Men's Basketball

Kentucky Basketball Previews Arkansas

UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL
ARKANSAS at KENTUCKY PREGAME MEDIA
FEB. 25, 2019
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
 
 Assistant Coach Joel Justus
 
On if Arkansas struggling affects game preparation
“Our prep is the same as it’s been for Transylvania and IUP. You have a little bit more information at this time of year so your preparation is probably a little more intense. I think there is nothing that has changed. We were done at Rupp at six o’clock on Saturday night and started to look at Arkansas. We saw the kids Sunday afternoon and went through our normal Sunday prep the same way we did last Sunday and the Sunday before that and every Sunday in conference play. There’s nothing any different. We will go through a normal practice today. We will probably go an hour and 45 or two hours depending on how long Coach wants to go. You have a nine o’clock game tomorrow so you have a good shoot around. There’s nothing that changes besides the guys in the jerseys on the other team. We just do our best to make sure our guys are at their best by tomorrow night.”
 
On why Arkansas has struggled lately
“I think this is a good league. In this league you have to buckle your chin strap. You have to be focused. You have to be ready to score the ball on offense. You have to be ready to defend. Teams are as versatile as they have ever been in this league. It speaks to the quality of coaching. You have great assistant coaches, you have great facilities, you’ve got tradition. People are trying to win games. Every time we take the floor we are aware of that. I think our players are aware about how good the basketball is in this league. They are aware of how good the individual talent is. They pay attention in reports. They pay attention when they are on their own. It’s a fantastic basketball league. I think it speaks more to the league than to one team struggling per se.”
 
On if Keldon Johnson “told on himself” with 17 rebounds Saturday …
“You know, we’ll see. We’ll see probably about halftime on Tuesday night and see where Keldon is. I think (John) Cal(ipari) has just been big on attempts. That’s something that we chart. I’m not sure how long Coach has done that. I’m pretty sure he’s done that his entire time as a head coach where we look at every single shot, both that we take to chart offensive rebounding attempts as well as defensive when we’re on defense. That’s something that he’s been big on. He’s been big with Keldon. He’s been really big with PJ Washington. Our last game, the numbers have been as high as they’ve ever been across the board, so I know he was happy with that. I know the kids were obviously happy with their performance. His big thing is if you don’t attempt, there’s no way you can get them. I think in terms of Cal saying they tell on themselves, we’ll see. I don’t know.”
 
On how they chart the rebounding attempts …
“It’s not a something as black and white as whether the ball goes in the hole or you get the rebound. I think it’s more you got to hit rewind four times and OK, do you feel that PJ went after this ball? Do you feel that Keldon went after this ball? And there’s certain – it’s obviously subjective if you’re contesting a shot, you’re not going to get dinged for that one. There’s four other guys that are either blocking out or attempting to go after the ball. Same thing on offense: If you take the shot, you’re not expected to then attempt to rebound. It is a subjective stat, but the same people do it each game.”
 
On who is in charge of the keeping track of the rebounding attempts …
“We are. It’s a blessing to work here and I’m excited every single day with what you can do and, you know, go Cats. [Laughter.]”
 
On the work Washington and Ashton Hagans have been putting into their shot …
“Those guys, I think, have always had a professional approach to when they’ve been here. It’s also pretty well documented that PJ has taken his workload and effort to another level. Same with Ashton. I think it’s about time, but it’s also about quality and quantity when you’re working at your craft, and I think both of those guys have put time in their foundation of their game, but also trying to improve in the big picture at the next level of what their game could be like but also just working on the fundamentals of shooting, whether that’s just some stand-still, form shootings. But it’s all just building confidence. I think when you’re in the gym and you’re by yourself or with another teammate, you’re building your confidence, and that’s something that we stress and something both of those guys have bought into.”
 
