Kentucky Basketball Previews Texas A&M

Kentucky Men's Basketball
UK-Texas A&M Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center - Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 19, 2016


John Calipari


On Marcus Lee’s status …
“I haven’t seen him yet.”

On Derek Willis’ status …
“Haven’t seen him yet.”

On how important Lee and Willis’ availability is … 
“Obviously you want to have a full team, but you go with who’s there. Marcus went out and we played better. Next man up; it’s what we’ve done. I walked into the locker room, ‘Alex can’t go today.’ What? I waked into the locker room, ‘Isaiah (Briscoe) hurt his ankle in the warmup line.’ What? Next man up, that’s how we do it here.”

On if injuries have been more of a problem this year than in years past …
“No. It’s normal stuff. Normal wear and tear.”

On how Willis is coming along…
“He’s doing great. We’re really proud of him. You know, he’s just like the two that walked in (Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Ulis). We have five games left, it’s a long season and they’re all beat up a little bit. Everybody else’s team is beat up the same way. You just have to go and play. They are isolating him a little bit, but he’s getting better. The confidence he’s built in us and in himself in his offense, now he has to do the same defensively. There is such a thing as defensive confidence and he doesn’t have it right now. His feet are moving. He’s getting like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ Well, if you shoot the ball like that, you aren’t making them. If you try to defend that way you’re going to get beat on a bounce. Jamal (Murray) was there for a little bit and now he is getting more confident in his defense and his ability. The only way to work through it is we go every day and we do the drills to get those guys to move their feet, to stay in front, to make the guys score through their chest, don’t go for ball fakes. They still do it. It doesn’t matter that every day in practice we make them stay down. They’re not machines. They’re not computers. They revert back to some of their old habits at times.”

On what Texas A&M looks like when the Aggies are playing well …
“They have a great post game. They have guards that are creative and make plays. Obviously (Danuel) House can go for 40. They have other guys that come off the bench and shoot the ball well. (Alex) Caruso is one of the best passers you will ever see. He tries to steal every ball so you have to be careful. You can’t just throw a lazy pass because that’s a layup. They get into transition and they run it very good. They throw it ahead and just put their heads down and go to that basket. They’ve struggled some, but everybody has. We’re all in the same boat. You have six teams that are right there to have a chance to play postseason, and we’ve all struggled. At one point in the season or another, we’ve all struggled. We have five games left and so do they. It should be a terrific basketball game.”

On what Texas A&M did better than Ole Miss the other night in their victory …
“They’re so big. If you don’t have a presence that can hold them back a little bit, they can dominate you all around that goal. They’re big and they’re long. Mississippi has a guy that almost had his eye poked out. Mississippi is undermanned right now. I thought they had a chance. Andy (Kennedy) is doing everything he can to keep his team alive right now. When you have injuries with your best two players, you’re trying to survive, and it’s hard.”

On the opportunities Isaac Humphries and Skal Labissiere will have against Texas A&M’s size …
“Well, I think both of them are going to have opportunities like they did, and then whichever one is playing better stays in the game. You just gotta fight. You gotta fight. Stay in front and go get balls. Do all that kind of stuff and you can stay in the game.” 

On the status of Tai Wynyard’s redshirt season …
“I haven’t talked to him. I haven’t seen him today either.”

On what the team needs to improve before tournament play …

“We have a little bit more ability to throw it to the post.

(Derek Willis walks by the media) Calipari asks Willis, “How are you feeling today, Derek?”

Willis responds, “I’m good.”

“There you go. So, he’s good. They asked me and I said I hadn’t seen you yet. Look at his body. You’re like getting muscles. Oh my gosh, he’s got bumps in his arms.”

Assistant strength coach Robert Harris walks in and Calipari says to Harris, “Rob, you’re doing a terrific job with him. Look at his back; he looks like a swimmer.”

Harris responds, “Thanks, Coach.”

On who the team will guard tomorrow …
“The guy with Bermuda shorts and black socks.” 

On if he’s excited to see the media today …
“Yeah, I was excited when he (Eric Lindsey) told me, ‘You know you got media today.’ I’m looking for Novocain.” 

