Kentucky Basketball Previews Illinois State

Labissiere, Hawkins Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Illinois State Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Nov. 29, 2015

John Calipari

On Tyler Ulis’ status… 

“I don’t think he’ll practice today, but it’s day to day. He’s moving it. I was there yesterday. I saw him yesterday. I haven’t seen him today yet. He overextended his elbow, but I think he’ll be fine. Should help his shooting.”

On if he’d like to rest Ulis for a game or two … 

“If we have to we will. You’re concerned about his health. Right now it’s just early. He won’t practice today just for the fact that I don’t want to have him banged up in a practice. Plus as bad as Isaiah (Briscoe) was [Briscoe was walking by and smiling as Cal said this], it gives him a chance to get some time on the floor by himself.”

On Ulis’ availability vs. Illinois State …

“Knowing him he’ll want to play, but we’ll just have to see. I mean, we’re playing a good team. Illinois State, I watched their Maryland game. They had Maryland beat. They’ve got their quick guard, (Paris) Lee; I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do with him. They’ve got a kid (DeVaughn Akoon-)Purcell that’s scoring 16-17 a game. Will be a tough matchup for us depending on how we play. They’ve got some veteran guys. They run. It’s not Princeton (offense); it’s more like a five-out where you’ve got to play it like you’re playing Princeton. But they do good stuff. So we’ve got a hard game. And without Tyler now, you have to understand the last six minutes of that half and what we did the first five or six minutes of that second half, that was without Tyler. We were really good. It’s just they couldn’t sustain it. That’s what Tyler does. Tyler just keeps coming and he does not stop and he’s not going to make mistakes to let another team get back in the game. That’s the difference. That’s the experience.”

On Dominique Hawkins’ performance the last game …

“He’s starting (to work his way back from injury). We had individual meetings. I talked to all the guys. But it’s also getting them to understand that you are responsible for you. Every one of these players is here because of themselves. Not because of them. Not because of a mentor or coach or team. They’re here because of them. Now all those people helped them, but they could only get here because of themselves. And if they’re to make it to where they want to go, it’s not going to be because of me; it’s going to be because of them. Now they’ll use me and all the assistant coaches and this environment to help them, but it’s going to be about them. In Dom’s case, that shootaround he made every shot. So he walked in the game, bangs a 3. My question to all these kids: ‘What’s your plan to help yourself? How are you going?’ And they don’t think that way. Like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Brandon Knight had a plan of how they were going attack this and how they were going to make it. So that’s what we’ve been talking about a lot right now. Just trying to get guys to understand you just don’t keep marching; you have a plan of attack of what you’re going to do. I would expect, if Tyler doesn’t play, Dom gets more minutes. And this could be a good game for him. Charles Matthews has taken advantage of his minutes. He’s just basically separated himself from everyone else. I like what I’m seeing from Isaac (Humphries). If Skal (Labissiere) doesn’t play tough enough then he’s out. I’ll put Isaac in. I like the competition between Marcus Lee and Alex (Poythress). In my opinion right now, Alex has moved up. He’s stepped above it. And that’s why each game is important. You’re in a dogfight within as you build your team. To get your stuff right, what’s your plan? How are you going to do this? You want more time. Well, how are you going to get it? I’m not responsible for that, you are. Those are the kinds of messages we’ve been talking to our guys about."

On the value of having a junior in Dominique Hawkins who can be a lockdown defender coming off the bench at any time …

“Well, he understood. What I said to him is, ‘You understand that if you don’t defend then you have no chance of playing here. Like none.’ He said, ‘I know.’ So we played, who was the game at home (Boston) where we went for three days? And if you go under a ball screen you’re coming out. He went under the ball screen. ‘Are you crazy? Why would you go under?’ ‘I thought.’ ‘You thought wrong.’ Whoever it was, and then he got on a pick-and-roll he turned his head and the kid threw it. You have no room for that. Defensive effort and defensive intensity and focus, that isn’t like missing a shot or turning the ball over. That can be expected, especially when you’re trying to get on the floor. Then you know you just don’t have room. I would expect that he’s – we had a good talk. He’s a great kid. What I want for him, to be honest, really doesn’t matter. It’s what he wants and what he’s willing to do to get that. There’s pressure on these kids. Like you can’t go in and just not guard. You can’t go in and be so anxious that you’re tight. You can’t do that here. You’ve got to play. And it’s on them to do it. And they know it. We’ve got a group that understands.”

