CAIRO, Egypt—This country is suffering through an extended heat waves, where temperatures in this huge city are constantly hovering in the 102 to 104-degree heat.
But that it did stop USA Basketball’s U19 team from taking a one-in-a-lifetime, two-hour tour of the Pyramids of Giza during an off day prior to their opening bracket game against Iran here in the youth World Cup at the International Stadium against Iran here Saturday. Craig Miller of USA Basketball’s communications staff, had the coaches and players pose in front of the giant Pyramid and on camels.
USA coach John Calipari needed a little help boarding his camel. “I tried to get up, guy had to lift me over. When I got off, I was cramping up. But it was great for the kids. That’s USA Basketball. Sean Ford (of USA Basketball) did a great job. And the best thing was, we did on a Friday (the start of the weekend in the country), there was hardly any traffic going over there.’’
Calipari had an unexpected distraction when a story broke out of New York that Calipari had reportedly made a phone call to the Knicks’ to inquire about the vacancy for president of basketball affairs that occurred when Phil Jackson resigned. Calipari, who has coached Kentucky for the last seven years, had to appear on ESPN’s ”Mike and Mike” to deny the story.
“Why could I leave what I at Kentucky,’’ said Calipari, who made $7.7 million last year and has access to some of the best high school prospects in the world, largely because they are enamored by his ability to prepare them for the NBA in less than a year.
“There may be a college coach who made a call, but it wasn’t me. So, when I called my wife and said, ‘Did you call them? She said, ‘No.’ So, then I called my son. He wasn’t home, so maybe it was him so maybe Brad called him.’’
“How about Hammy? (Diallo, the gifted red shirt freshman guard who turned out the chance to stay in the draft because he wanted to play for Kentucky)’’ Calipari said. “He comes to me and says, ‘You better not leave.”
Calipari’s enormous success with one and dones has created a movement among a growing number of college coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, who want to allow players to enter the NBA draft directly out of high school but, if not, force them remain in college for two years before they can declare for the draft.
“That’s fine,’’ Calipari said. “But don’t stick them in the Development League. You start putting kids in the D League out of high school, you’re going to have eighth, ninth and 10th graders. . . ‘Forget about academics. I’m going to the D-League.’
“Alright, what happens if they don’t make it after two years. Who’s going to take care of those kids. Our game has a gap year. Our kids have a guaranteed education for the rest of their life. If they want to come back, come back any time and get their education. It’s insurance.
“I don’t see it as a broken system. If you don’t want to recruit those kids, don’t. We’re only talking about seven, eight kids a year. You’re not talking 50. You’re talking assets, not children. I’m coaching people’s children.
“Why an owner wants to spend $5-$10 million on a D-League team and we do it for nothing.’’