Kentucky Basketball Previews Ohio State

Humphries, Ulis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Ohio State Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 17, 2015


Head Coach John Calipari


On Skal Labissiere being antsy to leave Cal’s house after staying over for a night …
“No, he just had someone coming and getting him. He’s fine. We’re trying to do a little bit what we did with Josh (Harrellson) where he’s doing extra training before, and it kind of buries you. So he will probably take that step back before he starts taking those steps forward, similar to Josh. He’s going to do fine.”

On why he thinks that’s the approach with Labissiere …
“Because I think, again, just like Josh, he wasn’t in the kind of condition you need to be in to perform at a high level. It’s hard. A lot of it is mental, so you do things to make it tough where he has to convince himself I can do this. It’s a will you have to have. I can do this vs. I can’t do this.”

On how big of a surprise Isaiah Briscoe has been …
“He’s been terrific. I got calls from back in New York, like, they cannot believe it. Like, he never really guarded. Now he’s become the best that you’ll see – the best rebounding guard. They watch how he’s playing north and south and there’s no east and west. Every once in a while it comes out because it’s in there. And they’re even a little surprised he’s not shooting free throws better or making more open shots. But I’ll say this: Bob Rotella, who is here today, said today, ‘Your teams, historically, play so hard that they get to the foul line and it’s hard to slow down (with) the way we play. So don’t be surprised about it.’ And I said, ‘You’re right, it takes a while to figure out.’ ”

On if Briscoe is the type of player to thrive going home …
“I don’t know. I hope so because we’re going to need him to thrive. We don’t have enough guys. You take one guy like Alex (Poythress) or you take one guy like Marcus (Lee), you take one guy like Tyler (Ulis) – you take one guy out of this mix, we’re really not nearly the same team.”

On if he brought Rotella in for a specific reason …
“He was with me in Amherst last night so I said, ‘Why don’t you jump on the plane and come back. Might as well spend a day.’ So he met with a couple of the guys, he’ll meet with the team and then he’ll fly out this afternoon.”

On if there is anything he wants Rotella to tell them …
“No, I just want him to get with them and let them open up and talk and figure out where they are. I want him to help me do my job better. Is there something that I really have to give that I’m not giving? Because at the end of the day this isn’t about me. This is about me getting these kids to be their best. We’re moving in that direction. It’s just an inexperienced team. It’s all new to these guys.”

On if Rotella mostly met with Labissiere …
“He mostly met with me, Jerry (Tipton). After he meets with me for about two hours, Bob goes back to Charlottesville and meets with his psychiatrist.”

On Marcus Camby potentially coming down to meet with Labissiere like he mentioned on an earlier teleconference …
“I was (being serious). I was. I was. And I talked to Skal about it. When you’re a big kid and you’ve not been through this and you don’t have a whole lot of weight and it’s start to overwhelm you and it starts to play on you, Marcus went through that. It took him the good part of two years, and then in his third year he was in his own and did his thing. And it’s a different and age right now where it’s like, OK, you have six months. It shouldn’t be that way. They shouldn’t think in those terms, but they do. They all do.”

On if Cal talks to Anthony Davis much as his team is struggling …
“I just tell him to just keep leading. You’ve got to make guys understand that they have a chance. When you’re not healthy in that league, and I was in that league – in fact, I got fired in that league, so I can give you what it takes to be fired – but he is on a team that doesn’t have enough pieces. If you take two of those pieces, you’re not winning. Listen, there’s no Texas Corpus-Christi, there’s no Popcorn U coming up. They’ve got to play the Milwaukee Bucks. ‘Well they’re struggling.’ Well, they just beat the Warriors. Then you go and play San Antoino. ‘Well they’re getting old.’ Yeah, they’re old, but they’re beating everyone with their depth. So he’s got to lead and hold things together ‘til everyone’s healthy and tell them that it’s going to be fine. I know he’s devastated. I’ll tell you what – it’s Terrence Jones. He’s devastated by what’s happening. And he’s not worried about him, they want to win. It’s about winning for the – I know John Wall right now is struggling. They want to win. So it’s, you know, you try and stay in touch and you try to give them comments and things they can think about. I get a report every day of what every player in the league that I’ve coached is doing, what they’ve done and how their team has done. I glance at it each morning and see if there’s anyone I need to get in touch with.”  

