to serve as the next Vice President and AD at EKU.

“I guess that’s a form of flattery when you get copied, right? I was happy for Mark,” Moats told Keith Farmer of BBN Tonight and LEX 18. “I was there in ’96 with that team, which you can argue is one of the best teams ever to play or ever win the championship. Mark is a really good guy and he was fun to watch. I didn’t watch it live, but someone sent it to me. My colleague from UK sent it to me and said, ‘Hey, do you remember this?’ It was nice of him to do that and I’m happy for them.”

Why draft Rob Dillingham? “I know basketball”

It’s a big weekend for Mr. Shift himself, who is set to complete his final requirements for draft eligibility after an ankle injury limited him from participating in athletic testing and shooting drills at the NBA Draft Combine in May. He’ll be doing those things at the Lakers practice facility on Friday, paving the path for his green room invitation after Reed Sheppard already received his earlier in the week.

Assuming things go well during his first workout of the pre-draft process since suffering the injury, that should lock up his status as a lottery selection and likely top-10 pick.

What does he plan to bring to the table for his future franchise? ESPN’s Jonathan Givony called him “the best ball-handler in this class,” but Dillingham himself says his court vision and ability to read the floor surpasses the flashy dribble moves that make the highlight tapes.

“I really don’t feel like ball-handling is my best. I feel like change of pace makes my ball-handling looks a little better because I know how to change speeds,” he told Bryan Kalbrosky of USA TODAY’s For The Win this week. “But I feel like reading the game is my advantage because I feel like a lot of people don’t really see because I’m moving so fast. I feel like I can really read the game. I see everything that happens on the floor. I know where people are. I know basketball.”

He’s got the facilitating and shot-making, but above all else, he wants to be known as a winner and leader. Whoever selects him on June 26 will be getting a positive influence in the locker room, one who oozes confidence while building it for others around him.

“I’m an all-around dude. I want to see everybody win. I feel like that’s a boost to my thing because if I want to see everybody win, everything feels good for people that want positive things,” Dillingham added. “I feel like I can help my teammates and it gives confidence to my teammates and it makes my teammates like me, so just knowing I can be a leader and also a player that gets guys together.”

Brad Calipari hits the recruiting trail

It wasn’t much of a surprise seeing Coach Cal bring his son, Brad Calipari, with him to Fayetteville. He was coming off his first high-major gig under Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt as the program’s director of on-court player development. It made sense to add him on as a staff member, likely in a similar role — and he did, Calipari named the director of on-court player development at Arkansas. That was only half of the job title, though, the other being a full-time assistant coach, one of five allowed by the NCAA. He joined Kenny Payne (Associate Head Coach), Chin Coleman (Associate Head Coach), Chuck Martin (Assistant Coach, Recruiting Coordinator) and Ronnie Brewer (Assistant Coach, Recruiting Coordinator) to round out the five-man staff.

Most expected Payne, Coleman and Martin to make up the traveling recruiting coaches while Calipari and Brewer stayed back in Fayetteville — similar to the roles Bruiser Flint and John Welch had in Lexington a year ago. Instead, though, Calipari made his debut on the trail this week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp alongside Coach Cal and Coleman, who was dressed like he was attending a NASCAR race.

From Kentucky basketball walk-on to full-time recruiting assistant at Arkansas in six years. Quite the come-up in the coaching world for the Hall of Famer’s son.

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