University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Friday, Dec. 31, 2021
Kentucky 92, High Point 48
Q. Kellan (Grady) seems to have found his groove, is a little more assertive, hunting the shot, I know you talked about shooters — is there anything more to it than that?
JOHN CALIPARI: I had a friend of mine, and you know, a “Basketball Benny” that is a friend of mine that said, “Hey, how about you get anything to create some shots for him?” So I talked to him just, you know, prior to the game. I said, “Here are some things we are going to do for to you get shots off.” Because the last game he didn’t get as many off, but he was open. They just threw to another guy. So then, you know, now you start saying, okay, we may have to run some things to him. But he’s shooting the ball well. He’s confident, and he knows if he does not shoot it, he’s coming out. Now, we have some other guys that just can’t make it right now, and that’s fine. But their job is to shoot balls, and hopefully, you know, as we keep going, those guys will make shots.
Q. What did you think of the ceremony?
JOHN CALIPARI: Because I coach, I know how this stuff goes, you want guys that had had a huge impact on programs to let them know they are beloved. I think kind of — and I keep coming back to Coach (Joe B.) Hall. Sometimes you’re not in a situation, and the loudest people sometimes you listen to, but I just thought — I got a little emotional to be honest with you. I did. And to see (High Point head coach Tubby Smith) out there, and I knew him when he was an assistant at South Carolina, I’ve known him that long and when he was at Georgia and I was here, I would call him and talk. He was one of those gracious guys. I was on the phone with (Gonzaga head coach) Mark Few, and he said, “Let me tell you with Tubby, it’s so good you guys are doing this, but we were on a Nike trip and I was a nobody. He took me golfing. He would see me at dinner because I didn’t know anyone, and that’s who Tubby is. And he doesn’t do stuff to get anything back. He just does it.” It’s kind of like when a guy has been doing something the same way for 30, 40 years, you could say well that’s not who he is, or you say, well, he’s been doing the same thing 30 years and that’s Tubby. He is who he is, a great basketball coach, and again, I said after, when we make shots like we made today we’re going to beat everyone. But his team is going to be fine. I’ve watched tons of tape of them. I’ve probably watched five games and they are playing — he’s got them playing and playing together and creating good shots. We were a little bit much. We played really good today.
Q. Any updates on (Shaedon) Sharpe?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s not here yet, but the stuff we are doing is breakfast in the lodge. I’m not taking them out to where I would do sometimes for breakfast because I just don’t — I just want to mitigate. So we’re having breakfast in the (Wildcat Coal) Lodge. We’re telling other teams, if you want to eat in the Lodge, eat at a different time than we’re eating. We’re trying to sterilize just to mitigate and then we’ll go over and we’ll practice and then that evening, like we may come through like we did yesterday evening, we shot free throws and kind of walked through some of their stuff. I told them today, I’ll be back to the office tonight early. I want to try to get there earlier, and I’ve got to start on LSU. I haven’t watched them one minute at all. And we play them Tuesday. So I’ve got to get there and get the staff and get a game together of what it’s going to look like tomorrow and Monday. Saturday will be more cerebral, but Sunday and Monday we’ve got to go and then we’ve got to travel. So we’re trying to use every minute we can because, you know, on the 10th or whenever it is, they start back to classes.