On how different the Camp Cal period will be this year…
“Well, we’ve already started, which I’ve never done.  I did back in the day when I was nuts, but normally I wait.  But this team needs to start now and start refocusing.  Needs to get extra work in.  But we’ve started.  We’ve started doing it twice where you’re practicing but you have another 30-40 minutes doing some conditioning stuff on the side.  We’re doing—a lot of it’s individual, what they need.  We’re a ways away.  We haven’t figured it out.  We’re still trying to figure out, how do we really want to play?  And it’s really funny how each guy is tied to the other.  Like, we need them all to—you don’t need to be great.  Just be your best version.  You can’t come out and look defeated because it affects all of us. You can’t compete.  You’ve got to battle.  You don’t have to make every shot, but you can’t come out and look defeated. And so they’re all tied to one another and we’ve seen them all.  We’ve all seen them. Like the second half against Arizona State, there were a couple other games where they really came together and played well. We’ve just got to try to build toward that.  That’s what we’re trying to do.”

On if Tai Wynyard will play immediately…
“Well, I had Joe Kleine when I was with the New Jersey Nets. We made the big trade.  And Joe wanted to see me, and I got into the arena a little bit late.  I said, ‘Joe, let me do the board and then I’ll talk to you.’ And then I didn’t get a chance to talk to him and a trainer came in and said, ‘Should I give him a uniform?’ ‘Give him a uniform.’ And literally, he just walked in the arena, give him a uniform. And we’re playing the game. And Joe Kleine, he’s been in the league for 12 years.  I mean, come on.  So I looked and I said, ‘Joe, why don’t you get in there?’ And it’s in the second half. ‘Get in there and play some.’ So he walks up to me and he says, ‘Hi, by the way, I’m Joe Kleine.’  He shook my hand and then he went in the game. So, I might.”

On Tai Wynyard’s arrival … 
“He was so excited. He was hitting his leg. We hugged. He was happy to be here. He flew overnight, you know, to get here. It’s just, you know, he just wants to be a part of it. I don’t know what that will mean right away or what it will mean this year. But, you know me, if he’s going to help us win he’ll be on that floor.”

On adding a new player midseason and how it affects team chemistry … 
“Well, the good news is that we have no team chemistry yet, so we’re still trying to figure out who we are. It may prolong it. But, if it helps us, if he gives us a physical presence and he’s able to go in there and bang and changes who we are and what we’re about and puts guys in better positions, then he’s going to have that opportunity. We’re literally, like, trying – offensively, defensively – we’re trying different things. They’re trying. I keep telling my staff, ‘They’re listening.’ We just hope we’re telling them the right things because they’re listening and trying. There’s no push-back. There is the will, the drive, the inner strength, the mental toughness, that is lacking in most young teams is lacking in this team to this point. And a lot of times – it was like Alex (Poythress) after UCLA. I said, ‘How’d you feel?’ He said, ‘I was embarrassed.’ I said, ‘Did you like the feeling?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, then don’t ever feel that way again. If you don’t like that feeling, then run from that feeling, because in the next game, you dominated. You dunked. You could have been 9 for 9 from the floor. You were 9-for-12. You rebounded. Did you like that?’ ‘Oh, I really liked it.’ Well, how about we chase that feeling? And so, this team right now we’re trying to figure out who we are. We’re trying to – I like my team. I like the talent. They’re great kids. They’re trying. But, they are really connected more than any team I’ve had.”

On if that also describes Ohio State at this stage in the year … 
“You would have to talk to their coach. I have enough trouble coaching my team. I would tell you, if they’re young they’re probably going through what we’re going through.”

On the experience of having his jersey retired to the rafter at UMass last night … 
“It was kind of overwhelming. It was overwhelming because I saw some people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and people who were so appreciative that this was done for them too because it was all of us. Ellen and I just saw friends and connected with people that we’ve stayed in touch with, and other people you just had a 10-minute conversation with, ‘Tell me what your life’s been? We haven’t seen you and you were so important to us. Sorry we haven’t stayed in touch.’ There were 300 people in Boston that went. The players got up and spoke. And again, we knew them when they were 18. Now, they’re 40. So when you hear Lou Roe and Marcus Camby and Derek (Kellogg) you’re like, ‘Wow.’ I was really like ready to say, ‘I don’t need to speak after hearing those guys.’ Then this thing on campus – and they won. They wore black uniforms. The reason I don’t wear black uniforms, my teams have never won in a black uniform. Ever. I think one game we went out in black uniforms and went back and changed at halftime to white. I believe I did that. I believe I did. But they came out in the black. The script U and Mass looked unbelievable. They should go back to it to be honest with you. It really looked good. But, the black uniform, I’m like, ‘What is he doing?’ And then they ended up winning in overtime. Like, overtime. But, it was a good win and it was great seeing all of the guys. We probably had 15-20 players there. It was good. They have a nicer practice facility than ours. I told them, ‘I’m going to go back and work on that here.’ Their practice facility they built is really, really nice. Like really spacious, like really nice. It was surprising.  Derek had a good recruiting year. I’m anxious to see now that growth and where they’re going.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#15, Isaac Humphries, F


On if he’s banging a little bit extra with Skal Labissiere to toughen him up …
“Not more than usual. I mean, we bang all the time anyways. So nothing more.”

