Men's Basketball

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Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

Q. Is Skal (Labissiere) going to play?

COACH CALIPARI: Everything is good to go. Like we do here, it’s on the first day. You know, if you don’t know, I’ve got to explain the process. There’s probably 50 players that have a review. Last year we had five players have a review. A couple of them got cleared the week before the game. This year there was more than one. Every year we’ve been here, players go through the review. You won’t believe this: It’s always the best players who go through the review. I think my team will be fine and you guys will figure it out when we go out there the first day and everybody’s got uniforms on. You’ll know, ‘Oh, they must have been cleared.’

Q. John Wall missed a game and Enes Kanter missed a whole season. Where does Skal’s situation —

COACH CALIPARI: I’m fine. We’ll see in the first game.

Q. After your practice on —

COACH CALIPARI: How did this become such a huge — this became like a firestorm. I’m telling you, I was like, I told — what is this big — this is like — where did this come from? I feel real good what my team’s going to look like on the first day. Let’s move on to some basketball stuff.

Q. After your practice on ESPN, Seth Greenberg was very high on Charles Matthews. Some NBA scouts came away from that really impressed. 

COACH CALIPARI: I told you that he would be that kind of surprise because people didn’t realize how good he was. And especially playing with Tyler (Ulis), because when I fell in love with him is when he was playing with Tyler. That’s when I said we’ve got to get this guy. They love his athleticism, they love his length, they love his fight. He’s the first one in the gym, he’s the last one to leave. He’s in the gym at midnight. He’s one of those ones that we have a couple guys on the team right now that they’re going to follow all year. And as long as those guys get better, they’re young guys, they’ll make their judgments in March. You just can’t make judgments on him – maybe even Isaiah (Briscoe) – until the season gets going. Now, they love both of them. Every scout came up to me was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize.’ But they have these areas to improve. They have six months to do that, to show the pattern that they’re getting better, like all of our kids do.

Q. John, your players all said they were happy for you in the Hall of Fame, they were proud, they like the fact that they’re being coached by a Hall of Famer. Wondering what you feel, when you think of their reaction to your honor and knowing it won’t matter at practice?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, you know, any award that comes to a coach is based on all the opportunities he had, all the people that worked for him and what they did, all the families that had trust in that coach to say, ‘I trust you with my child.’ All the players who performed at a high level, at a real high level, then those awards happen. It wasn’t just me.

Now, I will tell you that I’m going to be the same guy and coach them like I did Monday in front of 80 NBA scouts, the same way I’ve coached over the years. It’s one of the things I tell all these kids, especially the ones that are really, really talented. I’m not going to be afraid to coach you. You’re not coming to a place that I’ve never coached somebody as good as you. I’ve coached players better than you and I am going to coach you. I’m going to tell you the truth, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m going to keep it real. If you don’t want that, don’t come here. So I’m happy they said that, but I don’t …

Q. John, your buddy Dick Vitale pointed out how important he thought Skal was.

COACH CALIPARI: He’s going to be good and he is going to play this year. He’s going to make jump hooks and jump shots. Next question.

Q. Where is Alex (Poythress) at in his rehab? Is he still on track to be ready?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s doing good, he’s doing good. He’s about 75 percent. We need him to be something, like he’s got to be a beast. Again, I think with Tyler what we did those two days, every scout said the same thing: ‘Wow, he’s got a chance.’ Now he’s got to get healthy, he’s got to get more confident in his body. It’s not just confidence in I can make a shot, it’s that he’s confident that I can come down hard and I’m going to be fine. But he’s big for us.

Q. Does anything in particular surprise you with your guys after you actually start working with them?

COACH CALIPARI: That we’re not as tough as I thought we would be. I thought we would be more of a tough — not a rough-house team – but we would be able to hold ground. We’re going to have to train them, make them just — they’ve got to be more aggressive. And I know all the fouls that are going to be called, that’s fine. This is a team — let them call fouls on us, but just let’s go, pick this up. I was a little bit surprised we weren’t.

But I will say our guard play is really, really good. Then I just have to make a decision at some point do we play three, how much do we play three guards, how do we play if we’re playing three guards, how do we defend if we’re playing three guards? I mean, there’s a lot of things that we have to come to grips with on. You know, last year we played 7-foot, 6-11, 6-10. Now we’re playing with three guards the very next year. OK, how are we going to play, because it’s totally different.

Q. Along those lines, you guys have made a living out of being racers in the lane. The last six seasons, teams under your direction have been Top 10 in the country in blocked shots.

COACH CALIPARI: How many times did we lead the country in blocked shots?

Q. Once.

COACH CALIPARI: Only once? We will be fine because we can block shots at like probably three positions. Look, I’m not going to be playing 10 guys, I just don’t see it. Probably playing seven, maybe eight, and those guys got to fight for that time. If a guy on this team deserves to play 38 minutes, he will. I’ve done that before. If anybody else deserves to play, then that player will get less minutes, but this isn’t eighth grade basketball. Last year was — every team I put on, we were fresh and we could block shots. That’s why we were what we were last year.

Q. Do you have a feeling who those seven or eight guys are?

COACH CALIPARI: Not yet. I have a feeling for like three or four, but not the total group yet.

[Question regarding how important the late recruiting additions were …]

COACH CALIPARI: It was important, and it’s funny how things work out. You know, I kind of say fate intervenes a lot. You lose on some guys, and when you get who you get, you say thank goodness. We lost on some guys. I mean, that’s how this stuff plays out. And again, not every kid’s going to want to come here. This is a different deal and I accept that. What we’re trying to find out is who wants us and who do we want. And let’s be better at that, let’s really know that someone wants us or someone — we’ve become a little bit like Hawaii. Everybody wants to visit, they just don’t all want to come. (Laughter.)

Q. Did you work on that one this week?

COACH CALIPARI: As we did our debate study, that was one of those ones that I knew when to … bang, kaboom!

Q. The last two years there’s been a lot of talk about 40-0 in the preseason. This year I don’t hear any of that.

COACH CALIPARI: You know, you can bet on that in Vegas now, that we can go 40-0 this year.

