Kentucky Basketball Previews Cleveland State

Fox, Willis Video

UK MEDIA RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL
PRE-CLEVELAND STATE MEDIA OPPORTUNITY
NOV. 22, 2016 JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.

Head Coach John Calipari


On De’Aaron Fox …
“He’s made great strides. He’s playing way faster. Sometimes decision making – running faster than he’s ever ran in his life, which means his mind is moving fast at times. But there are things that he does that I can’t teach. He’s special. He is. How he plays on the ball, how he plays in pick-and-roll defense, I mean, wow. It’s not like we have taught that a whole lot; he just gets after it. He’s long. A big guard. If you remember last year Tyler Ulis was shooting like 22 percent from the 3-point line. He wasn’t making any shots. I don’t worry about guys like him. You have to get in the gym. Part of it is, you got to take game shots. You can’t take tip toe shots. You can’t take casual shots. He’s the least of our worries.”

On if the fans noticing De’Aaron Fox’s different hairstyles gives them an idea of the passion of this fan base …
“They become larger than life. They’re all dealing with it though. We have a great group of kids. They know we have a ways to go. They’re not carried away by rankings. I know other people get carried away saying, ‘They’re not that good and they’re not going to be that good. This team is way better.’ We’re not reading either one. Don’t care. Doesn’t matter. Is it still November?”

On Derek Willis’ improvement since Wenyen Gabriel’s arrival … 
“Yeah. They’re both – they both have gotten better. One of the things I just talked to them about – confidence a lot of times starts with your defense. If you’re getting pummeled and you think you’re going to go out and make offensive moves, you’re out of your mind. You’ve never played this sport. So, on my team I talk about confidence. It starts with defensive confidence. Now, I want to see if you guys even watch the games or if you just write stuff. Who has the most defensive confidence on my team?  (Isaiah) Briscoe’s one. Who else? 

Reporter: “(De’Aaron) Fox.”

“Who else?” 

Reporter: “I think Wenyen (Gabriel)?”

“You think so? You’re wrong. [Laughter] Bam (Adebayo). OK? And who is starting to? Dominique (Hawkins). And who’s starting? Malik (Monk). Those are the guys that have and – Malik is for the first time in his life, like trying to guard somebody. But, he’s building his defensive confidence because he’s figuring out, ‘Man am I quick and long and active, I can do this.’ But, he doesn’t have the discipline to sustain it, but he has the confidence. So, now you talk about these other guys and I said, ‘The only way you can gain that confidence is in practice, because I can tell you that if you get beat two or three times on the dribble, you’re coming out.’ It’s hard to be confident when I’m taking you out because you’re getting beat on the dribble. I don’t take you out on missed shots. There’s a guy in the room (Briscoe) who shot 14 percent from the 3 and 48 percent from the foul line and played the ninth-most minutes in our league. League. Not on my team. In the league. So don’t tell me I take you out because you missed a shot because he never would have played last year. It’s all based on your defensive intensity. Do that. Rebound the ball, you get a chance to stay in and miss shots. And I said, ‘I’m not subbing him, because that kid right there – wins.’ He fights. He’ll punch. He’ll bite. He’s winning. That’s what we need from a team full of guys.”

On De’Aaron Fox saying it’s hard to talk on the court because it increases your tiredness …
“Well, the most important thing is if you ever went to his high school practice – the only player near him was a ninth grader. A ninth grader. If you went to Malik’s practice, there was no one near him. So every day you practice, how do you get better? How do you push yourself? Who are you pushing yourself against? Then all of a sudden you come to Kentucky, and they know if your hair’s up or if your hair’s down. They’re watching you. They’re tweeting you. And then you walk into practice and you go, ‘What, the?’ Then you’ve got a coach who makes you practice the entire two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. We’re not stopping. There’s no water breaks. Get water when you get a chance when you’re on the sideline. And all of a sudden you do that every day, yeah, you’re winded. You’re tired. ‘I’m not happy.’ We had that one year in 2010. ‘I’m not happy.’ No kidding, this is the first time that you’ve ever been through this. And it’s hard. And how are they playing us now? They’re sagging. Now it’s a heck of a way to play defense if you walk in and say, ‘Look, we know we can’t guard these guys. Let’s sag in and hope they miss shots. That’s our chance of winning.’ Fine, but then as a player you get (passed) balls and you’re wide open. The guys says, ‘Go ahead, take it, man.’ It’s a little harder shot to take then even being guarded sometimes. So there’s stuff we’ve got to get to. Derek can shoot. Malik can shoot. Wenyen can shoot. De’Aaron can shoot. Isaiah’s not even close to where he was a year ago. He’s twice to three times better as a shooter. Mychal Mulder made shots. We have enough of those guys. Our big guys can shoot jumpers. Now you’ve got go in the game and have confidence and do it. How do you have confidence? Starts with defense. If you don’t have defensive confidence, you’ll never have offensive confidence. If you’re getting helmeted on every play and you need a flak jacket because you’re getting shot at and they’re coming straight at you, then you go down at the other and say, ‘I’m ready to go. Here I go.’ No. You’re like, ‘Don’t throw me the ball.’ All you Basketball Bennies out there, that was for you.”

