Kentucky Basketball Previews Alabama

Hawkins, Lee Video

Kentucky Men's Basketball
UK-Alabama Pregame Quotes
Joe Craft Center - Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 22, 2016


Tony Barbee


On Derek Willis’ status …
“He’s been real diligent in his rehab and I know he’s going to want to get out there with his teammates tomorrow. I haven’t seen him today so we’ll get an idea of what he looks like today in practice.”

On Alex Poythress …
“Same. I know he’ll resume activities today. Whether he goes tomorrow, I have no idea.”

On how much UK needs Willis and/or Poythress …
“Well, you always want a full complement. We don’t want to go without anybody, but I know we’ve got some other guys that have stepped up in some other guys’ absences, I know with Coach’s philosophy of next man up. You look at what Isaac (Humphries) did last game: really stepped up and was big for us. We’d like to have everybody, but I think everybody’s confident that if we do miss a couple pieces then our other guys will be ready to step in and do their jobs.”

On if resuming activities means Poythress will practice with the team today …
”I don’t know. I just saw on the medical report we get from the medical staff they said he’ll resume activities today, so I don’t know any more beyond that.”

On what the staff said to Humphries after the Texas A&M game …
“Well, I think it went a long way with the tone that Coach took after the game with Isaac and how positive he was. Isaac played a big part in that game and gave us a chance to win in a hard place to win against a team in Texas A&M that’s hard to beat there – in College Station. We just stay positive with Isaac because he’s done a lot of positive things. It was just a kid who got caught up in the emotion of the moment. He was happy and excited that he thought he had given us a chance to win.”

On the swing in emotions for Humphries …
“I don’t know, I didn’t see the video.” 

On if there is any carryover from emotional games like on Saturday …
“I don’t think so. I think this team has a pretty strong resolve. We were all crushed in that immediate 24 hours after the game, but we’ve since moved on to Alabama.”

On what Humphries did well rebounding at Texas A&M …
“Well, Isaac’s always been a physical presence. He’s not afraid to go in there and mix it up and bang and throw his body at people. He was able to do that against one of the better bigs in the league in (Tyler) Davis. He’s a confident player defensively and he’s confident in his rebounding ability because obviously of his size, his physical strength, and then you couple that with his mental approach to it. He’s not afraid to go against anybody out there.” 

On if Humphries will be more motivated now …
“Yeah, he’s a motivated kid anyway so I don’t think that will motivate him anymore than he already is.”

On if being from Australia and if cultural differences had any role in Humphries action at the end of the game …
“Again, Isaac – he didn’t feel he was trying to slam the ball. He was just caught up in the emotion of the moment. He was excited for his team and being able to get that rebound thinking he was going to go shoot free throws and have a chance to give us some more room at the end of the game. It was more so he was just caught up in the moment excited for his team.”

On what the being in the Southeastern Conference regular-season title race means to the team …
“I think it’s big, particularly how we came out of nonconference play. I think there were some question marks for everybody about this team and where we were headed. The guys really rallied around each other and turned things around, so we talk about it all the time. It’s important for these guys to win the SEC. Even though we lost the game down in College Station, we still remain in first place and the guys were excited about that.”  

On his role and analysis of the team’s zone defense …
“Well, I’m only the engineer (of the defense) only when it works. When it doesn’t work I’ll put it back on Cal. We played quite a bit of zone in some of the other spots I was at so I’m familiar with teaching it and as far back as I’ve known Cal – and everyone knows how long I’ve worked for him and played for him – he hates zone. You guys all know that. I just stay in his ear and tell him there are some teams I think we can use the zone against fairly effectively and some that we can’t. It took him getting thrown out of the South Carolina game for us to get to play it for half a game (laughter) and it was fairly effective. But I think he understands that you can’t always give a team a steady diet of one thing. We have a good zone team. We have good length, good quickness – the guys are smart and really play well off each other in the zone.”

On why Calipari dislikes utilizing the zone defense …
“I think it comes down to accountability. It’s why his teams have always been so good defensively. He’s been able to hold everyone accountable out of the man-to-man, whether you stopped your man, whether you were in the right position and helped, so it’s easier to do that than it is in zone. 

On if he was excited about the possibility of playing zone because Cal wasn’t on the sideline at South Carolina…
“(Laughs) Actually, we needed it because of the foul trouble our bigs were in that game we had to out of necessity.”