Q. Four straight big wins, but what more do you want to see from your team going up against LSU?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, they are going to press, from what my staff said, they are going to press and put pressure on us, and how we play, you can’t gel like one-on-one. They are not going to force their will on you. You have to force your will on them. They are very good. They are a top-10 team. Let me give you what happened today that may be the beginning of us changing. How do you know how Lance (Ware) played? Just thumbs up, thumbs down. How do you think Lance played today? Did anybody watch the game or you just talk questions to me? Okay. So he played really well. In three minutes, he had five rebounds and two blocks. That was at half. I walked in and when I was talking, I said, Lance, “I’m going to play Daimion (Collins), even though you played well because I’ve got to get him on the floor, and I want him to play.” He gave me a thumbs up. “I’m good.” Can you imagine the maturity? How about the guy, you know, that’s disrespectful. You know — you’re selfish. This guy said thumbs up. Then I was able to tell Daimion, and if you saw I made them hug each other on the bench, start of the second half, I said, “He’s giving up minutes and he’s playing unbelievably but he’s willing to give the minutes. You’d better go in there and play hard.” Well, look how Daimion played. Now they start playing for each other and I hate to tell you, I like him and Daimion together on the court. I like them both on there. And we play a different way, a certain way, but I like that, which means we can go to that. So that’s the kind of stuff that’s happening. Bryce (Hopkins) played so well in the first half. I went to sub him and Kellan (Grady) said leave him in. Kellan said, “Leave him in, Coach. Let him play.” We are starting to be empowered as a team. TyTy (Washington Jr.), he’s like the silent assassin, quietly, he tiptoes in and gets 15 points and nine assists, and if you ask me how he played, you — some of you may not have watched the game but if you did, you would probably say, he played okay. 15 (points), nine (assists), defended his butt off. He does it quietly. Sahvir (Wheeler), obviously is the straw that stirs it. And we just got to keep, you know — how about this? Who — when I sub with 11 or 12 minutes to go in the game, and that was it for those five that started, who did that hurt more than anybody else? Oscar (Tshiebwe). He was getting 20 rebounds a game. Oscar, you know what, kid had a smile on his face, was happy as heck for how we played. Think about that. He’s been on the ticker getting 20 rebounds — oh, if I knew he had eight I’d have left him in for two more and he had eight — they will say he had eight today, he had eight in 25 minutes. So you know, it’s fun. I’m telling you, I’m enjoying this team, because they want to be coached. They are pushing away the clutter that comes at them. You’ve got to answer the phone, “Why don’t you shoot more, you need 30 minutes a game.” I’ve said this before, 2015 team doesn’t need 30 minutes a game to show what they were individually: Six drafted, four lottery picks, the No. 1 pick and then next year the other three got drafted. So, they didn’t need that. Twenty minutes, you can do what you do. But you’ve got to have to fight. You have to take what you want. You’ve got to compete at a high level. You’ve got to be physical, all that stuff, and these guys are now getting it. How about Keion (Brooks Jr.)? He had five rebounds at half. What did he end up with? Where is he on (the box score)? So he ends up, he has nine rebounds, and he had seven rebounds back-to-back games, but what I liked about him, they were all in traffic where he had to go take them from somebody. And by being that guy, spreading the floor, being aggressive, going after balls, you build your confidence. No, you do it by playing 30 minutes and shooting 25 balls. No, you don’t. You don’t. You build it by sprinting, and all of a sudden you get a couple easy baskets because you sprinted or you dunked one. You get an offensive tip-in dunk, all of a sudden, you’re like this, it’s all about that energy and these kids are getting better and better at pushing out the clutter, leaving that rat poison alone, and focusing on each other, and I keep telling them, look, there are not many teams that I’ve coached that get along like this team. You’d better enjoy it because when it’s over, it’s over. You may never play on another team that gets along like this team.
Q. I’m sure you and I both know, if you guys were not playing well right now, going into this moment where Shaedon Sharpe is about to come to campus, clamor would be to play him. Does playing well in this stretch as he gets here take pressure off and quiet that down and let the kid just get here and settle in, or do you hope that’s the case?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, we haven’t talked or the family hasn’t talked about it. You know, not — my guess would be he’s fine, let’s get him in shape and go from there but you know, there was never a plan to play him. I left that out there so everybody would panic. But there has never been a plan to play him. But let’s get him here and work him out and see where things are and see where our team is.
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
KENTUCKY WILDCATS VS. HIGH POINT UNIVERSITY PANTHERS
DEC. 31, 2021
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
#31, Kellan Grady, Graduate Student, Guard
On UK head coach John Calipari’s trust in Kellan that he’ll make shots …
“It’s a rewarding feeling. He mentioned it (told him to shoot more) in the starting lineups. I was able to get some in transition and I just went to the half court. But that’s the beauty of being on this team and outrunning teams and just being able to get good looks.”
On how aware he is of the fans during his shooting streaks …
“I’m honestly more grateful for the anticipation, which essentially tells me that 20,000 people trust me to make it or are excited for me to make that shot. The last couple games at Rupp, that’s become just an amazing feeling and I’m grateful to be able to play in front of such a loyal fanbase.”
On whether he felt like Steph Curry after the 4-point play opportunity …
“A little bit, yeah. I don’t know if anyone saw me do the four-point play, like what he does, but then of course I missed the free throw.”
