The 2019 Women’s Basketball Clinic was held Sunday, making a return to Rupp Arena. There were many of the same activities as in years past, but other activities went away to make room for a “more personal” experience for the ladies.
Perhaps the most popular activity is getting autographs from Coach Cal and his wife Ellen. The long line of participants snaked around the arena court and back toward one of the tunnel entrances. Cal and Ellen sat at their table for 2 straight hours, signing basketballs and other items and getting photos taken with each lady that came through the line.
One thing that had been absent in recent years that the ladies missed greatly was the opportunity to get each player’s autograph and a picture with them. As Coach Cal said, “We listened to what you wanted” while Coach and Mrs. Cal were busy on the court, the players got set up at a long row of tables at the back of the arena. There was no mistaking when they arrived as a huge cheer went up in the arena. Just from an objective observer’s viewpoint, the players really seemed to embrace this autograph session and offered to take the selfies with the ladies (one lady was overheard saying, “I’m so glad you did that. You young folks are so much better at this selfie picture thing.”).
One activity that was removed from the itinerary was running various drills with clinic participants. I, for one, was glad to see this taken off the schedule as it only allowed a limited number of ladies to take part and it was not nearly as entertaining or informative as the rather popular Q & A session with the assistant coaches. Coach Justus reviewed a few rule changes that go into effect this season, one of which is the moving of the 3-point line to the standard international distance. He cautioned that we may see more turnovers from players inadvertently stepping out of bounds, especially in the corners as they adjust to the new 3-point line and how much closer it is to the edge of the court.
Player introductions were also a hit and they may have gotten more applause than Ellen did when she was introduced, but it was a close call. After what has certainly been a very busy weekend for the players, they were still in a seemingly jovial mood, especially Immanuel Quickley who shared a few dance moves when he was introduced.
Of course, there was food (and it was quite delicious), an opportunity to stock up on Wildcat gear at the All Sports booth, and you could do a self-tour of the men’s locker room. One event that did remain was strength and conditioning coach Rob Harris inviting all the ladies down for a mini-workout. Roughly 90% of the ladies headed down to the court and followed Rob’s orders to do jumping jacks, lunges and squats. The workout culminated with a “plank off” with Ellen Calipari and Jennifer Palumbo maintaining their plank position well after the ladies were cleared by Rob to stop. It was no surprise that Ellen outlasted Jen and probably could have stayed in that position another hour (perhaps only a small exaggeration).
Instead of the announced 3-point shooting and layup drill, the players instead were taught the basics of a 2-3 zone defense. Cal admitted they don’t play much zone, primarily because the players won’t be playing that defense when they move on to the pros, but there are times “when you need to win games” that zone defense is the best plan. Tony Barbee took charge of this segment and it was interesting and informative watching the new players absorb the fundamentals of the zone.
All that remained after the teaching drill was drawing for door prizes and then getting one massive group photo with all the participants with the players.
I’m sure there are better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but for me, this was an excellent choice. Besides all of the fun, this annual event serves up one huge reminder: basketball season will be here soon!
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