Kentucky Basketball Previews Wichita State
NCAA Tournament Press Conference
March 18, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Coach Calipari is with us.
Q. John, how late did you state up last night, and how do you feel about two games within less than 48 hours?
COACH CALIPARI: Last night, looking at my watch is why that I had the response I had. Right now, I'm just worried about coaching my team in this next game. They probably didn't get to bed until 1:00 in the morning either. Ours was a little bit later than that.
Two good teams going at each other. Should be interesting.
Q. Most observers, when they think about this matchup, of course they think about the game three years ago. What do you remember most about that game, other than winning it?
COACH CALIPARI: It was a long time ago, and I haven't watched it. I watched it after the game. I know Julius Randle was really big in that game, if I remember right, but a lot of players played well. Their team played well. They had the last shot to win the game, so it was a good battle.
Q. John, Gregg said he showed that tape to this group of Wichita State players to just show them what it's like to go against a Kentucky team and Kentucky bigs, even though the players are different. What are the chances you could do that to show what a Wichita State team coached by Gregg Marshall is like?
COACH CALIPARI: There's all kind of ways of doing this, and it's just not something I would do because the players are all different. And I'm just worried about us playing at our best. We're going to have to have a heck of a game to win the game, we know that, and play better than we played yesterday to win the game.
They're talented. They're big. They're physical. They're strong. They're veterans. Good team.
Q. Seems to be an undercurrent of resentment among the mid-majors about both the tournament bracket and the seedings. Do you think they have a legitimate beef?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there's a couple things. I was at those schools, and I used to always say you can't put them all in one pocket because it doesn't give a group a chance to advance.
Then you had VCU and this team and that team in the Final Four. You know what I'm saying? So then it was the other way.
What's happened right now, the fifth-year transfer has changed and made it tough for some of those schools that are building. It hasn't affected Gonzaga. It hadn't affected Wichita. It hadn't affected some of the other schools.
But the reality of it is that's the issue, and I wish we could deal with it. It's just guys are losing their best players their fifth year. Guys are losing jobs because kids are leaving and going to a major school.
I would say that's having more of an affect on those programs than anything else. I just can't imagine we can't come up with a solution that you have to sit out. If you transfer, you sit out. It's just what it is.
I mean, whether you graduated or not, you sit out. From what I understand, there are programs that have the names of all the kids that have a chance of transferring and playing right away. Who can we grab out of that? Come on.
The problem is those kids play for a coach whose job may be on the line. So you take those kids and now all of a sudden, that guy loses his job. I don't think it says the right thing to the kids. I know it's not right for coaching.
But we'll be mad about one and done. Really?
Q. John, Wichita State really kind of took off in mid-January when they made Landry Shamet the point guard. What are your impressions of him?
COACH CALIPARI: He's really good. He's really good. He's fearless. He's not afraid, can shoot it, runs their team. He's good. He's a good player.
Q. Cal, what has it been like this year to finally coach your own son? Just the experience of -- I know he's been around all your programs forever, but to have him in practice, is that a different dynamic for you?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, being a walk-on in this program is a very hard thing because it's hard to get on the practice floor, let alone the floor. And when Hami came, he kind of had to take a little more of a back seat.
But I'm watching him, and I love the fact that he's in the gym early. He comes on off days. He's working on his game. He's trying to be a great teammate.
My wife's on me all the time, you're up 21, why won't you put him in. Come on. It's just nice being around him, like when we travel. It was my birthday down at Alabama, and I was feeling awful. I was in a room by myself. I call him, say hey, come on up here. Why? Because I'm in a room by myself. Come on up. Dad, please don't make me come up there.
But he still brings clothes over to wash to his mom, though. I know he does that. It's probably against the NCAA rules, but he does it.
Q. John, Wichita State talked about doing the little things, like boxing out, rotating on defense. How well do you guys do those things? How well do they do them? And what difference could that make?
COACH CALIPARI: I've watched four tapes of theirs. I can just tell you that they viciously go after offensive rebounds. If you don't rebound in the game, you don't have a chance to beat them.
They also are not afraid to go inside. They'll be physical when you drive. I mean, you're not getting a clear drive. You're going to have a body on you, something on you.
It's the kind of game that's just a competitive, you know what it's going to be, and you love walking into those kind of games, know how good they are. You got an unbelievable opponent who plays with heart and fight and battles, and you bring your team in, your young team, and say let's see what we are. Let's see what we are at that point.
Our team has gotten better. We really have. But still, there are gaps. And if you have a gap against this team, it will be bam, bam, bam, bam, time-out. What just happened to us? Let's get this back in order.
So I'm looking forward to it just because I know how good they are. It's going to be a hard game, and I want to see how my young guys respond.
Q. John, you seem to be working real hard on coaching your team on the court. You're pretty animated on the sidelines.
COACH CALIPARI: Not as much as I've been. I'm not watching myself either, so I would tell you not as much as I've been. But go ahead.
Q. Two or three weeks ago, you were focusing on the importance of empowering your team. Have you just accepted the fact that this is a group that may need your guidance a little bit more down the stretch?