On whether he has been surprised with how players have embraced the zone …
“No, our guys are excited about it. We work on it quite a bit in practice because you never know when you’re going to need it. We’ve struggled guarding the dribble this year and I’ve always been in Coach’s ear that it’s a good way to stop dribble penetration is out of that zone. It worked in that game.”

On if Cal turns his back to the floor when the team switches to zone…
“No, but the first time they make a shot when we got to the zone, then he’s in my ear.”

On his impression of Alabama’s growth since their first meeting …
“Well, they’re playing a totally different lineup than when we played them. They’re shooting a ton more 3s then when we played them, so they’re a totally different team. Shannon Hale, who’s a fantastic player, wasn’t playing particularly well at that time when we played them, and now he’s a guy that they’re going through offensively. Obviously Retin Obasohan is the straw that stirs their drink, but Shannon Hale is a guy who has really sparked them in the run that they had because of the level that he’s playing at.”

On what makes Obasohan so effective …
“You go strength, you go athleticism, you go speed, you go quickness, you go skill level and ability to handle the ball and go anywhere he wants on the floor off of the dribble and finish and create fouls off of bigger guys. Now he’s seasoned. He’s been doing it for four years and he shoots the ball off the bounce, off the catch. He’s one of the better guards in our league, if not the country.” 

On Avery Johnson’s job coaching at Alabama so far …
“Fantastic. I mean you could see early in the year you know anytime you have a new coach come in players have to learn the system and they struggle early to figure out their roles and what he expects. And now you see him very, very comfortable with what he wants to do and how he wants his team to play. They’re guarding at a high level. They rebound at a high level. They’re a physical team; as physical as any team in our league. Now offensively, you can really see them comfortable in their roles, where he wants them to score, how he wants them to score and that’s where you see a guy like  Hale, who’s gotten more comfortable in his system and is really starting to blossom.” 

On Alex Poythress’ role since he’s been out …
“Well, he’s very engaged obviously, and again, a senior, a guy who’s been around this many years. He’s one of those guys that can finish Coach Cal’s sentences before he even starts them. If you saw the game on Saturday, how engaged he was on the bench. I mean he was a coach/cheerleader/mentor to all the guys as they were on the floor coming to the bench. Whenever he’s ready to come back he’s not going to miss a beat because he’s stayed engaged.” 

On keeping the team motivated as the end of the season approaches …
“Again, it’s easier to find motivation when you’re in first place or at least in the hunt to win the conference and then you’re playing bigger picture. You’re playing for seed in the NCAA Tournament, you know, so we don’t address that with our guys at all and the guys have showed no signs of slowing down. So we’re not concerned about it.” 

On Tyler Ulis' conditioning and ability to play so many minutes …
“It’s a combination of both (conditioning program and natural ability). You’ve got some guys that you can train like an Olympic athlete, but yet their constitution or their makeup, you know, they can fatigue very quickly. Tyler is one of those guys that at the tip or at that 40-minute mark at the end of the game, there is no difference in his speed, athleticism, his mental sharpness. It never stops. It never slows down. He has that special makeup about him, coupled with the job that our strength coach Robert Harris does with our guys.” 

On the mental takeaway from the Texas A&M loss …
“Cal gives everybody 24 hours to sulk or pout after a loss and then he demands they immediately forget about it after that. So I know for everybody, it was a quiet plane ride home on the way back. Everybody was hurt about the loss, but when you come back to practice yesterday and see them come back into the gym as excited and as positive and as ready to go and focused on what’s ahead and not what happened behind, you don’t worry about this group. This group is, you know, we have a lot of guys on the floor who are leaders, not just one.”

UK Student-Athletes


#00, Marcus Lee, Forward


On getting over Saturday …
“I mean, it’s still a loss. It’s something you gotta fix as we go. Once you see the little things we did wrong, you have to just sit there and fix them.”

On how to make Isaac Humphries feel better about himself …
“I mean, it was just things happening in the game. You can’t really do anything about that. If we were all in that position, we probably would do the same.”

On how apologetic Humphries was …
“Yeah, he did (take it hard). Just like all of us, he took it as something that really impacted the game. We just took it as a team to help him on it.”

On whether it happened because Humphies is Australian and doesn’t understand basketball nuance …
“I honestly don’t think that has anything to do with it. Just in the rush of the game things happen and that’s it.”

On Humphries’ impact …
“Isaac’s been killing it the last couple games and he has been in practice. We love the energy and the strength and power he brings throughout the game and to our team. So he did phenomenal that game and we couldn’t ask any more of him.”

On Humphries needing to focus on what he did well …
“Isaac, he’s doing fine. He’s going to go in this practice and totally forget about it.”

