Kentucky Basketball Previews Asbury

Gabriel, Brad Calipari Video

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Pre-Asbury Media Opportunity
Nov. 4, 2016
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.


Head Coach John Calipari


On the pressure to play Brad Calipari more minutes now after his big debut …
“I walked in the door after that game and I thought I was George Clooney. I said, ‘I’m going to have to play that boy more.’ But let me just say again, we’re still trying to figure out combinations. I’ll do the same thing that I did last game, play a lot of combinations. I don’t know if I’ll start three guards. I might start three guards this time and then figure out some sort of rotation of how we want to do this, and have time to go back. Like I said, I’ve been real specific. This guy moved behind this guy and I’ve told them, and you’ve moved behind this guy. Then practice got even more competitive, so we’ve got some ways to go. My thought is that the first week of the season, probably the first two weeks it’ll be a limited package of what we’ll do. Limited baseline. Limited sideline. Limited what we’ll do versus zone. Limited man offense. We’re just trying to get good at some things right now. I just put a press in. Just put it in. Which means I just put a press attack in, so I’m trying to go at the pace that these guys go. I don’t want to throw too much; I want them to worry about competing at a high level versus worried about ‘What am I supposed to be doing out here?’ Compete.”

On starting Wenyen Gabreil consistently because of the energy he brings ...
“Maybe, but I may start Derek (Willis) this game. I may start Isaac (Humphries). We still have today and tomorrow to let me see. I’ll be honest, I have not sat down and put this pen-to-paper and put down some different things. I did that last game so I knew who the combinations would be. One thing I’d like to have is either Isaiah (Briscoe) or De’Aaron (Fox) on the court, so we always have one of those two on the court. Or both.”

On how the combinations are judged …
“I do it by analytics. I look at numbers. The greatest thing, the rebound attempts on offense and defense, who do you think was by far the reader in rebound attempts? (Bam Adebayo). Yeah, it wasn’t close. That’s why he will play. So, he goes 100 percent of the time, which is an outrageous number, and you would think in that game he would because of who we played. He does. That means you play. That’s an effort thing. Assist-to-turnover ratio, deflections – those things, we keep track of all that. It’s all just effort stuff. Again, we get in a big game and it’s a significant game, I was just at game seven (of the World Series). That’s a significant game where, OK can you make a play now? Yeah, you’re great all year. Let me see you make that play now. The one pitcher was throwing 100 miles per hour. Now, I could’ve hit it, but I tell you what, these dudes? They’re standing up there –  guy hit a home run on a 100 mile-per-hour pitch – and he got around on it. How in the world did you get around on it? So, I want to know when we hit big games, who are the guys that are going to make those free throws? Who’s going to make plays? That will all shakeout when we move forward.”

On Wenyen Gabriel’s ranking as far as analytical “effort” stats … 
“I don’t have it right in front of me, but he’s so active. He didn’t defensive rebound as well as he should, probably because he was trying to run the other way. And you gotta do both. There’s no shortcut. I gotta first rebound and then I gotta run.” 

On how Adebayo’s effort rubs off on other guys … 
“We’ve gotta get Bam where he doesn’t have to bounce it in the post. Just get the ball up to the basket. We’ve gotta get him where he’s comfortable at that free-throw line. All of our big guys are really good passers. And really, you gotta play them all because they can all shoot 15-footers. So you gotta play them. That changes how – where we’ve had guys in the past, he caught it and you didn’t have to play him. You just backed away. Well, that’s – we don’t have that guy. These guys all shoot the ball. And so that makes us better. Like I said, there’s still – they’re competing with each other in a great way. (They’re) still winning and losing in practice stuff. It’s all good.”

On Adebayo’s potential … 
“It’s how he’s practicing. This kid works every day. He’s in there – one of the first in the gym. He’s got a smile on his face every day I walk in. I’ll give him a mean look and then he gives me a mean look. He’s a great kid. But again, this is a process. This is November, the beginning of November. It’s the first time some of these kids are doing all of this stuff, and they’re going to be uncomfortable, and they’re going to be wrong. I mean, they’re still going to be wrong 60 to 70 percent of the time. Just play. Play hard. Compete. Battle. Come up with balls. Let’s get some easy baskets, and then let’s see where we execute. We didn’t practice yesterday, but the day before when we practiced our execution in half court, (offense) was just not there. Like we’re not where we’re supposed to be. The timing is off, which is predictable.”

On this freshmen class compared to others … 
“You know, I can’t ever remember. They tried to tell me, ‘Jamal Murray – you’re losing your mind because you can’t remember what Jamal Murray was like.’ Isaiah told me, ‘Coach you don’t remember Jamal. Like what he was like early.’ It’s hard to think back. All I can tell you is it’s a very smart group. A very driven, wired group. A competitive group. And then there’s Brad. I’m not George Clooney tonight. (Laughter). 

“Let me do one thing. I want you guys to help get the word out on this. The stuff’s going good, but I would like the Bahamas stuff to be a family trip. In other words, we’re going to have open practice. So, we have 2,000-3,000 people, we’re going to have an open practice. Do some stuff with the fans. We’ll try to have some sort of get together where it’s an experience where you get as close to this team. You’re not getting that close in Vegas and you’re not getting that close up in New York. You’re just not. It’s a different environment. We’re playing Arizona State. It’s not like we’re playing a team that’s not good; they’re a good team. I think you’ll go to the website and what I’m hoping is – bring your kids. Let’s make this a terrific weekend. You’re on the island. You’re in a great venue. It’s a great setup. I understand the New York and I understand the Vegas, but I think this is going to be the trip. And again, I want it to be like a family. We’re all in there, you’re watching practice, you’re getting to get around the kids (players) and get around our staff. Have a function, do something down there where we all get together before we play that game, which will be played on a Monday.” 

