Kentucky Basketball Previews Duquesne

Gabriel, Killeya-Jones Video

UK MEDIA RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL
PRE-DUQUESNE MEDIA OPPORTUNITY
NOV. 18, 2016
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.


Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne


On team rebounding …
“I think one of the things that has been a little disappointing with our athleticism, energy and length is that we haven’t dominated teams on the glass thus far. Don’t see that as a long-term problem, but it’s something that we have to focus on and get better at. Again, we’re basically playing with a high school team.”

On Wenyen Gabriel’s progression on defense since he got to UK …
“I wouldn’t just say on defense. I think from the day Wenyen Gabriel walked into this program to today, he’s made major strides. We are a defensive team. Historically with Coach Cal’s teams, defense is a premium here. The kid has learned. The kid has picked up. He still makes some mistakes, but he’s trying. His energy and effort is really good and we love that about him.”

On how much energy and effort is taught to the guys versus how energy and effort comes natural for a player …
“I think it’s a little bit of both. I think being in shape, playing with energy, being active with your hands, active with your feet, keep moving, helping and stunning off of the ball, we teach all of that. A lot of it is a will to fight, and Wenyen has that. Between him, Bam (Adebayo), (De’Aaron) Fox and (Malik) Monk, those guys really at times show that they can be elite defenders.”

On trying to keep Bam out of foul trouble …
“The good thing is that the fouls aren’t happening on the defensive end. They’re all happening on the offensive end. Now, the adjustment for him is to just catch the ball. If you just catch the ball, you’re going to be a problem to guard, so just catch it. You’ve done a good job of fighting for position. You don’t have to get the ball right under the basket. Just catch it and make it a strong move.”

On what exactly Bam is doing that’s creating the fouls …
“Two things. I would rather him show his hands with a bent elbow as opposed to an extended elbow. That’s first. The second thing is, once you get to a certain spot on the floor and you beat the defensive guy to that spot, there’s no need to keep pushing him all the way under the basket. He’s literally trying to push them all the way under the basket.”

On Coach Cal getting on Fox for giving up the ball to Bam in a tough spot ...
“Just De’Aaron to be a little smarter. Bam caught it in a position where De’Aaron should’ve seen where the defender was, so it was hard for him to make a play. It wasn’t Bam’s fault, it was just you have to know where you are on the floor and know to not make that play.”

On Sacha Killeya-Jones’ development …
“What we’re really trying to get Sacha to understand is that, skill-wise, he’s really good. He’s talented. He’s long. He’s athletic. To be on this floor at Kentucky, energy, defense, and rebounding. You give us that, your offense will take care of itself.”

On how Derek Willis has responded in practice since the trip to New York …
“He’s been good. A little disappointed in the way he played. Obviously he is. But he’s so much better than that. He spends so much time working on his game. He’s came so far as a player. He’s matured. He’s been through some hard times, but you got to go out there and play, man. You got to go out there and play – play with confidence. The one thing that’s really noticeable with this team is that they’re not playing against the opponent. They’re playing against themselves, which is a good thing, but also when you’re that young, is a bad thing. So, we want them to go out and play at their best, perform at their best. You’re going to make mistakes, but play with energy. Play with confidence and have fun with it. You’re a good team.”

On how it’s a good thing and how it’s a bad thing playing against your own standard…
“Because no matter what the defense does, no matter what your opponent does, it’s probably not going to affect you. What’s going to affect you is, are you doing what you’ve practiced? Are you mentally prepared? Are you focused on what you’re doing defensively and offensively? It’s not so much about who you’re playing against. It’s more about your preparation and your focus.”

On if players are trying to just get by with their talent … 
“Well, they don’t really know, and they’re learning. I mean, for every one of these kids in this program, other than Isaiah Briscoe, everybody is still learning who they are as a player. There have been times when they haven’t been in dog fights before. So, they’re getting a chance to see.”

On if the collection of Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Dominique Hawkins IS the best defensive backcourt in the history of the UK program … 
“It’s hard to go against a John Wall and an Eric Bledsoe.”

Reporter: But this is a trio … 
“But, we have three. They’re very good. All I know is, I wouldn’t trade our three in for any other three in the country. And I’m going to put Malik (Monk) in that group as well.” 

Reporter: I meant Malik. I meant them all … 
“We have really good guards that are really talented, athletic and can defend it, score it. Isaiah Briscoe probably doesn’t get talked about enough. The jump that he’s made on the court and off the court from one year to the next is unbelievable. It just goes to show you don’t have to be a one and done, quote unquote. Yeah, the hype was there for him for people to say out of high school (that) he’s one and done. But, he’s came in here and done nothing but gotten better. He was pretty good last year.” 

