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August 23, 2014

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Kentucky coach John Calipari’s day in Vegas includes stops at Findlay Prep, UNLV practice

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AP FILE PHOTO

Kentucky coach John Calipari

A couple weeks back, hard-recruiting Kentucky coach John Calipari paid a visit to Findlay Prep hoops practice.

His goal? To see whether he could sway Pilots super-guard Cory Joseph, one of the nation's top unsigned (and uncommitted) seniors, to expand his final list of schools from five to six.

Most kids would at least be interested in hearing Calipari out. Of course, it's currently a non-contact period between college coaches and prep ballers. But through messengers, Joseph, who Rivals.com ranks as the No. 7 prospect in the 2010 class, said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Calipari took another visit to the Henderson foothills Tuesday afternoon to watch the Pilots practice.

According to Findlay prep coach Mike Peck, Calipari still is interested in Joseph, but said the first-year UK coach understands where Joseph stands.

Instead, Calipari's main purpose for taking the trip to see Findlay was to get looks in at some of the Pilots' younger talents.

Among those he was taking a look at, according to Peck, were junior guard Nick Johnson, sophomore forward Winston Shepard and freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss.

As for Joseph, he is still expected to decide between — in no particular order — UNLV, Minnesota, UConn, Villanova and Texas following the completion of Findlay's season early next month.

Calipari, whose No. 3 Wildcats (29-2) don't play in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., until Friday, made a stop on the UNLV campus before heading to McCarran Airport to head back east.

Donning a black velour Nike Kentucky jumpsuit, he sat and watched the Rebels practice for more than an hour.

After practice concluded, he and UNLV coach Lon Kruger exchanged pleasantries before heading to the far end of the court with five Rebel players, who were then used as pawns of sorts as the two veteran coaches discussed strategy for more than 20 minutes. That session included sharing zone offense philosophies.

Finally, before exiting the gym with Kruger, Calipari chatted up other members of the UNLV staff before finishing his rounds with an exchange with Rebels junior guard Tre'Von Willis.

The two hugged, shared a couple of quick laughs and parted ways.

Willis played for Calipari as a freshman at Memphis during the 2006-07 season, when the Tigers advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, falling to eventual national runner-up Ohio State. After appearing in 17 games and averaging 2.6 points per appearance, Willis transferred closer to home and has flourished ever since. After averaging 17.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 3.6 apg this regular season for the Rebels (23-7 overall, 11-5 Mountain West), he was named as a first team All-MWC performer on Monday.

Calipari concluded the day mentioning the trip on his Twitter feed (@UKCoachCalipari): "Great 2 catch up w/ my friend Lon Kruger & watched his team practice. Got 2 see Tre'Von Willis who played 4 me @ Memphis. He's now All-MWC."

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