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Preseason Q&A with Coach Cal (Part 2): On balanced scoring

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Last month, John Calipari spent about an hour with reporters answering questions about Kentucky basketball heading into the 2012-13 season. We will be posting the interview in three parts over the next three days. Here's part two:


Question: Do you think you have a team that has six guys that can lead the team in scoring?
Calipari: Seven.

Question: Willie Cauley-Stein included?

Calipari: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Let me tell you what his job will be. I'll run everybody down the floor, both ends. When we do drills, everything we do, someone wins and someone loses. He finishes first in all the runs. He's 7-foot tall and he's finishing first. And he's running hard. He's not just striding; he's flying. What we'll look for him is just take off. If he can get two, three layups a half, just flying, just outrun their big.

Question: So if you have a team like that with seven guys who can lead you in scoring, do you go into the game trying to figure out matchups or just who is hot?
Calipari: Usually it's as the game unfolds. Anytime you go in with here's how we're going to do this, "OK, now it didn't happen, Coach, what are we doing now?" So it's almost like we're going in, this is how we play and then we kind of move from there. Last year, how were they trying to stop us? Well, for awhile they just said just beat them up. Just absolutely throw people to the floor; physically go after people. It's the only way. And then they tried a little bit of zone and then we're throwing dunk, dunk, dunk, dunk in the zone defense, and they're better off playing man. Don't leave Anthony (Davis); just stay back. Then you had what Louisville did, just run at the guy so he couldn't throw the lob. Just leave him completely. Just run, here he comes, block the lob. Well, he blocked one, but he only tipped it and we dunked that. So, there are all kinds of ways. You've got to look at what they do. Ryan (Harrow) could lead us. How will people play us? Until we start playing games (we don't know).

Question: What do you envision Nerlens Noel being able to do for you?
Calipari: I asked Anthony how was Nerlens because that's who he matched up against mostly (in pickup games). And he said, "He's good, Coach. He'll block some shots." I said, "How was he offensively?" He said, "I kind of pushed him off the post." I said, "You pushed him off the post?" Which is kind of like, OK, we've got to teach the kid how to sit down and hold your position, but until he gets stronger that's the way he is. He's never going to be Shaq. That's not how he is. But he's really quick and fast and he's got a quick twitch. If a kid is slow going to the ball or reacting to the ball, you can't play. I don't care what you say, you cannot play. If the kid is quick, really quick going to the ball, now he's got a chance to be special. Anthony was really quick getting to balls. Michael Gilchrist was really quick. Now we had two that just "Bang!" to balls. Now this kid is the same way. He's the quickest on our team getting to balls and stuff like that. If he's on that baseline or he's in the high-post area with handoffs and rolls and all that stuff, he'll finish with dunks. But he's not in shape right now. He's physically not (there). His back hurts. No kidding, you're out of shape. You just started. But I think he'll be fine.

Question: Any concerns about his eligibility? Do you feel confident he'll be fine?
Calipari: Yeah, they do this kind of review with a bunch of kids. When you're reclassifying there's a red flag. Now some people are mad you reclassified, there's another red flag. And now you go through the process, but it's a review, so we feel confident. We feel pretty good about it.

Question: Before it was all could your point guards live up to the reputation of that position --
Calipari: This one has that too.

Question: But do you think Nerlens can handle that comparison that Anthony did?
Calipari: He shouldn't be compared. They're totally different. They're not even the same. Nerlens is going to give us a different type of game. Anthony understood how to compete on possessions. Nerlens is still learning, like he'll take possessions off. Well, you can't do that. What he is, is a normal freshman. We forget where Anthony was early in the year. Yeah, he could dunk balls and all that, but he had absolutely no post game, he was shaky shooting free throws until the end he became a really good free-throw shooter, physically couldn't hold his position. I mean he did stuff that looked good, but he came a long way as the year went on, and he was able to because the team was so good. It wasn't totally on his shoulders. He was able to build some self-esteem and confidence as the year went on, and that's what I'm hoping for this kid. That's why I like the fact that we have seven guys that can lead us in scoring, similar to last year.