On if he’s been more impressed with what the team has done offensively or defensively …
“I think if you look at it from the inside out, if you’re looking at your defense – and if you’re looking at it from the outside in – you’ve got to say the defense. From where we were in November to where we are now, I think you look at individuals and how they’ve gotten better. I think if you look at our group collectively, we’ve gotten better. I think that has to speak to, not only our players, but our head coach and how he’s able to take a group of guys every year and stress defense, but at the same time get guys playing at their absolute best on offense. Not one guy has fallen behind offensively. They’re getting better, but I think you also see individuals that are now being talked about as great defenders. But most importantly I think the guys in that locker room see themselves as great defenders for the first time probably ever in their life. These guys have never been asked to play defense. They’ve never been demanded to play defense; probably somewhat of the opposite. ‘Don’t foul. Don’t get in foul trouble. We need you to score.’ And this group has really bought in and it’s fun to see guys play defense and gain confidence from that. That’s nothing new. We’ve seen Malik Monk buy into defense. We’ve seen Isaiah Briscoe, you know, really defend. Now you’ve seen guys like Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro really buy into defense. The joy that they have is fun.”
 
On Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford …
“You look at a guy that shoots 85 percent around the rim, that is a tremendous finisher. He’s a guy that you’ve got to do your work before he gets the ball. That’s obviously easier said than done. From all of our standpoint, it’s a big challenge for our guys. It’s a big challenge for our young guys. It would be a big challenge for anyone. It’s easy to see that by his numbers, by his production this season. It’s great for our guys. Once again, it’s a challenge. We’ve got to see where we are tomorrow night.”
 
On Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery’s performance on Saturday …
“I think we were happy. We’re wanting them to play with energy and confidence and that’s something that I think they demonstrated the entire night. I think if you look at the blocked shots, which is something that Coach has been on them about, for them to get out and do that gives us a spark. I think everyone is always rooting for Nick. I think we’re wanting EJ to do the same thing. Once again, it’s a big challenge tomorrow night with Daniel Gafford. We’ll see where kind of those guys are.”
 
On Montgomery’s rebounding attempts …
“EJ’s always been a guy that is active and he’s trying. Sometimes with young guys you see they’re maybe slightly out of position, but he’s a guy that every single game is getting better. He’s grasping the concepts of the team defense and transition defense. Once again, he’s not much different than, you know, a lot of the guys that played here. He gets better every single time he takes the floor for practice or anytime he goes on the floor for games he gets better.”
 
On if the team and Coach Calipari have considered the No. 1 seed and the opportunity to play in Louisville in the NCAA Tournament regional rounds …
“No. To be honest I don’t even know where the other – I know Louisville is one because everybody else is talking about it. If you read stuff on the internet or if you read Twitter you see that. To be honest, we haven’t discussed that one bit. Coach Cal has not discussed it one bit with our guys. You can probably ask them. They probably don’t even know how many teams are in the NCAA Tournament.”
 
On how Reid Travis is feeling …
“Great. He’s doing what he needs to do. I know that. He’s working. Once again, Reid Travis is the ultimate professional in terms of how he approaches every single day on the floor, off the floor. He’s attacking rehab right now the same way that he attacked his body in the summer, the same way that he attacked playing differently. He’s that guy now that’s got a different challenge ahead of him and that’s getting his body back to being 100 percent and ready to go whenever that time may be.”
 
On how much time he spends reading Twitter …
“Too much. Way too much. Twitter and probably tennis shoes. That’s my two vices.”
 
On who his favorite follow is on Twitter …
“My favorite follow on Twitter? [Reporter asks if it’s Coach Calipari.] I think he does follow me on Twitter. I’ll probably say one, but I’ll probably upset someone or the other. I don’t know. I think it was a big day when I got here and Cal followed me. I think that was my big one when I first started working here and Cal followed me because I know he went to the thing and pushed the button. [Laugther.] That was a big day.”
 
On if Calipari has every asked him to Tweet on his behalf …
“No, but I’ve taken a lot of pictures. [Laughter.] I do take a lot of pictures. I think I hear, ‘I’m going to let you do this.’ That’s usually how it goes.”
 
