Kentucky Basketball Previews LSU

Poythress Video

Kentucky Men's Basketball
UK-Florida Pregame Quotes
Joe Craft Center - Lexington, Ky.
March 4, 2016


John Calipari


On Alex Poythress …
“He’s a great kid. We’ve had great students here. Some better than Alex that have played here. We’ve had players that have left after a year. We’ve had players leave after two. We’ve had players stay all four. Each guy is on his own path. Some things make that happen. I’ll give you an example: You say to Alex, ‘Would you have left after a year if you could?’ He would have said, ‘Yeah, I would have left after a year if I could.’ So these kids are all on different paths. Proud of Alex. He’s such a great kid. The injuries and the things that he’s had to overcome, you just root for a kid like that. We’ve had three kids graduate in three years, Alex being one of them. He was Academic All-American this year so there’s a lot of good stuff that’s happened for him, but again the injuries and the stuff held him back a little bit.”

On if Poythress can still redefine his legacy …
“Yeah. That’s the greatest thing about this tournament, the one at the end of the year. It’s like guys can go and define who they are at that thing. I’ve seen guys really step up and establish. You have a lot of stuff that they’re not even being evaluated that closely (on) until that tournament. So he has time to do whatever he wants and so does everybody on our team. The thing I want to tell you though, for all of them Alex included: Winning and dragging your team and keeping them dancing is the most important thing for you as an individual player. If your team can’t win, it says something about individual players too.”

On summing up how he’s tried to motivate Poythress over the years …
“They all come in differently. I mean, look at Skal (Labissiere). I mean, they come in different places. And then you embrace the process and you hope they embrace it. There was something that I gave the guys yesterday about the Navy SEALS saying, ‘When I feel like I’m done, I know I still have 40 percent left. Instead of letting go of the rope, I’ve got 40 percent left in me. Let’s go.’ In anything I do. This is bigger than just playing basketball. You’re teaching these kids life skills, and when they walk away and they know when they feel like stopping and they’re tired and they don’t feel like going on, they know they have something extra in the tank. A kid like Alex, some of them are late bloomers. A lot of times kids his size or bigger it takes them a little longer. And most of it is that. Learning to fight through because they’ve always been bigger and stronger. But he’s had a heck of a career on all fronts. He’s made us all proud in the classroom, on the court. I wish he hadn’t gotten hurt and I wish he was already in the NBA. So does he. It happens sometimes and you gotta play the cards that were dealt. That’s what he’s doing and he’s doing it well.”

On how UK fans should think of Poythress …
“Well, he came in on a team that we didn’t have any guards and it really affected everybody else. The guard play was pretty poor that year, but I think he’s going to be one of those guys they remember fondly. A lot of it is because they’ve seen him more than any of the other guys. It’s kind of like a Darius Miller. They love Darius. Part of it was Kentucky, but he was here. But you know our city, and there will be some here that want to argue the point that you shouldn’t be for kids, that kids should stay the four years and it’s about the education, it’s not about their careers and the program and the program and the program. There will be people that write that story, but the reality of it is I think our community now says, ‘Let’s be about these kids. It hasn’t hurt the program. It hasn’t hurt anything. Let’s be about these kids. Let’s be about their options.’ Have some kids left here that should have stayed? Yeah. But it was their choice and it’s their life. Not yours. It’s their life and they made a choice to leave. Now they’ve got to make it work. Has anybody stayed that should have left? No. That isn’t happening here, but the other does happen occasionally.”

On if he thinks it’s funny that he takes heat about one and done players …
“I don’t think I do anymore. I think that thing’s over. Now it’s happened in other programs and now they just can’t say it. So it’s underground now. Now it’s OK, and that’s fine. If we’ve changed how we approach this for these kids, and it started here on this campus, great – that’s great. It’s not why I did it. We did it because we looked around and said, ‘Oh my gosh, five of these guys are going on the first round. What the heck just happened?’ None of us knew. I didn’t know. Neither did anybody here. So, I don’t think they look at whether it is a Darius Miller, or whether they look at Terrence (Jones) for staying two years, I don’t think so. Every kid is on their own path. It’s their path, not my path. It’s their path, and that’s what we try to do.”