On Isaiah Briscoe’s rebounding …
“He knew. He knew when Marcus Lee – he said, ‘Coach, I’ve got this. Don’t even say it. I know what you’re going to say to me.’ And he just went in. They’re feeling empowered. The best part of it is I don’t have to battle anybody. They already know what I want them to do. We’ve gotta get Charles (Matthews) playing with more energy. For some reason he’s playing a game that--we’ve gotta get Skal to come up with balls and to fight more. But it starts in practice and then it will carry over into the game. Short of that, I mean every one of these guys–Tyler Ulis, the only thing he did last game –  and I got on him about it – ‘You gotta take the first open shot. You can’t pass up open shots.’ ‘ Well, I was …’ ‘Hey! If you go 1 for 12 and we lose, too bad. You’ve gotta take the first shot. If they’re going under on pick-and-roll, shoot the 3.’ And he’s not a kid that wants to miss shots. So, he’ll figure it out. And so this thing with Isaiah he had a couple of layups that he passed out. No, just take the layup just don’t get fouled.  Don’t try and go in and get fouled. Go in to score the layup or make a pass. But, when he rebounds and defends the way he did, let him go 2 for 10. I could care less. Just don’t get fouled. Shoot a layup or pass it and then it doesn’t matter.”

On if Texas A&M collapses in the lane on defense and if that means this is one of those 15-assist games Calipari says Ulis can have …
“They do. They do. I don’t know if it is a 15-assist game (for Tyler Ulis) because I believe they’re going to trap him some and do some stuff. Billy (Kennedy) will do some different things, so his pass may be the initiating pass and then the next pass may be the assist. You just don’t know. But, they do collapse on drives. They’re really big. So, around the basket you’ve almost gotta get those bigs away from the goal some so can get some at the rim.” 

On when the team stopped battling him and started being empowered …
“I think the South Carolina game showed me they get it. Like Jamal (Murray), I mean, Jamal only made three 3s and had 30 points. That means he got to the line and he got to the basket. So there was one bailout shot he took that game, one. Well, just think about where he was a month and a half ago. Think about how he’s defending. Think about how he’s rebounding. Now he’s not perfect, but none of these kids are. He’s becoming that player now. It’s a winning player. The other guys are doing the same. I mean, Derek broke down a little bit defensively, but he rebounds balls. He blocks shots and if you make seven 3s, break down a couple times. You can’t miss every shot and then give up layup, layup, rebound. You can’t do that, but there are times you’re going in the game and saying, ‘This guy’s gonna get 18 on me. OK, get 22 on him.’ We’ll win that battle and then we’ll make sure the other guys do it.”

On whether he amazed how far Derek Willis has come …
“I’m amazed that he’s fallen in love with this as much as he has. Because before you can be that guy, you gotta fall in love with this. Falling in love means you love every day to come to practice. You don’t become the first one out and the last one in. Like, you run when practice ends. You can’t be that guy. You’re not going to be out on the court and be special. You gotta fall in love with the process. He has. We do the drills; he goes. He’s not the one stopping. He fights and he does his thing and if he makes a mistake he owns up. He’ll say, ‘That’s my fault. I know what I did. I got you. I know it.’ Like I said, he’s on a normal path, guys. He’s on a normal path. You sit the first couple years. Your junior year, you hope to play. Your senior year, you—he’s a junior. So a normal path for him.”

On Jamal Murray and whether he compares to any of his former players …
“He’s not battling (me). ‘Tell me how you want me to play because there’s a lot of different ways I can play.’ But right now he is playing winning basketball. And I’ve had guys come on. I can remember Tyreke Evans early in the year. Oh my gosh. They were telling me one and done? I said, ‘He’s going to be four-and-done.’ And then by the middle of February, you start seeing him. By March he’s the fourth pick—he’s the Rookie of the Year in the NBA after one year. So I’ve had guys do this. They all get it different times. Sometimes it takes years. It takes guys years. And basically, the way you have to play and fight and your will to win, your will to compete, if that’s not there you cannot make it at that next level and then you gotta stick around. You have that will to win; your size doesn’t matter now. My man (Ulis) is 5-9. It doesn’t matter. It will not matter.”

On whether the quick turnaround is good preparation for the NCAA Tournament …
“You could look at it that way, but I asked the guys after the game, ‘Would you rather be practicing or playing games?’ They said, ‘We’d rather play games.’ Good, that’s what we’re doing. A bunch of games we’re playing. Won’t do much today. Most of the guys—the guys who didn’t play a whole lot, six guys, will do individuals. The other guys will get treatment and stretch. Do a little tape work. Do scripting some things that we need to do against them, we’ll script it. We’ll script their stuff and then we’ll watch the tape of yesterday’s game and then get on our way down to Texas.”