Q. What’s the odds?


Q. How do you feel about that?

COACH CALIPARI: Because someone came up to me when I was out there and said, ‘You know you’re 30-1 to go 40-0.’ What? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

But look, this thing right now, no one’s done what we’re doing. No one’s attempted to do it, and if they did it, they were forced to do it. They tried to get kids to stay and kids left anyway, so they were forced in this situation.

I don’t know how — are we going to press? We haven’t done one thing about zone right now. Everybody in my opinion’s going to zone us. What are we going to do, pick-and-roll defense? I know what we’ve done in the past and it’s been successful, but do we do it now? Isaac (Humphries) is proving that he probably needs to be on the floor some. Well, how do we play defense when he’s on the floor? So there’s so many — we’re not mush mouth with any of our bigs. In other words, they can’t just, like last year, have Karl(-Anthony Towns) duck it and catch it. We can’t play that way. So now how do we flow all of our big guys in the post on a diagonal screen, cross screen, hard cut, kickbacks that are not in mush-mouth basketball.

I don’t know yet, and that’s why I said in November it’s going to be kind of ugly. We’re not turning it over ugly, which is normally what it usually looks like to me. We’re not turning it over ugly because we’ve got good guards. Our turnover-to-assist ratio or assist-to-turnovers is really good right now in practice. That’s because our guards have the ball the most. But the other stuff, defensive principles, habits. Oh, my gosh. Rebounding, toughness, rotations, communication. How much time do I have to keep going on this?

Q. 30 minutes.

COACH CALIPARI: OK. And then they don’t like doing drills. So what’s happened is when we play, they’ll compete, like really compete, but we do drills. They’re like, ‘C’mon.’ Like we have no habits right now that will win you championships. We have no habits. My guys returning, they do, but none of these new guys.

Q. Where does Marcus Lee kind of fit into your plans and what have you seen that you like since the end of last year?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s still defining who he is. I told him, you know, when they walk out of a gym, they can’t ask the question, what is he? That would be my fault and Marcus’ fault. They know this is what he is. If we haven’t answered that for everybody watching, then I haven’t done my job. One of the things we try to do is hide weaknesses. I wouldn’t want a team in that league to know one of my players’ weaknesses until they sign the contract. Make sure you cover this because — you try to hide all that. You want them to do what they do well. Be the best version of you. But you have to define what you are and Marcus is right now a better athlete, more confident, more confident shooter and all that. But all that is, I got better in some areas that I needed to get better in but here’s who I am.

Q. Who do you think he is?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s an energy guy, a shot blocker, a rebounder. A teammate that drives our passion and the emotion with which we play. A player that’s improved those other areas, but that’s not why they’re going to look at him. A guy that can play four positions. We switch pick and roll, he can play 5s and 1s. And now all of a sudden, you have a somewhat position-less — he’s not skilled enough to be totally position-less but a guy that can do that on defense.

Q. What has Humphries showed you so far compared to when you recruited him?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s not afraid. He knows what he can do and he’s pretty good at it, but we’ve got to get him next to that basket and let him do some stuff, what we forced Karl to do. Karl came in as the leading 3-point shooting record at his high school and we didn’t let him shoot 3s here. No, you’re figuring out this. They know you can shoot. We need to do the other stuff. So then defensively you got to figure out how, is he going to play pick-and-roll because they’re going to put him in a thousand pick-and-rolls. But he’s getting better. He’s 17. He’s the one player – I told all the scouts you can’t do anything with him. You can evaluate him, but he is too young to put his name in the draft even after this year.

Q. Is there any challenge for the guard, you’re playing three guards at once and they’re all used to having the ball all the time?

COACH CALIPARI: But I haven’t started that yet. There are always two of them together, though, but we have to. It’s going to be part of what we do. Right now, if I put all three of them together, we have no point guard on the other unit. So Dom’s out. Dom could be that guy but we have none right now. I think we’re fine doing what we’re doing, always two of them against the other one. I like having Isaiah away from Tyler because Isaiah defers too much to Tyler. So when he’s by himself, I’m making him play north and south and get in the lane. And you’re seeing like, wow, sometimes he likes to jog and throw it ahead to the wrong man because he doesn’t want to — you know, there’s things that he’s learning. But he has a will to win and a toughness that this team’s going to need, there’s no question. There are some things he’s going to have to do to help himself and help us, but more help him be the best version of himself.

Q. How do you balance – Greenberg has called it a city game for Isaiah. How do you balance sort of letting him play free and doing some of those creative things that he can do that a lot of people can’t and getting him to play sort of in the structure?

COACH CALIPARI: North-south. You know if you play North-south, you’re fine with me. I really don’t care what you’re doing. We can get you to make good decisions, but north-south. It’s the east-west stuff I can’t stand. So this, that stuff, I just want you — we take ground and we don’t give it back. We take ground and we do not give it back. We just keep marching forward. And that’s that mode and he’s getting there, I’m telling you. Everybody left. All the scouts that I talked to just said, you know what, you’re going to have to play three guards because he plays. That kid balls.

Q. You said you might need Tyler to be so good early to help you in some of those. Is he really that important to what you’re doing?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he is. He’s playing, he’s doing things he didn’t do a year ago. He’s way more comfortable doing stuff. You see runners now. He understands I can drive in there and still get lobs, but me, I’ve got to stop a little shorter. He’s shooting the ball way better, he’s healthier. Last year he played the whole year with shin splints. There were games where he was 80 percent. This year he’s healthy. He really — he may be the best floor general — I’m not saying the best guard but the best floor general I’ve ever coached. And I’m not saying he’s Derrick Rose and he’s John Wall and he’s Brandon Knight and he’s — you could go on and on, all the point guards I’ve had. Tyreke Evans. They’re all different. This kid is a floor general. You know —

Q. What do you see that tells you Tyler is a floor general?

COACH CALIPARI: Because he just moves people. I can do less coaching, let him do more. I let him call the plays. It’s like having a quarterback (who’s) not getting signals from the sidelines. You do what you think you need to do. Jamal (Murray)’s not ready for that, but I need him to be that way, too. Jamal is a combination guard. See, again, there’s my best players and then there’s the best prospects. You do know that’s different sometimes, right? All you Basketball Bennies out there. Your best prospects and your best players don’t always — it’s not always that. And a guy like Jamal, you know, the progress he’s going to have, and really be more efficient. We need him to score baskets and create havoc. He’s 6-5. He has ways of getting balls in the basket left and right hand. As a matter of fact, he shoots 3-pointers as well lefty as he does righty and he likes to show me. So he’s — now it’s OK, how do you be more efficient, how do you get that turnover or assist-to-turnover ratio to where they understand that this kid makes great decisions. That’s all stuff he’s got to learn.