On the one or two players who have come to Kentucky prepared defensively during his tenure …
“Michael Kidd(-Gilchrist) was ridiculous, defensively. You look at him. I’m trying to think – DeAndre Liggins, when I got here, he was that kind of defender. Most of them are not to the level they need to be, but those two kind of stand out in my mind. Oh, Anthony Davis was. He could guard five positions and block every shot. He’s leading the league in scoring, was the (Western Conference) Player of the Week. Dakari Johnson was player of the week in the D-League, which means he’s gonna get his chance to move up. The one thing I’m disappointed in (is) only seven percent of the league’s baskets are our guys [sarcasm]. I thought it would be more like 10 to 15 percent. Only seven percent of the baskets are our players and that’s kind of disappointing [sarcasm]. They’ll get better.”

On how much coffee he had before the press conference …
“I just got done working out. I’m still sweating.”

On if he ever gets exhausted with promoting the book on top of coaching …
“That stuff was all done in one day and now everybody thinks I’m everywhere. I’ll tell you what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to go to New York on our off day (Monday) and the wind (in New York) didn’t allow me to do it. They’ll tell you, I was so happy because I needed Monday to just recharge myself. And I’ll be honest, I have not done that much on the book. I did it the day after Michigan State and I did a couple radio interviews. I don’t have time. But I will say this, it is a heck of a book. [laughter]”

On why Kenny Payne hasn’t read the book yet then …
“He went to Louisville. He doesn’t read. I was kidding. [Laughter]”

On Derek Willis’ confidence and passing up open shots …
“He did against Michigan State and he did last game. He’s going to be fine. I just told them – a I told the team – if they sag, Derek Willis needs to be at the top of the key shooting balls one after the other. Coach (Joe B.) Hall and I were on the phone talking about it. I said, ‘What do you think, what do I do?’ He said, ‘Let Derek Willis shoot the ball if they’re not playing them.’ And so if Derek Willis is missing shots, you’ve got Coach Hall right there. You can go over and say, ‘What a great suggestion that was.’ ”

Coach Hall says: “I said throw it into the low post.” [Laughter]
Calipari: “And you said play that 1-3-1 and play two bigs.”

Kentucky Players


#00, De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, G


On how Bam Adebayo is coming along …
“He’s coming along well. At the beginning of the year, first couple games, he was just fouling a lot so it was kind of hard to get him the ball without there being an offensive foul. But he’s adjusted and he’s starting to play well.”

On how he’s played so far …
“I feel like I’ve run the team pretty well. My assist numbers are up. I haven’t turned the ball over too much. One thing I know I haven’t done well is shooting the ball. My percentage is pretty bad. I’ve shot free throws well, but I’m not shooting the ball from the field well. Just something to work on.”

On Coach Cal’s joke that he should go back to old hairstyle after three missed free throws …
“The hair wasn’t different, it’s just something that I have to do to make my hair look like that. The first one I missed was the front end of the (technical) foul free throws. I missed and I was like, now I don’t have to worry about going perfect anymore.”

On if he was prepared for the level of attention his hair got …
“I kind of expected it. A lot of people always say they like my hair how it was. Some people actually liked it the way I had it last game. I see people talk about it, but it’s not that big of a deal, at least to me.”

On if he pays attention to his shooting percentages …
“No, I don’t look at the percentages. Get to the free-throw line, shoot as many layups as you can. Just do whatever to help my team.”

On how his game has changed …
“I mean, I’m shooting the pull-up more. I’m playing a lot faster than I was just because that’s what Cal’s been preaching to me.”

On what he thinks has been off with his shot …
“I don’t know. I mean, a lot of them have just been in and out. Just repetition, getting in the gym. I haven’t really changed much. They’ll start falling eventually.”

On Coach Cal saying he wants him to shoot more floaters …
“Yeah, yeah, he wants me to shoot more runners in the lane. I don’t really have a reason not to. Sometimes I’m just not thinking about it. Sometimes a pull-up is just the first thing on my mind or get to a layup is the first thing. Not too many people have that in between. It’s just something I have to learn to use more.”

On Isaiah Briscoe’s ability to finish around the basket …
“It’s ridiculous the way he can just put English on the ball (at) any angle on the backboard. Kyrie (Irving) is one of the only people – Steph (Curry) has the high layup, but the way Kyrie finishes around the rim through contact, either hand, doesn’t matter if he’s on the right side with left hand, he just puts crazy spin on it and it goes in. I heard Kyrie is Isaiah’s cousin. I didn’t even know that, but I think that’s who he learned it from.”

On if he’s tried picking that up from Briscoe …
“A little bit. I think I did it before and Zay was like, ‘Man, your spin’s not like mine.’ I mean it’s cool. I would love to add that to my game.”

