Kentucky Basketball Previews Kansas

Poythress, Ulis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Kansas Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 29, 2016


John Calipari


On if his home record gives him insight into playing at a place like Allen Fieldhouse …
“Well, they have lost three games now at home – in the last like 10 years. You have really good players. You have really good fans that push you over the top many times. You have a team that’s comfortable in that environment. I think that’s both schools. To win those kinds of games as an opponent you’ve got to be careful of runs and 3s. A team like that can score a bunch in 12, 15 seconds, and that’s what you’ve got to guard against. Really in a game like this you’re just trying to give yourself a chance to win the game. You’re not trying to go and blow anybody out because it’s just unusual.”

On his fondest memory of his time at Kansas …
“Meeting my wife. You knew I was going to say that. Met my wife there. I had nothing. I had no aspirations for anything other than to learn basketball. Felt so blessed that I had an opportunity to start on that campus. The guy who invented the game was their first coach. (Then) Phog Allen, who coached Adolph Rupp, who was, you know. Wilt (Chamberlain). I mean, you can go on and on, but I was just blessed to have that chance. Made no money. When they offered me the position, Coach (Ted) Owens said, ‘I’d like you to stay in the volunteer assistant slot.’ I said, ‘Really? How much does that guy make?’ And then Coach (Larry) Brown asked me to stay. I was blessed to be able to stay with him for two years and I look back fondly. I had nothing except basketball. I think I had a Plymouth Arrow at that time. Do they still make Plymouth Arrows? I don’t think they do. But no worries. I didn’t have—I stayed with Randolph Carroll, who was a part-time assistant. He let me stay with him. It was a great time for me because, can you imagine being 23, 22 and your first opportunity to be around the game is in a program like Kansas? I just felt every day I woke up, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’ And I had the same feeling when I got this job. And John Robic looked out and saw Kentucky across that wall out there and it was glitter and I’m like, ‘Can you imagine that we’re here at Kentucky?’ It’s the same thing. Kansas is exactly the same kind of program.”

On how last season’s game between UK and Kansas could influence this year’s game …
“I mean, look, I think Bill (Self) is not going to make anything personal because he knows if he does that your team can’t win the game when it becomes a personal thing. But he will remind them that a different Kentucky team got them pretty good last year. I’m not worried about last year’s game; that’s totally different. We’re going into a hostile environment. I’m going to tell you, our building, I can remember when we played North Carolina here and we won on the last play, and I’ll tell you it was so loud. Allen Fieldhouse is louder. Like, much louder. Acoustically it’s built like that (gestures to evoke an arched roof) so the sound hits it and it comes right back at you. And it literally moves you. If you’re standing and they really get loud, it will move you. I was there. I coached there and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can feel it.’ It’s like you’re at a concert and you’re near the bass. Boom! Boom! You feel it. I mean that’s how it is there. It’ll be interesting for these guys, especially these young guys, to walk in and to feel it. I love the tradition of it. I’ll go through (the arena). I’ve got to take a picture of Bob Marcum – the former (UMass) AD –  is one of my dear friends and his portrait is on the wall somewhere. I’ll take a picture of it and send it out when we get there tonight. Our people need to go out to look at it and see how they have it set up because it’s really neat.”

On how the team is playing and having to play this game during this part of the season …
“Well, I wasn’t for any of this, whether it be the matchups or playing them in midseason. None of that. It’s here, so we play the game. When I was at UMass, I always, later in the year, played a game like this. Usually it would be in February to get out of the league so that we could get ready for our run in the NCAA Tournament. We played Louisville, I think, twice late, like in the end of February. Everybody said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘We have to get out of our league and get against somebody that can get us ready and juiced.’ This is a different deal. This is like a March. Going out there and playing this kind of team and they fight. Their guards fight. Their bigs fight. They run great stuff. They really do run great stuff. So it isn’t like you’re just playing. ‘Man oh man, I’m playing great defense.’  You’ve gotta play some of their things. Different ways they play. They put you in a lot of positions. I’m anxious to just see how we respond.”

