NEWARK — If early signs are any indication, John Calipari and company aren’t exactly winning over the locals here.
While the other teams — Marquette, North Carolina and Ohio State — put on extensive open practices for the fans Thursday, Kentucky held an extremely short workout which featured free throw shooting and a game of “Knockout.”
The performance inspired a smattering of boos.
“Thanks for giving me time for a nap,” one fan in a suit shouted at Calipari, who shot back a short glance.
“I did more in my eighth-grade gym class,” another fan shouted.
Ohio State’s workout by contrast?
“Excellent, well-organized and fun,” one prominent local high school coach said.
That same coach said his 11-year-old son was able to get autographs from every team — except Kentucky.
“Ohio State stayed an extra 15 minutes to sign autographs,” the coach said.
Against this backdrop came a report in The Star-Ledger that Calipari moved his entire team from a hotel in Newark to one on the outskirts.
“At the last minute, the coach decided it was better for his team to stay on the outskirts of the city … so they didn’t have any distractions,” Wyndham Gardens hotel manager Michael Percaccio told The Ledger.
The administrators, alumni, band and cheerleaders are all still staying at the Wyndham, the newspaper reported.
“We are extremely disappointed in his decision,” Percaccio told the Ledger.
KENTUCKY RECRUITING NEW YORK AREA
**Kentucky has done well recruiting in the New York/New Jersey area, landing freshman guard Doron Lamb from Queens and incoming McDonald’s All-American Michael Gilchrist of St. Patrick.
Calipari has also watched 6-10 freshman Dakari Johnson of St. Pat’s several times this season, and is hot on the trail of Jamesville-DeWitt junior big man DaJuan Coleman.
“I will tell you that there are talented players here and the competition is so strong,” Calipari said. “And the notoriety and exposure they get, you’re getting kids that are ready for the spotlight so to speak.”
**Gilchrist won’t attend Friday’s game against Ohio State but he will be watching the game on television as part of a Kentucky party at his home. The 6-foot-7 wing is one of four Kentucky commits in Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago — along with Kyle Wiltjer, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis.
**Asked if he was close taking the N.C. State job six years ago, Calipari said, “Yes, I was close to taking the job…I just wanted to be on the same footing with the Dukes and the North Carolinas. Now let’s go. That’s what interested me. But it’s obviously a terrific job and someone will go in there and do well.”
**Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones and Ohio State frosh Jared Sullinger have been texting back and forth in the days leading up to the big game.
“We were just talking nonsense,” Sullinger said. “Just ‘Good luck but don’t have a good game.’ Stuff like that.’
**Sullinger said Kentucky would be even better if 6-11 Enes Kanter were eligible.
“It would be a great basketball team,” he said. “I think Terrence Jones would be able to play his natural position, which is a three man, and Enes can play the four or the five. He has the height to play the four or the five, but he has the skill level of four. So if Enes Kanter were playing in this basketball game, it would be whole different basketball game.
“He can shoot the basketball. He can dribble it. And he can rebound.”
**Marquette coach Buzz Williams captivated the media during his press conference, but his opening line might have been the best. Told by the moderator that he was seated on a “dais,” Williams said, “What did you say? I was joining you on what?”
Told that it was a “dais,” Williams cracked, “How do you spell it?”
**Former teammates Irving, Strickland in Sweet 16
**Sullinger will have late uncle on mind in NewarkFollow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.