On what makes this team special compared to other teams he’s been on …
“It’s hard to pinpoint. We’re just a cohesive group both as you can see, on and off the court. We understand each other and it’s just what you expect for a team where you have a bunch of guys that are close. Everyone appreciates each other, everyone has their own unique traits both on the court and off the court. It’s been a joy to be a part of.”
On number of points compared to the total amount of shots they take …
“We have such a deep team with a plethora of options with regards to scoring. If you look at our box scores, I’m not sure anyone on this team has taken over 15 shots this year. Usually, our core guys are shooting five to ten times and it’s about being efficient and taking advantage of opportunities when you’re granted them.”
#3, TyTy Washington Jr., Freshman, Guard
On the jerseys hanging in the gym …
“I know who Tubby (Smith) was but other than that, not really. I just know their jerseys are up there for a reason. They set a great standard for all of us. Even back in the time they played in, they didn’t know they were going to set standards here. It’s a standard here that we’re all accountable to hold up to. So just seeing those jerseys go up there, and then to see Tubby’s go up today, was really great, because, like I said, it’s just the standard. It was a blessing for not only me but my teammates and Tubby’s family as well.”
On the t-shirt he wore in the postgame …
“Everybody on our team actually got this. It was in our locker room after the game. I just wanted to throw it on because Tubby’s a legend, as well as a Cal. You always have to pay your respect when respect is due. Everyone here and in the state respects Tubby. Everybody’s appreciative of what he did for the program back then. We’re just trying to keep it going, and that’s why I’m wearing this shirt. Loud and proud.”
On Kellan Grady’s scoring …
“It’s crazy. I think he scored 12 points in 30 seconds. He is off running and shooting threes. When I saw him going crazy like that, I asked him, ‘Do you mind if I join in on the party?’ He was like, ‘Yeah man.’ I know once he makes two, the shots get wider for him. So, whenever he is shooting, we all think it’s going in. Even his heat check, he thought it was going in. Then every time he hits a three, we all celebrate it. Then when I hit the three, he was the first person who came to celebrate it and chest bump me. It just shows how well connected we are as a unit and shows that we all care about each other. We don’t really care who scores, as long as we are producing and coming out with a win at the end of the day.”
Coach Tubby Smith
Kentucky 92, High Point 48
TUBBY SMITH: First, it was a great reception and we’re really honored and pleased by the reception and having the banner raised in Rupp Arena. Couldn’t be more happy. Certainly I was happy to have my family here with me to witness this moment in time, and to have our High Point team, fans, staff, it was a great experience for them, I hope.
I know we didn’t give them much of a game in the second half, but that’s what can happen to you if you don’t stick with the game plan.
Q. Being here today, what was it like for you to be back?
TUBBY SMITH: I’m sorry?
Q. Can you talk about the emotions you had here today?
TUBBY SMITH: Well, you know, it could be draining. We had a couple emotional–as you get older, you want to enjoy the moments, savor the opportunity that you have.
But seeing how people responded, the ovation, that’s one thing you can’t duplicate. The only time is at Rupp Arena. The fans here are obviously very intelligent. They understand and they appreciate people when they’ve given back to the program, and I hope I’ve done it that.
It was just emotional. Really it was draining. But I was glad we came out and played well and I made the adjustment. I think my team did. Obviously made a bunch of 3s that kind of knocked us off of our game, but they’re just a big athletic team.
Yeah, the emotions were there, but the elation will always be a part, and just want to savor this time, anyway.
Q. What did Donna (Smith) think about doing the Y?
TUBBY SMITH: I haven’t talked to them, but Saul (Smith) was here. My entire family was here. I am talking about my immediate family. Not many of my brothers and sisters could make it in dealing with COVID and the travel restrictions for some of them from Maryland and other places., but Donna, she’s done that before. She’s done the Y before. And I’m sure–she loves Kentucky like I do, and for her to have that opportunity it’s just–to witness her, I’m looking at it now, that’s a special moment for her because she’s been part of this journey now for 40, what, 46 years, 47 years.
So, we appreciate Kentucky folks allowing her to be a part of that celebration, a part of the celebration.