On if anyone has joined Briscoe in dragging the team … 
“I think that what De’Aaron Fox does naturally makes us a better team. He’s special. His energy - his not just being vocal, but his presence on the floor makes us different. He’s doing a good job. And he’s learning, again he was in high school a few months ago. He’s running a team. So, he’s doing good. I like what he’s done.”

On Isaac Humphries’ play vs. Michigan State … 
“I thought he was good defensively. I thought he tried hard. Again, I’ll say this as one of the examples I was saying earlier. He’s playing against his self. He’s skilled. He’s 7-foot. He can shoot it. He can post. He can rebound. He’s quick. He’s in the best shape that he’s ever been in. Now, it’s just -  it’s not about the opponent. How willing are you to fight for everything that you get?”

On if this team has too nice of kids … 
“I think so (it’s not good to be too nice). They are nice kids, but what’s amazing about these kids is that they have a competitive spirit. They just need to know exactly what that is and when to use it, and when to be nice. On the court you’ve got to compete, man. You’re at an institution where this whole thing has been about competing at a high, high level. Everybody is watching. Everybody – and not everybody – a lot of people are hoping that we fail. Hoping that individuals fail. They have to go out there and play with a fire and a desire to go dominate their opponent.” 

On Coach Calipari making sure the team didn’t get too full of themselves after the win over Michigan State … 
“Great question. To answer your question, we don’t have to worry about that. The way that we coach, the way that we prepare – those kids know that after that game is over, we celebrate. It’s over. On to the next. The issue is outside of this environment. The friends. The parents. Their families. The friends that are from high school and where they’re from. Now, they might talk to them about, ‘Man, ya’ll are the real deal.’ But, when they walk in this gym – and they walk in our offices, they know it’s on to the next. So, they have no time to relax and feel good about anything. We’re trying to get better.” 

On how the coaches get that message across … 
“It’s in everything we do every single day. We’re trying to get better every day. Are we happy we beat Michigan State that’s a really good team? Yes, we are. Did we play our best? Not even close. Not even close.”

On the emphasis on getting the ball into the post … 
“(I’d) like to see it a little more. (I’d) like to see it go inside a little more. I think what happens to us is similar to last year when you have such great guards, it’s hard to like understand that like you’ve gotta get your post guys involved. But, in order for us to be a great team – Bam (Adebayo), Wenyen (Gabriel), Derek (Willis), Isaac (Humphries), Sacha (Killeya-Jones), Tai (Wynyard) we’ve gotta be able to go to them to get something out of them. I think that’s the key to being a championship team, it’s being versatile enough to where you’ve got an inside game and a perimeter game.”

On if that means the guards need to do better getting the ball to the post, or the post players establishing themselves in the post … 
“(It’s) a little bit of both – just making it an emphasis that we want to establish how good our bigs are and let them have an imprint on the game offensively.”

On if he’s read Coach Calipari’s book … 
“Not yet. In the beginning stages of it when he was putting it together, we all read some of it. It’s really good stuff. A lot of teaching stuff.”

On what his book would be called… 
“My book?”

Reporter: Life as a troll (laughter)
“Life as a troll (laughter). Only Rex Chapman and I know what that means (laughter). I wouldn’t have a book. I wouldn’t have a book.”


Kentucky Players


#32, Wenyen Gabriel, Freshman, F


On his experience playing here so far …
“It’s been really fun. A lot of fans being there at the games and a lot of energy when we’re playing the games is real fun. I’m starting to get more accustomed to it. I’m kind of fitting into my shoes more. I feel like I’ll be able to do more for the team coming up.”

On what Coach Cal said to him after the way he played defense …
“He was proud of me, happy that I picked it up. I know he was looking for someone to pick it up during that spot for the four-man position. I think I think of picked up filling that role then. I’m just hoping to build off of that and continue on for my next game and so on.”

On what he needs to improve going forward …
“I can work on my offensive game a little more, trying to find where I fit in there. But definitely still being more alert on the defensive end. I can get some more rebounds. There’s more things I can do on the court that I’m still working on.”

On being a high-energy player …
“I think that’s kind of how I found my way onto the floor and earning more minutes. I’m going to continue to do that.”

On the next thing he needs to work on …
“I’m going to keep improving on the defensive end, being more active, don’t lose my man, more rebounds. I’m going to continue to do that. Offensively, I’m going to try to get more rebounds and to get baskets there, make more midrange shots and kind of find where I fit in there.”

On what he knows about Duquesne …
“Duquesne, we’re just getting ready for them. Going to work at it during practice today and see what we need for that game.”

On what drives his motor …
“Every time I step on the court I’m trying to win. I kind of feel like I play like my life’s on the line every game that I’m in. Just trying to get better every time.”