On how many games he’s seen in that building since he left as a coach …
“In that building? I don’t think I’ve seen any. I’ve only been back there a couple of times. My wife is coming with us. She usually doesn’t travel unless it’s the NCAA Tournament. So, she’s going back. Her parents are going to meet her. She grew up two-and-a-half hours from there. She’ll probably go back with her parents after the game. I’ve been back a couple of times. Let me just tell you about the campus. The campus, every stone – unless it’s changed – every stone on every building is from the same quarry. Think about that. Every stone on every building is from the same quarry. I mean, it is a unique place. It’s special. That state takes great pride in their school.  And they take pride in that basketball program and what’s gone on there. What we want to talk about is the home record. How about he (Bill Self) has won more league championships than losses at home? I mean, what are you talking about? It’s Kentucky and Kansas. Like you said, it’s going to be a hyped game. We’re finally starting to do some stuff. We’re finally starting to become a team that I’m like, ‘OK, that looks like somebody I coach.’ But, this will be one that, ‘Alright, you got hit in the mouth. Now how are you doing? Are you going to foul yourself out? Don’t you foul yourself out. You gotta play.’ I mean this will be a war.”

On whether this team is starting to become the aggressor …
“We’re beginning to have a swagger because we’re guarding. But, we need Alex (Poythress) to keep taking strides. Like, keep getting better. Not be consistent; get better. Because if he really gives us something, it gives us that one piece that makes it—but I like what I’m seeing. I like how we’re playing offensively. It’s going to be harder this game because they get after it. They switch. They do stuff. They’re man-to-man. They run gaps. They take chances. They get up in you. It’ll be a challenge again for the young guys.”

On whether or not Kansas mirrors Kentucky’s three-guard lineup …
“Yeah, they do. Well, they do. Yeah. Some. I think (Perry) Ellis, though they stick him–when they really need something, he’s next to that rim or he catches it and drives it next to the rim. Or they have a package for him to get him balls in that post. He’s gotten better every year.  He really has.”

On if he’s seen teams come unglued at Allen Fieldhouse …
“Oh yeah. I saw when we were coaching there. Like, you know, until you just, you know. You have the game and all of a sudden they make a play, another play, you miss a play, and all of a sudden, literally, you’re like feeling this sound come at you. This is one of those things, it’s like people coming to Rupp, where they love coming to come to play in Rupp because they can say, ‘I played in Rupp.’ So going to Allen Fieldhouse, these guys will experience something they will never experience in their life in that building. There is no pro arena like that. There’s no other arena we’re going to walk into that’s going to be that bad. We walk into great arenas, but not (like that). I’m just telling you, I was in there. I think the building was built in the 50s. Now let me say this to you, when I was in there in the 80s, you could eat off the floors. Now that means it was 30 years old. Literally, they had people that just mopped. Like, ‘Where were you?’ ‘I gotta make sure there’s not one little thing on this floor.’ And that’s the whole (place). It’s like a shrine. It’s great.”

Did Derek Willis show any signs of what he’s been able to do of late in terms of rebounding …
“I think it’s his girlfriend. I think she’s really doing it for him. (Laughter). Somebody said—I don’t care who helps him; just play better. And he’s the greatest kid. I think he got to where, ‘I’m tired of sitting.’ And I’ve said this before – you’ve all heard me – at Kentucky you only need one really good year. You don’t have to worry about how you played as a freshman or sophomore. You need one really good year. And right now he got an opportunity because some guys backed up. If those guys had stepped up and kept playing, maybe he doesn’t get that. But we went to Auburn, (and) when I walked in that locker room I said, ‘Do we need to make changes?’ Dudes were yelling, ‘Yes!’ Well, he was one of the changes. And so what you have is—he had a bad practice a couple of days ago. I said, ‘Are you going back? Are you?’ ‘I promise I’m not. I was awful today. I’ll be fine.’ Yesterday he was pretty good. I mean, I think he knows there’s two feelings: that feeling of ecstasy and that other one that you don’t feel like getting out from under the covers. Like, you got them up over your head. You don’t want to see anybody. You don’t want to move. And then there’s that feeling of ecstasy where your chest is out, you’re bouncing around, you want to see people. ‘Hey!’ Which one do you want? I can tell you how get this one. You don’t give your best effort. You don’t prepare. You don’t work. You expect something to be given to you. No one gives you anything. The other one is you build your own self-esteem, your own self-worth. You had demonstrated performance on the court, which he now has. You work so hard, you prepare so hard that you expect to play well. That’s who he’s been. He’s been unbelievable in practice. Our best rebound. Think about that.”

On Dominique Hawkins’ status …
“He practiced yesterday. I don’t know. I’ll see today. He’s not 100 percent, but you know, it would be a nice game to walk into. Be out a month and walk into this game. ‘Go ahead, get in there. You can do it!’ (Laughter).”