On his game …
“Still getting better each day. You can never really be content with what you do and what you produce and you always try to fix it and get better at it.”

On his back …
“It’s a back. No, I’m kidding. It’s fine. There are some things that you go through throughout a season and being an athlete you gotta either play through it or try to fix it as fast as possible.”

On whether he would say his back was fine even if it wasn’t …
“Of course. I’m Marcus. I’m not allowed to be hurt, so I’m always fine.”

On rallying around all the injuries they’ve had …
“That’s how sports is. You get hurt. You have a whole lot of players that have minor injuries and that’s just the way sports go.”

On Calipari talking about “next man up” …
“He’s like that all the time. That’s him a hundred percent of the time and that’s how he keeps every player on their toes and playing to the best of their abilities during practice and ready during games, to make sure the person either behind or close to you is always ready.”

On the frustration of not being able to take a lead at A&M …
“We took them as learning tools, but we saw that we have small things that we have to fix during big games like that that we can’t have happen.”

On what winning the SEC would mean …
“I think for us personally, (the) SEC is kind of the tough conference. I don’t mean tough as in hard; I mean tough as in strong, strong willed. And being able to win in the SEC kind of shows that we’re getting tougher and we’re learning.”

#25, Dominique Hawkins, Guard


On how he’s feeling …
“I feel real good. Nothing wrong with me right now. Ankle is not 100 percent, but it’s doing fine.”

On what the mood in the locker room was like after Saturday’s loss …
“It’s always frustrating when you lose, but Coach Cal told us he’s proud of us that we fought. That’s all Coach wants us to do; he wants us to fight and show effort when we play.”

On falling into the zone defense lately …
“Definitely, we have been playing some zone. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a great team defensive way to keep guys out of the paint. We definitely are going to play it against teams that don’t shoot the ball well. Man-to-man defense is what we pretty much usually known for, but zone is helping us out a lot as well.” 

On what makes the team a good zone team …
“We definitely have length. With guys that get on the board, rebounding is one of the biggest things out of the zone. Zone is definitely different for me because I really haven’t played it much since I’ve been in college.”

On if he can tell that Coach Cal doesn’t like zone defense …
“I definitely can tell he don’t like zone as much as man.”

On how important is it for the guards to rebound with the big men out …
“It’s very important. We all have to rebound. We talk about cracking down on shots when somebody shoots the ball. We have to be more involved in rebounding, and Isaiah (Briscoe), he’s doing a tremendous job of doing that already. Me, Tyler (Ulis) and Jamal (Murray) are going to have to step up on rebounding.”

On if Isaac Humphries’ head was down after Saturday …
“He was a little down about it. Like Tyler said, he kept saying sorry over and over. We didn’t really care about it because we knew he was just excited and he made a great play for us.”

On if he thought it was going to be called a technical after he saw the ball slammed down …
“I really had no idea what it was going to be called. I didn’t think he was going to call it, but he did call it.”

On if Humphries will have any trouble on bouncing back from it …
“Oh, not at all. Yeah, everybody has been picking him up, the fans have been picking him up and he’s back to himself for sure.”

On what makes him an effective rebounder …
“I feel like he’s just a big body that’s moving others out of the paint when he’s going for rebounds. He’s very aggressive, and that’s all that Coach talks about. When he gets in, he just needs to rebound for us and make open shots.”

On if Humphries needs quality minutes to get going or if he can get going instantly …
“Isaac is just a tough individual. As soon as he gets in the game, he doesn’t show that he’s afraid or frustrated or anything. He just gets in and does his role. Coach is usually always bragging about him after the game is over with.”

On if how the team deals with the injuries moving forward …
“Coach usually says the next man up. We’ve never had injuries like this before since I’ve been here, but I guess it just gives other guys the opportunity to play.”

On if he feels snake-bitten himself …
“Kind of. 

On him not getting hurt like this in high school …
“I didn’t get hurt at all in high school. I guess this year has been a tough year for me pretty much with injuries.” 

On if he’s OK now …
“I feel like I’m 100 percent, but the doctors tell me I’ll probably be 90 percent by this time.”

On if he might deal with the injury all year …
“Maybe, but it’s not bothering me at all though.”

On what the team needs to improve upon to make a run in the tournament …
“Definitely rebounding. After the game, Texas A&M, I know they had like 20 offensive rebounds maybe. Boxing out is a big key for us. Being able to play man-to-man defense is a big key for us too because it’s so hard for us to rebound in a 2-3 zone.”