Kentucky Basketball Previews Auburn

Poythress, Willis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Auburn Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 14, 2016


John Calipari

On Derek Willis’ confidence on defense …
“It’s a great term, like you would say confidence defensively. Oh yeah. Like you would let loose, but his habits are so bad. Like, what’s a word below so bad? His habits – and we’re working every day for him to create better habits – but they are what they are right now. He’s helped us in other ways though.”

On what habits he’s referring to …
“Hands, not lunging, hands are down, knowing how we play pick-and-rolls. Just fundamental things that he just, he doesn’t have it. You go to guard a guy and he drives you can’t just turn sidewise and let him drive. You have to give ground and lunge to get in front of him so he’s got to go through your chest. It’s like we’re teaching a different language to him. But there are other guys right now – we have other guys that are getting beat on the dribble. They scored 30 points in the last 10 minutes. When I watched the game, Mississippi State, I’m watching like – we’re playing pretty good – and then the last 10 minutes we gave up 30 points. Are you kidding me? You understand that’s 120 if we played the basketball game that way. I mean, it’s nutty. And I don’t know if it was because we got up. Why did you do this? We’re going to show some tape of some very basic, fundamental things that they broke down on that they shouldn’t have. That they can see it over and over. This stuff you can do. You’ve just got to do it.”

On calling Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress no-shows following the Mississippi State game …
“Not just them, we had some other guys – no-show means you look at the staff and they have whatever-gazillion. Do you know what a gazillion is? Do you know what a gazillion is? No, there’s a number there. It may be 30-gazillion. It may be one-12, 120-gazillion. You play 12 minutes so they put the minutes in and then everything else is a zero. You just had a gazillion. The whole thing is wanting, relishing in the responsibility. I relish that responsibility of having to come every day and do what I do. But it’s hard. It’s not easy. And especially if you’ve never had to do it in your career.”

On if he’s had  conversations with Lee and Poythress about those games …
“Not much. No. I hit all of the guys last night just to see if any of them hit the lottery. They all hit me back, ‘No.’ And then I hit them and said, ‘You still have a ticket. You.’ But that cuts to the point of Marcus and Alex. You’ve got a ticket. You’ve got to scratch it. You’ve got the ticket. We’ve got time. We have a month, month and a half, maybe. It’s not like we’re in the last week of the season.”

On Poythress indicating the key to the team is defense …
“Well, we have to guard, but you know you have to have some guys who will make baskets around the goal too. You have to have guards – you’re not going to win a game just shooting all jump shots. You just can’t – not a big-time game. Yeah, this is a team that has to really defend. But, we’ve got to execute offensively. We’ve got to score baskets. Like, we went to Alabama and had two dunks. Missed the dunk and then missed both free throws both times. You’re not winning that way. Dunk the ball or make the free throws. Either one. You can’t do both. So, those are kind of things that we have to demand and get them to understand that if you want to win, if you want to do your job for this team you’ll do it. They’ll do it. They know what it’s like. They’re trying. We’ve got a bunch of great kids who are learning. Like Jamal (Murray), he’s learning how to play winning basketball. He’s learning and you see it every game. He’s getting better. You also see signs of the old Jamal. He’s still in there. We’re just trying to keep it in there.”

On the new NBA Draft rules passed by the NCAA …
“Well, we were behind it. There was a group of us who just said, ‘Look, we’ve got to do right by these kids. We’ve got to give them an opportunity to be in a combine that’s not controlled by college basketball. It’s controlled by the NBA. Let them get the right information, the real information from the NBA.  And then if they choose to come back, let them come back.’ So, what will happen is just about every player on your team should declare for the draft to see if they get invited to the combine. Now, they don’t get invited to the combine? Probably, you’re not getting drafted. Maybe.” 

On if it means the players can go work out for NBA teams now …
“Well, the whole thing if they – right after that combine, they’ll know. Now, if someone wants to go anyway? Then that’s fine. I think it’s the right thing for these kids is to get the right information. Maybe it saves one or two kids. There are other kids who will go anyway. ‘I’m going whether they tell me I’m in the combine because I’m in the first round.’ ‘You’re not in the combine. You can’t be in the first round.’ ‘Yes, I am. I’ve been told by people. My barber told me I’m a first rounder. ’ ‘OK.’ I mean that will happen, but you’re like throwing life preservers and if they don’t want to swim to it there’s nothing you can do. I think it gives these kids the real info so that there’s no delusion on their part of what they’re up against.” 

