Kentucky Basketball Previews Tennessee

Hawkins, Willis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Tennessee Pregame Quotes
Kenny Payne
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 1, 2016


Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne


On what to look for if Tyler Ulis needs a break …
“He definitely needed a break. At this point, it’s been unbelievable what he’s done.  But we as coaches, we’ve got to come up with something; a rotation, something we can create to give him a break so he can finish games for us.”

On what has been considered in order to give Ulis a break …
“Every option. Moving Dom (Hawkins) in more, playing Derek Willis. Nothing concrete, but we’re just exploring everything.”

On if it affected Ulis playing in the Kansas game for so long …
“I don’t know if it affected him. I just thought that we needed a couple of stops and a couple rebounds, and that game never goes to overtime. So I can’t blame him for being tired. He played great. We just needed defensive energy and unbelievable fight down the stretch of the game. And we did for the most part. But it all didn’t go our way.”

On if a different rotation could benefit Isaiah Briscoe as well …
“No question. We’ve got to find a way to get Isaiah, Jamal (Murray) and Tyler around 30 minutes, 32, 33 minutes a game.  Some kind of way.”

On if the guard or forward position is more taxing …
“The key to our success right now is ball pressure, so we’re trying to play 40 minutes really pressuring the ball, really dictating the plays, really getting out in transition. So for those three guards (Ulis, Murray, Briscoe), it’s taxing. It’s very taxing.”

On when the decision was made that Dominique Hawkins was going to play on Saturday …
“Game time. We didn’t know up until when the game started. The way the game was going, we thought he could help us. He tried and did a good job. He missed a couple open shots, but we’re not worried about that. We need defensive pressure.”

On why Alex Poythress didn’t want to go to the middle of the floor against the triangle defense …
“I don’t know. We work on it every day. The key for an offensive player is to establish the middle of the court. Alex has a tendency of wanting to go baseline and spin it to the middle, and now it’s become predictable. We want him to take the middle first, and then if he has to spin back baseline, that’s fine. But then take the middle of the court first.”

On whether the staff was pleased with Skal Labissiere’s offensive performance, specifically in the mid-range game …

“We hope so. I mean, we’re not worried about Skal offensively at all. Our big deal with Skal is, will you fight defensively, keep your man in front, block shots and rebound? If he does that, he’ll play as many minutes as he can handle.”

On improving Skal Labissiere’s rebounding …
“We want him to snatch the ball and work on defensive rebounding every day. We want him working on offensive rebounding every day. He just has to go out and have confidence in doing it in practice no different than he does it in games. We’re not simulating a rebounding drill at half speed when in a game it’s full speed. We’re simulating a game situation. Go get that rebound, snatch it and bring it in. For whatever reason, the past two or three games he can’t get a ball. He can do it. In practice he does it, not as consistently as we’d want, but he’s trying. I think it’s mental and he’ll get over it. I think it’s important that he gets over it because we need him on the floor and we need him to block shots and shoot the ball the way he did.”

On Labissiere’s positioning in rebounding situations and if it’s a matter of him not being in position or just not being physical enough …
“I think it’s a little bit of both. I think some of it is a reluctance to make contact first. We have a philosophy that the aggressor wins, so I’m going to make contact first and I’m going to attack the ball.”

On whether Tennessee’s smaller lineup will help build confidence in the Kentucky post players …
“I think Tennessee is a very scrappy team. You’re right in that they aren’t that big, but they send four and five guys to the offensive glass at times and this will be a game where we need those guys to step up and play well. Everyone, one through five, needs to step up, rebound well, and fight. At the end of the day, these games are as much about strategy as they are the will to win.”

On Derek Willis’ improved play and need to stay out of foul trouble …
“No question. He has to be really smart. He’s had a lot of success and it started about a month ago with him embracing rebounding and fighting and defending in practice. And for some reason, thank God it did, it translated to games. From that point to today, he’s been unbelievable. He got in some foul trouble and we like for him to play without fouling. You can say some of the fouls he got were ticky-tac, but that’s the referee’s calls and not ours. Just got to play a little smarter.”