Q. Mychal Mulder, do you think he’s going to be one of those guys in the rotation?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s in the conversation now. He’s got to work his way in and there are probably three or four other guys like that.

Q. How much of a setback has it been for Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins?

COACH CALIPARI: It’s just disappointing. Let me tell you, if you heard the pop when Derek went to catch the ball, if you heard it, and then I’m like, ‘Walk, kid,’ and he walked right to the sideline, he punched the wall. I was like oh, because if you heard it, just know he just shattered a finger. So he walked back and I’m kind of watching him and I’m trying to be focused on practice. It’s hard when someone gets hurt, your focus goes. So he goes in, I said, ‘Is he in the back?’ and they said yeah. And there was blood on the floor. Now I wanted to go throw up because now I’m thinking this kid — but it was dislocated. So I call him at the hospital, I’m driving home. I said, ‘How you doing, kid? Are you all right?’ ‘I’m good, Coach.’ ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, it just dislocated. It did come through the skin, and they gave me three stitches. It’s just dislocated, I’m going to be good and be back in 10 days.’ I said, ‘That’s what it is to have long bones like you have, kid.’ I did tell him, ‘Next time, you’ll get more open.’

The thing with Dom, Dom had been playing so well. It’s just as a coach, it’s not my team, you’re disappointed for individuals. Like you want him — those kids have — neither one of them really had a chance to play here until now. The other players were just better than them. They were good, too. The other guys were just way better, they were really good. These other guys were really, really good. Now they have a chance and they get hurt.

Q. Can Dom still go through a lot of stuff on the floor?

COACH CALIPARI: No, he’s got a cast on that hand. They put three pins in the hand. Derek wanted to go in the Combine. Derek: ‘Can I try to go?’ It’s a big deal for these kids. It’s a big deal to be able to say I want to step out there. And Derek was playing well. Derek was one of those guys that you’re saying we could have a really good team with two bigs and him at a 3. You could put him at a 4 and just space the court and go pick and roll. Now all of a sudden you’ve got 3-pointer shooters all over the place. They’ve got to play zone. Now neither one — and Dominique was defending and getting in the lane. He probably was our leading 3-point shooter, Dominique. Think about that from a year ago where he wasn’t guarded, where they wouldn’t — just let him open.

Q. Are they still in the situation where the people they are competing against for playing time are better than they are?

COACH CALIPARI: No. If they’re better than them, it’s not like this — so now it’s like this. So you get your opportunity. You’ve got to prove you should be on the floor, because at some point I asked all the guys, ‘Anybody here want to give up minutes to anybody else? Anybody here want to give up 15 minutes so someone else plays? Raise your hand.” No one raised their hand. You won’t believe that. No, they don’t.

So you have to earn those minutes, and basically earning them means I’m taking minutes from you. You don’t just get minutes, it’s not like — there’s 40. Forty, not 50, not 60. Forty. So if you want minutes, who are you taking it from? That’s the competitive spirit about what we do.

Q. All your players have said they were relieved to hear no more platooning. Does that surprise you, though?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, if you were going to be left out, you want to platoon.

Q. But they all said they liked it.

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, because they thought they wouldn’t be the one left out. See, you don’t know until you’re left out. We’re not going to platoon. Why not? I mean, you know, families are the same way. Why are we platooning? Because your son wouldn’t play. I think it’s a great idea.

Q: Can Tyler play 38 minutes a game?

COACH CALIPARI: Maybe, but how he’s going to have to play for him and us. Look, he’s got to show that he can pick up and be disruptive and not get beat. That’s very big for him personally. That being said, you can’t play that way for 38 minutes. So I would hope, I would like to keep him out there but I just can’t see it. There may be somebody else that becomes the glue of the team that you just need to keep them on the floor, you know, but I’m not afraid to do it. I’ve done it before. I would rather not play a guy more than 32 minutes, 31 minutes. And the reason is those eight or nine minutes, usually are not near what those other 30 are. So there’s that point of, all right, he’s going to start coming back. He can’t play at this pace, be as efficient, be as sharp, so why hurt him and why hurt our team. That number’s usually the number for me.

Q. This isn’t necessarily anything new, but the NCAA is looking into some major programs throughout the country. How often do you go through compliance?

COACH CALIPARI: We have meetings, monthly meetings where we talk about the changes or what’s happened in a program to make sure we know so that we’re on top of it. We have our entire staff. So it’s done a lot here, and being at Kentucky, I think you all know compliance — we make up rules here. That’s not a rule. Well, we just think it’s close. It’s not a rule. So we’re like we go overboard with it, but that’s fine.

Q. What did you learn last year from the platoons?

COACH CALIPARI: What did I learn from the platoons? That it’s very hard to coach that way; that there’s a balance between making sure everyone eats and winning. We kind of figured it out but it was really hard. That the players really have to trust you as a coach and have to know that you’re about them because if they think it’s about you trying to create a new style, Cal Ball. It ain’t for that. As long as it’s about them, they’ll do it. But it was really difficult, it was really difficult.

Q. Is there anything that makes this team different from any of your other teams at Kentucky?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, they’re inexperienced. Our guard play is good enough to mask some of the issues we’re going to have. I just don’t know if it will mask enough for W’s or L’s, but it will mask some of the stuff. We just got — we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve just got to catch up in so many areas, and folks, we cannot be good at everything. So in November I’m trying to say, all right, what do we have to have in to be able to play a game. So we may have one out-of-bounds play, one side out of bounds play, one press attack. We may play pick and roll one way. We don’t have enough time. November. We’re going to have another 22 practices and that’s it. Then we’re throwing it up and let’s go, and then we’re on national television. As a matter of fact, we’re on national television in practices, in exhibition games. I go to the store. I mean, it’s like — so we’ve just got to get done to prepare for November. We’re not going to look like the same team in March. As a matter of fact, some of you should keep the tapes, go back in February, look how we’re playing in February. You’ll come up and one of your questions will be, Coach, you’re not even playing anything like you did in November. Yeah, we’re trying to figure it out on the run, we’ve got all new guys.