On if he has had any players recently that would have gotten more concrete advice with this new rule …
“I think so. And I’m telling them in a two-minute, four-minute meeting. I’m not trying to brainwash a kid into staying. I mean, that’s not what I do. And I don’t force kids to leave either. I want them to make the decision on the information that the NBA gives them. At that point you can only call and they can give you information. But I think it’s good. I think it’s good for the game. I think it’s good for the student-athletes. You hate for a young man to start his career and be told one thing and you know it’s not true and you look at him like, ‘Why are you …?’ And for most coaches, they’re being told that ‘We’re going to do what’s right for us and this program. We don’t care about players.’ They want you in school to win more games. That’s what they’re being told. Now it’s you’re hearing it from GMs, player personnel directors, the NBA. They’re telling you after you get to the combine. After you get to the combine they can say, ‘You need to go back to school.’ So now they’re saying, ‘Here’s what it is. You 20, I’m being honest, you weren’t on anybody’s list. You probably need to go back to school.’ If you want to put your name in the draft, that’s fine. But this will give those kids now the opportunity to know ‘I’ve got to go back to work, I’m not ready.’ ”

On what Marcus Lee has to do to stay out of foul trouble …
“Not foul.”

On if there is anything specific Lee needs to do to not foul …
“Not foul.”

On if Lee is fouling because he’s not in the right spot …
“Most cases he didn’t fight early enough to get his position, to get that ball. He waited and then the other guy fights and he’s in a bad position. He doesn’t weigh enough. He weighs a buck 75, so all of a sudden now you weren’t down and ready to wedge, you get pushed, you’re grabbing, you’re grabbing, and you just foul. A lot of times you get out of position and you’re embarrassed about it and what do you do? ‘I’m going to grab the guy so he doesn’t score.’ ‘It’s not football, son. It is not football. That was not a touchdown. That was two points, which we could have scored in seven seconds.’ But it’s hard for them because it’s embarrassing thing too. ‘Just grab the guy and keep the guy from scoring. I’m not going to be embarrassed.’ ”

On what he’s seen of Auburn …
“They play really loose. They shoot balls. They spread the court. They’ll beat you on the dribble. They’re pressing not as much as he (Bruce Pearl) used to. Same baseline out. They’re switching stuff – sideline out, diamond press, pick-and-roll. Their guard (Kareem Canty), this kid, he’s just letting it go, and if he has a big night, we’ll probably say, ‘Who’s next on the schedule?’ But they’re going to shoot balls and they play loose. When you’re at home – and you know they’re ready for us. It’s just how it is.”

On if the spring signing period will be adjusted based on the new rule that let’s players return to school after the combine …
“I don’t know that. We need to let this – this needs to run for a couple years so we can really see the result. Let’s say it doesn’t work. Then they can throw it away, try something different. Had to do something. It wasn’t fair for these kids. You had to do something. And I’m telling you again, the players and their families, in most cases, didn’t want to hear from coaches. I mean, you think about it – me, with how I am. I asked one parent at one point, ‘Do you want my help?’ ‘No, we’ve got this.’ ‘OK, tell me how I can help you.’ Kind of gave me the idea that that young man was leaving. Mom said, ‘No, we got this.’ And that’s me, so you think about how this was playing out. And I just think let’s do right by these kids and the programs will be fine. It hasn’t hurt our program, kids leaving early.”

On if this new rule was a tough sell to the NBA …
“We were together on it. The NBA, the group that met with the NBA – I think all of us know that we’re in this together. They don’t want players that do not belong in the league. They don’t want to draft a guy that ends up being a washout. They don’t. They want players that are prepared emotionally, physically, skill wise to deal what’s coming at them. And they agreed. But they also – you have to understand why the dates are even the way they are – they have the players association that they have to deal with, which we don’t. So they have to go back to the players association and look at that agreement and say, ‘We have to work within this.’ And that part of the reasons with the date where, why don’t date of the combine up? Like, why didn’t you do the combine earlier? Because they have an agreement with the players association that they couldn’t. So there were some other things there.”

On how close is Dominique Hawkins is to being back …
“They tell me he’s going to practice today, which is good for us.”

On why it’s so vital to get Hawkins back …
“Because I think he’ll – right now we need that one guy that’s going to play. Mychal (Mulder) gave us a lift and did some good stuff, and then last game, he just wasn’t there. And now all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, who is the next?’ You need another guy. But Dom will be fine.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#22, Alex Poythress, Forward

On what he knows about Auburn …
“They’re well coached and they’re a tough team. They’re going to come at us hard and try to compete with us.”

