The weather is turning, leaves are falling and college basketball season is creeping up on the calendar.
That reality will start to hit viewers today when ESPNU (3 p.m. ET) televises a two-hour University of Kentucky basketball practice, with Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Avery Johnson providing analysis from the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky.
Yes, practice. We are talking about televising practice.
Loaded once again with a talent-leaded roster — ESPN’s NBA Insider Chad Ford has 10 Wildcats in the top 100 2015 NBA Draft prospects, led by No. 3 Karl-Anthony Towns, a center — Kentucky head coach John Calipari is restructuring his preseason routine.
He has invited NBA scouts from all 30 teams to attend today’s practice which will see his players go through individual drills, scrimmage 3-on-3 and finish with a full court, 5-on-5 scrimmage.
For ESPNU, this is in keeping with its goal of bringing fans unique and interesting programming, which in this case also presents unique opportunities for the production team.
“The challenge arises because there isn’t an already built in structure which you find with regular games,” said Matthew Bartley, who will produce the telecast. “From my standpoint, and everyone in the production truck, we really need to be focused on the players; the mechanics they are demonstrating and the skills they are showcasing.
– Matthew Bartley, producer of today’s ESPNU telecast of Kentucky’s basketball practice
“Also, we want to make sure we are giving our analysts enough time to break down the team while also giving viewers the action on the court,” he said. “What will be routine is the idea that we will have a plan of attack going into the telecast, but it is vital we are able to adjust and react. You don’t want to miss anything great, and when great does happen, document it properly.”
While getting a look at a crop of the nation’s best players, viewers will also hear from Calipari, who will be mic’ed up and join the analysts on the set.
“I have produced many studio shows and live games, but this is probably the most unique event,” said Bartley, in his 15th year with ESPN.
For college basketball fans, it is simply another sign the season is upon us.