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Preseason Q&A part 4: Calipari talks more about individuals

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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. Calipari closes it out today by talking in more detail about individual players. Check out parts one, two and three here, here and here.

Question: When you say Willie can be what Willie really is, what is Willie?
Calipari: In other words, when he's really going good you go. When he's not going as good, he doesn't have the heat on him. The question is: How do you get better? OK, well either you are a kid that's going to drive yourself. I walk in the gym, you're in here 11 o'clock at night. Brandon Knight, some of these other kids. Or you're not. If you're not, then who's on the team that's driving you that's either going to go by you -- he goes by you -- there's nobody promised here that's going to play - either goes by you or you stay in front of him and you keep improving and figure out ways of knocking this dude back. And he's got that in Dakari. I'm telling you, Dakari's better than I thought. He's legitimately like, oh my gosh, I didn't know. Now can he and Willie play together? I know this: Willie can guard a bunch of positions. The thing with Willie that makes it nice and having a 6-5 point guard that weighs 220 pounds is that you can switch all pick-and-rolls. So all this pick-and-roll, high pick-and-roll and I only pick-and-roll, Coach, you better try something different. That ain't working because you just switch everything. When have a 6-5, 220-pound point guard and your five man is Willie Cauley and can play the point, how do you pick-and-roll? He can guard your point and I can guard your five. Now it's not like I'm starting a game that way, but in a pinch, the ball swings, we switch back. We may do it. We're not going to start that way, but there's things you can do and why Willie has a strength that makes us unique and different.

Question: How would you describe Andrew's approach to playing point guard?
Calipari: I don't know yet until I get him. We're trying to figure it out. I don't know everything these kids can do yet. And that's one of the reasons why I want to do pickup - controlled, coached five-on-five - so I can watch and see. OK, wow. In the small period of time I worked with him the other day, Aaron is unbelievable -- he's better than I thought. Everyone is saying Andrew's way above Aaron. That's not true. And you won't believe this: They really look the same. Like, they do. And I'm telling you, he went to his left hand, shouldered and laid (it in) easily. Like lefty. And I'm like saying, he may be a strong left driver. Andrew seemed want to go a little more right and when he went left he didn't do it as well. I told Aaron after, "You need to teach your brother what you're doing going left because I'd like him to be able to go left and maybe start the offense on the left side rather than right side." But I can't do that unless he can go hard left like that. But Aaron did stuff and I'm like, wow, I didn't realize. And so I'm going to learn about them. I don't know all the stuff about these kids.

Question: Do you think they are interchangeable?
Calipari: Yeah. We can switch jerseys. There's a lot of stuff we can do.

Question: Can you tell them apart?
Calipari: They have a different haircut right now so I can.

Question: By orders?
Calipari: No. Uh huh. Mom tried to tell me something about this kid has a thing (points to forehead) and I'm like, what? So I may be able to in time if I'm around them know who's who, but I'm just telling you: They are identical twins. They look alike -- talk a little bit different. You can tell they're different when you're with them and they're speaking to you.

Question: It seems like you're a little giddy about a chance to work with these guys.
Calipari: I do, but I'm telling you that I'm also on the phone three hours a night trying to figure out who's our '14 class going to be. I'm sitting with coaches and guy's saying, "Yeah, we only got one scholarship next year." What? Or, "We're only recruiting big guys. Our guards are set for the next three years." What? I mean, it's not what I want, it's not my rule, but it is what it is. And when I watch kids I have a good feel for, 'Alright, if plays out, what's going to happen here?' And you don't always know. I never thought Marquis Teague would leave after a year. And that kind of got us last year. Even as the year wound down, I thought, this kid's going to stay. When he comes in, "I'm going to go." Now all of a sudden, uh oh, I only got this guy in the program, do I want to go out and get one or two more? How do I do this? He'll be good enough, and all of a sudden you get trapped. That's what happened, but it was my choice. Part of my choice was I didn't want to bring in anybody scaring away the class we had coming in. Alright, well then eat it. You just went through what you went through and it was your choice. That's why I didn't blame anybody. And I'm not taking the credit for us winning the national title. I had good players. Went to a Final Four. I had good players. I had good players. They wanted to come together, they were good kids. We'll do our job, but I think, again, yeah I'm excited about coaching this team. I'm excited this week because we got alums coming in. Go play against my guys and come back and tell me what you think. Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus (Cousins) went crazy when they played. Well let Terrence and these guys come in here and play these guys, tell me what you think. And so I'm hoping the next few days they get to play against the guys and we have an idea who is who.

Question: Has Dakari improved that much since he got here?

Calipari: Body fat's down six or seven percent, his weight's down, so now all of a sudden he's running better, he's more nimble on his feet. His conditioning is better which means he's trying to dunk balls. A lot of times you say, "Well, he plays below the rim." Because it was his choice. Well, he could have played higher but it's hard. "For me to do that all the time, oh my god, I got to work like crazy." Yeah. Now you're starting to see it. And I think he's challenged by Willie. Like, I'm not going anywhere. If it's me and you, then I'm coming at you. Either you fight me back or I just bury you. So it's good.