On what Hawkins brings that the team lacks without him …
“Just a toughness, a steadiness. You know, a team player who will play within himself. Will defend and dive on the floor. He’s done it before. We’ve seen him in NCAA Tournaments do it, so we know what he is. And I think this team is really comfortable (with him). Like, when I split the teams up and he couldn’t quite go, Tyler (Ulis) said. ‘He was the X-factor. That’s why my team won. When he got hurt and we had to play somebody else, my team couldn’t win.’ And that’s who he is. He’s a winner. He’s a great kid. It’s like all of them. You want guys to go out, learn about themselves, and then go out and really give their best effort. Learn who they are. Like, we got guys trying to figure out, ‘How do I get myself going?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to ask yourself questions. Sometimes it’s not how do I get myself going. It becomes another question of what’s stopping me from doing this? Is something holding me back?’ And they gotta do that. The best players I’ve coached were able to self-evaluate and then change. The best players I’ve coached. The others get delusional. They want to blame everybody. It’s always something else. ‘I’m fine!’ ‘No, you’re not. That’s your problem. You’re not fine.’ The best self-evaluate, and that’s what I’m trying to teach these guys. You gotta figure it out from within and then we’re here to help you. No one’s trying to hurt you. We’re throwing life preservers, but you’ve gotta swin. You’ve gotta swim. I can’t swim for you.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#22, Alex Poythress, Forward


On how much they are looking forward to this trip …
“We’re all looking forward to this trip. We’ve been on a little run. We’re just trying to make improvement and trying to just see where we’re at.”

On what Coach Calipari has told them about this game …
“That it’s going to be a tough road game and you gotta come prepared and ready to fight. We gotta compete because if you don’t compete and fight then it’s going to be a hard game. It’s going to be a hard game regardless, but we just gotta come in here and compete.”

On this break in SEC play …
“It’s weird. I don’t think I ever had a break like this. But it’s just what it is. You gotta get used to it and just be ready to play the game.”

On last year’s game against Kansas …
“I mean, last year’s game was an anomaly. We had a great team. It’s not going to be like that. So you just gotta throw it out.”

On whether experience against Kansas helps …
“Yeah. We know some of the personnel from playing last year and then our coaches do a great job of scouting and telling us what to do and telling us what to do and telling us their scouting report. So we’re going into the game with a pretty good idea of what they do.”

On whether he expects Kansas to have extra motivation after last year’s game …
“Yeah, I’m sure they will. I’m sure they’re going to be pumped up because they don’t want it to be like last year. They want to get that bad taste out of everybody’s mouth. We’re just trying to come in there and just be ready to play. We’re a different team from last year. Last year was different so we’re just trying to take care of business.”

On Allen Fieldhouse …
“From what I’ve seen, it’s just like playing in Rupp. I think it’s kind of smaller and kind of more on top of you, but it’s going to be a hard road game. Playing on the road is always hard, so we just gotta go in there and fight.”

On the experience of winning at Arkansas …
“It helps a lot because it shows that we’re capable of winning on the road and it just shows that we gotta come in and fight from start to finish. We gotta play 40 minutes. We can’t play 35 or 36 or something like that. You gotta play 40 straight minutes.”

On what it will take for him to be more consistent …
“Just being aggressive from the start, from the jump and just keeping it that way, maintaining that aggression level.”

On whether his mental preparation changes …
“Yeah. You gotta be more focused and just come into the game and be prepared. You gotta play 40 minutes and just be aggressive the whole entire time.”

On whether he knows any of Kansas’ players …
“Not many of them. I do remember some of them from AAU and the circuit and all that, but I can’t remember if I had that many relationships with them. But we’re just trying to be a part of our team. That’s what we’re trying to worry about. I got a relationship with all my teammates here.”

On if anything stands out about Kansas when he prepares and watches tape of them …
“They’re a great team. They have a lot of vets. They’re well coached so we’re going to have to play hard.”

On Kentucky and Kansas playing each other …
“We have to come in ready to fight. Both teams have a lot of great tradition. We just have to come in and try to fight and compete the best we can.”

On if he gets more excited for a game like this …
“I mean, you get a little geeked up for it just because of who it is. But again, we can’t get too excited or anything like that. We have to take it one game at a time and try to take this game seriously before looking on down the road.”

On Kansas not losing at home similar to Kentucky not losing at home …
“Something’s got to give. We’re going to try to take on the challenge.”