On the importance of Marcus Lee’s strong play …
“Same thing, same as Derek. Just focus and bring the energy. He makes our team a lot different when he’s energetic. Defensively, when he’s snatching rebounds, when he’s sprinting the floor, getting lobs, we need that from him. It’s vital. When we don’t have that, it hurts us.”

On having veteran like Hawkins back against Kansas …
“I thought it helped. I thought, you know, that Dom has seen some really tough games, so his experience helps us. We like to go forward. He’s been hurt so much. He had a high ankle sprain and he’s missed over a month. We need him. We need him on the floor. He helps us give Tyler the rest and Jamal the rest and Isaiah the rest that they need.”

On “no-catch” defense on Wayne Selden and how often they do that against teams …
“If a guy has got it going on. If a guy is an offensive player that can get going, shooting 3s and making jump shots, we’ll do that. Haven’t don’t it a lot but we have done it before. For some reason, he (Selden) got open. We hesitated at times and he didn’t need much room. He let it go. He had a great game. He played well against us.”

On what makes Kevin Punter so effective…
“He’s (Punter) aggressive offensively. He gets shots. His team needs him to shoot the ball and he does. He does a great job of going to the free-throw line. He’s attacking at all times. He’s a handful.”

On the mindset going into tomorrow’s game...
“It’s the same every game for us. We’re not the most talented team. We can go to Tennessee and play well and lose. Our guys know that, so we have to go out and fight for every possession, especially defensively and especially rebounding. We’ll manufacture points. The key to us winning is going out and fighting defensively and rebounding that basketball. Tennessee is capable of beating us. We know it. Our team knows it.”

On trying to build momentum this week …
“Just continue to do what we do. Continue to defend, continue to rebound and continue to fly up the court. To play offense with confidence and just go after people. Play desperately.”

On Kentucky recognizing any team can beat them …
“For the last few weeks, one of the things that we’ve been harping on is, ‘Guys, we’re not one of the most dominant teams like last year. We can beat anybody, but on the flipside anybody can beat us. So don’t overlook anybody, don’t take anybody for granted. Just know when you step on that court, that team is going play well. Maybe they’re going to play better than they’ve played against anybody else. Most teams do against Kentucky, so just go out there and fight for 40 minutes.’ ”

On the loss at Auburn being a wake-up call for Kentucky …
“No question about it. I don’t think they’ve played the same since they played us.”

On if UK has played different since the loss at Auburn …
“Definitely has been a difference. There has been more focus on defending. There has been desperateness about us. We need to continue to do that. I think we have 10 more regular-season games – somewhere around there. It’s coming to an end, and it’s time for us to establish who we are.”

On how Labissiere is different from other players he’s coached …
“He’s a little bit newer to the situation of having to go through the hard work and having to adjust to it. I mean, Anthony (Davis) was thin as well, but Anthony embraced hard work – not to say that Skal doesn’t. Anthony thought he was 260 pounds. Karl Towns thought that he was without a doubt the best big man in the country that could play multiple positions. This kid just doesn’t know it all yet, but he’s getting better. He’s learning. He’ll continue to learn.”

On Labissiere gaining confidence on offense and if that’s translating to other phases of the game …
“He’s making shots, no question. I see him trying more. I see him trying better to do the little things we need him to do: trying to fight. We just need him to do a little better. Not on the offensive end. It’s not about the offense. It’s about defending, blocking shots, rebounding. The offense will come.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#25, Dominique Hawkins, Guard


On whether he is 100 percent …
“It’s getting close. I really don’t know. I gotta talk to the doctor about it, but it feels really good right now to be honest.”

On how frustrating it has been to not be playing …
“Oh, definitely. But there comes times that you gotta bounce back from stuff like this.”

On what it felt like to get in the game …
“I really didn’t know if I was going to get in. I was just ready for the moment. If Coach put me in, I was ready to play. And that environment was crazy. It was the loudest environment I’ve played.”

On whether it was the loudest environment he ever played in …
“Probably, yeah. Ever.”

On needing a guard rotation …
“Definitely need another guy because they can’t go in and play all 40 minutes. And if they could, they’d be, like, not a human to be able to play that. Definitely you need somebody off the bench to find a role and come in and give good minutes off the bench.”