On the improved play of Alex Poythress …

“Well, he’s not doing it consistently. But you see flashes of who he can become. And then coming off of that injury and being able to have this confidence this early. Look, I would say, like Skal (Labissiere), in a normal situation – normal – you look at Skal and you bring him along and you say, ‘By your junior year you’re going to be a beast. Physically.’ Here it’s by January you’ve got to get this stuff right. It’s just a different deal. But, the kids knew that coming here. They knew it. There was no confusion. There was no begging. If you want to be here, this is what this is about. So all of these kids, including Alex – like you’re being challenged to move quicker. Move faster. We’re on a warped speed at times.” 

On the opportunity to play a road game later this week at UCLA …

“For some reason I just think we’re going to have a lot of fans there. I don’t know why, but I would figure that they would find a way to get tickets somehow. The trip that we just took to Miami was good because a couple of guys didn’t respond real well. So there’s another game where we are going on the road and we’ll see how they respond, you know, playing on the road. Like I said, we’ve got this one tomorrow and it might be without Tyler. If it is without Tyler, it’s a different game for us. We don’t know if a game is close who panics. And like I said, they had Maryland down two late in the game. They ended up losing by 11, but it was only because Maryland made three 3s to end the game. So this team is capable of beating us.”

On his confidence in the Jamal Murray or Isaiah Briscoe taking over the reins at point guard …

“Yeah, I am. But, again, they don’t have the experience that he (Ulis) has so you don’t know how they’re going to respond if stuff gets hairy. The way this team plays, Illinois State will come down – and they play a little bit like Arkansas. They’ll just trap you from different areas of the court. Well, first of all we haven’t played against it yet. Now, Tyler has, but none of these other guys have. That’s one thing. The second thing is they spread the court and they play five men out. So, all five guys are out, which means everybody can get beat on the dribble. That’s an issue for us because we have a couple of guys who have yet to keep a guy in front of them. So they may find that guy and that’s who they go after. We’ve got to figure out how we’re playing. So it’s not that I’m worried about Isaiah and Jamal and how they’ll play or Dom. It’s not that. It’s that we’re playing a team that plays a little different that Tyler would have no problem with. These guys, they may.”  

On Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe running the team without Tyler Ulis on Friday and how valuable it was …

“It was good. It gave me a clearer picture of where I have to help Isaiah go with his game. He could have had almost a triple-double, but he was flipping balls, he was avoiding (contact). He threw passes away for no reason. He could have looked at a guy, dropped it to the guy and he would have laid it in. He would have had 10 assists. So he played a little bit, like, casual, and he’s got to understand that you can’t play that way and be a lead guard for us. You can’t. Too much at stake and every game is someone’s Super Bowl.”

On how Jamal Murray did running the team …

“Jamal did fine. We need him to get to the foul line more. He should be at the foul line at least six times, maybe eight. He’s not getting to the line, which means he’s either avoiding contact or he’s taking all jumpers, and I think it’s a little combination of both. You have to drive to get to the foul line. ‘I’m getting fouled. I’m going to go.’ When you’re 6-5 and you’re like – he and Isaiah both. Isaiah, I asked Isaiah to put a card on his mirror so he wakes up every morning and that card would read, ‘Make a ridiculously hard play look easy.’ See, he flips that the other way. Make a really easy play look ridiculously hard. And so I’m saying this is what you’re trying to do. You’ve got this backwards. And I told him, there’s not many players that can do that. He’s one of them. He can. He can make a play, an and one, a guy fouls him and make a layup and you think and say, ‘What did he just do? Wow.’ At the time he made it look easy. But he’s not doing that right now so.”

On why Briscoe isn’t making those plays right now …

“Because of playing in high school and AAU. It’s just how they play.”

On if this team is coming together through six games like he would hope it would …

“Yeah, I just worry about the toughness around that basket. Are we getting better? Are we learning? And that’s an issue. To be honest, it’s going to be a process. Orlando (Antigua) and I talked about it and he said, ‘I know you well enough. The only way is they get comfortable with it. The only way they get comfortable with it is you’ve got to do it every day in practice. If you do it every day in practice, you’re risking people getting hurt.’ He knows me well enough. So you’re juggling balls. And either they start doing it or our whole practice becomes, ‘Put the helmets on, let’s go.’ You’ve got to get comfortable playing that way. Right now, literally shots go up and we’re looking. You know how a shot goes up and you look for somebody to hit? We’re looking for somebody to run from. I mean, it’s on tape. It’s on video. And so if we can get them to, shot goes up, fight for position and then go after the ball, we’re going to be fine. The same thing on post passing. We pick and roll the guy to post up and he’s basically trying to run from somebody versus go find somebody to post up. It’s all the same. It’s just where we are right now because it’s really hard to play that way and you get bumped around a little bit.”

