Kentucky Basketball Previews Vanderbilt


Kentucky Men’s Basketball 
UK-Vanderbilt Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 26, 2016 


John Calipari


On Vanderbilt now compared with how the Commodores were playing the last time UK faced them …
“After they left us they took a little dip, but they’ve won their last two. They’re really rebounding the ball. They’re scoring the ball around the basket. (Damian) Jones is really doing well. They’re playing a little bigger at guard. They’re defending. It’s always a hard game up there. It’s a hard game.”

On UK facing bubble teams in its remaining three regular-season games …
“I don’t know. I don’t think it matters to us. Every team we play is like, ‘We win this game then we don’t have to win anymore.’ Really? You have 18 games left. So, I don’t think for us it’s every team plays with desperation when they play us. And on the road, it’s them along with a sellout crowd that they haven’t had all year. Or it’s their biggest crowd and all of that stuff. You can check the numbers. I know that some of you will, but I would guess that is what it is.”  

On Derek Willis …
“I haven’t seen him yet.”

On Isaac Humphries’ psyche after the Texas A&M game …
“He’s good. We’re so far by that. Last game he had a chance to get six rebounds and he got two. That’s not going to keep him on the floor especially with Alex (Poythress) back. He knows what he has to do. He’s the first one in. He runs in there and Kenny (Payne) beats the crap out of him, and he loves it. He smiles about it. Some other guys in this back hallway, Isaiah (Briscoe) hiding [as Briscoe walks past and smiles]. They kind of peek around the corner, ‘Are they out there yet?’ ”

On if Humphries will play because of Vanderbilt’s size …
“They’re size though, other than Jones, they’re size is their jump shooters. I mean, they’ll go inside – the big kids will. He’s (Humphries) gotta be able to play the guy out on the floor. That’s a big thing with him. If he can do that, then you can leave him in the game. If he can’t–and it’s not like the guy is beating you off the dribble. You just gotta be able to be in a help position and make sure he’s not getting off 3s.”  

On how they’re different without Derek Willis in the lineup …
“Well, we took 10 3s (without Derek Willis against Alabama), so obviously we played different. We put a few different wrinkles in. We’re going to try a couple of things today. It’s just trying to figure out now – normally we have a different team at the beginning of every year and we reshuffle the deck and here we go. How’s this team play? We’ve had to reshuffle the deck in season like three times now. Like, OK, how do we play now? I’m just trying to make it so these kids are comfortable playing. That it’s the best way for them as a team to play. I’m not caring whose idea it is or ‘Cal ball, that’s how we play.’ I mean, I could care less.  I just want them to be in the best position to win the basketball game.”

On winning the SEC Championship …
“It’s going to be hard for us to because of the schedules, when you look at the schedules. But, we’re going to play the games, and I’m more concerned about us getting better. We have two tough road games and a team that beat our brains in down there (LSU). We could lose all three. But, if we’re playing at a high level and doing what we’re supposed to, we’ll be going into the tournament and we’ll be fine. We’ll build in the SEC Tournament. You can’t really tell. Right now it doesn’t look promising. But, we’ll see.” 

On the performance of this team with all the injuries thus far and particularly Tyler Ulis …
“I’m proud of him. What we’ve been through –  and we don’t talk about injuries or all of that stuff, we just play ball games. The biggest thing is a guy like Tyler Ulis – ‘Tyler Ulis was like that.’ Well, I don’t think so because earlier in the year there was nobody talking about him for player of the year. Now he’s talked about player of the year. You look at Jamal (Murray), there were big questions on Jamal two months ago. Now, all of a sudden, ‘He can play with anybody. This is the best guard tandem.’ You look at Isaiah, the question marks they had, now they’re saying, ‘Just make one or two shots. He doesn’t even have to make them all. Just make one or two. This kid really defends and rebounds.’ You look at Isaac and you say, ‘What?’ I mean, Dom’s (Hawkins) been hurt. We need Dom to make a couple shots. That’s the best thing about when you’re doing this. Basically every day is, will you embrace the process? Just embrace it. And the guys that embrace the process, you see them improve. The guys that don’t – the delusional guys, that I’m just going to do what I do and it’s going to work – it just doesn’t work. It’s hard to get better. Having Alex back and playing like he is. Marcus Lee seems to be kicking it in gear. And now it comes back to that refuse to lose, fight, ‘Do you want that last missed shot – Texas A&M – do you want it worse than they want it? Or are you going to act like I can’t get the ball?’ I mean, that’s—I would say this year, in the end there’s going to be plenty of games where it’s the last play and the tough team made it and won. And that’s in the finish of the season, that’s in conference tournament play and that’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. You watch, the tough team just made a play and the other guy has an excuse and couldn’t get there. ‘I tried.’ ”

On how much improvement his team has made in that area …
“Some, but we’ll see. We need to be in those battles.”