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL

UK vs. ARKANSAS PREGAME MEDIA
FEB. 25, 2019
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
Kentucky Players

#13, Jemarl Baker Jr., R-Fr., G

On if he has ever experienced a shooting slump, like his current one, in his life …
“Never in my life. But I’ve been working hard and hopefully, I’ll get out of it soon. I’ve been working. I’ve been making shots in my workouts, making shots in practice, so it’s only a matter of time.”

On if he can pinpoint a difference between workouts and game days …
“It just happens. It happens to everybody. Great shooters, pros, it happens to everybody. You just keep working and you stay confident and they’ll start to go in.”

On what Coach Calipari says to him …
“He just tells me to continue to play, continue to shoot and just continue to be me. I’ve been defending. I’ve been doing everything I can and when my shots start falling, it will be that much better.”

On if the staff has been happy with his play, outside of his shot …
“For sure. That’s what I’ve done all my life, so it’s nothing different for me. I’ve just been going out there and playing hard.”

On if it was good to see his last shot go in on Saturday …
“Definitely, it felt good to get one going in. So hopefully tomorrow, I can knock down a couple of more.”

On what he knows about Arkansas …
“They’re a good team and we’re going to have to be ready to play. We’re going to approach this game like we approach every other game and work hard and just focus on the game plan and go out there and play as hard as we can.”

On if he pays attention to the national rankings …
“I don’t. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s my job to work hard. It’s my job to do what I can for the team to help us win. As far as rankings and stuff like that, it doesn’t bother me at all.”

On what he’s doing to help the team …
“I’ve been defending, just going out there and bringing energy when I can and soon, when I start knocking down shots, it’s just going to help the team and make us a better team.”

On if the team is looking forward to facing Tennessee on Saturday …
“We’re just working hard and every day and trying to be better. We’re approaching every game like it’s our last and tomorrow is our game. We’re not looking past it at all.”

On how the team played without Reid Travis …
“We did a good job. We can’t wait to have him back, but we worked hard. We knew other people had to step up and I think a lot of people did. We can’t wait for him to be back.”

On what’s different without Travis on the floor …
“Toughness, physicality, another leader. But everybody has picked up what they needed to. We’re a really tough team, and we’re going to continue to be that.”
 
#23, EJ Montgomery, Fr. F
On staying motivated for Arkansas …
“We just try to go out and treat every opponent the same and go and fight and get a W.”
 
On Daniel Gafford …
“I heard he’s pretty good. He’s going to be a challenge. We just want to go out there and fight, compete and try to get a win.”
 
On how they played without Reid Travis …
“I think we all did pretty good. We all collectively came in and added a little bit extra. What Reid did, he was a big guy and did a lot of things, but I think we stepped up.”
 
On what it was like without Travis …
“I missed him a lot because me, PJ (Washington) and Nick (Richards) had to do some of the things that he does. We just went out there and just competed.”
 
On whether he has transformed more on offense or defense this season …
“Just a little bit both. I had to learn a lot of new things coming to Kentucky and just the physicality and the speed of the game.”
 
On whether he has a good idea of how Coach Cal defines rebound attempts …
“Just trying to go get it. Trying to go get the rebound. Every attempt you try. He likes for you to fight.”
 
On whether anyone ever disputes a decision on a rebounding attempt …
“No. Whatever he says. No argument (laughter).”
 
On whether Keldon Johnson talks trash about rebounding …
“He was last game. He was going up there screaming, trying to get the most rebounds and he did that.”
 
On whether he gets excited about the opportunity to play more …
“Of course we want Reid back. He has a big impact on our team, but it leads me to get more minutes and step up and show what I can do.”
 
On how much more physical stuff he does in Travis’s absence …
“Just trying to do the best I can with everything. Just boxing out, rebounding, doing all the little things that he did.”
 
On his first reaction to seeing the size of Reid Travis …
“When I first saw him, I saw he was a huge dude. But I was glad he was on my team.”
 
 

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