On Kansas not forgetting what happened last year …
“I guess, but we’re just trying to come in there and compete hard, play to the best of our ability. We have a great scouting report. Coach did a great job of doing that. Just trying to take care of business.”

On this being a game where older players will have to show up …
“Yeah, of course, they’re going to look for the vets, especially with it being a tough road game. You have to look toward the vets and everything to keep poise and be mature about things on the court.”

On if he likes stepping out of the conference for a big game like this …
“I like it. I enjoy it. I think it has a lot of poise and seriousness to the game, so I enjoy it”

On the key in their defensive turnaround lately …
“We’re just communicating more on defense. We’re starting to have each other’s back more and more. We’re getting more comfortable with our defensive schemes and stuff like that.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, Guard


On how he looks at a UK-Kansas game …
“It’s another game, but obviously it’s a big game because you have two big-time programs coming against each other. With the way we played against them last year, they’re going to be coming at us. So they’re going to want some get-back and we have to be prepared.”

On if the team has talked about what it might be like in Allen Fieldhouse …
“No, we really haven’t talked about it much. (Coach) Cal has only said that it’s going to be hard to win there. It’s loud in there, and so we have to be ready to play.”

On if he’s feeling good about how the team has come together since the Auburn game …
“Yeah it’s great. I’m happy for our team because guys are starting to play their roles, everybody is starting to lock in defensively, and it’s showing on the court.”

On him and Isaiah Briscoe starting to work out in the mornings …
“Me and Isaiah started it and then a lot of guys came in at the same time as us. We just started that last week after the Vandy game. Just started getting up and lifting weights a little bit, stretching and just trying to get better.”

On if that helps them bond a little bit …
“It’s so early that it really doesn’t help us bond since everybody is tired. It just helps us getting up when your body doesn’t want to get up and just trying to get better every day.”

On what made them want to get up early like that …
“Just to get better. With this team that we have, we feel like we can be great. So whatever we can do to get better, we’re going to try to do.”

On Coach Cal suggesting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist starting that a couple of years ago …
“He told us that last year that he started it. That’s been a story here, everybody knows about it. He’s a hard worker, so why not follow in his footsteps?”

On whose decision it was to do it this year …

“We just came together and felt like we wanted to lift one day and just kept on doing it. Caught a couple of more guys in and they came in and worked. Now it’s almost an everyday thing.”

On where the defensive intensity came from …
“I don’t know. Guys just bought in and everybody has been picking it up. We’ve been going at each other in practice and we’re all coming together as a team and it’s working out for us.”

On if he was like Coach Cal just waiting for the day where everybody buys in …
“Yeah, everybody was waiting for that. The team is just now coming together like I said and we’re playing so good defensively, it’s hard to score on us. We’re not really focused on offense. We’re just trying to lock down.”

On what tells him that the effort is better …
“Just everybody’s performance. You can see it on how people are talking on defense, how people move, how hard everyone is playing. When guys are calling for breaks, they’re playing hard. So it’s just a lot different team.” 

On how important it is for the older guys to really show up on the court …
“Very important because we have a lot of young guys and we have to lead by example and vocally. We have to help those guys. They haven’t been in a game like this. We played Kansas last year. They may be prepared, I think everyone has prepared. But if they’re not, older guys have to step up and try to help them through it.”

On what he did to take on more leadership …
“It’s always been in me. Last year I didn’t have to do it as much. I was one of the younger guys, people knew what they were doing. I just had to follow in Andrew (Harrison)’s footsteps and just try to learn from him.”

On Derek Willis’ emergence as a rebounder …
“That just came out of nowhere. Coach Cal has been stressing it to him and he’s been coming out doing what he has to do. He had a double-double last game, he’s stretching the floor out for us and he’s helping us out a lot.” 

On how much of his mid-range jumpers were because of Willis stretching the floor …
“A lot because guys usually want to ball-screen and stay with me a little longer. With Derek out there, they have to run back to him on that 3-point line. So it gives me more room to pull up.”

On his thoughts of Coach Cal saying he’s coaching this team …
“I’m just trying to be the coach on the floor, try to help guys out. When you can’t hear them and it’s such a loud arena, you have to bring the guys together and try to get them through everything that’s going on in the game.”

On if he could imagine himself as a coach someday …
“I don’t know. Right now I can only imagine playing. I love the game too much to stop playing. So I feel like I always want to play.”