Question: Which of those freshmen came in that you thought was most ready to play a game tomorrow?
Calipari: Probably Alex (Poythress) and Archie (Goodwin) would be the two, but they still (have a ways to go). We've been working on Archie on a consistent shot. You can't shoot a different ball. You can't lean one way (and then lean the other). You've got to shoot consistently. In high school you could miss your first 12. I'm getting 12 more, 15 more, I'm good. Now you can't do that. In his case, his head moved maybe. You've got to be a very consistent shooter, so he's not ready for that yet. And if he's going to shoot a lot of balls for us, he better be a consistent shooter. It doesn't mean you make every shot. It doesn't mean you shoot consistently as far as making them. It means every shot you shoot is in that range. You look at it and you say that's the same shot whether you're running, whether it's in transition, whether it's a 3, a free throw, you have the same look to your shot. He doesn't have that right now. Alex is just the motor. We've got to get him to understand how hard on every possession you must play. When we get him there, he will be scary. But right now, we're going to be behind. That's just the way it is. Last year we had Doron (Lamb), we had Darius (Miller), we had Terrence (Jones). They had all been to the Final Four the year before. You're talking about one truly veteran player and two that seem to be as veteran as we keep here - two-year guys.

Question: What kind of sense do you have whether or not Jon Hood can help you or maybe even Twany (Beckham), maybe not all the time but filling a specific role in a certain situation?
Calipari: We are. I'm counting on one of them or Jarrod (Polson). Jarrod is probably improved as much as anybody that I saw in the workouts we've done. For us to be what we need to be, those two and Jarrod have got to give us something on the court, but really in practice they've got to perform at a high level so we're going at each other. If we do that, think about it. If those two can play against the other guys, then shoot, you should be able to play against any of these guys. And then it's like, OK, what do I do to help the team win, not how do I want to play. It's not how you want to play. What do I do to help this team win? And what's going to be my job? And those are the things. Jon has gotten better. He's coming off that knee (injury). He was with the guards the other day and did fine.

Question: You said that you have to have a certain mentality to deal with the media, the fans, etc. Do you think this group gets that?
Calipari: They knew coming in, I know that. It was explained to them very directly in the recruiting process. It's funny, (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella met with the team and met with individuals. I have never done it this early but I felt to do it with this team was important. His thing to me was, "Where do you find players that are this good that are this nice of kids? How are you finding these kids?" And I said, "Well, part of it's the recruiting process where you're telling kids if you think you're going to shoot every ball, if you think it's all about you, if you think you are going to be the only guy, if you think I'm going to tell you you're going to start, play 30 minutes a game and get all the shots, you don't want to be here. It's the wrong place to be. If you want to go out and run around and do all that, don't come here. It's the wrong place to go." And so I think it starts in the recruiting process. We're not begging kids. We're recruiting kids and we're recruiting them hard, but we're telling them the truth. It's hard. This is a unique place. "Oh, you're arrogant." Alright, I'll tell the kid you'll start, you'll play 30 minutes a game and we'll give you every shot and you're going to be drafted No. 1, we're going to put your name in the rafters. What else do you want me to tell them? You can do it that way or you can do what I do which is just tell the truth and say that's it, that's how it is here. If you want this then you come. The result is what's happened for our players. Not only that, they're prepared for this stuff that's happening. Our guys have gone and stepped up and guys that people never thought would do X, Y, Z are in that league.

Question: How much did last year's group affect that mindset with this year's group? They know coming in what's here, what's in front of them, but how much did just the level of success of that group affect this one?
Calipari: There are a couple of things. One, the academic bar has been raised here, and it's been raised ever since Brandon Knight came here. They understand you've got a responsibility, and if you don't hold up that responsibility then it's hard for us to believe we can count on you. That's changed. The other thing that I will tell you that if you think shots matter, like if I'm not getting my shots, if you think shots matter, ask Michael Kidd-(Gilchrist) and Antony Davis, the No. 1 and 2 picks in the draft, who got the fourth- and fifth-most shots on our team. Ask those two if it mattered. So I don't need any phone calls, I don't need anybody talking to me. That's changed now. And I think again, what they were as a team and how they were their brother's keeper gives you an idea, are you willing to do all that? Are you willing to be a sixth man? Are you willing to do what Michael Kidd-(Gilchrist) did at Vanderbilt and come in and say, "Coach, start Darius Miller in the championship game because he's playing so bad and we need him in the NCAA Tournament?" Can you do that? "I don't think so, but I think he will." And then everybody that surrounds us and these kids that think, "Well, you should do this," I just think it kind of wipes all that out and it makes us different in that they understand it's not how many shots I take, it's how I play. It's what I add to the team. It's what people see in me and what I'll be as a teammate. It's does our team win? And if we win at a high level, everyone is going to want all of us. Those are the kinds of things that are teaching tools I'll use the rest of my career. This will be one of those things. And hopefully this team I'm coaching now will give me more ammo to go back at people and say look at this and look at that.