On how many fewer delusional guys he has at this point in the season …
“I’m saying that in a general sense. That’s how we do this. If you don’t buy into the process and you think you’re going to change – it’s kind of like, ‘I’m going to do the same thing over and over again and I’m going to have a different result.’ That’s insanity. You’re not going to have a different result. You’re going to have the exact same result you have now. I call it delusional, insanity. It’s the same.”

On if he thinks Jamal Murray should win SEC Freshman of the Year …
“I don’t know. We’ll let it play out. I know he’s awful good. Woo! Awfully good. And he’s playing winning basketball, which he wasn’t at the beginning of the year. He just played basketball. It was just whatever happened, happened. Now he’s playing to win and you’re seeing a guy on another level. Less shots – you ready? – more points. Less turnovers, more assists. Getting to the foul line. Now, defensively, he’s not as of a liability as he was earlier in the year because he works. Every day he comes out. Guys laughed last game. He said, ‘I’m a stopper, let me guard him.’ He said that at the foul line and they all busted out laughing. But he’s now taken on that mentality: ‘I want to guard.’ That’s the first step, so he’s good. But there are other good freshmen in the league.”

On if Skal Labissiere is coming along as a post guy …
“Not a post guy; he’s coming along as a player. And that’s what he is. It’s just going to take time. The ability; the will to fight through when you don’t feel right; the ability to fight through when you’re getting bumped around; the ability to, as you’re getting bumped around, to still focus on what you need to focus on – it takes time.  A lot of that is just playing basketball. If you haven’t done that, you’re just learning. He’s skilled, he’s big, he blocks shots and he’s got a value on our team.”

On Charles Matthews …
“He’s getting back to being the energy guy. He got away from that. Like, started judging his energy based on shooting and scoring. Well, you’re not going to have a whole lot of energy now. Versus, when somebody walks in the gym, they don’t even think when he shoots an air ball, turns it over. All they watch and say is, ‘Look at his body. Look how energy driven this kid is. Look how much he brings to the court and how much he changes the temperament. That’s who he’ll be his whole career. And if he’s not that, they judge you on things that he’s not as strong on. And that’s what we’ve really been hitting him on, and you know what, I thought the last game was the first game in like four where he added energy to the game.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#15, Isaac Humphries, Forward


On how long it took him to get over the Texas A&M game …
“It was about a good solid 24-hours.”

On why he threw the ball down …
“I was just so excited, I was so pumped up. Tyler (Ulis) came over and was so happy too. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why I did it, but I was just so happy. It was just the first thing I thought of really.”

On how frustrating the ending of the game was …
“I mean, it was just surreal. Like I had no idea what was going on, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was just in shock.”

On not being wise to never throw the ball since he’s from Australia …
“Yeah, that’s definitely not a thing. Like I didn’t know you couldn’t not do that because it’s not an automatic tech-foul if you throw the ball in Australia. If you’re swearing and all that sort of stuff and you throw it, then yeah it’s a tech-foul. But I don’t know, I didn’t know that was a rule.”

On if he ever threw the ball in Australia …
“No, never. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it, which is weird.”

On how much it helped to receive immediate support on getting over the spike …
“Yeah, the support from the guys and the coaches was awesome because I did feel terrible and just their support made me feel better.”

On if he got a laugh out of the spike before the Alabama game from Isaiah Briscoe …
“Oh gosh. Zay, he would do something like that. He does it before every game, but just that game, it was too soon.” (laughter)

On the moment of starting his first game against Alabama …
“It was one of those moments where I just thought a lot of my hard work had paid off for this season, and I was lucky enough to have that opportunity.”

On Tyler Ulis messing with him on telling him where to sit on the bench before the Alabama game …
“Yeah, well I had no idea what I was doing because usually I go and stand in the same spot every time, I watch the video and then do the little huddle thing. But I didn’t know where to go, and he made me sit at the end of the bench and he was like, ‘That’s the five’s spot, that’s the five spot.’ Then everyone was like, ‘What are you doing? Everyone is at that end.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ I don’t know, I was a bit embarrassed. But luckily it was black at that point and no one could see anything.”

On what it says that Coach Cal wanted him to start after the Texas A&M game …
“It just reassures me that he has my back especially at like a time like that. It was also cool to know that he trusted in me to start a game.”

On if he heard from his folks back in Australia …
“Well, our game aired – They swapped it from the LSU game to our game. So a lot of my friends and family were watching it. I made sure that they watched it, so that was exciting.”

