"I'm not trying to live up to them. I'm just trying to do what I can do, to the best of my ability. I just want to win a national championship."
That is the mindset of Marquis Teague, the latest John Calipari-coached point guard, who no doubt will get compared to the likes of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight. Saturday, Teague returns to his home state when the Wildcats face undefeated Indiana in Bloomington.
"He's not as gifted athletically as Rose or Wall but those two guys are among the best athletes who have ever played the position. What he does to better than those guys and better than most point guards of the past 15 years or so (is pass)," Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy said in a preseason interview on "The Leach Report" radio show. "I'd put Teague in the top five or 10 passers that I've seen entering college basketball. He really has great vision and now he's got great talent around him. It should really empower him."
On his weekly radio show Monday night, Calipari reinterated his confidence that Teague will ultimately make the kind of progress that those other point guards did (and most, if not all of them struggled at times early in the season). Calipari said he's spending more time with Teague, to get him to "think differently" about the position. Among the areas that the coach wants Teague address are shooting too quickly and mastering the pace of the game.
One of the players with whom Teague quickly developed a strong bond is his backcourt runningmate. And Doron Lamb, one of the players who figures to benefit from Teague's ability to blow past his man on the dribble.
"We got great chemistry. When I first got here in the summer, he was teaching me the Dribble Drive (system). It feels like we've been playing together a long time. I know where he's going to be and he knows what I'm going to do. I want to give it to him because I know that's an assist 'cause he's going to know it down," Teague said.
Jarred Quarles coached Teague's AAU in Indianapolis and he says Calipari's system provides a perfect match.
"Marcus Teague is a point guard that is built for the Dribble Drive like a Derrick Rose and a John Wall," Quarles said. "He (Marcus) is a dribble drive point guard. He makes guys around him better.
"He is athletic like a Derrick Rose. He is quick like a John Wall but makes great decisions like a Chris Paul. He is a little like everybody. He has been able to watch so many great players, his brother (Jeff) is a point guard in the league so, he has been soaking all things in and waiting to get his chance," noted Quarles, adding that Calipari's track record with point guards was main reason why Teague chose to play at Kentucky.
"He feels that Coach Calipari can take his game to the next level and make him play hard and teach him everything that he needs to know about college basketball," Quarles said.
According to various recruiting pundits, Teague falls somewhere between Wall's athleticism and Brandon Knight's perimeter shooting on the spectrum of point guard skills. Better than Knight in going to the rim and better than Wall with the outside J.
And he likes playing defense, too.
"I take pride in my defense," Teague said.
Calipari has praised Teague's work ethic in the weight room, noting that he's so strong he'll have to be careful about picking up fouls. But while Teague embraces that part of the UK conditioning program, he's no fan of the running. Nevertheless, he's answering the call there, too.
'The conditioning, that kills me. I didn't know it was that tough. It's a whole different level," Teague said. "I want to be a great player. I'm in the gym as much as I can (be). Just doing anything I can to make sure I'm ready for the season."
Quarles knows that part of the preparation is vital because of the demands Teague will face this winter.
"Adjusting to the wear and tear of a college season will be one of the adjustments. Playing in more games, playing at a high level of competition every night, and just adjusting to the college game will be an adjustment for a kid," the coach said, "but I don't think it will be that hard for him to do."
Ditto for adjusting to life in the spotlight at UK.
"I don't think it is anything different than what has been going on except for that it is at a national level," Quarles said. "He has been known on the national scene for a long time now."