Q. Along those lines, how big is the gap between where this team is right now compared to a year ago at the same time with veteran guys?

COACH CALIPARI: It wasn’t just that, we took a summer trip. We spent 10 days and six games against professionals. They got to know each other. They came in with no anxiety, they all knew what was going to happen, they were all satisfied with how they were going to be treated and coached, they were all satisfied that I can trust this man with my career, now let’s go play. That’s not the case. We’re walking into a situation where I’m asking Tyler to do stuff that’s probably not fair. I need you to be a coach, too. I need you to do more than just play. I need you to lead. Not only on the court, I need you to lead off the court. He’s not ready. Now he’s looking at me like what does that mean? Meaning you’ve got to be with your guys. This is going to be you dragging a lot of people. How about this, you’ve got to be the first one in the gym and you’ve got to stay after. I’m asking him to do a lot of things that are probably not fair, but he understands why I’m asking.

Q. What would you like Tyler to do in terms of in the locker room?

COACH CALIPARI: You’ve got to be with them. To lead, you have to be with them. You’ve got to be around. They all look at him when he tells them to do stuff, they listen and that’s really powerful for me as a coach because there will be times in huddles and I’ll say, ‘Tyler, what do you think we should be doing?’ And he’ll say, ‘Let’s do this.’ ‘You guys got that, everybody good? Okay, let’s go.’ They’ll make it work because it came from him versus me. So I can do that, I can give this kid a lot. Really intelligent, really smart. And then it’s just a grind, it’s a long season and that’s why I’m saying when you’re asking somebody that’s a sophomore to be that guy and he kind of wants it, I don’t think he shies from it, he’s good with it.

Q. Duke won a championship with three one-and-done players and seemed like there wasn’t some massive public outcry of the injustice of college basketball.

COACH CALIPARI: I was happy because now it’s been vetted and we won’t hear it anymore. It’s good. It’s an OK thing now, so it’s done. Let me coach my team and let me be about these kids and their families and try to win as many games as we can. The thing for us is we’ve won more games than any team in the country, been to more Final Fours in the last six years, been to two final games, won one National Title. And I’ll say it – we probably should have won three. But our focus is more on this side and those kids are doing it. So it’s been vetted to work and be good.

I come back to all your golfers in here, Jordan Spieth ruined college golf. Now, he made $22 million as a 22-year old, really he made $50 million, and he chased his genius. His genius was hitting the white ball, having the mind and the courage to be able to do it with pressure, and he was able to get himself in one year in college and be the best golfer professionally in the world. I don’t hear one word about that. I’m trying to get him to come to one of our games and do the “Y”. I don’t know if he’ll come.

Q. Why do you think that perception of one-and-done is?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. I have no idea. You tell me. I don’t have any idea. I mean, my thing is if a genius pianist or a computer geek who came up with a game and he’s in school one year and runs with it. You know, our kids have lifetime scholarships here. I always want them to chase their genius. They can always come back here and finish up. I don’t want that to be you have to stay four years and you’re going to embarrass us if you don’t finish. Look, this isn’t about me; this isn’t about any of you; this is about them and their families. They have a genius, let them chase it.

My job is to not be afraid to coach them, to be honest, to keep it real, and to coach the best players harder. Like right now, I’m on Skal (Labissiere) harder than any other player in the building. You coach your best player harder than everybody. If you ask Karl (-Anthony) Towns, he’ll tell you. He texted me three times yesterday. They know where I’m coming from and why I’m doing it, but that’s what makes us a little different.

Q. Every team is obviously different. As a coach, what do you feel is going to be your biggest challenge with this team?

COACH CALIPARI: Figuring it out. I’ve said this to you guys before. This group is focused in on me. We’ve got two guys that are trying to please me too much. I’m not going to tell you who they are, but there are two guys that are so focused on me personally and pleasing me that I’m having to sit them down and say, ‘I’m telling you how to play. If you’re doing what I’m asking, you’re pleasing me. Don’t look over at me.’ There are two guys like that. They are so focused on me. And the scouts that came up to me, the personnel people, the GMs, said, ‘Look, these guys are really zoned in on what you’re teaching so you had better be teaching right,’ because they’re going to do what I’m asking them to do. The problem right now is I’m trying to figure — it’s not the teaching them how to play basketball. We don’t teach plays. We’re teaching actions and how to play. It’s are we going to have the right schemes. I just don’t know what those schemes are. What if this is a zone team and I played zone all year? You people would do backflips. He’s never played zone ever. I would play zone if it’s the best thing for these individual players and give them the best chance to have success. Why I don’t like zone is when you turn on a TV and watch the NBA they don’t play zone. My job is to prepare these kids. If I’m playing zone, it’s strategically or I’m protecting somebody who cannot guard anybody on the floor.

Q. Is there any feedback you got during the UK open practice that surprised you about a player?

COACH CALIPARI: They were surprised by Charles (Matthews) because everybody had kind of said Charles was an afterthought. When they watched him, they’re like, ‘Wow.’ They were not surprised that Tyler (Ulis) did what he did. Obviously they all liked Skal (Labissiere), they all liked Jamal (Murray). But again, each one of them, they went through what they saw they needed to go with. Understand, what we do gives us a base and each individual player. A base of where they’ve got to go because then I’ll give them the information, I’ll give them the feedback. You’re too turnover-prone, you cannot play that way. They want to see this turnover, assist-to-turnover ratio flip. It’s here, you’re underwater, you’ve got to flip this around to make playing easier. Every shot should mean something. They think you’re just — you know, now you go through. They know you have talent and I’m able to give them something to say OK, let me get this right, and they have a vision of where they’ve got to go with their individual game. It serves its purpose. And the scouts, everybody that I talked to love it, because they can come in and see everybody. They get a base. That’s all it is, is a base. They’re not coming in to say that’s who I’m picking. They’re seeing where they are. Month and a half they’ll see again, another month they’ll see. And then March is all that matters really for most of these kids in the country. It’s how they play in March.

Q. Talking the way the NBA is trending, have you talked to anybody in that league, the coaches, about this, sort of how that’s evolving and how they use that?