On what happens when he shows his team running away from contact …

“They look at it and, ‘I got it.’ But it’s just hard. What we do here is hard. We’re playing really fast. That’s really hard to do. We’re playing pressure defense and staying in front and getting punched in the mouth while you guard the guy with no call. That’s really hard, especially when you’re doing it with everybody. Now we’re saying you’ve got to fight inside, you’ve got to be physical. It’s really hard. If it were easy every time in the country would be playing fast and pressuring. You just can’t. And that’s why what we’re asking them is really hard and really tough. They seem to be getting better. This one Monday is going to be a hard game and then we get on the road and we’ve got a road game, so this stuff doesn’t get any easier.” 

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#25, Dominique Hawkins, G

On how his Thanksgiving was …

“It was good. Spent it in Miami and had a good time.”

On getting away from the cold Kentucky weather …

“Yeah that was nice. It was about 75 degrees and it was good. We walked outside and looked at the beach and stuff like that.”

On Coach Cal saying he’s been pushing his way back into the rotation …

“It feels real good to know that he said that. Actually, I didn’t even know that he said that. But in practice, I’m always fighting against the best three guards anybody can probably practice against. To hear that from Coach Cal definitely gives me more confidence to play the way I’ve been playing.”

On what the mission is for him when he gets into games …

“Definitely feel like my defensive presence – I feel like I have to be a lock-down defender. Give the team energy and make open shots.”

On if he gasped when Tyler Ulis went down …

“Definitely. Any of our guys are definitely going to feel that way. I don’t know too much about his injury, but I know that it’s not really serious.”

On how important Ulis is to the team and what it changes about the team when he’s gone …

“He’s very important. He basically runs our offense really well. Better than most of us on the team. We actually have other guys as well that can play point guard as well. So if we don’t have Tyler in our next game, we also have other guards that can run point as well.”

On how deep the team is at the point guard position …

“I feel like we have great depth. Bigs to point to guards, me, Derrek (Willis), Isaac (Humphries), Alex (Poythress), Charles (Matthews), Mychal (Mulder). We have so many players that can play any position, and if somebody is having a bad game, somebody can come in and play for them.”

On how he is physically following his hand injury …

“I’m great. I feel great. The pain went away about a week or two ago. My hand, I feel like its 100 percent now.”

On if he felt like he had ground to make up following the injury for playing time …

“Yeah, I kind of did feel like that because I felt like I was getting left behind because he (Calipari) was putting in the dribble-drive, and we didn’t put in the dribble-drive with last year’s team. So I feel like I didn’t know how to play it really well, so I had to come back and learn.”

On how he feels about the dribble-drive offense and how he feels about others having a head start on him …

“It was tough because I was going against the first team with Tyler, (Isaiah) Briscoe, and Jamal (Murray). With them guarding you, it’s really hard to dribble by them. Definitely Tyler. He’s an elite defender. But I love the dribble-drive a lot. You can make plays, and for a point guard, you’re definitely going to love it because you get the ball in your hands and you’re trying to get by people.”

On how he felt like he played in Miami and made an impression with Coach Cal …

“Coach said I did pretty good and that I’m pushing for minutes. I felt like I played pretty well. I came in on defense, brought a little bit of energy, hit an open shot. So I felt like I played pretty well.”

On how he would define his role during the South Florida game …

“Basically it was a role to bring energy to the team, get in, if I have an open shot or opportunity to score, shoot the ball. Definitely be able to put pressure on the ball when I’m guarding the point guard as well.”

On how big of a competition is it to earn minutes and how is he earning minutes …

“There’s a competition for minutes. In any sport I feel like, everybody is fighting to get minutes, everybody wants to play. In practice, that’s why everybody is pushing each other.”

On how different it is from last year …

“It’s very different. Last year’s team was the platoon, and this year’s team he’s doing the rotation. As long as you’re winning, nobody is going to have a problem with it.”

