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Preseason Q&A part 3: Calipari on Poythress, Randle, Cauley-Stein

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In September, John Calipari sat down with a select group of media members to talk about his 2013-14 Kentucky team. We will be posting a transcript of the entire conversation on Tuesday and Wednesday in four parts. Today, Calipari discusses a few of his players individually. Check out parts one and two here and here.

Question: What have you seen from Alex this year?
Calipari: His head's up. He's looking you in the eye. I think he's more confident. He's ready for the year. His hamstring, he did something to it a few weeks before he got here, so he's been out, but he's well beyond where he had been. But that's the growth. And again, when you look at his numbers as a freshman in this league, you say he had a hell of a year for a freshman. But this is Kentucky. This is a different animal. There is nothing like this. There's never been anything like this, what we're going through. And everybody is held to a different standard. And you know what? If you want to come here you better accept that, or don't come here. It's not changing. You thinking it's changing? No, it isn't. Now, what happens to him is, he comes back and he knows I've got to change. There are things I'm going to do different, and I'm going to do them. It's part of growth. And that shouldn't be like something bad. You know how happy I'd be if I had guys for three and four years? I'd be ecstatic. Are you kidding me? But each year, each kid is on his own timeframe. Like I tell these kids when we recruit them, I don't know what your timeframe is. I don't know what your maturation process for your body is going to be. What, do you think I'm looking into a crystal ball and I know stuff? I don't. I don't know if your skill level - I don't know if you have toughness in late games to turn people on. We don't know all that. If you have all that, then you're going to leave after a year. If you don't, you're not leaving after a year.

Question: Your initial impression of Julius Randle was that he was an alpha beast.

Calipari: In the workouts, he's like, you know. There are times where he wants to settle on the perimeter or be like a guard, but we were doing drills where he had to attack and he's a little -- he's got to get to his right hand more because you know how everybody's going to play him: Make him go right. And he can, but he's more comfortable getting to his left. But when he missed it, his head was right back on the rim until it went in. Like, oh my gosh. And then I tell the guys, what happened two years ago is Michael dragged us to that level as a team. And that's what I'm asking Julius to do. Forget about everything else. Just do that right there and drag us. We'll help you with all the other stuff. You don't lose that.

Question: Does he seem to be a ready participant in that? Does he want to drag?
Calipari: Yeah, and he wants to impress me but he's quiet about it. He knows. He's different now. That's a skill. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got drafted number two on that skill. It wasn't any other skill. It was that skill.

Question: Does he have even more skills than Michael?
Calipari: I don't want to say that. I don't want to say he's better than Michael. Michael, there's stuff I've seen Michael do that I couldn't believe human beings could do. But this kid, he's his own guy. He's 6-9, 250, nimble and he's tough.

Question: In high school he loved having the ball. He liked to pass and initiate for his teammates.
Calipari: He is. That's what he can do. Yeah, that's what happens in the Dribble Drive when you have four guys that all can do it. Now all of a sudden, you can't -- and if you can shoot a little bit, you can't leave. They got to kind of stay in between out and in. You can't just stay in because the guy just pulls up and shoots it. But, no, I haven't figured out where we're going to play he and the three. I've done it different ways. Patrick Patterson played behind because I didn't think he was as good at finishing. Alex, if you asked me who was a better finisher if you threw it ahead, probably Julius. But it may change. So what we might do with he and James and Julius, both of you are running this side of the floor. Whoever runs faster, you're front and the other guy's behind. But you're running the same side. So if you both start running, one of you talks to one and we're good where whoever's out ahead goes. I don't know that. I don't know if we're running them left side, right side. That stuff, I'm going to try to figure out between the 15th and the 26th (of September). OK, what am I comfortable with?

Question: You talked last year about Willie not knowing what he can be and talked about it throughout the year. Do you and him know what he can be now?
Calipari: No. He's still -- and I think Dakari's going to bring a lot of it out of him. But this team, last year we needed Willie to do stuff, again, that he wasn't capable of. Now when Nerlens was there, he looked really good because when he didn't look good I could take him out and put Nerlens back in. I could play them together a little bit. A little bit. I could tease you when you watched. Then Nerlens went down and what happened? Now he's got to play 35 minutes and you see every wart, every kink, everything. And we needed him to do more and he wasn't capable of doing it yet. Yet. Now he's on a team, he can basically be who he is. Now the question is: Will he be challenged enough to take his stuff and not just defer to all these guys? Take your stuff to this level. Well, how do you do that unless you have competition, unless you have that mindset? Well if he doesn't have that mindset, then we have the competition that we have. And I think the same with Alex. You fight like heck, you stay focused, you stay upbeat or someone else plays. Then when you watch him and that guy plays real well, you're like, man. That's what competition does. And I think we don't have too many guys, but I think we have enough where everybody's going to be kept honest. But we're young. When we had three guys come back from the one team (in 2011-12), you guys said, "Yeah, but you had veterans come back." Yeah, but those veterans went to a Final Four. Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. This team went to an NIT and lost on the road.

Question: Can you talk about James Young? What is it about his game that you like so much?
Calipari: First of all, his core strength has to improve because, to play the way we're playing, when you get the bump, you got to be in a position, and your core strength is what leverages you to be able to stay the course. I call it bulldogging. You can bulldog if you have to. He doesn't have that yet. His is kind of a slippers game. If he gets bumped, he'll kind of you know (flails arms). But he can really score and he's really skilled. He plays low already. My other guys, even Julius, they play standing straight up and down.  You can't play that way. You're not quick enough, you don't react, you don't have the quick twitch when you're up like this because you got to go down first. He naturally, when he has it, he's down. Aaron and Andrew are kind of up still because they could do that. They were always - it didn't matter because I'm going to be quicker and faster than you. Now all of a sudden, if you don't bend over, you're not going to be able to get shoulders by people, you're not going to be able to do those things. He already has that in his game. Now the question will be with all these young kids, you know, defensively, will you be what you're capable of being? The thing that turned me on against James, I'm watching him and I always questioned is he rough enough? On this team, you don't really have to be rough because you got three guys that are pit bull dogs, OK? That's pretty good on one team to have three guys like that. But I always said I want to see. So he played a team that put a football player on him down in Augusta and I watched the whole game. And the guy beat the living crap out of him. He went inside, he wasn't afraid, he still scored and it didn't faze him. To put him in as a football player to play him and try to beat him up, and he held his own. From that point, I was sold. OK, let's get this kid. Because that was my only question: When this stuff gets rough, what's he going to do? He didn't away one bit.

Question: Who are your three pit bulls? Are they the Harrisons and Julius?

Calipari: I would say.

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