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October 17, 2012

Cats adjust to ESPN cameras for all-access show

Ryan Harrow didn't like the cameras at first.

An ESPN crew, in Lexington to film the "All-Access: Kentucky" series - which begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. - was set to follow the players through a mid-October practice.

And Harrow didn't like that. Not because he was camera-shy, but because he was afraid of what the cameras would show.

"Me being a point guard … I'm probably going to get yelled at the most, so I wasn't a big fan of it at first," Harrow said. "But I think it's pretty cool that we'll be on ESPN and a lot of people will get to know who we are on and off the court and see what we actually have to go through."

Harrow's come around, just as his coach did.

John Calipari said he was initially reluctant to do an all-access show when ESPN approached him about the idea. Did his team need more exposure? It already gets enough. And when an ESPN executive pitched the show with the idea of it helping UK's recruiting, that didn't sell Calipari, either.

"I said, 'I don't think we need help,'" Calipari said. "I think we're OK."

Calipari said he rejected the idea for "about a month" before coming around to it. He has nothing to hide about the way he runs his program, he said, and it won't give any secrets away. And it would be a good experience for his players - even though some, like Harrow, took some time to embrace it.

They didn't really have a choice, though.

"If (Calipari) says it's good for us, then it is," Archie Goodwin said. "He's the monarchy."

He may be the monarch of the defending national champs, but Calipari didn't want it to be about him. He said he made ESPN take multiple mentions of his name out of the press release. He wants the focus to be on the players and the program. Whether it will or not remains to be seen - the first two teaser clips for the show both depict Calipari - but there will be plenty of non-Calipari material for ESPN to mine.

The cameras have been following around the players and coaches nearly everywhere.

To practice, where Harrow worried about getting yelled at on camera and where Calipari worried about coalescing another brand-new team.

"What they want to see," Calipari said, "is how in the world does he get a young group to play that hard and be that unselfish in that period of time?"

To classes, where the crew sits quietly in a corner to avoid a disrupting players (except for Julius Mays, who said the cameramen "don't want to sit" through his two-and-a-half hour graduate-level courses).

"A couple people asked me what they were," Goodwin said of the crew's first appearance in one of his classes, "but after a couple minutes everything went back to normal."

To dorm rooms, where they film the players shooting billiards or playing video games.

"It's kind of weird that you have a camera behind you while you're playing the game and you have to watch what you say," said Harrow, who found himself being filmed playing Playstation3 one day. "You can't really be yourself."

Most players said they were aware of the cameras at first, before they became just another part of the noisy background noise that comes with playing at Kentucky.

"The first couple days it was noticeable, but then it's like they're not even there," Mays said. "You don't really pay attention to them. You just live your life and interact how you usually do."

The show "will bring people behind the scenes of this storied program to capture both the joys and the challenges of creating and leading an elite college basketball team," ESPN vice president of original programming and production Jamie Horowitz said in a release.

That picture of how these student-athletes are, as both students and athletes, is what Calipari hopes the show portrays.

"What I hope comes across is that this is a good group of kids," Calipari said. "They come together. They share sacrifice. They know they're going to give up stuff. They work hard. They go to class. They do what they're supposed to. Good kids who are good students and trying to chase their dreams in under a magnifying glass that's ridiculous."


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