UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 6, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Coach John Calipari Press Conference
Kentucky 86, New Mexico State 46
Q Define random basketball…
JOHN CALIPARI: You have got to have five. It is kind of like you have five 3 point shooters. Do you know what you would do? Shoot a lots of 3’s. And, so, I even said it after the game, you know, we played random the whole second half, ran two or three things, everything else was random. And random is we are spacing the court and we are playing off of one another. That’s random basketball. So spacing, wide, there’s actions that will happen, three guys together, two guys together. So…
Q Defensive effort tonight seemed really solid. Obviously Reed played really well as well.
JOHN CALIPARI: He and Rob. I mean D.J. played good defense, too. He just wasn’t as disruptive. Reed and Robert both, you have two guards, you have three that can guard the ball, that’s a really good sign. Because if you can’t guard the ball, you can’t play. You can’t — your defense is done before you start. We guarded the ball pretty good. But those two are really disruptive.
Reed played great, did great stuff. Robert played, Robert has two or three, like, what in the world, but as long as it is not five or six. If it’s five or six I’m going to have to take him out. I told him, I’m fine with one or two, because he can’t help himself.
But I will tell you that he creates space for himself and his teammates as good as anybody I’ve coached.
Q All three of those guys, especially Reed and Rob it seemed like, really pressured the ball on the ball, reaching in a lot. What gives you the confidence to let them do that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Who will be in the lane and if you try to beat us in the dribble we will have a big guy in there.
Q John, congratulations on adding another victory to Kentucky’s all-time win total. I think you still lead Kansas by seven games. How important is it to the program to stay in that position?
JOHN CALIPARI: You know, we are — I’m trying to get these kids to take all that kind of stuff off their plate and just learn to play. Here’s my new, that I’ve been riding real hard because of all of these young kids, we’re trying to help them develop habits. And not break old habits. Those aren’t — they are there. We are just trying to make these new habits be more dominant than those old habits.
That’s Justin spinning. Like spinning. You can’t spin like that. You have got to stay facing. And if you can’t, then back out. But you cannot spin. He had three turnovers today spinning. But that happens in these games. And the more that you put on their plate, the less they can, one, play random. Because random means you have got to be really unselfish. You can’t have one guy try to dribble it 12 times. Yeah, we want to do that. We want our fans to take pride in what we have been able to do. The other side, I don’t want them to have to compete with a five year period that was like maybe never done before and then try to compete against that. Or compete against something else. Let’s just compete against ourselves and let’s see how good we can be.
Now, I come back to, we rebounded today because the guards rebounded. Robert got five. Reed had five. Antonio stuck his nose in there a few times. And it’s going to be who we are going to have to be. Last year we had one of the best rebounders in a generation. Like we may never see that in our lifetime again, what we saw for the two years that Oscar was here. Now we have got to do it a little different. One, we have got to block out. And that means everybody. And that means we have got to gain rebounds, stuff like that.
So I kind of walked around your question. But, yeah, we want to do that for the fans, but I’m trying to get us to think about us playing against ourselves, how good can we be, how do we get these other habits to be the dominant habits that we’re trying to play with.
Q Cal, Coach Hooten said you guys were pretty amazing and transitioned and one of the reasons he thought you were so dangerous was that most of the time you plan on one or two guys who can bring the ball up, but you guys have so many different options to push it.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. The way we practice, the people that have watched us, it’s — you’re getting in shape by how we’re playing. And a lot of our drills are you have got to sprint. You are not running. Robert took off one time and went down the right side and we threw it to him and shot a lay-up. You think about it, ‘boom boom’ up lay-up. And, so, we can play that way but you have got to really run and, are you ready, you have got to throw it to them when
they run. If you don’t throw it to them, they won’t run. They will stop running. So every team we play, like even this team came in and New Mexico State in the first half kept themselves hanging around.
It’s everybody we play. We make shots, they do things, they come in excited. We just have to keep the pressure on and then create a gap at some point, and I thought we did that. But I thought we did it with the guard disrupting their offense. The guards, Reed, Robert, even D.J. D.J. did a good job in the pick and roll defense. But Rob was kind of blowing things up, do you know what I am saying, jumping high side. And then Reed was just — Reed may have the best hands of be anybody I’ve coached. I mean, his feel to get — blocking balls. And he was really good today. Really good.
