In just under two weeks, Kentucky men’s basketball will spend seven days at the luxury Baha Mar resort in Nassau, Bahamas. Baha Mar has 2,300 cabins and even advertises a wildlife sanctuary on the property where guests can interact with sea turtles and stingrays.
While the Cats will take advantage of the opulent resort amenities and warm, sunny weather the Bahamas provides, they don’t forget the true purpose of their August trip to the Caribbean — to define this team’s identity.
“Our goal is to improve,” assistant coach Chin Coleman said Friday. “We’re trying to find out who we are, but we’re not there and we won’t be there during these Bahamas games. We will get an idea of ourselves and our team. I think there will be different groups that coach (John) Calipari wants to see play together. So it’s an experimental period for us to try some things and then we’ll see what works.
During this trial period, Calipari staff will determine how to incorporate new parts into the fold. Associate coach Orlando Antigua specifically mentioned the addition of Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves and the return of CJ Fredrick, the former Iowa guard who missed the entire 2021-22 season in the Kingdom. United after undergoing hamstring surgery.
“We have a group of experienced, older, more mature guys with an influx of really talented young guys,” Antigua said. “Obviously, with Antonio and even CJ coming back, it’s going to be very important to get this all mixed up and blending together so soon.”
Antigua well understands the importance of these international summer trips. He was the head coach of the Dominican Republic national team that beat the United Kingdom in a 63-62 match during the Cats’ 2014 tour to the Bahamas. What’s more interesting? The British team that lost to the Dominican Republic ended up with a place in the Final Four and an overall record of 38-1.
“It was a game that prepared us to try and play for the World Cup,” Antigua said of his Dominican Republic side’s upset win over Kentucky. “Our motivation was to improve, to try and compete with really talented kids and see what we could do. It all came down to one possession.
Eight years later, Antigua are using the same ‘just improve’ philosophy – but just for the other team. Instead of focusing on a shot at the World Cup, he’s been working on preparing his team for a run at the NCAA title. The trip to the Bahamas is a first opportunity for the Cats to lay the groundwork for the 2022-2023 season, and the team is looking to take full advantage of it.
“They understand that we’re going to get a chance to go out and compete against new teams, against different bodies in the Bahamas,” Antigua said. “It might be a vacation for a lot of people, but it’s going to be work for them and they can’t wait for it.”
Wednesday August 10: Kentucky vs. Dominican Republic National Selection Team, 7 p.m. (SEC)
Thursday August 11: Kentucky vs. Tec de Monterrey, 7 p.m. (SEC)
Saturday August 13: Kentucky vs. Carleton University, 6 p.m. (SEC)
Sunday August 14: Kentucky vs. Bahamas National Team, Noon (SEC)