COACH CALIPARI: They’re going to more actions than plays also. They’re not like the old days where you’re running plays. They’re putting them in situations to create a closeout where you can’t really guard a guy, or create havoc where they’re moving around defensively and we can create something. Seventy percent of the shots in the NBA, how do you think they’re created? 70 percent. What’s the percentage of shots in the NBA that are post-ups? Give me a percentage. Somebody’s a Basketball Benny in here. Throw one. Post-up basketball; throw it to the post in the NBA, the guy scores. It’s eight percent. Seventy percent are one-on-one. So whatever they’re running, maybe pick-and-rolls to the back and that play — so, one, they’ve got to learn to defend one-on-one. Two, you’ve got to create a shot for yourself at times.

So there are things that we know, and you’re probably looking at me and saying he’s talking the NBA more than Kentucky. I’ve got a job for these guys, which is to prepare them for what they’re trying to do. I know they’ve got my back and they’re going to win games.  I know they’ve got my back and they’re going to want to win championships. I know how they feel about wanting to win a national title. I have one job.  I’m really trying to make sure everybody — that’s my job, gets these kids to understand that whatever I’m doing, I’m trying to make each individual be the best version of themselves.

Q. When you talk about one-on-one and creating those shots and playing that way, how much do you want to emulate that?

COACH CALIPARI: Dribble drive is outstanding. Can I tell you? Have you watched the small ball stuff, the phenomena? You had Golden State playing with a 6’7” center. Harrison Barnes played fine for himself. I want to play small ball with 6’10” guys. I want to be able to do the same thing they’re doing with that 6’3”, 6’4” guy, but do it with 6’10”. Anthony Davis. They’re long, they’re skilled basketball players, they just happened to grow more than they thought they’d grow. They thought they were going to be 6’3”, oh man; I’m 6’10”. So that’s why I said position-less.

Q. Is Tyler Ulis doing enough? Can he play in that league?

COACH CALIPARI: Oh, yeah. See, here’s the thing with Tyler, what is not going to change about Tyler? I mean, he’s going to shoot it pretty good. You watched him. His decision making is going to be pretty good. What’s not changing? (His size)

So either you like a guy 5’9” or not. There are some teams that won’t play a 5’9” guy. They just won’t. Is he going to get up to 170 (pounds), 180? I doubt it. He’s 160. If he gets to 170, I’ll do two backflips, OK?

So there comes a point where he is what he is, and staying longer here helps me win more games. And I would want him here longer, but it’s not going to change who he is. He’s 5’9”. You either like a 5’9” point guard who can do this or you don’t. If you don’t, you don’t draft him; if you do, you’re gonna draft him. And normally we’ve just got to get him to be the best version and see what that means. My thing isn’t hey, you need another year. If he needs another year, we’re here for him, but I don’t see how much he can change from what he’s being able to do now. His decision making, that can be better than it is? I mean, he is what he is and he’s really good. He is our best player — and it ain’t close. Yeah, but they’re saying they’re going to draft this guy. He is our best player. He is not the best prospect, but he’s probably going to be the prospect someone’s going to want.

Q. National title, now Hall of Fame, what keeps you grounded?

COACH CALIPARI: You know, it’s funny, my high school coach called me today because a teammate of mine, we found out has Lou Gehrig’s (disease) and I’ve lived with two people that have had that disease and it’s the most dreaded disease you could get. We were talking and my high school coach, because he’s kind of pushing back a little bit and I said, ‘Coach, a friend of mine called and said he is now a stay-at-home dad.’ I said to my high school coach, ‘How do you get that job? Is there an application you can make?’

But there’s nothing — I’m saying the pace we go and all this. He said to me, ‘Not a whole lot more you can do.’ That was his comment to me. I said, ‘No, my focus is on every one of these families, how can we help every one of them?’ And as long as I’m feeling good, I’m going to have great joy waking up knowing we’re helping these kids, we’re helping their families. How many can we help?

I’m telling you my goal: I want to have half the All-Star Game to have played for us. I have four right now under the age of 27. Four. How do we get eight more in the All-Star Game? I want you to think about that. If I had coached eight more players into the All-Star Game, that’s 12, half of the All-Star Game played for us. Now, all the other stuff that you say I should be worried about will happen. That stuff will happen and that’s how I’ve kind of shifted in what I’m doing.

Q. Have you had an opportunity to reach out to Rick Pitino the last couple weeks and what would you tell him about the scrutiny he’s facing?

COACH CALIPARI: I haven’t, but I would say I hope it’s not true. If any of it is, it’s not good for college basketball. It’s not the norm. And I would say this: If any of it is (true), I can’t believe he would know anything about it just knowing him as I do. But no, I haven’t reached out. I just didn’t think it was appropriate.

Q. John, it’s been reported that Skal’s guardian —

COACH CALIPARI: He’s fine, Jerry. Next question. I’m not answering it. I already answered the stuff, you’re done. Next question.

Q. How is Alex Poythress? Are you confident that he’s going to return the way he was?

COACH CALIPARI: I am, but it doesn’t matter that I am. It’s that he is. See, the confidence isn’t ‘I missed a shot, my head goes down.’ The confidence is ‘I’m shooting.’ Right now when he shoots, he goes inside to shoot because of his body. It takes time. Anybody’s that’s had an ACL (injury) will tell you my jump is a little off which means my shot is a little off until I get back to the rhythm of jumping the same way every time. But the biggest thing is confidence in your body and that your leg is going to hold you up. He’s normal. That’s why when he goes in and looks down and misses a shot, you’re fine, that’s great, keep trying it, and you’re going to get confident.

Q. What he has to do differently to coach this team.

COACH CALIPARI: I think this year the way I’ve got to coach, I’m going to have to build up guys. I’m not going to be in a mode like I was last year where I could really, really ride a guy. This is a different team.