On if he’ll pay attention to the score of the Texas A&M-Vanderbilt Saturday …
“I’ll probably hear about it. Someone will tell me. I will walk out to the game and DeWayne (Peevy) will be wide-eyed, and I’ll be (like), ‘What?’ and he’ll tell me what. So he’ll probably say something. I won’t be watching the game at all. We’ve got this game. LSU is a really good basketball team. They’ve got great talent. Obviously in Ben (Simmons) they’ve got one of the, if not the best player in college basketball. (Antonio) Blakeney is playing better. (Tim) Quarterman gave us fits last time. Their big guys they rebound and they’re tough. They’ve had some down times. So has Texas A&M. So (have we) and so has Vandy. We’ve all had a time or two where we haven’t played well. But at the end of the day, they’re still the elite or one of the elite teams in our league. It’s really funny the top four teams in our league are playing each other the last day, which is really kind of interesting that you find out where your seed is going to be between you four by playing each other.”  

On LSU being a bubble team …
“Well, they had Vandy there. I mean, you’ve got to play it out. They’ve got to play. We’re going to play a desperate team, but I’m not worried about it because every team we play is desperate. Every single team, every night at home, on the road, is desperate. And they’re going to be desperate. It’s good for us. That’s what prepares us for March and that’s why our teams historically have played well in March. Because we never get an off night. Every game means something. It’s unfortunate they’re in that position, but let me say this – and again will it come into play I don’t know – they had their guard out the early season, which meant they probably would have won two more games. And if he had played and they won two more we wouldn’t be talking this way. We have been injured the whole year. I hate to tell you I haven’t heard anybody crying for Kentucky. Matter of fact, I haven’t heard it mentioned that we’ve had guys out. It’s just how it is, but our league is that way. Vandy early on didn’t have that big kid and they lost a couple of games they’d have won. So it’s all part of it. The best thing is you get a bunch of teams in the NCAA Tournament. I think we’ll get five or six and what will happen is we’ll see how they advance. We’ve had teams advance to the Final Four. I think we’ve had two one year. We’ve had final game a couple years. We’ve won the National Title. This league has done well in the NCAA Tournament.”

On Labissiere’s confidence …
“He was not real good yesterday so I’m going to watch him today. Whether I start him or not probably will be dependent on what I see today. Like what I saw the other day, he was unbelievable. I said ,‘I’m starting him. What do you think, Tyler?’ (He said) ‘Yeah do it.’ Bang (he) started. And then yesterday was like, ‘What is wrong? Are you crazy? I started you. You’re finally fighting. What? Your toe, your back, finger? What is it?’ And so that’s the process with these kids. And then you’ve got to hold them accountable. ‘Just pick them up and tell him he’s OK.’ Really? So when he looks in the mirror and he says ‘I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m not OK.’ That’s not how it works. We’re holding these kids accountable. I’m holding him accountable. I’m anxious to see. Derek (Willis) practiced yesterday. Made shots.” 

On if Willis will play vs. LSU …
“Oh yeah. I don’t think I’ll start him – I might, you know me. I don’t really care, but I doubt if I start him, but it was great yesterday having him out there.”

On if Willis has changed UK …
“Yeah. He made us a different team, but there were times if he didn’t play rough then we really hurt in the post-up. But he was never here, unless it was early season, with Alex. We don’t even know what this team looks like if I put him in with Alex. What does that team look like? We don’t know. We have no idea.”

On if he will play Willis and Poythress together a lot …
“Oh yeah. Well I don’t know a lot, that’s dependent on how the game goes. The problem is somebody’s got to guard Ben Simmons and it can’t be a guard. And if Derek can’t guard him, then we’ve got to figure out what we’ll do.”

UK Student Athletes


#22, Alex Poythress, Forward


On his emotions going into his final home game …
“It’s been a long ride. I’m just thankful to be playing the game, and just humbled to be in this situation.”

On how he would sum up his four years …
“It’s been long, but it’s been great; some of the best memories of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

On if he feels as though the fans love him …
“Yeah, I think they do. I’m grateful for that and blessed to be in the situation I’m in.”

On how important it is to write a good ending …
“It’s real important. Our ultimate goal is still to win a national championship, and that’s what we’re chasing here. We’re chasing titles. We’re still working on our goal toward the end of the year to come out on top.”

On how many times he’s been asked how his knee is doing …
“A lot. My knees are fine. I’m healthy, so that’s good.”

