Friday, February 26, 2016

John Calipari Previews Saturday's Game at Vanderbilt

Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks about Saturday's road game at Vanderbilt:



On Vanderbilt now compared with how the Commodores were playing the last time UK faced them …

“After they left us they took a little dip, but they’ve won their last two. They’re really rebounding the ball. They’re scoring the ball around the basket. (Damian) Jones is really doing well. They’re playing a little bigger at guard. They’re defending. It’s always a hard game up there. It’s a hard game.”

On UK facing bubble teams in its remaining three regular-season games …

“I don’t know. I don’t think it matters to us. Every team we play is like, ‘We win this game then we don’t have to win anymore.’ Really? You have 18 games left. So, I don’t think for us it’s every team plays with desperation when they play us. And on the road, it’s them along with a sellout crowd that they haven’t had all year. Or it’s their biggest crowd and all of that stuff. You can check the numbers. I know that some of you will, but I would guess that is what it is.”

On Derek Willis …

“I haven’t seen him yet.”

On Isaac Humphries’ psyche after the Texas A&M game …

“He’s good. We’re so far by that. Last game he had a chance to get six rebounds and he got two. That’s not going to keep him on the floor especially with Alex (Poythress) back. He knows what he has to do. He’s the first one in. He runs in there and Kenny (Payne) beats the crap out of him, and he loves it. He smiles about it. Some other guys in this back hallway, Isaiah (Briscoe) hiding [as Briscoe walks past and smiles]. They kind of peek around the corner, ‘Are they out there yet?’ ”

On if Humphries will play because of Vanderbilt’s size …

“They’re size though, other than Jones, they’re size is their jump shooters. I mean, they’ll go inside – the big kids will. He’s (Humphries) gotta be able to play the guy out on the floor. That’s a big thing with him. If he can do that, then you can leave him in the game. If he can’t–and it’s not like the guy is beating you off the dribble. You just gotta be able to be in a help position and make sure he’s not getting off 3s.”

On how they’re different without Derek Willis in the lineup …

“Well, we took 10 3s (without Derek Willis against Alabama), so obviously we played different. We put a few different wrinkles in. We’re going to try a couple of things today. It’s just trying to figure out now – normally we have a different team at the beginning of every year and we reshuffle the deck and here we go. How’s this team play? We’ve had to reshuffle the deck in season like three times now. Like, OK, how do we play now? I’m just trying to make it so these kids are comfortable playing. That it’s the best way for them as a team to play. I’m not caring whose idea it is or ‘Cal ball, that’s how we play.’ I mean, I could care less. I just want them to be in the best position to win the basketball game.”

On winning the SEC Championship …

“It’s going to be hard for us to because of the schedules, when you look at the schedules. But, we’re going to play the games, and I’m more concerned about us getting better. We have two tough road games and a team that beat our brains in down there (LSU). We could lose all three. But, if we’re playing at a high level and doing what we’re supposed to, we’ll be going into the tournament and we’ll be fine. We’ll build in the SEC Tournament. You can’t really tell. Right now it doesn’t look promising. But, we’ll see.”

On the performance of this team with all the injuries thus far and particularly Tyler Ulis …

“I’m proud of him. What we’ve been through – and we don’t talk about injuries or all of that stuff, we just play ball games. The biggest thing is a guy like Tyler Ulis – ‘Tyler Ulis was like that.’ Well, I don’t think so because earlier in the year there was nobody talking about him for player of the year. Now he’s talked about player of the year. You look at Jamal (Murray), there were big questions on Jamal two months ago. Now, all of a sudden, ‘He can play with anybody. This is the best guard tandem.’ You look at Isaiah, the question marks they had, now they’re saying, ‘Just make one or two shots. He doesn’t even have to make them all. Just make one or two. This kid really defends and rebounds.’ You look at Isaac and you say, ‘What?’ I mean, Dom’s (Hawkins) been hurt. We need Dom to make a couple shots. That’s the best thing about when you’re doing this. Basically every day is, will you embrace the process? Just embrace it. And the guys that embrace the process, you see them improve. The guys that don’t – the delusional guys, that I’m just going to do what I do and it’s going to work – it just doesn’t work. It’s hard to get better. Having Alex back and playing like he is. Marcus Lee seems to be kicking it in gear. And now it comes back to that refuse to lose, fight, ‘Do you want that last missed shot – Texas A&M – do you want it worse than they want it? Or are you going to act like I can’t get the ball?’ I mean, that’s—I would say this year, in the end there’s going to be plenty of games where it’s the last play and the tough team made it and won. And that’s in the finish of the season, that’s in conference tournament play and that’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. You watch, the tough team just made a play and the other guy has an excuse and couldn’t get there. ‘I tried.’ ”

On how much improvement his team has made in that area …

“Some, but we’ll see. We need to be in those battles.”

On how many fewer delusional guys he has at this point in the season …

“I’m saying that in a general sense. That’s how we do this. If you don’t buy into the process and you think you’re going to change – it’s kind of like, ‘I’m going to do the same thing over and over again and I’m going to have a different result.’ That’s insanity. You’re not going to have a different result. You’re going to have the exact same result you have now. I call it delusional, insanity. It’s the same.”

On if he thinks Jamal Murray should win SEC Freshman of the Year …

“I don’t know. We’ll let it play out. I know he’s awful good. Woo! Awfully good. And he’s playing winning basketball, which he wasn’t at the beginning of the year. He just played basketball. It was just whatever happened, happened. Now he’s playing to win and you’re seeing a guy on another level. Less shots – you ready? – more points. Less turnovers, more assists. Getting to the foul line. Now, defensively, he’s not as of a liability as he was earlier in the year because he works. Every day he comes out. Guys laughed last game. He said, ‘I’m a stopper, let me guard him.’ He said that at the foul line and they all busted out laughing. But he’s now taken on that mentality: ‘I want to guard.’ That’s the first step, so he’s good. But there are other good freshmen in the league.”

On if Skal Labissiere is coming along as a post guy …

“Not a post guy; he’s coming along as a player. And that’s what he is. It’s just going to take time. The ability; the will to fight through when you don’t feel right; the ability to fight through when you’re getting bumped around; the ability to, as you’re getting bumped around, to still focus on what you need to focus on – it takes time. A lot of that is just playing basketball. If you haven’t done that, you’re just learning. He’s skilled, he’s big, he blocks shots and he’s got a value on our team.”

On Charles Matthews …

“He’s getting back to being the energy guy. He got away from that. Like, started judging his energy based on shooting and scoring. Well, you’re not going to have a whole lot of energy now. Versus, when somebody walks in the gym, they don’t even think when he shoots an air ball, turns it over. All they watch and say is, ‘Look at his body. Look how energy driven this kid is. Look how much he brings to the court and how much he changes the temperament. That’s who he’ll be his whole career. And if he’s not that, they judge you on things that he’s not as strong on. And that’s what we’ve really been hitting him on, and you know what, I thought the last game was the first game in like four where he added energy to the game.”

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