LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -If Billy Gillispie had his way, Halloween would be left to the trick-or-treaters. It's far too early for a basketball exhibition, he says.
Ready or not, Kentucky faces Pikeville College on Wednesday night at Rupp Arena in the competitive debut for the Wildcats' new coach.
Gillispie and the team have been cramming for the tuneup (he won't even settle on a lineup until after Wednesday's pregame practice), but he figures a little rust is positive at this time of year.
``I wouldn't want a team that was too far along right now to be quite honest with you,'' Gillispie said. ``You'd probably peak too early.''
At his news conference Tuesday, which he said started late in part because of ``some missed layups'' in practice, Gillispie gave few hints about how this team would look different from last year's Wildcats under Tubby Smith. He did promise the Rupp crowd would see maximum effort.
``They'll see excitement in the players,'' Gillispie said. ``They'll see camaraderie. You'll see guys that are competing for every ball.''
After Tuesday's practice, some of the players said Gillispie has been running them nonstop. He has promised to play an up-tempo style if possible, and senior guard Ramel Bradley expects the speed to be noticeably different from last year - as early as Wednesday night.
``It's been pretty fast,'' Bradley said. ``We're going as fast as we can go. Every cut we're making is hard.''
Even though the starters haven't been named, Bradley figures he'll likely be among them and get the most looks at point guard. Sophomore point guard Derrick Jasper will miss the game and perhaps others because he isn't recovered from offseason surgery on his left knee.
Swingman Ramon Harris says the players are still getting used to Gillispie's style, but they certainly know his work ethic.
``We still have a lot to learn from him,'' Harris said. ``It's going to take some time, but we're going to be prepared.''
Gillispie says his players are eager to play, in part because it breaks up the monotony of practice.
M team in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.
M was playing Louisville, so the crowd was against him. This time, he's looking forward to having a home-court advantage he considers to be one of the best in the game.
``As a coach, what you look for are moments like these, when you get to be in the arena, be a part of a fantastic crowd on a nightly basis,'' he said. ``You get a chance to see young people and how they respond in certain situations.''
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