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John Calipari praises team at Kentucky's Big Blue Madness

  • cc0071873ef79a23400f6a706700fd07.jpg

    Kentucky men's coach John Calipari speaks to the audience at the NCAA college basketball team's Big Blue Madness, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)The Associated Press

  • a50d38443ef69a23400f6a70670025e8.jpg

    Kentucky men's coach John Calipari speaks to the audience waiting for the start of the NCAA college basketball team's Big Blue Madness, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)The Associated Press

  • 6eabd9183ef49a23400f6a7067005c75.jpg

    Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari speaks to the crowd gathered for the NCAA college basketball team's Big Blue Madness, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, in Lexington, Ky.(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)The Associated Press

John Calipari served as the opening act for Kentucky's banner recruiting class, and the veteran coach knew exactly what to say.

Speaking at Big Blue Madness on Friday night, Calipari delighted the capacity crowd at Rupp Arena with a rousing talk more reminiscent of a campaign stop than a basketball practice.

"The competition will be fierce, the road will be difficult," he said. "Every team we play will be more experienced than us. But if we become one unit, play with one heartbeat and a love for each another, we will be unbreakable.

"With these players, these fans, and this coaching staff, we will build on the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball."

The optimistic tone for Calipari comes in the wake of last season's disaster, when the Wildcats failed to make it to the NCAA tournament and lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

But the expectations remain high in Lexington, thanks to a heralded group of recruits that will comprise a good portion of Calipari's regular rotation this year. The seven-man class features forward Julius Randle, considered a preseason candidate for national player of the year and a possible No. 1 draft pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

"Our biggest opponent: ourselves," Calipari said. "At Kentucky, we are competing against ourselves every day. We can't let the strain and spotlight of this program affect you. We are the place to help you achieve your dreams.

"We don't just play college basketball, we are college basketball. As you know, we are everyone's Super Bowl."

Calipari said playing for Kentucky isn't for everyone, and he's confident this year's team is up to the challenge.

The touted recruiting class also includes identical-twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and swingman James Young.