Question: You mentioned Terrence and you mentioned DeAndre. You talk a lot of times about these guys being your kids. They've had a couple things happen this summer. Do you reach out to them and what do you say?
Calipari: I talked to both of them. I just say, "How can I help you? Is there anything you want me to do or help you with?" But they're grown men. They're still considered, to me, children to me, but they're not. They're grown men. And guys make choices and then you got to deal with it. It's the great thing about our country: In most cases, you choose to do something you have to deal with it. But I think overall, our kids, we got great kids. How about them all coming back (for the alumni game)?

Question: How do you keep it in perspective with this young group, especially after last year? I think the word delusional was bounced around here. How are you trying to keep their mental focus, maybe trying to use last year's team as an example?
Calipari: Listen, I've talked more about last year's team right here than I have since the Robert Morris game. That thing is so far behind me, it ain't even in my mindset. I don't want them to think about last year. They have nothing to do with last year. The only thing we're talking about is: How do you get better, how do you come together as a team, how do you sacrifice for your teammates? Do you know we played Louisville in the Final Four? No one on the team took more than nine shots and we won the game. Go back and look, I bet you it's never happened in the history of the Final Four that no one on a winning team took more than nine shots. Jerry (Tipton) will look and write if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's ever happened. So my thing to my team is: What happens? They all sacrifice for each other. Are you willing to do it? And now, what happens here? And they're telling me they're sharing the ball. It's amazing. They're passing it to each other. I think they know what's out there. I think the twins know what's said about them. You don't think they look on the Internet and (see) this stuff? Whether it's James -- James will defer a little bit like Eric Bledsoe. Don't defer, you're as good as any of these guys. Don't defer. You're not being selfish. Just attack, be strong, know you can play with these guys. All that being said, I don't talk about any of that. I've talked about, to you, the mistakes that I made that led to what we did and how we played. I'm telling you how we try to cure that. One is - ready? Good players. More of them. You know, so some it wasn't their fault. I had guys that were in the game that needed to be out. OK, put in Twany (Beckham). Wait a minute. You can't. We weren't able to do it. So I'm worried about this group moving forward. Not using last team to, you know, try to say, "Hey, this could happen." No, that doesn't happen unless we choose to make it happen with this group.

Question: Do you want to go into the season with a 10- or 11-man rotation or do you figure that out as the season goes along?
Calipari: I don't know. I don't know. I'll play as many guys as can play. The guys are telling me Jarrod's (Polson) playing well. OK. Jon Hood's playing better. OK. What does that mean? I don't know yet until we start playing, until I put them in the game and they perform. If they deserve to get playing time, we will. If we press, I'll be playing more people anyway. But I'm not going to play 11, 12 guys. I won't do that, but you get to nine, maybe a 10th guy play, but we could settle on seven. Alright, these are the seven. I remember when Coach (John) Wooden was alive, I called him about my team in 2010 and I said, "You're watching my team, I'm trying to get guys together. What do you think?" He said, "Coach, you play too many guys." I said, "Really? Why do you think that, Coach?" He said, "Because you do it because of recruiting and everything else. You can't afford not to play guys if you (are trying to recruit). When we played, we played six guys, seven guys. That's it. If you wanted to play, you go in practice and you prove that you're better than him and then go in the game and perform. Then he'll sit and you play. And if you have to sit two years, then that's not my (problem), but you have other things that you understand." But I don't feel that way. And at the time he was right because of the team I had. I had just walked in here, I had a lot of guys I was trying to play. Jack Leaman told me the same thing when I was at UMass. The year I played six guys, we went to the Final Four and had the best team in the country. The year I played six guys. The year before, I played nine guys, we got to the Elite Eight. We were good, but he always said, "You're not going to be quite as good as a team when you're trying to play nine." So all the old-timers tell you the same thing. Now if you want to be about you and your system and all that, you keep flipping guys in and out and in and out and in and out. You think, but the reality of it is, if you really want to be good, you get a team of guys together and you just -- as the year goes on, they get better as a team because they get to learn about each other.

Question: Hood and Polson are guys that have been around here for awhile? What can they give you off the court that you need?
Calipari: No, look, they can give us stuff on the court. They're going to have an opportunity to play and it's a challenge, but they're going to have an opportunity. Now I would tell you that the way they handle themselves in all the workouts to drag these guys, trying to finish first in all the runs, trying to push these guys in the weight training, try to explain to them - because they've been around - that every game we play is someone's Super Bowl. You're not going to realize it until you're in the games. You better train like your life depends on it. And then when you play you better have more fun than that other team because that other team is wound tight and trying to kill you. And they can tell them - not coming from me - we went through it. Willie and Alex, the same thing. Now what I told the team as a whole, "We need leadership and you young guys, if these guys lead you, then go. If they don't, you lead. Run right by them and you lead." I don't care who leads. We've had freshmen lead before. We've had juniors and seniors lead. But someone's got to step up and drag the team and teach and talk and do that. So hopefully those veteran players are going to do that.

Question: How about Derek Willis? How do you see him in where he's at?
Calipari: I mean, the challenge for him is he's going against physical men. When you talk Julius, you talk Alex, you talk Dakari, you talk Willie, you're talking four guys that physically can throw (down). You don't know the maturation process. But right now, he's stronger and in better shape than he was, but he's got a ways to go with that. He's not playing a position where you can physically not be up to snuff. And it's the same thing with Marcus Lee. And then you're trying to say, "What strengths do you have that you can add to the team right now?" I think he's going to be fine. I think Dominique's going to be fine. They're not as far along as some of the guys we have, but they'll be fine.

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