Q. Tubby, if I can, what did you think of Kellan Grady and how he shot? What kind of impact did he make?
TUBBY SMITH: You know, we played against him last year at Davison and the same. We’ve had a–our team is still maturing and he were playing pretty well there. In fact, I think we were leading with about four something to go in the game at Davison. It was like our first game after COVID. We had to cancel some preseason games last year or nonleague games.
You know, he did a good job. We did a good job on him then. Today we lost quite a bit. He’s got an unorthodox-looking shot but it goes in. Doesn’t have the perfect rotation, but gets it off quick. He’s got good size. He is a very intelligent player as well. He knows how to play. He knows how to get open. We lost him and he knocked down a bunch 3s on us.
What did he make here? What, seven out of 10? That’s pretty good shooting. I don’t care if you’re just out there in the gym by yourself. And making 3s like that, they are going to be hard to beat. Going to be very hard to beat, by anyone.
Q. Congratulations and welcome back. You were a Hall of Fame coach.
TUBBY SMITH: Thank you.
Q. Got a boatload of other honors and awards, but especially for Kentucky fans, it seems like having your jersey retired is special. It’s different. Almost reverential.
TUBBY SMITH: Yeah.
Q. How is that different for you, the specific act of having your jersey, looking up and seeing it up there?
TUBBY SMITH: You know, I tell our players, you know, it’s what you do from the day you’re born to the day you die. My parents taught me, my dad, you never really want to see that gold watch or that retirement award unless you last. Your longevity has its part.
And do things and being a servant of every program I’ve ever coached. So, we feel–you know, and when do you your job and to the best of your ability people respect that. I think Kentucky, obviously, the folks here and the fans here, we are not just on the basketball court, but serving this community, the state, giving back as much as we could through our foundation, and I think that’s a testament to the values that we try to instill in our players and in our family.
And when you’re successful, and when you’re serving people, when we’re telling the players, if you play for each other–Jeff Sheppard made that comment today. He spoke to the team briefly, he and Cameron Mills, and we had a great time with the guys last night at the reception with the former players, and each one talked about that season on just playing for me and how we treated them and that we respected them, and I think these what it’s about.
Respecting each other and respecting the tradition that Kentucky has for their basketball program. It’s the No. 1 basketball program in the history of college basketball, so that’s why it’s such a thrill, an honor to be a part of the legacy of Kentucky by having your banner raised in Rupp Arena.
Q. Tubby, how long are you going to keep doing this?
TUBBY SMITH: Well, you know, my wife won’t let me quit, man. I been trying to. She likes this lifestyle.
No, it’s getting–you know, at certain times–I go back to my pops, raised 17 kids with mom and dad. He said, ‘Boy, there is going to come a time you’re not going to be able to fight like you used to.’ Stamina. It’s not so much drive. Every coach loves coaching.
I mean, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, all the guys, the guys, the legendary coaches planning on retiring, they would still be coaching, but you can only go so long.
It’s like a boxer or a basketball player. There is a window of longevity. I’m having a lot of fun here at High Point. We just built a new arena, facility, so I’m excited about that.
I’d hoped we had won some of those close games and have a better record right now, but it’s a process. We want to finish this journey and then we’ll make a decision about retiring.
Q. I just wanted to ask you how you look back 15 years later on your tenure at Kentucky. Is it remembering mainly the good times or is there a mix?
TUBBY SMITH: You know, you treasure the moments that you have had. When you’re in the midst of it, when you’re here you’re working so hard. That’s what I tell folks. It’s a 24/7, 365 days of the year, and the season never really ends if you’re a coach and a player.
But this is a special place. This city, Lexington, the state, Rupp Arena. I spent 12 years. Spent. This is the longest I’ve served anywhere was Kentucky. And that’s not because–I’d liked to have stayed here. Would’ve loved to have stayed here longer.
But in this line the work, it can be taxing. It can change you. But I was proud that we raised–you know Saul played for me here. Bryant, my younger son, won a state championship here, Lexington Catholic, so we have some fond memories.
I don’t have anything that I can look back on and say this left a bad taste in my mouth. Always been just a joy to come back to Lexington, to the state. Donna loves it here, as I said before. This is where my family probably calls home more than anywhere else.
So, when it’s home, you will do everything you can and you’re going to help to make it as great a place as you can by service people and being a part of it.
But, no, I appreciate it. We have family here, but the broader family of Kentucky fans, Kentucky administrators, on and on and on. It’s just good to be back and be honored this way.