On if he heard anything from them about the Texas A&M game …
“I mean, the news went around the world pretty quickly. None of my friends really know much about what it meant, so I just had to explain to them what happened. But I mean, everyone was just supportive.”

On how much more comfortable is he now with his game than he was in November …
“I’ve just grown accustomed to the atmospheres and how intense the game is. I mean, it’s a new team too, so just growing with the team also. I just think we’ve come a long way in that sense.”

On if the team has recognized that the last three opponents are desperate teams …
“It just makes us more motivated to win really. I know that we all just want to go at it and get these three last games. We’re just determined now to get these three.”

On if he looks at opponents to see if they have big players to go up against …
“I mean, we scout a lot. I have to know the personnel of who I’m guarding. For me, rebounding is my biggest thing that I have to do for the team. So if it’s a big guy, you box a big guy out different to a smaller big, like an undersized big. So in that sense, I just have to know how to play them and how to box them out really. That’s my biggest thing.”

On Vanderbilt having big players to go up against …
“I mean, it’s a lot of fun playing against someone your size too. So it’ll be like old times really, playing against bigger people.”

On if the team pulls a lot of pranks on each other …
“I wouldn’t say pranks, but I mean we have a lot of fun together.”

On getting the huge applause from the crowd on starting before the Alabama game …
“I couldn’t hear anything. Like I was so like, ‘What do I do?’ I didn’t really know what was going on until after the game.”

On if he’ll enjoy it more the next time he starts …
“I mean yeah, if hopefully I’ll be able to hear it. You know those moments where just everything blocks out? So it was one of them. I mean, getting called in the starting lineup at Rupp is pretty special.”

On if they’ve watched tape on Vanderbilt forward Luke Kornet …
“Yeah we’ve watched them on tape, and from the last game too, I remember it. I know he’s a shooter and stuff like that. The really tall guy, number three? Yeah, I know he’s a good shooter and he’s as big as me, so that’s cool. It’s always fun.” 

On him hating playing against little players …
“I mean, I don’t hate it, but it’s just another – You have to play them differently.”

On the team possibly playing without Derek Willis …
“We just have to overcome that kind of stuff. We did it with Alex (Poythress) and we did it with Dom(inique Hawkins) in the beginning of the year when he was practicing really well, we didn’t have him in the game. We just get past that adversity and overcome it really. Just next guy up, that’s our thing. The next person just has to rise up.”

On how different the offense is when Derek Willis isn’t playing …
“Yeah, when Derek’s not in, we can’t space out to the 3 as much as we can. Like for me, I can’t pop to the 3. I can only pop to the short, midrange area, where as he can go all the way out to the 3. So I just think spacing wise, it’s a little different. But we just work on it in practice and it’s fine.” 

#23, Jamal Murray, Guard


On how he sees the game …
“We’re looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge. I think this team was ready to get Alex (Poythress) back and Isaac’s (Humphries) playing well, Skal’s (Labissiere) getting better. So we’ll be fine.”

On whether he has seen Memorial Gymnasium’s setup on TV …
“We’ll roll with it. What happens happens. We got great guards. Tyler (Ulis), he’ll get us organized on the other end of the court. But we’ll be fine. It’s a different court.”

On whether he has heard stories about Memorial …
“No. It’s just another basketball game with nothing special about the court.”

On whether he can imagine not being able to hear Coach Cal …
“We didn’t have him for a game, so we kind of experienced that a little bit and came out on top.”

On whether he has even gone through a hot streak like this …
“I mean, I’m not really hot. I’m just hitting shots that I should be hitting and I’m doing it in consecutive games. So I’m just trying to keep this play up and get the W. That’s all we really care about.”

On whether it will be much better if he does get hot …
“A lot better.”

On whether he’s been hotter …
“I’ve been way hotter, yes. But right now I’m just shooting open shots, taking good shots and it’s working out for us. Whatever the team needs me to do to contribute, that’s what I’m going to do.”

On whether he has ever hit 50 or 60 shots in a row in practice …
“Yeah, I’ve done that before. I mean, I can’t do that in a game, but I’ve had a glimpse of it before.”

On what that feels like …
“You should try it sometime (laughter). It’s just a groove that you get into and it’s fun to be able to hit shots like many people can’t hit at a time. It’s a good feeling.”

On whether the basket looks bigger when he gets hot …
“Yeah. You take any shot and you just know it’s going to go in. I have a lot of fun doing that and try to get hot a lot.”

