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Arkansas’ Calipari Gives Selection, Schedule Updates During Little Rock Roadshow | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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For the first time since being named head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas, John Calipari traveled to the state capital Tuesday night to meet with fans as part of the ONE Razorback Roadshow series that began Monday.

Calipari, athletic director Hunter Yurachek and others took the stage at The Hall in Little Rock, led by Matt Zimmerman.

In the 34 days since his appointment, Calipari has spent his time putting together the bones of the team he couldn’t meet at his introductory press conference.

After securing the commitments of high school players Boogie Fland, Karter Knox and Billy Richmond, Kentucky transfers Adou Thiero and Zvonimir Ivisic, Tennessee transfers Jonas Aidoo and Florida Atlantic transfer Johnell Davis, Calipari said his roster is nearly complete and reiterated Tuesday that he is only looking for eight or nine leading actors.

“I coach everyone, I don’t just coach the guys who start,” Calipari said. “I coach them all. In short, I prepare them for another man to coach. They leave and go somewhere else. Well, what if I just focus on my eight or nine? Let me do that.”

Calipari built his Kentucky program on one-and-done freshmen like Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, John Wall and Devin Booker.

Although that strategy won him the 2012 national championship, Calipari said he wants to reinvent the way he builds a roster after the No. 3-seed Wildcats fell in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament to the 14th-seeded Oakland.

“The game has changed because you have 25- and 26-year-olds playing,” Calipari said. “So where I (previously) would have a roster full of freshmen, you can (still) have a freshman, but you just can’t have a roster full. So it was very important for us to have (Johnell) and Jonas be the first two.”

When asked by a fan to speak about DJ Wagner, a top 10 prospect in the 2023 recruiting class and a former Wildcat, Calipari declined to comment directly. But he did note, “Billy Richmond’s father played for me. Adou Thiero’s father played for me. Another man’s father played for me.’

Calipari coached Knox’s older brother, Kevin, at Kentucky in 2017-18 before being picked by the New York Knicks. He coached Richmond and Thiero’s fathers in Memphis. Wagner’s father, Dajuan, was a one-time lottery pick for Calipari in 2001-02.

“The ultimate compliment is that they want their son to play for (their coach),” Calipari said.

Wagner is currently in the portal and has been closely linked to the Razorbacks after visiting Fayetteville this past weekend. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.3 assists for Kentucky as a freshman last season.

As for the schedule, Calipari noted that it was in a similar place to the schedule a month ago: “there was no schedule.”

“So now I’m starting all over again.”

He said he looks at national events first, after hearing from ESPN, CBS and others, before looking at the rest of the non-conference slate.

Calipari ended his 10-minute scrum with the local media the same way he ended his time with the crowd less than an hour later, emphasizing his intention to be involved with Arkansas State, and not just the team at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

“If you sit in the chair that I sit in, and I’ve sat in chairs like this (in) different places, you owe it to the state not to just sit at your desk and watch cassette tapes and coach basketball , ” he said.

“The impact you can have on people, creating hope and opportunity, going out and making people feel good about their condition, feel good about themselves – I will not cheat on this position.”