UK Student-Athletes

#00 Marcus Lee, F

On his leadership role with the team … 
“I definitely feel like our team kind of looks at Alex (Poythress) and I for questions and answers. Whenever something happens, they just look towards us. It’s kind of a great thing. It puts us on our toes and makes sure we are always doing the right thing.” 
On guard play and the team being versatile … 
“I have never been on a team where we can play three point guards. They all see things that we don’t and their minds are all going at the same time. It’s very different playing with three guards, but it’s also very fun.”
On the style of play for this team … 
“We are definitely going to be a fast-paced team. That is something that our freshmen and underclassmen are starting to learn is that we don’t play very slow here, but they are learning the hard way. Our guards are learning that we can’t just walk the ball up the court. I love playing fast. I can’t deal with being slow.”
On the play of the post players this year … 
“I think we can do just about anything with our bigs now since it’s just me, Skal (Labissiere) and Isaac (Humphries). We are trying to figure out if we can switch everything this year. Right now we are just trying to figure out pick-and-roll and play as a team.”
On the lack of 40-0 talk this season … 
“With it being my third year, I see it as an expectation now. From my freshman year, you see that as something to keep working hard for day-by-day and just to get better. We don’t really care what the media says. No offense, we love you guys. It’s your job to write about it and it’s our job to go out and play. We don’t really care how we get it done as long as we get it done and that’s our only job.”
On making an impact on the team… 
“We have worked on a lot of things together to make more of an impact on the game and in practice. Coach Cal wants me to make more of an impact and that’s something we have always talked about how I make a bigger impact in practice or in our daily lives. That is something we are trying to work on.”
On the style of play for this year’s team …
“This is my third year and my third team. We are going to play very different just as we did the last two years.”

#1, Skal Labissiere, F

On what practice has been like …
“It’s been very competitive. We’re getting better every single day. It’s been very challenging everyday going at it with Coach Cal pushing us to the max. It’s been pretty fun.” 
On Coach Cal being the toughest on him …
“He is tougher on me than any other player. That’s what I came here for. He’s pushing me every day and I feel like I am getting better.”
On who the toughest guy for him to defend at practice is …
“Isaac (Humphries) is really skilled because he can shoot really well from the outside and he has a really nice touch on the inside too with his hook shot. He’s very skilled so I would say that he is the toughest guy to guard.”
On how his personal skills have changed since arriving at UK …
“My skills are getting better. I’m getting more reps in every day and trying to learn how to play more physical. I’m learning to be more physical on the court and be more of a leader on the court as well.”
On what Coach Cal’s position-less basketball style means to him … 
“It means a lot. I feel like every day I get better at something. He teaches versatility here. He wants me to do a lot more and not just sitting in the post or blocking shots. He wants me to defend on the perimeter and on offense, do a little bit more from the elbow, drive to the basket and pass. He teaches us how to play basketball, not just be in a certain spot at a certain time.”
On whether or not he likes Coach Cal’s basketball style as a versatile player himself …
“I love it. It helps me show my skills and it’s not just about me but for the rest of the guys, too. We all can do different things so it makes us better as a team and more dangerous as a team.”
On Charles Matthews’ skill level … 
“Charles has always been really good. I always thought he was underrated coming out of high school. He’s really good, really athletic and very skilled. He’s always in the practice gym working. During the summer he was my workout partner. We were always in here the practice gym working together late at night. I think he deserves more credit than he has been getting. He can score the ball. He’s a stopper. He’s versatile and I think he has a chance to make a big impact on the team.”
On where he thinks this team is going …
“We still have a lot to work on like Coach Cal said. We still have to learn how to play with each other and I think once we figure that out, we have a chance to be really good. But for right now we’re still going to practice every day and figure out how to play with each other and learn each other’s ways so we can feel more comfortable.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, G

On getting better despite his height …
“That’s an accurate statement. I’m not going to grow. I’m the player I’m going to be. I make good decisions and I can shoot the ball, but there are always things that you can do to polish your game and get better. That’s the player I’m going to be.”
On how he anticipates this team being different from last year’s, especially with more guards …
“Anybody can see this team is going to be different. Last year we had an unbelievable team. We had seven guys go to the NBA and four were in the lottery. We have three point guards this year. Last year it was just Andrew (Harrison) and I. We have Charles (Matthews) too. It’s more guard-oriented this year. Last year we had Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Karl (Towns) that we could just throw lobs to and it ran through them. We just have to figure out what we’re going to do. It was different. I understand that and so does Cal.”
On Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray …
“They’re completely different players. Jamal can score the ball anytime he wants. When he gets hot, he’s hot. He can score the ball really well. Isaiah is a finisher at the rim and uses his body really well. He passes the ball a lot better than I thought. We’re all going to play well together. We played together a couple times in open gym and I felt like it was a scary sight to see. We love playing with each other and we’re close on and off the court.”
On having more responsibility on his shoulders this season …
“I understand the things I have to do. (Coach Calipari) isn’t asking me to lead the country. He’s just asking me to run a basketball team. It’s really not that hard. I just have to lead us to win.”

#4 Charles Matthews

On his results from the combine he’s received …
“I haven’t really gotten any feedback from the combine. I just try to stay focused and have tunnel vision and keep my eyes on the prize. It is nice to know that I’m getting some positive results from it, though. I’m happy to hear that.”
On where he fits in on this team …
“I just try to make an impact wherever I am on the floor. I do what I have to do during games to earn playing time. I want us to be successful and help the team win as many games as possible. I’m trying to become more consistent these days and have more confidence in my shot and I’ll continue to work hard.”
On the attention that Kentucky players get …
“This is a different stage than most 18 year-old 19 year-olds. I’m an 18-year-old kid. Going to Kentucky, you are basically just thrown to the wolves here. It’s kind of easy to get far ahead of yourself, based off the pressure that is put on you here and you are under the spotlight. I just try to stay humble and be thankful for it and everything I get each and every day.”
On if he felt underrated coming into the season … 
“Definitely. I definitely did, but at the end of the day I just worry about things I can control. I can just come in and work hard every day.”
On what part of his game has evolved …
“After practices have started, I feel like my decision-making has improved. My knowledge of the game is continuing to grow and continuing to expand. Coach Cal has been teaching me a lot.”
On how well the team is coming together…
“Honestly we are jelling pretty well right now. I don’t see any flaws in this team as far as chemistry-wise. We all hang out with one another. It’s a great group of guys. We have that camaraderie with one another.”
On his confidence …
“I don’t build confidence built off the praise of somebody, nor criticism from somebody. I develop my confidence from my work ethic. Being in the gym consistently, seeing myself get better, and seeing shots go in – that’s how I continue to build my confidence.”