Q John, speaking of those seven footers coming, any updates on those guys?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t have anything. Adou has — he had a headache, so it will be a day to day thing with him. And now, you know, going through the process with Z, but he was sick four
days. This kid lost ten pounds. Are you kidding me? I mean, I’m saying, you have got buzzard luck, kid. I mean, now, so, whether he would be eligible or not, I don’t know if he could play Friday. He hasn’t practiced for five, six days. I think Aaron is ahead of Ugonna by two weeks. Now, what does that mean? I don’t know. But he is ahead of him. He is jumping and doing stuff. He’s probably still probably a week, two weeks away from trying to, you know, practice and be with us.
Q With all of the new guys you have, was there a point earlier in the year where you said we will be a random team next year and you went out and recruited to that?
JOHN CALIPARI: No. I recruit the best players we can get and then we figure out how we are going to play. And this is a crazy one.
There’s not one way to do this, you have got to do it this way. There’s not one way. You look at your team and you say what’s the best way for them to play. And normally, you know, it takes me time. We had Toronto, so I had a head start. I had a little look at this and how we are trying to do this.
I like five out. Why didn’t you do it last year? What would that have meant? Say it. Oscar’s out there. Now, you know who led us in assists? Were you watching the game? Tre did. Oscar wasn’t that guy. Oscar, historical rebounding we will never see again. Now we’re different. So we will play different. How about that?
I mean, it’s just what we do every year. We have a new team and we try to figure it out as we go.
What I like is these guys are trying and will listen and will be
— and we’ll coach. And then I told the staff, they are going to do
whatever we tell them. It’s unbelievable. So let’s make sure we are telling them the right thing, because they are doing what we’re saying. And they are trying. And we have got some dogs.
I said at the beginning of the game, you just can’t do this.
Antonio didn’t get any looks for six minutes, 5 minutes. He can’t. He is too good a shooter. That means, someone drive down and find him. We don’t have to runs plays. He’ll move to get free, but you have got to keep an eye on him. So…
But, again, we only had six turnovers, guys. And we’re playing fast. And three were by one guy. Think of that. Why? All these guys can dribble, pass, and shoot. You are not going to have a whole lot of turnovers if you have two that every — the ball squirts out. We don’t have that. And that’s why we are doing it. And that’s a team. And I know coach is just getting started with them, but that is a team that is disruptive. They try to deny different wings.
They try to do different things to be disruptive. That’s his history. Last year his team was in the top three percent defensively, like holding people to ridiculous numbers. So he is going to do that where he is now, it is just going to take him time.
Q Cal you touched a little bit on the last answer, having so many guys that can dribble, pass, and shoot and how you need to heat up offensively. Do you think this team will be the best offensive team you have had here?
JOHN CALIPARI: The 2012 team was.
Q I didn’t say the best. I said one of the best.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I would say they are one of the best.
Q With Reed being a legacy player —
JOHN CALIPARI: Say it again.
Q With Reed being the legacy player he is, it seems like every time he touches the ball the crowd kind of buzzes. Can you tell us about the impact this has on this building.
Were you watching the game? Did you know what adjustment I made at half time? I love this because you guys have no idea, yet you will tell me how to coach and what I should be doing and all of that stuff. So what adjustment did I make in the second half? I love this. I am not going to tell you. It was a tweak.
Q A November tweak (Laughter).
JOHN CALIPARI: I am not going to tell you. That’s too bad. Look at the tape. You will figure it out.
KENTUCKY BASKETBALL POSTGAME QUOTES
KENTUCKY VS. NEW MEXICO STATE
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
NOVEMBER 6, 2023
#21, DJ Wagner, G
On getting the season started…
“It feels good. Just the season officially started like you said, so to be able to play a real game and just get out there and play in front of the crowd with my teammates, it felt great and I had a lot of fun doing it.”
On what changed in the second half defensively…
“We just had to talk at halftime, to just keep fighting. You know, we knew the [other] team was going to come out and play hard. That’s how every game will be, everybody is going to come out. So we are going to have to match that energy with every team we play, and just play hard, and most importantly keep fighting. Keep fighting, next play mentality and rebound most importantly. Second half I feel like we did a better job of rebounding as a team, as a group. So, I feel like that made a difference.”