On if his communication on the court is natural …
“It’s getting better. I mean, honestly, it’s hard to talk while playing just because you’re using a breath and you might get tired quicker. It’s just one thing to be in shape. Just talking sometimes when you’re tired you just don’t think straight, you’ don’t know what to say so some people just stay quiet. It’s a learning curve for me and I’m still getting better at it.”

On what he looks like when he watches himself on film …
“Just a young kid who doesn’t really know what he’s doing but is trying to make it look like he knows what he’s doing.”

On what he doesn’t know and is trying to gain more knowledge with …
“I’m still trying to learn how to run a team. I mean, I haven’t even turned 19 yet. It’s been difficult to run a team with people who are much older than me, but I think the respect level is there so they listen to what I say, I listen to them, and it’s honestly made it easier.”

On what he’s learned about how to run a team …
“Just be talkative. You have to know all five spots as a point guard. You literally have to know the point spot, both of the wings, the power forward and the center. It’s just being able to learn the plays from every position to help our guys.”

On how fast he looks on film …
“Honestly, I joke about it with friends. They’ll be like, ‘Have you seen this?’ and they’re like, ‘Send it to me.’ I don’t realize I run that fast until I see it. Sometimes I feel like I’m jogging and I beat people down the court. I can’t really explain it.”

On being the point guard for Coach Cal …
“It’s been extremely tough. He’s been on me a lot. Sometimes I don’t put guys in the right positions and he lets me know. But I’m still learning. He’s helped me a lot. I mean, it’s still early on. We’ve only played four games so I feel like I’m continuing to get better.”

On if he looks different on film than when he arrived …
“Yeah, yeah. I mean, now I’m watching film a lot and the film doesn’t lie. Sometimes I’ll think I’m doing something and I did the complete opposite. Now it’s like, I know what I did, I know what I have to continue to work on. A lot of it, honestly, is just effort.”

On what he’s improved on the most defensively …
“Just being able to move my feet and stay in front of college guards, and just being stronger. A lot of college guards are extremely strong and some of them are smaller than me, so it’s just being able to get low, stay strong and stay in front of them.”

#35, Derek Willis, Senior, F


On whether moving out of the starting lineup has any effect on him …
“Yeah, in practice I’ve been trying to focus more on defending, rebounding and playing with a little more energy. I feel like that was kind of an issue, so just trying to get things going and just go from there.”

On his defense so far this season …
“I’ve had breakdowns and lapses on pretty much every game, so I’ve just been trying to minimize them. But I feel like for the most part if I can improve on that then I’ll stay on the court a lot longer.”

On what a lineup with both him and Wenyen Gabriel gives to the team …
“I think it’s just a lot more length. I feel like we’re both energy guys. We can play the three or the four, guard both of those positions. Sometimes in practice when we are on teams together, I’ll tell him, ‘Yo, whoever gets down the court first, just someone will be the three and whoever’s trailing will be the four.’ We both know those positions, so it makes it a little bit more versatile and we play similar. It’s real good.”

On why they rebounded better on Sunday …
“I think it was just keying more on it. We’ve been doing more rebounding-associated drills, so we’ve been getting a lot more physical with each other in practice. Like going and hitting each other, making contact and then going up and getting the ball. I feel like that’s kind of carrying over the games. I feel like if we’re not really focusing on something like that we’ll do it in practice and then it translates to the games. So I feel like it translated to last game for sure.”

On whether 3-point shooting is still one of the things he can bring to the team …
“Oh yeah, without a doubt. Like I said, I feel like it was also a thing too where I was trying to be focused on defending and rebounding where I wasn’t really keyed on as much with getting shots and stuff. I just figured those things would come along as I played. My focus was just more on other aspects of the game.”

On this upcoming stretch …
“It’s going to be pretty fun. Cleveland State’s a good team. I haven’t really seen what they have or anything, but from what we’ve heard they’re a pretty good team. Friday—we play a game Friday, right? So don’t even know who we play. I haven’t looked at that. That’s just how our team is. We kind of just go game by game and focus on that. And after that’s over, then it’s the next team. I’m looking really forward to going to the Bahamas. That’s always a fun trip. It was fun. I think it was my sophomore year we went. I had a great time and a great environment and just looking forward to being back there.”

On how last season prepared him for the highs and lows of this year …
“I just think that—it’s kind of like motivated me, just to work on the things that I need to work on. I’m happy for Wenyen. I’m glad he got to start. I feel like he’s deserved it. He’s played with high energy. He’s played with a really high motor, so it’s just hard to want to keep a player like that off the court. I get that. But it’s also kind of helped me too. It’s pushed me in practice and stuff, made me focus more on the things I need to work on.”

On how De’Aaron Fox is doing at point guard …
“He’s doing pretty good. He’s doing a lot of stuff. He’s so fast. He gets up and down the court great and he’s been rebounding well. He’s been one of our guards that’s rebounded well. He’s been doing his job fine. There’s always stuff we can work on, but I think as the season comes along he’ll kind of start recognizing that stuff and he’ll start to play into it.”