Kentucky Players


#20, Brad Calipari, Freshman, G


On his two 3-pointers at the end of the Clarion game …
“First one was a good opportunity I had and made it. Second one was a little lucky, obviously. Sometimes the ball just happens to fall your way. It was just one of those times.”

On if he got a reaction from fans and friends …
“Yeah, they were all happy for me. They were just telling me how lucky they thought it was.”

On his teammates’ reaction to his shots …
“We all want to see each other succeed. It just shows the chemistry we have and the bond we have as a team.”

On his mom getting such a kick to have him playing at Kentucky …
“Yeah, she’s loving it. I’m sure she’s glad to have me back just because I was away for a couple years. I’m the baby in the family, so I know she’s happy.”

On if it took courage for him to take those shots …
“I guess. It’s one thing I’ve always done and he expects me to knock down shots. I don’t, personally, no I don’t think so.”

On what he calls Coach Cal in practice …
“Dad.”

On what it’s like to test his game against these players each day in practice …
“It’s really helped me a lot. Each day you’re going against NBA-potential players. They’re all very skilled, very talented, very athletic. Just each day coming out and competing, whether it’s offensively, defensively, it really helps you improve even if you don’t realize it. At the end of the day, if you come in to practice and play hard you’re getting better.”

On if it’s as tough as he thought it would be …
“Tougher.”

On being embraced by the Kentucky fans …
“I mean, I’m glad I’m not despised. It is what it is. Big Blue Nation has always been good with supporting the team. That’s good.”

On if he thought he would be a fan favorite …
“I had no idea. Coming into it, I wasn’t sure.”

On what it’s like to finally be a Kentucky basketball player after watching before …
“It’s a good feeling just to know they want to see you do well. They obviously want to see every person on the team do well. But instead of being a part of that cheering, getting cheered for is a different feeling, but it’s good.”

On if Coach Cal still seems excited about coaching this team …
“Yeah, he does, because he knows the potential that this team has. He still pushes us as hard as we can go. He expects a lot (from) us. He has very high expectations. Each day in practice he’s pushing us to our maximum.”

On if he saw this early impact coming from freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel …
“Yeah. Wenyen works very hard. Very good basketball player. You could kind of see in high school the potential that he had. Just seeing him come in and work hard every day, he’s starting to get a hold of that potential and reach how good he can be.”

On how Coach Cal works on the team’s chemistry …
“He’s mixed up lineups here and there, but at the end of the day the chemistry comes down to us being as a team and bonding, whether it’s on or off the court. It’s just us being together and enjoying each other’s company.”

On what he thinks he needs to improve on with his game …
“Defense, obviously. That can always improve. And then just handling the ball.”

#32, Wenyen Gabriel, Freshman, F


On what the team has been working on …
“We’ve been working on a lot of our own stuff, still working on our chemistry and just figuring out working hard right now. Nothing really new.”

On Calipari saying he wants to see more from the post and whether that will happen …
“I don’t know if that’s what we’re going to expect for the next game, but we’ve definitely been getting some more touches down there.”

On whether starting surprised him …
“I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been in that lineup during practice the last few weeks. So it was nothing new.”

On developing chemistry …
“Us being able to play with each other and against each other or different groups every day in practice, we get to figure out where guys like the ball and where our players like to shoot and different things like that where we feel comfortable. I think definitely builds on our chemistry off the court as well. Spending more time together, that’s been really good for us.”

On whether Cal has been mixing lineups …
“Yeah, he made a few different groups together. In the game, he had the matchups kind of already planned and he wanted to see how different players played together. So that’s one of the things we’ve been working on. Still looking for our identity as a team.”

On the lineup that was most comfortable for him …
“I liked playing with everyone. I’m not sure what’s most comfortable for me yet. I just—I like being out on the floor.”

On how his game fits with attacking on defense then fast breaking …
“It fits my game a lot. That’s of the emphasis Coach Cal’s really putting on our team, is our defense. One of the things we work on every day. We make sure we get on that and partially one of the reasons why I came here, why I feel like I can make a big impact here.”

On how he has adjusted his game to UK’s system …
“I had to slow down my mind mentally so I can keep running my feet fast and stop worrying about mistakes and kind of just playing the game. I think that’s the biggest adjustment I had to make.”

On how difficult it is to slow down …
“Yeah, it is. But there’s a lot more pressure here at Kentucky too. That’s one of the challenges that I’m up for and I think will make me a better player.”

On whether the amount of pressure surprises him …
“I’m not surprised about it. This is what we signed up for. We know all the pressure. And when you’re feeling it, it’s kind of exciting, too, at the same time. When you overcome that is going to be a big thing.”

On whether he heard about Clarion’s coach praising him …
“I heard about. I just take it as a compliment and keep working on my game and keep playing hard.”

On what he thinks the Clarion coach likes about him …
“I think probably my motor stands out. Some other coaches probably feel like they would like to have a player like that on their team. So I appreciate the compliment.”

On whether he knows how many deflections he gets in practice …
“I don’t know what my numbers are, but that’s one of the emphasis we have during practice with our defense. We keep track of things like that: deflections, steals, how many time you get your hands on the ball, things like that.”

On doing a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score …
“Yeah, exactly. I think I do a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that kind of define my game as well. It’s what gets me on the floor and helps me stay out there.”