On what makes this team so explosive…
“I feel like, just how many, coach always says all the time, we got so many players that can dribble, pass and shoot. We are all great basketball players, we don’t really need a system like that. We just like to hoop, so, like you said, going on those runs, getting out in transition, finding each other, just stuff like that, making basketball plays.”
#15, Reed Sheppard, G
On his first game …
“It was awesome. Putting on the jersey for the first time and running out with my teammates, running out to the best fans in the nation hollering. It was really, really cool and something that I have dreamed of my whole life. It was a dream come true, it was unbelievable.”
On Coach Cal saying he has the best hands he has coached…
“Just being able to pressure the ball and trusting my teammates that they are going to be in the right spot, and I have four other really good defenders behind me that, if something goes wrong, if I get beat off the dribble, they have my back and can make something good happen.”
On how the dunk felt…
“It felt awesome, it was really cool. First point, so it was really cool that I could do that. DJ made a great save and pass.”
#0, Rob Dillingham, G
On passing and sharing the ball in transition…
“I feel like it’s just amazing honestly. Because when we gel together and we learn that we are just so unselfish and we play together, and we don’t care if we score, we’re just happy for everyone. So, when we play like that, I feel like it’s hard to beat us.”
On how good on ball defense leads to success…
“It’s really effective, we go over it every day at practice and watch film. If you don’t play defense, you’re not going to play. So we take pride in defense, we put pressure on the ball. We don’t want the guys to be able to just do whatever they want to do. That’s what we take pride in.”
On trash talk being a part of his game and reacting to trash talking…
“I mean I just take it as competitiveness, if someone said something to me, I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to show my game.”
KENTUCKY BASKETBALL POSTGAME QUOTES
KENTUCKY VS. NEW MEXICO STATE
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
NOVEMBER 6, 2023
NMSU Head Coach Jason Hooten
Opening Statement …
“Thoughts on the game…whew, not a lot of good thoughts. I thought that we were pretty competitive [in the] first 20 minutes. I didn’t think we played great, but I thought we played good enough to be in the game and be where we needed to be. I was happy with our effort. I thought, defensively, we flew around pretty good. [We] had a few too many turnovers and, obviously, just gave them too much in transition. They’re an elite transition offensive team. I told our guys that I thought if we could just make them play in the half court, we would have a chance to be right where we needed to be. I still believe that. They scored 35 points out of 86—they scored 35 in transition. We were right there and where we needed to be in what we wanted to give them in the half court. Offensively, we were inept. I’m not up here to make a lot of excuses but we have not had—we’ve had eight people to practice. We suited up two managers. We just have not had a chance—I’ve not had my starting five together. We just haven’t had a chance to practice together. We’re a long way away offensively.”
On Kentucky’s defensive pressure…
“I know Coach [Calipari] does a great job. He’s a tremendous coach. When you’re a good coach, you can coach defense. It was really hard to tell. Kentucky State—no disrespect—I watched that game and Georgetown. Neither one of those [teams]—no disrespect—[Kentucky] didn’t play overly hard defensively in those games. I thought the games in Canada—it was very hard to tell defensively. I just did not see the intensity. I thought tonight they really got after it and guarded, which I assumed that they would. Again, this is not anything against Kentucky—we just lost by 40—I really think our turnovers were more of us and trying to get comfortable. I can’t sit here and tell you who our point guard is going to be. I think those guys right now are trying to figure it out. [Jaylin Jackson-Posey] is a really good player, but he’s having to play way too many minutes right now. He got tired—a lot of those turnovers are fatigue turnovers. Again, I’m not taking anything away from Kentucky’s defense, but I thought [the turnovers] were more on us than anything else.”
On his team’s roster turnover and the issues it presented…
“When I took the job at the end of March, we had zero players on our team. I signed 13 guys in about two months. When we got to summer, we had five guys in practice all summer long. When we got the fall, we probably worked out with about six guys. We had a couple of guys who were overseas who couldn’t get here. Again, I’m not making excuses, but we’ve played two scrimmages and that’s all we’ve done. We’ve hardly even scrimmaged in practice because we have so much to teach and so much to learn. We’re way behind. We’re way, way behind. I guess [that is] longwinded, but would I have liked to play this summer? I would have liked to practice this summer.