On how Labissiere is doing …
“He’s doing fine. I think he’s just getting better every day like all of us are. He’s just trying as hard as he can.”

On if it’s tough to make that transition as a freshman player …
“Yeah. It’s just a different place, especially at Kentucky. It’s a different environment that none of us have ever really experienced before. So it takes time to adjust.”

On if he’s banged with Tai Wynyard yet …
“Not yet, no. I only just saw him.”

On if Wynyard is a big guy …
“Yeah, he’s big. He’s grown since I’ve seen him last.”

On who is bigger: Wynyard or him …
“I think I was bigger. But I don’t know.”

On what his memories were of Wynyard as a player and how does he picture him fitting in …
“It was at least three years ago. I mean, he was just a solid body. He was probably the most competition in that tournament that we played in. But I don’t really remember a whole lot to be honest.”

On what he’s seen out of Wynyard that might suggest he could bring physicality …
“For Tai, I think he was playing in the NBO, which is like a – I don’t know what it is, but it’s like a thing in Australia and New Zealand, and he was playing against men. So I guess men are more physical than us, so he’s probably used to a lot more banging. So it’ll be interesting to see how he kind of adjusts to that. I guess over on that side of the world, we do bang a little bit more.”

On why he thinks they bang more there …
“It’s because our reffing and our rules are a little bit different than others. We can bang a lot more and not be a foul, if that makes sense. Whereas here, you kind of just touch them and it’s a foul. We have a lot more lead way to be aggressive.”

On if he likes that style better …
“I think so. I like it, but I’m just used to it. That’s just me.”

On if that’s the kind of adjustment he’ll have to face coming here …
“Definitely. That was a big adjustment for me when I first came here too. Because you are so used to going so hard and banging a lot, and then you come here and the slightest touch is a foul, and you’re like, ‘Woah. What’s a foul in this country? I don’t get it.’ I still struggle sometimes, but it’s alright. He’ll get used to it.”

On what Coach Calipari’s message has been to the team …
“I mean we just need to continue. We’ve been working really hard this week on getting better and getting in shape. We have our Christmas break coming up, so we need to really fight this week for this game on the weekend and get it done. Have a good little break and come back and fight some more.”

On what he anticipates from the break period …
“I’m just expecting practice and learning – just a lot more. Just a lot more of a workload. I mean that’s fine. We’ll get better.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, G


On where the team’s mental state is right now …
“We’re fine. We’re just coming to practice, getting better every day, and trying to focus on the next game.”

On Skal Labissiere’s mental state …
“He’s getting there. He’s fine. He’s been fighting a lot more in practice. Coach has been pushing him really hard and he’s getting to where we need him to be.”

On his role in working with Labissiere being a team leader …
“Just make sure he doesn’t think about it too much. Make sure he doesn’t get down when he doesn’t have a great game. Just try to help him through it.”

On if he talks to Labissiere a lot …
“Yeah, on the court I talk to him a lot. A little bit off the court. I feel like he’s fine, he’s going to be OK. Every day in practice he understands what he needs to do for the team and he’s trying his best to do it and I know he’s going to get there.”

On what he thinks he knows about his team now after 10 games that he didn’t know previously …
“We just have to play harder as a team for all 40 minutes of the game. Everybody has to be responsible for doing their job that the team needs them to do. When we do that we’re pretty good.”

On what bothers him the most that has happened to the team thus far …
“I don’t really have anything specific.”

On what changed with their improved 3-point shooting in the second half versus Arizona State …
“Nothing changed, they just went in. Me and Jamal, we’re trying to shoot the ball. I can’t believe I can’t make any shots right now, but they’re going to fall. We’re going to keep shooting and go from there.”


On if he feels like he’s been taking good shots …
“Oh yeah, they’ve all been good shots. They’re leaving us open so you just have to knock them down.”