Question: You've continued to bring back former players, specifically in that undergraduate assistant role. Other that trying to help them, is there a tangible effect that those guys can have on your current players?
Calipari: If they do, fine. If they do it would be great. It would be like an added (bonus), but that's not why we're doing it. We just added one of the first players I ever recruited. He just got done playing in Europe. He's been added to the weight staff. He's Brian Shorter. He was at Pittsburgh (when I was an assistant). He just got done playing, just finished up his degree. Orlando (Antigua) and I got after Pitt, "Hey man, get this kid back, let him finish his degree." He wasn't that far. And so now we've got him started in that weight and conditioning stuff. It's the greatest thing being able to be in a position to do it. Now, does Brian Shorter add something? Well, I don't know. If he does, great, but if he doesn't and we help another young man get on with his life, (I'm fine with it). Marquis (Estill) being back. I just got a letter from his seventh-grade teacher who was a brand-new teacher and the kid was so nice to her that she had a relationship with him. She helped him with math or something and now he made her feel good as a teacher when she first started when she was unsure because he was such a nice kid. And then, "I'm the biggest fan of this kid. He made me feel good." I just got that letter back about him. That makes it kind of like, hey, these are good kids. Some of them are finishing careers. I told Nazr (Mohammed), Nazr has some time left. He didn't finish. I said, "When you're done playing, come back and finish and be on my staff one year. Finish up." We obviously did it with Wayne Turner who was really good for us, really good for us.

Question: Do those players maybe listen to them more because they've been in that seat. You talk about people being in that seat, they don't understand it until they've been there. Do they maybe listen to those guys more?
Calipari: Players know players from the last three years. They have no idea who these guys are.

Question: Kyle (Wiltjer) went up for a weekend with the Canadian National Team. What do you hope he gets out of that?
Calipari: One, I knew he'd be up there with good players and he would get good coaching and good competition. He and I talked and I said, "You need to go up there." Morencio, who I knew through my UMass days, he used to be a (general manger) over in Italy and had a couple of players on my team, he called and said, "Hey, we really want Kyle up here." I said, "Look, as long as he doesn't miss too much school." So we got him up there, and I'll you what, they loved him. They loved him. He was ecstatic. He said, "Coach, there was this guy from the Lakers and he had us doing stuff. I wish I could have stayed. It was really good. He gave us some different things we were doing." I said, "How'd you shoot?" He said, "I was really making them." He said, "I was killing it." It's like Willie the other day. It's the greatest thing when you're coaching and you see guy start building. He didn't have a shirt on and I looked at his arm and I said, "Man, you've got some bumps. That's crazy." And then he goes like this and makes a muscle and points at the weight strength coach, "He helped me." I just busted out laughing. I said, "Come on, man, you've got to be kidding me." But that's the type of stuff. You're coaching at Kentucky and you understand that this is life and death for some people, but it's not life and death for me. I've told you before, one, I want to win championships for the state and the Commonwealth, but the most important thing is helping these young kids. It's a players-first program. If we do right by then, if we make decisions based on them, they will drag us where we want to go. I said three years ago, we had guys write stories and try to get people comment on it when those five guys went in the first round and I said it was the biggest or one of the biggest - I may have said the biggest - and I think I'm probably right because now you have every player in the country wanting to do what? Play here. And it started with those five going in the first round, which is like something that may never be done again unless we do it here. And now all of a sudden it's changed what's happened for us. And now we stay as a players-first (program) and let's see where this team can drag us.

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