Team-building goal of Kentucky men’s basketball Bahamas trip

In just under two weeks, Kentucky men’s basketball will be spending seven days at the luxury Baha Mar resort in Nassau, Bahamas. Baha Mar boasts 2,300 staterooms and even advertises an on-property wildlife sanctuary where guests can interact with sea turtles and stingrays.

Even though the Cats will be enjoying the opulent resort amenities and the warm, sunny weather that the Bahamas offers, they’re not forgetting the real purpose for their August excursion to the Caribbean — defining this team’s identity.

“Our goal is to get better,” assistant coach Chin Coleman said on Friday. “We’re trying to find out who we are a little bit, but we’re not there and we won’t be there during these Bahamas games. We’ll get a feel for ourselves and our team. I think that there will be some different groups that Coach (John) Calipari wants to see play together. So, this is an experimental time for us to try some things and then we’ll see what works.”

During this trial period, Calipari’s staff will be figuring out how to integrate new pieces 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 2021-2022 season at UK after undergoing hamstring surgery.

“We’ve got a group of guys that are experienced, older and more mature with an influx of really talented young guys,” Antigua said. “Obviously, with Antonio and even CJ coming back, to get all of that to mesh and meld this early is going to be really important.”

Antigua understands well the importance of these international summer trips. He was the head coach of the Dominican Republic national team that defeated UK in a 63-62 game during the Cats’ 2014 Bahamas tour. What’s even more interesting? The UK team that lost to the Dominican Republic ended up with a Final Four berth and a 38-1 overall record.

“It was a game that was getting us prepared to try and play for the World Cup,” Antigua said about his Dominican Republic team’s surprise win over Kentucky. “Our motivation was to get better, to try to compete against some really talented kids and see what we could do. It came down to one possession.”

Eight years later, Antigua is utilizing the same “just get better” philosophy — but just for the other team. Instead of focusing on a chance at the World Cup, he’s working toward getting his squad ready for a run at an NCAA title. The Bahamas trip is an early opportunity for the Cats to build a foundation for the 2022-2023 season, and the team is looking to take full advantage of it.

“They understand that we’re gonna get a chance to go out and compete against some new teams, against some different bodies in the Bahamas,” Antigua said. “It may be a vacation for a lot of folks, but it’s going to be some work for them and they’re looking forward to it.”

Bahamas schedule

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Kentucky vs. Dominican Republic National Select Team, 7 pm (SEC)

Thursday, Aug. 11: Kentucky vs. Tec de Monterrey, 7 pm (SEC)

Saturday, Aug. 13: Kentucky vs. Carleton University, 6 pm (SEC)

Sunday, Aug. 14: Kentucky vs. Bahamas National Team, noon (SEC)

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