On playing at Auburn Arena …
“It’s a decent-sized gym. The fans are on top of you. It’s a great environment. I’m sure it’s going to be sold out. It’s going to be rocking when we get down there.”

On how they get to the point where they can get consistent production each game …
“Just got to come in every day and work at it. Work hard at practice and take it day by day.”

On what’s kept the team from being consistent …
“I’m not sure, but we’re just coming prepared every day ready to work. Just trying to play as well as we can.”

On why he’s had up and downs …
“Like I just said earlier, we just come in every day and prepare to work. Just try to play to the best of our ability.”

On what Coach Cal has been working on in practice since the Mississippi State game …
“Just fighting. Fighting every day, fighting every time you get, every chance you get out there.”

On what happens in having a great game at Alabama and a lesser game vs. MSU …
“You just look on to the next game and try to correct it.”

On what goes through his mind when he’s playing well and not playing well …
“Nothing. It’s the same mindset. Just try to go in there and play hard and try to get a W.”

On if his ups and downs have driven him crazy …
“I mean, a little bit. As long as you’re winning games and everything like that, you really don’t worry about it as much.”

On if Mississippi State did anything to take away the pick and rolls …
“They played a zone so we really couldn’t do any pick and rolls as much as we did versus Alabama. Alabama played man. You just gotta take what the defense gives you.”

On how big those late free throws vs. MSU that he hit were for his confidence …
“My confidence is always great. I don’t need no help with my confidence anymore.”

On if his ups and downs have anything to do with his confidence … 
“No. Not at all.”

On UK junior forward Derek Willis saying he doesn’t have much confidence defensively …
“You just have to come every day to practice and work hard on it. We play all the time in practice. You just have to show it in practice that you can defend. You just have to defend a lot of positions, you have to defend guards, you have to defend wings, you have to defend bigs when he’s playing the four. You just got to get used to playing multiple defenders.”

On if he felt like he had to step up when UK’s lead vanished against MSU …
“Yeah, of course, you just have to step up when the team needs you at the end. You have to make your free throws. You can’t miss them or go one and one at the line. You just gotta make free throws and make plays to end the game.”

On if Coach Cal is harder on him than others because of their longer relationship …
“No, Cal is hard on everybody; he expects the best out of everybody. He just wants to bring the best out of everyone.”

On an opposing coach saying he can be an All-SEC player “when he wants to be” …
“I don’t know. I don’t worry about what other coaches say about me.”

On how he felt after Tuesday’s game …
“I’m not really sure. I felt like I could have played better. I felt like I could have done a lot more different things out there, but we came out there with the W and that’s all you can ask for. You gotta enjoy the wins when you can get them.”

On how his knee is …
“My knee is fine. It’s sore here and there. People tend to forget that I messed up my knee last year, but I’m fighting, I’m pushing through it. I’m not using it as an excuse or anything like that.”

On if his knee is still a mental hurdle at all … 
“No. Not at all.”

On if he recognizes that if UK wants a post presence it must come from him …
“Yeah, yeah I understand that, especially when other players are struggling or anything like that. You just have to demand it from yourself.”

On how much Tyler Ulis has taken on his shoulders …
“He’s taken a lot more responsibility on his shoulders this year. He’s doing it well so far this year.”

On if he’s surprised Ulis has gotten so many good looks …
“I mean, no it doesn’t surprise me. He’s just such a great player. He’s always in the right spot when he needs to be on offense. That’s probably more of a testament of him just knowing where he needs to be and where to play.”

On players he admired and modeled his game after as a kid …
“Of course you watch Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James), Dwayne Wade back in his prime, Dirk (Nowitzki), all them. Shaq(uille O’Neal).”

On if he was old enough to watch Shaq …
“Just when I started watching. It was like Miami Heat Shaq, Suns Shaq. Not Lakers Shaq. I don’t know if I was that old.”

On how the zone affects him and his job …
“When teams play zone we have to spread it out more. We have to hit more jumpers, hit more shots so we can space out the zone more. Our guards are doing a great job of that now. The past couple games they’ve done a great job of hitting open shots when they get them, spacing out the floor more so they can create driving lanes and high-low opportunities and baseline opportunities for us.”

On if he enjoys working against a zone …
“Yeah, I do. I enjoy any time, man or zone. I just enjoy playing out there and just trying to get what the defense gives me.”

