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Calipari doubts anyone’s better than Terrence Jones

Oct 25, 2011, 5:19 PM EDT

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Terrence Jones often played his way into John Calipari’s doghouse last season. That’s not happening this year.

Calipari lauded the 6-9 sophomore Tuesday, telling local media that Jones’ work ethic finally matches his immense talent. He’s now the first guy in the gym, he stays late and he spent the summer improving his game.

Jones, according to Calipari, might be the game’s best player.

“If there’s a better player in the country, I gotta see him. Maybe that guy’s in our gym, I don’t know. If there is somebody better than Terrence, I gotta see,” Calipari said. “His focus on basketball compared to what it was last year is not even close.”

Calipari – who noted Jones’ improved ball-handling, shooting and conditioning — expects Jones’ extra work and dedication to result in a Josh Harrellson-esque jump, which would be nothing short of spectacular. Jones was already one of the game’s elite players as a freshman. If he improves as much as Harrellson did, we’ll see a transcendent player.

That’s a scary thought for Kentucky foes.

It may not result in a massive stat bump, though. Kentucky’s got plenty of talent and Calipari says everyone’s upping their game, especially senior Darius Miller and freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who “try to kill each other” during practice.

The result? “Darius has never been better,” Calipari says.

Hey, Calipari even lauded Eloy Vargas, a 6-11 senior who wasn’t good for much last season other than giving Harrellson the occasional breather.

Much of this no doubt counts as coach-speak and early season lauding designed to boost his guys’ confidence and encourage fans. But if half of what Calipari says is true, then that Dec. 3 game against North Carolina went from must-see TV to essential viewing for any sports fan.

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