#10, Jonny David, G

On what he thinks of UK so far …
“It’s been really busy trying to balance basketball and school. I have been doing that my whole life, but college is a little different. It’s always something every day.”
On why he chose to come to UK …
“It’s Kentucky basketball. I know what I signed up for, but it speaks for itself. No other program in the country can compare to playing at the University of Kentucky.”
On if he grew up watching UK …
“I started out as a Pitt fan, but then I started watching Kentucky and I have been a UK fan ever since.” 
On his expectations for Big Blue Madness …
“It is nuts. I have been to Big Blue Madness the last two years, but being able to be a part of it will be crazy. Coming out and playing in front of all those people will be something that I will remember for the rest of my life.” 
On the Big Blue campout for madness tickets …
“It’s crazy that they’re out there for that many days. It’s nice to get to talk to them and get to know the fans. I really enjoyed that.” 
On what he has seen from Skal (Labissiere) so far …
“He has been playing great during these last few practices. Everyone is working really hard and improving every day.” 
On Tyler Ulis being a “floor general” …
“Tyler has total control. He is a great player and anytime he says something it makes people listen because you want to be on the same page as him. Everyone knows what to do and has great basketball IQ. Tyler is a great floor general.” 

# 11 Mychal Mulder, G

On if he feels that his shooting will earn him playing time …
“I feel like shooting 3-pointers consistently is something that is important to every basketball team, and that is something that I can provide.”
On Cal saying that he will choose seven or eight players and if he feels the pressure to make that group …
“I feel pressure to be the best version of myself. That seven or eight is just the best group for the time. There are players for every situation. I feel like everybody has an opportunity to play if you prove yourself.” 
On if the other players are worrying about playing time …
“I don’t think that is something that anybody is worried about right now. We are just focused on being the best team that we can be. Individual goals fall behind the team goals right now.” 
On his expectations of Big Blue Madness …
“I’m expecting madness. It’s going to be crazy. I didn’t get the chance to come down here last year during it, but I expect a lot out of it and think that it is going to be great.” 
On if he was tempted to go somewhere else in order to get more playing time …
“I never have been the guy who is about being promised minutes. All the best things that have happened to me in my career so far have come from hard work and being able to be around guys who want to work hard. This decision wasn’t based on minutes, but it was about who has the same goals as me, and who is going to work hard to be a national champion. This is the best place to be.” 
On how he feels like he can develop alongside Tyler Ulis …
“Tyler is a great point guard. Being able to watch him last year and how he handles the ball really made me excited to come here. He is definitely one of the better point guards we have ever had. Arguably he’s one of the best in the country, and I believe he is the best point guard in the country. We have a lot of faith in him. He’s a great distributer, a great scorer, and a great kid overall.”

#13, Isaiah Briscoe, G

On playing with Tyler Ulis …
“We just want to be the best and push each other to be great. He’s a great player. Just last night Jamal (Murray), Charles (Matthews), he, and I were in here last night. We want to have a great season and be good. We strive to be the best.”
On the biggest difference from high school to collegiate basketball …
“Just playing hard on the court – 110 percent every play and trip. It’s tough, but I had to get used to it. I had to take away some bad habits that I had in high school. I think I’m coming along pretty well.”
On Tyler Ulis as a leader and the other guards on the team …
“He’s a leader on and off the court. On the court, he’s been showing me how to be a point guard and staying poised in certain situations. We work out together all the time. Competing in practice is fun. I enjoy that. We have Jamal, Tyler, Charles, and Dominique (Hawkins). I just enjoy competing.”
On Coach Calipari saying he’s not scared to coach them and doesn’t give easy passes …
“He’s definitely not scared to coach any of us. He tells you how it is. He demands things of us and that’s fine with me. He knows what’s best for us. I’m all open ears with anything that he says to me. He’s going to coach us.”

#15, Isaac Humphries, F

On what the older guys have told him to expect on Big Blue Madness night …
“That it’s crazy. It’s a fun night, there’s a lot of people and to expect a lot of love from the fans. Kentucky fans are crazy and they are the best fans ever. For them to come out just to watch us practice is ridiculous, in a good way.”
On how he felt about the positive feedback from scouts at open practice …
“It was cool. We don’t have that sort of stuff in Australia. There is no way that would never happen back home. I’m happy that I did well because I’m so young they probably weren’t even watching me. It’s good that they can see a base of what I am at such a young age. They can hopefully see some potential and improvement in me. I don’t know how it works but I just played hard and did OK.”
On culture shock after arriving in America, specifically the Kentucky basketball environment …
“I’m definitely accustomed to the American culture of the love of basketball. At Kentucky, it’s just a different place. It was expected, but in terms of culture shock it’s a little bit more than I expected. The tent city stuff was something I had never experienced and it proved how loyal how our fans are.”
On first media day experience and if he was nervous …
“Not really. I just like to be myself and have fun with it. We get a little training but it’s really up to us to create our own media experience.”
On post moves Coach Cal hopes to use with him …
“It’s good to know he has a plan for me. To hear what he wants me to do is good for me because now I can go and work on that and do exactly what he wants.”
On what he brings to the team …
“From playing in Australia, we’re a lot more physical. The referring is different. We’re allowed different fouls. Once I came here, I realized it’s not as aggressive. But I still try to be aggressive in the post and I think the post is somewhere you need to be aggressive. I played rugby for a very good portion of my life so that kind of translates a little bit into being tougher than my teammates. I’m not crazy though. I’m not one of those people that tackle people in the post. I just like to make it tough for them.” 