On what the team must do come March to hit its peak …
“We need to start defending better. We did a great job defending until like the last eight or seven minutes. We have to hang our hats on defense, so we have to come prepared and start defending teams to win games on the defensive end.”

On this team being a more guard-heavy team …
“Yeah, over the past couple years we’ve had a lot of bigs. This year we don’t have as many, and we have a lot more guards. It’s just the personnel on the team is different than the past couple years. You just have to adjust and play differently.”

On Coach Cal saying he and Marcus Lee have only had to be “now and then” guys, and if there’s an adjustment to being an everyday guy …
“It’s no adjustment, it’s just more responsibility and more pressure. That’s the thing when you come to Kentucky. You have to expect that. It’s no different adjustment. You expect to be that guy sooner or later when you come here.”

On him saying in the past that the frontcourt wanted to prove themselves and that they aren’t soft …
“It’s better. We’re not soft or anything like that.”

#35, Derek Willis, Forward

On what he thinks about the bigs not showing up for games …
“I just think we’re not consistent right now. AP (Alex Poythress) had a good game against Alabama. I wouldn’t say he played bad in our last game, but I don’t know. It just wasn’t the game he had at Alabama. I just think it’s a thing of focus and concentration, and once we figure that out, we’ll be cool.”

On what he needs to do to stay on the court longer …
“Honestly, I think offensively I help the team. But it’s just playing defense, staying in front of my man, rebounding more. Probably be more efficient that way.”

On Calipari saying he gave up 18 and if that played into his mind …
“I mean yeah, I just think that’s honestly my problem right now. It’s just defensive confidence, having confidence. Just have to do something about it.”

On how confidence in defense plays out …
“Defensively, you just have to know that you can guard that guy. In the game, Tyler (Ulis) is like ‘C’mon, you’re guarding me in practice. You can guard this kid.’ It’s just one of those things where it’s just a mindset and I just have to get back to it.”

On how he loses the mindset and how he gets it back …
“Honestly, I don’t know. Say you mess up in practice and stuff, and you have this thought in your head of ‘What if I can’t guard?’ All that stuff. It’s all in your mind and you just have to get it in practice or some other way and get back to where you were.”

On if bigger guys or smaller guys are easier to guard …
“Honestly, I think bigger guys are easier to guard. There’s just so many patterns they can do and when you’re out on the floor, there’s many more options to guard I think. That’s just my opinion though.”

On if they’re hearing a lot from Ulis before and after games …
“Yeah, he’s playing his position well and speaking up more. I mean, he was getting on me during the game, and he’s just being more outspoken.”

On how much that helps the team …
“That’s what we need. We need someone out there aside from our coaches telling us what to do. We need someone out on the floor with us and somebody we can count on. He’s been doing that role really well.”

On if he’s noticed the change at Kentucky going from talented bigs to talented guards …
“Yeah. You have lottery pick big guys, and now it’s just you’re rotating the big guys in and out. It’s just not what we had.”

On how much it helps the team having Ulis open and knocking down shots …
“Yeah, we ask a lot out of Tyler. We ask him to run the team. We ask him to hit shots, guard a guy 40 or however many feet, 90 feet, the court is. He’s got the hardest job on the team and it’s just a lot. But if we can help him in any way we can, that’s what we try to do. That’s what I try to do at least. He’ll space the court out in the four position. Just try and do that.”

On how he rates him in guards in America …
“I’d say he’s probably the best point guard in America, honestly. I almost thought that last year. He was a pretty talented point guard, seriously. He makes good decisions and he’s a very good player. He’s very smart.” 

On what he took away the most between the Alabama game and Mississippi State …
“The Alabama game, I just think mentally we were ready to play that game. We came out and got it done. And in the last game, I don’t know if we went back to being comfortable or what it was. But I don’t think we had the same mindset, and that’s why the game kind of dragged out. I had my mistakes I know. It was just different.”

On if the focus and mentality just kind of ebbs and flows from game to game …
“I don’t know. I think it just goes back to being the comfortable thing. I think that when we get a win, we can just step back and just keep doing what we did. But you have to keep doing more and keep progressing. Some days we do it and some days we don’t. Some days we don’t do it at all and it’s just a nothing day almost.”

On what the toughest thing is about keeping focus on road games …
“You don’t want to underestimate anyone because it is a road game, and even though our fans do travel and it feels more like at home for us, it’s like a T-shirt day or it’s the come get something free day (for them). Everyone is going to want to come. Plus its Kentucky, so you just have to be prepared that you’re going to get everyone’s best game.”