On how that attitude was instilled in him …
“I think it’s a lot of it through my family. I got a big family and coming over from South Sudan, coming here with nothing is kind of like—I feel like I’m earning everything that I’m working for. I feel like that’s how I get it, by how I play so hard.”

On coming off the bench …
“I’m not too worried about coming off the bench or starting. I’m kind of just trying to get better every day and at the end of the day that’s what it is about. I’m trying to get better and I’m going to earn what I deserve.”

On how he sustains his energy level …
“It starts with practice. Practice is a lot of work and practice is just as hard if not harder. And just being ready to compete. The adrenaline’s pumping during the game. You just want to win every time.”

On whether he surprises opponents with the plays he makes …
“Yeah. I try to catch them by surprise. My length and my activity on the defensive end has been one of my advantages. I’m going to try to use that to try to find more playing time and define myself as a player on the defensive end.”

On what he watches for as he’s waiting to check in …
“I’m watching to see what we need. If we’re missing out on rebounding, I’m going to try to go in the game and get rebounds. If we need to pick up the intensity on the defensive end, I’m going to try to pick up the intensity. If we need to score some more, I’m going to try to get to the basket and score. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

On how good the win over Michigan State felt …
“It was really good. It built our morale as a young team. I know we probably got a lot of doubters out there, but being able to get that win was a good win and helped us move forward with some more confidence for our next games.”

On guarding against overconfidence …
“We have the toughest schedule in the country, so there’s going to be more tough games coming up. We can’t focus too much on past things. We got Duquesne coming up and we got more games to play, so that’s what we’re working on.”

#1, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Freshman, F


On what they’ve been working on as a team since the Michigan State game …
“Still working on defense and everything. Playing long and athletic on the ball. Maul the ball and everything like that. Really just focused on the next game, moving forward, running in transition and getting back on D.”

On what he, individually, is working on …
“All aspects of my game. Still trying to get stronger. Playing with more confidence and everything like that. Trying to go out there and play my game, play athletic, rebound, block shots.”

On his transition to college basketball …
“It’s definitely a different game than high school. Everybody’s faster, longer, stronger, everything like that. I think being here definitely helps you play against that type of talent every day in practice. It’s definitely helped and been a better transition.”

On what they have to do to improve their rebounding numbers …
“I think we just gotta be more aggressive. KP (Kenny Payne) talks to us about that a lot is creating contact first, going after rebounds and everything like that. Just be more aggressive with it.”

On the balance of being more aggressive and avoiding foul problems …
“We gotta be careful with that, especially a guy like Bam (Adebayo). They’re going to call fouls on him just because he’s bigger than everybody else. You gotta be aggressive; at the same time be careful and be extra cautious with any elbows and stuff like that. Just make sure you have your hands in the air so they see you’re not holding or anything like that.”

On how a young team like them stays focused after a blowout win over Michigan State …
“Definitely. Coach Cal helps with that just because he’s been here a lot, and the older guys help with that. We celebrate that night and move on to the next game, get back on the plane and focus on coming back here. Got school work to do, got practice, got lifts, getting ready to get back into the swing of things.”

On what the team could have done better against Michigan State …
“Definitely. I think fouls is one thing, but just rebounding better. I think we got outrebounded or something like that in the first half. We gave up a couple free points. Just closing up small issues and then just getting back in here and working on our stuff for next game.”

On Coach Payne saying it comes down to being active, defense and rebounding with him …
“Definitely. I think I just need to play more active and more athletic on the court, go after rebounds, block shots and everything like that. Just play my game, don’t overthink things, just simplify stuff.”

On playing three games in five days …
“It was definitely a kind of welcome to college basketball, because in AAU you play a couple games in a day, but it’s different. AAU is obviously not high-major division I college basketball. So, it’s definitely a – work on your body and everything like that.”

On if he’ll read Coach Cal’s new book …
“Probably, if he gives us a copy. No, I’ll probably go out there and get it. I’m definitely buying it for my dad for Christmas and I’ll probably end up reading it after him.”

On the easiest and toughest thing for him to adjust to …
“Easiest thing is probably just my teammates and everything, and the chemistry. I think we all get along really well. That definitely helps and shows on and off the court. Hardest thing is the physicality and speed at the next level. Just trying to get used to that. I’m playing within the team.”

On playing hard but still having to go even harder …
“Everything here is harder than you’ve ever done. Everything college, in general. Workouts are way harder than you’ve ever done in your life. Conditioning is harder than you’ve done in your life. Learning the plays is harder. Everything is another level. Being here is what we wanted. We wanted this challenge and everything, especially me. I’m looking forward to keep accepting it.”