#22, Alex Poythress, F

On how close he is to being back at 100 percent … 
“I’m pretty close. I’m practicing full contact and everything is going well. I’m making strides every day. I am full-go in all drills.”
On his explosiveness coming back from the knee injury … 
“It comes and goes. Sometimes I try to make a move and I jump sometimes? But it’s coming and every day I’m just getting better with it.”
On being one of the X-factors on this team … 
“It’s good. Being one of the leaders of this team, I have to step up. Myself, Tyler (Ulis), and Marcus (Lee), we have to lead the team by example and by voice, so we just need to lead the team and come in prepared for games.”
On younger players’ skills and abilities to impress … 
“Everybody has impressed me. We have a lot of guys on this team. I’m impressed with everybody.”
On the lack of 40-0 talk leading up to this season … 
“We don’t even think about it anymore. People are always going to have that 40-0 talk. We just try to win games. Every team in the country is trying to go 40-0. We just try to win games and win that final game. That’s what we’re really trying to do.”
On how he sees his skill set this year… 
“Playing to my strengths is really what is going to get me to the next level. Playing to my strengths and staying away from the weaknesses, and just highlighting what I can do. That’s what gets you to the next level. Whatever I do, whatever I’m successful with doing, that’s what I’m trying to do on the court.”

#23, Jamal Murray, G

On what he’s learned from Tyler Ulis so far …
“He’s very crafty. He uses the pick-and-roll very well. We guard each other in pick-and-roll, so it’s fun to go against someone of that size and that quickness.” 
On what he thinks he needs to do in order to get a starting position …
“Play the way that Coach Cal wants me to play. Lots of shots, limited turnovers, good defense and just learn from Cal.” 
On his expectations of Big Blue Madness …
“I wasn’t expecting that many people to be waiting outside of the lodge to get tickets. It will be a lot of fun to go out there and show the fans what we’ve got and have a lot of fun doing it.” 
On what it was like going to see Coach Cal inducted into the Hall of Fame …
“That was so cool. I got to see a lot of legends from all different teams. It was a great experience for our whole team and it was awesome to see a lot of Kentucky players come back.” 
On why he decided to come to Kentucky …
“I think they talked about more of a focus than trying to persuade me. This was more, if you want to come here, you can come here. You get where you need to go, and you’re focused while doing it. It was a selling point for me and I think that I have the focus and passion to play at Kentucky. Every school is going to try and persuade me, but this was the place that I wanted to come and play with guys who I can play along with and compete with.” 
On if having four international players on the team made the transition easier for him …
“I have been playing for Team Canada, so I played against Isaac (Humphries) when he was with Team Australia and I played against Skal (Labissiere) at the Hoop Summit, so I have played a lot of these guys before coming here.” 

#24, EJ Floreal, G

On difference of this year’s team versus other years …
“There are a lot of similarities. There’s a lot of the same pieces. It’s just that we don’t have as much hype, and we don’t have as much height. Other than that, everyone competes and plays really hard.”
On preparing freshmen for Big Blue Madness …
“I said don’t really expect anything. Just let it happen. My freshman year I tried to plan my whole dance and plan how it was going to happen. Looking back, it looked pretty terrible. It was alright, but it could have been better. I just told them to go out and have fun. If you get nervous and freeze up, just wave and walk. If you want to dance, it’s not like they’re ever going to boo you. You can do any dance and they’re just going to cheer.”
On what he’s seen from the team so far …
“I’ve seen that we all play really hard. Of course, we’re a little behind from last year’s team, but last year’s team was a freak of nature. We’re still growing and we’re all going to be fine. We’re all really good kids and really good players.”
On Jamal Murray’s ability to shoot 3-pointers with both hands …
“He can shoot them extremely well, but his right hand 3-pointer is way better. His lefty 3-pointer is probably better than a lot of people’s regular 3s.  It’s really good.”
On his pro day dunk …
“I was running. I saw Mych (Mychal Mulder). I saw a nice lane. I just started sprinting. It was like a kid in a candy store. I was like this is the lane I’ve been wanting for two years. I just jumped way farther than I thought I would. I was going to go off one. I went off two. I’m going to take another step. I didn’t take the step. Skal’s (Labissiere) going to jump. Skal didn’t jump. I just saw the opportunity and took it.”

#25, Dominique Hawkins, G

On Coach Calipari saying he was the best 3-point shooter …
“It’s been my best practices so far in my three years. I’m definitely feeling more confidence in myself. Every shot I put up I was thinking I’m going to make it. That’s what gave me motivation to play well.”
On his role as a veteran with this team …
“Basically, my role right now is to just be a leader and help people out. It’s harder to do it when you’re not playing with them, but basically I can help them with off-the-court situations like school work, fans and how to take care of all of that.” 
On his progress with the hand injury …
“It’s coming along pretty good right now. Yesterday I just got into a shorter cast so I can start moving my fingers. It’s a start. Next week I get to go back to the doctor and see if I can get the cast off for good and be able to do some dribbling drills just to get my hand back to it’s strength.”
On advice that he gives to the freshmen …
“Basically I just tell the freshmen to be ready for a long practice. You never know how long Coach Cal is going to keep you. During the drills, he wants you to compete, so don’t slack off in the drills. Always be competitive. What I’ve learned the most is, you’re going to learn a way to fail fast. That is what Coach Cal says. He wants you to fail fast, so don’t be scared to fail as well.”
On how he injured his hand … 
“It was basically a freak accident. I went in for a steal, and I don’t remember what happened, but people say my hand got caught on (Isaiah) Briscoe’s jersey, and it just pulled it back.”

#32, Dillon Pulliam , G

On being a part of this team … 
“I am living my dream. Being a kid from Cynthiana, Ky., and being able to come to UK and be a part of this team is a dream come true.”
On last year’s team compared to this one … 
“We are young but talented. Last year’s team had a ton of talent.”

#35, Derek Willis, F

On if he’ll be back from his injury before the season starts …
“I definitely hope so. This will work itself out. I’m not worried about it, but I should be back.”
On how he thought of his play before he had the injury …
“I thought I was doing really well. This is like a setback. You have to get back to how you were before this happened. I didn’t want it to happen it all, but I guess with it happening before the season is fine.”
On what he worked on over the summer …
“I worked on getting in shape and building a motor. If you want to keep playing this game professionally after here, then you need to get in shape. I think people are looking for defense mostly now. Can he get up and down? Can he guard? I’m capable of guarding a lot of positions.”
On if the opportunities, on this team, are in the post …
“I think so. The coaches want to see if I can guard out on the floor and stuff. I could be a mismatch at the three position. The opposing guards could have trouble guarding me, but it’s just one of those things that I’m working on.”
On what Skal Labiessere brings to the team …
“He can block shots on the floor and finish and be a monster around the basket. He picks things up really quickly. He’s improved and is doing fine.”

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