#1, Skal Labissiere, F

On what he’s looking forward to about the week …

“We are looking forward to getting better from last game. We have practice today so we’re just going to—we have a film session after this so we’re going to go over some things and try to get better, get ready for those games.”

On how he performed on Friday …

“I think I did okay. I gotta grab more boards and block more shots. Today at practice we’re going to go over some things and see how I can get better next game.”

On how losing Tyler Ulis affects them …

“As of right now I don’t know what his status is because we didn’t have practice yesterday I haven’t seen him. Coach Cal is going to talk about it. I don’t know what’s going on. He’s a tough kid. We expect him to be back soon.”

On Ulis’ importance …

“He’s very important, his leadership. I think he’s the best point guard in the country. Obviously he runs our team, so he’s very important to us.”

On playing well in Ulis’ absence …

“I think we did good without him, but obviously we’re going to need Tyler for the whole season. He’s very important to us.”

On the true road game at UCLA …

“I think that’s pretty neat. UCLA’s probably one of the greatest programs of all time. That would be my first real away game so I don’t know what it feels like yet. I’m looking forward to that.”

On whether the veterans have told him about what a road environment will be like …

“I just know that student section is crazy. The atmosphere will be crazy. So I don’t know. I never experienced it. I’m really looking forward to that.”

On post players getting tougher …

“Definitely taking it to heart. He gets on me about playing lower, so that’s one of the things that I’m working on and I feel that I’m getting better at it.”

On whether he is still getting in throat jabs …

“Sometimes. Do what you gotta do sometimes.”

On how they need to improve …

“As a team, we’re still trying to figure out how to play with each other. I think once we do that we’re going to be a lot better than we are right now. I think that’s going to come with time and as we keep playing more games. So I think that’s one of the main things, learning how to play with each other.”

On whether the first six games of the season have gone as expected …

“I really don’t know. We are winning, so that’s all that matters.”

On what Charles Matthews has brought of late …

“A lot of energy, his defense, he’s a slasher, he goes after boards that nobody else can go after. He helped a lot the past couple games and we expect this out of him.”

On seeing the UCLA game as a chance to put their stamp on this year’s team …

“We just see it as another game, another game that we have to get ready for and hopefully we get a win.”

On Dominique Hawkins getting back into form …

“Oh definitely. Dominique is one of the key players on our team. He can defend really well. He can shoot the ball. Like you said, before he got hurt he was playing really well, but I think he is getting back to that level. Definitely last game he played well. We are looking for him to keep going up and keep playing better.”

On others thinking the international players talk funny, and if he thinks Hawkins talks funny …

“Sometimes, it does.” (laughter)

On what Coach Cal said to him following the South Florida win …

“He got on me about playing lower. I think as the season goes on I will get better at it. That’s one of the things we work on every day at practice. I think I did a little bit better job at it the last game. I’m just working, trying to get better.”

On him flexing and roaring after dunks …

“That’s just me. That’s what I do after every dunk. It’s just natural.”

On if he feels like he has gotten more aggressive on the offensive end …

“Yes, sir. Definitely. I need to get more aggressive on the defensive end. I need to be more of a presence inside. That’s one the things I’m working on.”

On if Coach Cal gives him a hard time on being nearly 7-feet tall and only grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game …

“Oh, definitely. Definitely. I definitely need to grab more boards. That’s something I have to do.”

On what has to happen for him to get more rebounds …

“Just getting lower and being more explosive. When you get lower you’re more explosive. And learning how to hit people first. I’m just going to have to do that.”

On his reaction when he saw Ulis walk off the floor …

“He’s very important to this team, but at the same time I know that he’s a tough kid. We don’t know what’s going on yet. We didn’t have practice yesterday. I expect him to be back soon playing with us.”

On if it could end up helping them in the sense that they were forced to play without him …

“A little bit. I mean, he started the game. But Tyler’s very important to this team so we are going to need him on the court. We expect him to be back soon.”

On all the big cities he has gotten to travel to this season …

“I think it’s pretty neat. It’s definitely fun. Those are some of the major cities here in the U.S., so you get to see new things. They are some good experiences. I’m definitely thankful for them.”

On if he thinks UCLA will have revenge on its mind after UK’s big win last year …

“I watched it. I expect that, but at the same time, for us, it’s about us getting better as a team. It’s about us going down there and treating it like it’s just another game. It’s about us getting better as a team.”