On what the academic honors mean to him …
“I think it’s meant more to my parents, how hard they pushed me growing up to make sure I’m staying on top of school, staying on top of my studies. It’s probably more of a proud moment for them and speaks volumes of them and how great of parents they are.”

On how long ago his freshman year seems to him in his mind …
“Yesterday, man. It’s blown by fast. One day you’re stepping on campus, and then the next day it’s Senior Night. It’s gone real fast.”

On how hard it was to come to grips that he wouldn’t be a one and done …
“It wasn’t too hard. Every year you have to make a decision whether you stay or go. Decisions are made, I’m content with them. I feel like I made them for the best reasons, and I’m just moving on from there.”

On if he has a favorite game or moment that sticks out …
“Game wise, national championship, Final Four, when Aaron (Harrison) hit that shot against Wisconsin. Probably one of the best moments I’ve been a part of so far.”

On why that moment stands out …
“Because he had just hit one the game before and hit it again. Emotions, you know? Then we get to play in the national title game. Just making all your dreams come true, like what you dream of when you’re a little kid. You always dream of playing for a title and we had a chance to do that that year. I mean, this year we’re trying to do the same, but that year we were actually in the title game, just came up short.”

On if he felt down after the latest knee injury this year …
“No. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you can’t get down on things. Things happen for a reason. You just have to move on with them and just fight through adversity. Everybody gets hit with adversity in life every day. You just have to learn to deal with things like that.”

On if the team thinks about winning an SEC regular season title on Saturday …
“Yeah, that’s definitely a goal, winning any title that we can. SEC title would be the first step in our goal, then the next step would be to try to win the national title. We’re just trying to chase titles, just trying to win games.” 

On what he remembers about the first LSU question …
“The first game was real frustrating. A lot of us were in foul trouble. Just wasn’t a good game from the start. Hopefully we’ll have a lot more energy tomorrow. We’re playing better as a team. Individuals are playing better. So hopefully we’ll have a different outcome.”

On what the team has learned from tough road games that will help them later on …
“That we just have to listen to us and listen to people that are on the court, our coaching staff. The margin for error isn’t slim either, so you have to take care of the things and execute down the stretch.”
 
On if the team is hoping for the Louisville region in the NCAA Tournament …
“No, I don’t really know the destinations and all that stuff. I’m not too big on where we’re playing and all that stuff. We’re just trying to get the best seed that we can so far.”

On if he’s aware on the advantage it has if they get the Louisville region …
“Yeah I think it is, but we’re just trying to – I don’t even know where the other places are. I think one is in St. Louis or something like that, but we’re just trying to play for a great seed and just trying to continue on in the tournament.”

On how different Ben Simmons is from other opponents …
“He’s a great player, great talent. He can do a lot of things, mismatch problems. But we’re going to throw multiple defenders at him and just try to contain him and control him and guard him.”

On why they had success guarding Ben Simmons in the first matchup …
“Credit to our defense. We try to hang our hats on defense, but we’ve still gotta do it tomorrow too. First game was a different outcome. We’re just trying to build on that and trying to win the game.”

On what he will miss the most about UK …
“Just the atmosphere, being a part of Kentucky basketball. It’s something special.”

On whether he has been in the same room the Lodge all four years …
“No, I haven’t.”

On whether the Lodge feels like home …
“I mean, yeah. I’ve been here for four years. Staying here four years, it is kind of weird but I’m happy to move on to the next level. I’m happy to see what the future brings out.”

On his future aspirations …
“Basketball, playing professional, playing in the NBA. It’s my ultimate goal. That’s what I dream to do, and I hope to do next year.”

On explaining why he’s been inconsistent …
“I don’t know, man. I don’t have the answer for that.”

On what Tuesday’s game did for Skal Labissiere’s confidence …
“It did real well for his confidence, especially because we’re going need him down the stretch. If he can give us 15, 20 minutes of what he did at Florida, it’ll be a great help for what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

On the biggest area for improvement for the team …
“Defense. We gotta hang our hats on defense. We gotta be a defensive team. Defensive wins championships, like the quote says. We got great guards. They’ll control the game, do their part. We just gotta be able to stop people.”

On taking pride in proving athletes are not students …
“I take a lot of pride in it. Morals and hard work and work ethic like my parents instilled in me growing up. Making sure I pay attention to school and everything like that. I’m just glad that their hard work’s paying off.”