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Monday, October 15, 2007

From the Orlando Sentinel - Calipari sees plenty of potential in UCF

Calipari sees plenty of potential in UCF
Cary Estes | Special to the Orlando Sentinel
October 12, 2007

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis Coach John Calipari threw down a challenge to the rest of Conference USA during the league's preseason basketball media event on Thursday.

During his opening statements, Calipari said it would be easy for the rest of the programs in the conference to look at the Tigers' success in recent years and say, "If Memphis can do it, we can all do it. We're in the same league."

That was the attitude Calipari said he had when he arrived at Massachusetts nearly 20 years ago. "There are no smoke and mirrors to getting it done," Calipari said. "It takes a commitment."

And as he looks around C-USA, Calipari sees a program that he says has the potential for similar growth -- UCF.

"They have a chance," Calipari said. "I said to [UCF Athletic Director] Keith [Tribble], 'You're driving everybody crazy with those facilities.' They built like a little city right around the athletic buildings.

"That's great. But now where do you want to go with it? Where is that next level? It's easy to say you want to do it, but you have to commit to it. Recruiting money, coaches' salaries, travel budget, academic help. That's the kind of stuff that if you get, now you have a chance."

UCF certainly appears to be headed in the right direction on the basketball court. Last season, only two years after making the move to C-USA from the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Knights finished second in the league, and Kirk Speraw was named the C-USA coach of the year. Combine that success with the opening this year of the new 10,000-seat UCF Arena, and the future looks bright for the Knights.

"Of all the changes that took place with the realignment of the conferences, we had the biggest jump to make, coming from the Atlantic Sun and competing in C-USA," Speraw said. "But we've been able to weather that jump in pretty good fashion."

In fact, Speraw said he believes the Knights are well ahead of schedule.

"We leap-frogged a number of years there in regards to being competitive in the league," Speraw said. "And that's raised expectations, which is good. Now our kids have to follow through. We've moved faster than what we thought we might be able to, and now we have to maintain and continue to build. But our facility gives us the opportunity to do that."

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