On if he thinks other teams will continue to leave them open and take away the paint …
“Yeah, I feel like that’s what teams are going to do because we have three guards who try their best to get into their defense. They’re going to live with the outside shot. We have to knock them down.”

On how he feels about that …
“I feel like I can shoot, so I’m happy with guys leaving me open. They just gotta fall.”

On adding Tai Wynyard in the middle of the season …
“It’s another big body for us and we can’t wait to see what he can do on the court. We’ll have to help him through this because he’s so late into the season, him coming in. He’s going to be a little bit behind.”

On how far away he’s going to be coming in at this stage …
“That’s anywhere in the country. It’s a new team for him so he’s going to have to get used to everyone and used to Coach Cal.”

On if he has met Wynyard yet …
“No, not yet.”

On if he can envision what will be the hardest thing for him to catch up on …
“I don’t know, honestly. Probably learning how everybody plays and getting the chemistry that we have as a team.”

On what he likes about this team through 10 games …
“We’re pretty good. We’re skilled. We just have to fight, like I said. That’s all we need to do is fight, and continue to get defensive stops and we’ll be good.”

On if there’s been a player who has been a pleasant surprise with how they’ve played …
“I feel like Zay (Isaiah Briscoe) has played very well, doing his job defensively and offensively, trying to rebound the ball, guard any position and get to the basket, which Cal wants him to do.”

On whether he and Briscoe have the same mentality …
“Yeah, that’s my boy. We’re trying to go out there and win, just try to do whatever we have to do and do whatever it takes.”

On his elbow …
“I’m good. It’s not a problem anymore. It has nothing to do with my shooting now, so I’m just trying to go out there and keep playing.”

On whether it was a problem before …
“I mean, the first game I got back, yeah. But other than that, no.”

On how to avoid the addition of Tai Wynyard affecting chemistry …
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in that position. I don’t feel like it’s going to mess up the team’s chemistry, adding one player, though.”

On how to help Labissiere …
“We’re just trying to talk to him in practice and get him right and prepare him for the games.”

On what Labissiere said about his sleepover at Coach Cal’s house …
“I didn’t know they had a sleepover until now.”

On Labissiere’s confidence …
“I feel like he’s confident. It’s just, it’s hard. He’s gotta fight for us as a team and he’s going to get there. I feel like he’s working hard at it, he’s doing his best and he’ll be fine.”

On whether Labissiere is feeling pressure …
“No, I think he’s good. He’s coming to practice every day working hard, he’s in here late nights trying to get his game right and he’s going to be ready.”

On whether he knows anything about Ohio State …
“No. I know a couple of their guys, but other than that, no.”

On whether they feel a sense of urgency with the Louisville game up next …
“No, not really. We’re not trying to—we’re not getting ready for Louisville right now. We got a game ahead of us, so we haven’t really thought about that. But we’re trying to get tougher for us as a team because that’s something we need to do.”

On whether road trips are good for chemistry …
“Yeah. Just getting used to each other even more because we’re on the road together. There’s no school. We’re just all in the hotel room. Last year as a team, we started bonding late in the season playing Smash Brothers and certain types of video games and I feel like once we start doing that we’ll be a great team as well.”

On whether he’s going to break the game back out …
“No, I don’t play the game much.”

On whether this team is ready to start playing great ball …
“I think so. We just have to become more tough as a team and Cal’s stressing that a lot in practices and we’re getting there.”

On whether they’re getting tired of hearing about toughness …
“No. We understand as a team we need to toughen up and we’re just trying to listen to him and do that.”

On the importance of this time when they can focus on basketball …
“It’s good. We can all just lock in as a team and individually (in) workouts and practice and just try to get to where we need to be as a team.”

On whether he expects Camp Cal to be more intense this year …
“Yeah. I feel like it’ll be a lot different because with last year’s team we had so many guys. We played 10 guys and we had toughness (so) we didn’t have to do this, but this year we’re so young and we have a lot to work on.”

On whether Camp Cal might not be fun …
“I don’t know. Basketball’s always fun, but we’ll see.”

On whether he expected Camp Cal to be worse than it was last year …
“No, not really. Because I’m usually good with anything they throw at us. But this year I feel like it’s going to be a lot harder.”

On whether he considers himself a basketball junkie …
“Um, yeah. I guess so. I’ve been playing it so long. I can’t imagine not having it in your life.”

On how many guys on the team are basketball junkies …
“I feel like everyone is or they wouldn’t be here at Kentucky. Because we understand what type of stage we’re on and if you don’t love the game you can’t play.”