On whether he could sense Tyler Ulis getting tired at Kansas …
“Yeah, I definitely could sense it because he was in the whole game. His defensive effort, what he was doing, was tremendous. And then his offense as well, to be able to play that many minutes and do as well as he did is unbelievable.”

On Calipari saying they miss him …
“Oh, definitely makes you feel good. If anybody’s told they’ve been missed, it’s going to make them feel good.”

Especially when Cal says it …
“Especially Cal (laughter).”

On being told they can both win and lose every game …
“Oh, definitely. That’s an everyday basis thing that we hear because we know when we play so well nobody can beat us, but when we have days that we don’t play as well anybody can beat us.”

On whether that’s a hard thing to grasp …
“It is kind of tough because you actually gotta come out and play your ‘A’ game every day. There’s no slack. Last year, if a guy wasn’t playing as well there was another guy that could come in for like the platoon. And this year, every guy’s gotta be able to find a place and play their role and be able to win games.”

On how often they went into a game thinking they could lose last year …
“I don’t ever think we had the mindset of that. We don’t even have the mindset of that this year. We treat every game like we’re going to win and be able to come out and play to the best of our abilities.”

On what Tyler Ulis says about his minutes …
“He really doesn’t say—you’d have to ask Tyler because he really doesn’t talk to me about his minutes.”

On whether he was nervous at Kansas …
“Not at all because I’ve been in big games before. I just looked at it as another game and an opportunity to play.”

On whether Cal didn’t tell him he was going to play until he told him to check in …
“We kind of talked about it. He asked me if I was good enough to play and if I needed to go in I was able to play.”

On why they lost Wayne Selden when they were playing no-catch defense …
“I don’t remember me guarding Selden, but in deny I guess they maybe set some screen plays or something to get him open. But we were told to deny and he somehow found the ball still.”

On the environment at Thompson-Boling Arena …
“It’s a hard to place to come in and win. That environment there is crazy. They’ll probably have a sellout crowd and be waiting for us.”

On the environment at Allen Fieldhouse …
“It was amazing down there. I feel like it was probably the loudest I’ve ever played in before. It’s very hard to win there. They’re on a 30-something (game) winning streak there.”

On what they learned about themselves at Kansas …
“We learned that we just have to find a way to win games at the end. We just have to have better leadership and people to make plays at the end.”

On if he felt rusty Saturday at Kansas …
“No, not really. I just feel like it was just a moment where I just didn’t make shots. I had great opportunities and good looks at the basket, I just couldn’t knock it down.”

On how it felt to get back on the court …
“It felt great. Been waiting for a while to come back in and play with my brothers.”

On his thoughts after suffering the high ankle sprain and breaking his hand earlier in the year …
“I just looked at it as another way to bounce back, and when I come back I’m going to make another opportunity for myself when I get back on the court.”

On his reaction that he was going to go in at Kansas …
“I wasn’t shocked at all because I knew if I was ready I would probably be getting in the game. Once he said my name I was ready to go.”

On the importance of being ready when your name is called …
“It’s very important because you never know when you’re going to get the chance to go into a game. And if you perform well, next game you might get another chance to be able to perform.”

On what being a veteran adds to the team …
“It adds a lot. There are some people that look up to me in practice and ask me what to do and stuff like that. Leadership is a big thing about this team. We need it. Definitely going on the road we have a lot of freshmen that haven’t played in road games and it’s a big deal for this team.”

On how much of a focus in practice is for him to be brought up so Tyler Ulis can rest more in games …
“He definitely needs a rest with what he’s doing. He’s doing everything he possibly can do on offense and defense. Somebody on the bench is definitely going to have to find a way to impact the game when we take him out.”

On Coach Cal saying, “We need Dom back” …
“It means a lot. It makes me know that Coach has a lot of confidence in me when he puts me in games.”

On if that puts added pressure on him or if that’s “good pressure” …
“It’s a good kind of pressure. Once I get in I know I have to perform at a high level and just continue what I’ve been doing in the past.”

On Coach Cal getting on him after a Kansas player hit a 3 and if that happens often …
“No, it doesn’t happen very often. I made a mistake, but you always learn from your mistakes and then you move on about it.”