On what he remembers about the first game vs. Vandy …
“We had two really good practices going into the game. Shootaround was great. Everybody was on top of things and everybody read the scouting report and we were prepared for it. We just gotta do the same thing today and tomorrow.”

On whether there was less space on the floor with Derek Willis out …
“I mean, hopefully we get Derek back, but I know it worked out for us. Alex came and did his thing, showed us that he’s back and he’s healthy. He’s going against another tough player on their team. It’ll be fine. We’re just figuring out strategies in our game plan.”

On how their game plan changes with a consistent post threat …
“That just gives the other team different looks. You don’t know what to expect. Sometimes Alex might step up, hit a couple shots. Sometimes Derek might roll and get a couple dunks. So you just don’t know what to expect with this team. Just trying to figure everything out right now and find our comfortable spot and plan.”

On how good it felt to get a bounce-back win …
“Yeah, it felt good to have everybody focused and locked in the next game and try to get everybody to move on and that it was a tough loss for us. But overall we just did well. Happy to get a W and look forward to the next game.”

On wanting to finish the regular season strong …
“For sure. Just try to have winning plays and make sure everybody is prepared and mentally focused, not try to have any lapses. That could us. So guys are doing well right now and we’re just looking forward to having a great shoot-around.”

On UK’s opponents needing wins to boost their NCAA Tournament chances …
“We’re used having everybody’s best shot, so it’s nothing different. We just gotta go in there knowing that the other team’s desperate and they’re focused and you gotta win. We just gotta be ready and have the same anxiousness as them.”

On if he should win the SEC Freshman of the Year award …
“Hopefully I do. I’m just trying to work hard to win that, and prove that I’m one of the top players here. But that’s not really my main focus right now. Just focused on finishing out the season strong, first of all, and putting my team in the best place possible.”

On if he’s surprised that each of the guards can get their numbers and still help the team win …
“We’re not really worried about individual numbers. I mean, this team is more focused on how we’re playing as a team, and as a unit. Just make sure everybody’s involved and everything like that. Like I said, we’re all three point guards playing together. Tyler is doing a great job of running the team and everything, and that’s leading to a lot of wins.”

On transforming from scoring a lot behind the arc to at the basket …
“Just adjusting to how teams are playing me. Some teams deny, some teams just try to run on me, so I just get it to my advantage and keep them on their toes.”

On how Derek Willis opened up the offense and how important it is to get him back …
“He helps you a lot stretching the floor. At the same time, we can have Alex (Poythress) or Isaac (Humphries) on the court and really stretch the floor, open up lanes for us to drive. Like I said, we have different looks, just trying to figure out how we’re going to play for the rest of the season.”

On the advantage of playing different ways on the floor with and without Willis and Poythress …
“Like I said, it’s just different looks. You don’t know what to expect with this team and how we’re going to play. We just go and on the fly change up our style, and it works for us. We just keep teams on their toes.”

On how defenses have operated against him, and if it’s changed over the course of the season …
“Especially this month teams are trying to deny me, but like I said, it’s not just me that’s doing all the scoring. The whole team can do it and produce, so that’s what they’re doing. I’m fine with it. I’m still putting up numbers. It’s hard for them to stop a team that can do everything.”

On if he expects a different Vanderbilt team than the one UK played at Rupp Arena on Jan. 23 …
“For sure. First off, we’re going to their home, and a team that’s on a high right now. They have good momentum, positive vibes and stuff. We just have to go in there and keep our energy and our intensity up, and just focus on the win.”

On how the setup at Memorial Gymnasium may impact things …
“I don’t think it will at all. It’s just a court. Like I said, we’re playing basketball. I don’t put too much focus on what we’re playing on, other circumstances. Just focused on the task at hand.”

On probably not being able to hear Coach Cal if he takes a circus shot because he’ll be on the other end of the court …
“I’ll hear it when I come back on defense. (laughter) But like I said, on opposite ends of the court we have Tyler to make sure we’re organized and stuff when we can’t hear coach. No, we’ll be fine, we got a lot of weapons, and this team is empowered like Coach says. We can handle it on our own.”

On how much this team still wants to prove that it can win away from home …
“I mean, we’re not done proving yet. We just have to make sure we put teams away. Against (Texas) A&M, we had them, fluke plays and stuff like that. We can’t say. We’re just happy to have Alex back. Trying to get this team healthy and make sure we’re a healthy bunch going into March.”

On Humphries putting the Texas A&M game behind him …
“It’s good. He knows that that’s something that it was just excitement. We’re just fortunate to have him, wouldn’t have been there without him grabbing 12 rebounds. He knows that he played a very good role in the game too. We’re just happy to move on and he’s playing well in practice too.”