John Calipari woke up one day last week and his son Brad was in the NCAA Transfer portal.
Let’s not pretend this is a normal situation. A normal situation with teenage (or even college age) sons on the verge of summer is one like mine. I wake up, and they’re (most likely, this time of year) still asleep. Or maybe playing video games.
From the sounds of some of the social media posts, it was hard to determine whether Brad Calipari, a junior guard at UK, was transferring out of the program or out of the family. The truth: It could be the former, and of course, it’ll never be the latter.
Among many other topics, John Calipari talked about his son’s decision on Tuesday.
“He is still walking through it,” Calipari said. “I didn’t know all the stuff went crazy. He puts his name in the portal – how does the media get it within a minute? That’s supposed to be for colleges, not for the media. But the media, I’m researching that. How does the media have all of this? It was out within 30 seconds of him putting his name in. The night before he says, ‘Dad, if I want to do this, how do I do it?’ I said you have to put your name in the portal to get started. It was a two-minute conversation. The next morning, he put his name in without telling me, his mom, his sisters, anybody. He just put it in there. He didn’t think anything. But the media got it within 30 seconds and all of a sudden it is trending nationally and Cal and his son are having a fistfight and he is leaving. What?”
What, indeed. But in the end, Calipari said it’s an understandable thing for a guy who would like to play. Brad Calipari has spent three seasons at UK and has earned his degree in communication. He redshirted last season but before that played in 27 games in two seasons, scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and had an assist. He made it into an NCAA Tournament game in 2018.
He’s played in practice against elite talent. Now, if he wants to go elsewhere and seek some playing time, well, his dad says he understands.
“I mean, you know, do you blame him?” Calipari said. “He was in here three times yesterday working out. Do you blame him for wanting to play more and with knowing who is here? Has he gotten better? Absolutely, he has gotten better. So now, he can look around, and I even told him to look at Division II. What’s wrong with that? Go to a place where you are well coached, where you get a chance, where you are in a good league. You know Division II basketball, they’re just a little smaller, but you’ve got talented guys. He may end up coming back. He’s in the lodge and in classes, so he may come back. But, I’m proud that he graduated in three years. It took me six. I mean, he graduated in three years and is playing every day against guys like this and he survives and he thrives and he gets better. I mean, what he’s taking from this is his commitment to how he trains, how he eats, what he does, it’s going to help him with anything, especially after basketball when it is done. Take that and what your sister did, which is the same thing, and shift it over to here and you’ll be unique and special at whatever you want to do.”
So while Calipari understands, he did acknowledge it might be a tougher sell elsewhere in his household, particularly with his wife, Ellen.
“Well, mom said if he leaves she’s going with him,” Calipari said. “So, I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Hope she was kidding. Maybe she wasn’t. The ideal thing would be for him to have more of an opportunity here, but you know, I’d love to do it, but that’s my own son. It has to be earned and you have to deserve it and you have to take what you want, and the other guys try to take what he wants, and if he is better than you then I am playing him. If you’re not doing your thing and you’re changing the game, guess what, I’m taking you out. This thing is about winning and you being responsible for you. . . . I look at this and just tell you that, again, for my son and all of these kids, this is hard here. It’s not easy.”