On if he thinks, despite it being a loss, the Kansas game could serve as a building block for the team …
“Definitely. We came in and competed with fight, and we learned a lot from that game. Our biggest thing is we just have to learn how to win at the end of games.”

On what that means to win at the end of games …
“Winning, not making any mistakes at the end, getting guys together in huddles, listening to coach and executing our offense.”

#35, Derek Willis, Forward


On if he’s ever played in an environment like Kansas before …
“Not that I can remember. It was a really fun game and it had bleacher seating, so it was going to be even louder than expected. It was just a fun environment. The night before the game, we had a shootaround, and it was just cool taking everything in and stuff. It was just really fun.”

On what the team learned about itself being in a close game like that …
“I think it’s just kind of the theme of the year. Anybody can beat anybody. I think we’re improving. We have a lot of desperateness when we play, I would say. Getting tougher and we’re starting to fight and it’s been good. Just improving on that.”

On his foul trouble against Kansas …
“It’s just how the games go, you know. The refs have the hardest job in the world, so they’re just going to do what they can. Before every game when I start, I go out and shake the refs’ hands. It’s just how it is. They just call it how they see it.”

On if he’s ever been in a game where all the bigs have been in foul trouble …
“I think – What was it, earlier in the season maybe, I think we has some games where Alex (Poythress) and maybe Marcus (Lee) had fouled out. Skal (Labissiere) maybe, one of them. I mean, it’s just how the game goes you know. Maybe we need to improve on defense, start lunging more and sliding. But you just have to be prepared and have to make adjustments as the game goes along.”

On Coach Cal saying Willis’ girlfriend has been helping him improve …
“Honestly, I haven’t heard a lot about it. I know like the assistant coaches have been kind of messing with me a little bit about it. But that is kind of the truth though. My dad and my girlfriend, they’re being positive and supportive and I guess it’s just kind of helping me in the mindset and everything like that.”

On how they focus for a Tennessee team that’s struggling …
“I think that’s the thing too. I mean, we honestly don’t know any of the teams’ records or like really pay attention to any of that. It’s never really spoken of until that’s the next game. So we come with the same mindset of we have to play this team hard and be the aggressor, and the outcome should be in our favor if we do that. But like I said, we’re just looking forward to that game. We’ve prepared really well with the day or two we’ve had.”

On Tennessee being small and if UK’s size can take advantage …
“I think so. You just pound it inside and I think Alex could have a game where he could go for 30 and does a lot of good things. Skal I think could be pretty good in this game. I think what we need to do is just keep the tempo up and running. So it’ll be interesting though.”

On how he goes from a surprise to a starter to being a consistent contributor …
“I think it’s – I don’t know. I guess one way to put it is that I’m proud of myself. A lot of the work I have put into it is starting to pay off and I just want to keep being consistent and just contributing to the team honestly.”

On if it’s a new challenge to learn how to deal with success …
“Not really. I look at it as the same way as I always have and just don’t take it for granted. Enjoy the time that I have, where I’m at right now. Any day it could change. So that’s just what I’m doing.”

On if he would say refereeing is the easiest job in the world …
“Without a doubt, no. No, easily the hardest job. I do not want to be a referee. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a referee. It’s something I would never want to do.”

On if anybody appreciates refs …
“I mean, you have your bad refs and you have your good refs. But appreciated, I don’t know if that would be a word I would say to describe a ref. I don’t know.”

On what would be a good word …
“A word to describe a referee? Difficult I would say. It’s a difficult job.”

On how much the three guards need relief …
“Tyler (Ulis) definitely. I mean, what did he play like 44, 45 minutes? Yeah he played like stupid minutes. Then Isaiah (Briscoe) is cramping up and Jamal (Murray). It was all getting fatigued. So yeah, they need to rest. That’s why we take the timeouts when we can. That’s like their breaks. So that’s just how it is right now.”

On Coach Kenny Payne saying he could be a relief player and bumping him to small forward …
“Yeah they might bump me down to the three position. So that could be a thing. I don’t know. I’m just trying to be prepared for that. I think it’s more of just changing my mindset again to guard the three now.”