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December 12, 2012

When exams end, Wildcats will be all about basketball

With Camp Cal looming, Kentucky has one more week where basketball won't be the only priority.

After finals weeks, the Wildcats can expect to eat, sleep and dream basketball. But this week, they'll have to hit the books as hard as they're hitting the court.

"It's been tough," freshman Nerlens Noel said last week. "I have a couple finals and a couple presentations. It's been a lot of work academically and basketball wise, but I mean, it's college basketball. We're student-athletes so you have to get it done."

Kentucky coach John Calipari gave his team Sunday off to prepare for finals week. The Wildcats' standard practice times will fit into their finals schedules the rest of the week.

But practice time is limited by the NCAA's 20-hour rule, which prohibits teams from practicing more than 20 hours in any week. Once the Cats wrap their finals, that won't be the case.

"From Friday night on, there's no days off, nothing," Calipari said. "We'll be going three times a day."

Some players, Noel, will be swamped during finals week. Sophomore Ryan Harrow is more fortunate.

"I only have one final so it's not tough for me," Harrow said. "I have actually never had it tough for finals week so I wouldn't know."

Calipari takes grades seriously. Last season his team posted a 3.12 GPA in the spring and graduated the only two seniors on the team, Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas.

And being a freshman and transitioning from high school to college hasn't seemed too difficult for the Cats. Last season Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague combined for a grade point average "well above 3.0," a UK spokesman said.

But for now the Cats are trying to find a healthy balance of basketball and studying. That doesn't leave much time for the social side of college life.

"I don't know what that is," Harrow said. "It's basketball, school, basketball, basketball, basketball."

But the players aren't complaining. This is what they signed up for when committing to play basketball at UK.

"It's very limited in what we're able to do in social time or anything," Noel said. "But it's going to pay off; it's worth it. Basketball season is when you got to give your all."


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