COACH CALIPARI: Here's what I would say, I think they are empowered. I've empowered my staff. Maybe there are times, though, that I'm looking at this game and saying, we could lose this game, and then I'm going to stand up. This is the end of the year now. This is like when you lose, you fall off the cliff.
So if I have to stand up and yell and grab and do -- I'm going to do what I have to to try to help the team win. At the end of the day, though, this has got to be what they want, not what I want. I've got to be on -- this has got to be me being on a ride with them. I'm just here to -- I told them today, you're prepared for this moment because of what we've done all year. We've worked on all the things that you're going to have to do in this game to do it. Now you'll have to perform. You're going to have to want to be on that stage.
You're going to have an opponent that absolutely believes they can beat you. They're coming at you and they're not going to give you an inch. Do you want it any other way? We know how hard the game is going to be. This is a Sweet 16, Elite Eight game that we're playing. But that's okay.
Q. John, on that subject, how better prepared do you feel like your team is now for a physical, grind-it-out-type game than it was earlier in the year? Or do you think it is prepared for that type of game?
COACH CALIPARI: We are. But, again, they play fast now. They're trying to score, and they'll press and do some different things to try to muck up the game. Sometimes they hard shell and pick and rolls to get you out of rhythm, pressing different ways on the ball, off the ball. Quick trap, try to steal, go back.
So, you know, we'll figure out how ready we are tomorrow when it's tipped off at 2:40. We'll see. But, like I said, when you got young guys, you just hope they want this moment, they want to play in this kind of moment.
Q. Malik struggled, obviously, with his shooting last night and it's been several games. What do you see? Are defenses playing him differently? Is the confidence level not quite there?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he didn't practice this week because he had a lower back, butt bruise, whatever you want to call it. He didn't practice for two days. But what I liked was that he took 2s. He drove the ball. He made free throws.
Because you're not going to be on every game, so you just don't take 12 3s, then. You're not on today. Get the ball to the basket, get fouled, take 2s. He's a great 2-point shooter. They'll still play him to three because he can make seven in a row. He's one of those ones you say, man, he's due. Let's just hope he's due. Come on, he's had about three games where he hasn't made some shots.
But it's nice when you have Dom, when you have Derek, when you have Mychal, but he doesn't have to make 3s. He doesn't, not for our team. De'Aaron Fox is making 3s now. If he does, it's great. If he doesn't, make sure you defend and rebound and take 2s and get fouled and then we'll see if it's the next game.
He'll break out at some point because he's too talented, and he's got a great spirit about him.
Q. How does Briscoe fit into the puzzle this year? How has he been the difference?
COACH CALIPARI: I think his leadership, his defense, his toughness, his rebounding, his ability to get in the lane. I mean, if your team is not attacking that lane, and he gets in 16, 18 times a game, his feet are in that lane.
There's unbelievable value to that. Shooting free throws better, shooting the ball better in the last week or so. His ability to create shots for his teammates. But, more importantly, he just comes up with balls. One we needed yesterday, he's the guy that dove on the floor and scooped it.
He's really become that well-rounded player that I would have hoped. And he's playing with young guys, like he's the guy -- he's the old guy. He's like 20. He's the old guy.
Q. Coach, just to follow up on the Isaiah thing, do you think because of what you just said about his style of play, if he gets to the NBA eventually, he'll succeed more there because of NBA rules, he can get to the rim and things like that?
COACH CALIPARI: He's going to be fine. He's got the body. He's got the physique, so that's not an issue. He's going to have to get in the gym and the shot's going to have to be more consistent. But do you know how many guys go in that league with that as the one thing?
When you handle the ball like he does, when you're as tough as he is, that's winning basketball. Got to shoot the ball better. All right, get in the gym, shoot a thousand a day, make a thousand a day.
Same on getting to the rim. You're right. The court's a little more open, but he's got those traits and all those things that he does in his game.
Q. With Wichita State playing a different game yesterday from their typical body of work this season, does it change how you prepare for them in such a short window?
COACH CALIPARI: As far as what?
Q. Like grind it out, close game, where they won like 20-something games by 15 to 20 points, does yesterday's game change how you look at it?
COACH CALIPARI: No. You're looking at a group of games, and maybe each team, how they played them, what they tried to do to them. What worked, what didn't work. Is there anything they did offensively to them.
I mean, you're just kind of picking out some stuff. But on a quick turn like this, I mean, if I'm spending all my time worried about Wichita, I know how good they are. I know how talented they are. I know they're veteran. I know how tough.
I've got to worry about my team playing their best. If they don't do that, then it's done. If we play our best, let's see if that's good enough. We don't know. We'll see, though.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, John. We'll see you tomorrow.
COACH CALIPARI: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: University of Kentucky athletes are here, and let's go right to the questions.
Q. Isaiah, Markis McDuffie was talking quite a bit about facing you in some of the New Jersey Sate Title games. What do you remember from him and from those games playing him then and now?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: When we were in high school, we played against each other a few times in the state championship and things like that. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and playing against him again.
Q. A lot of the Wichita players were talking about how you guys are the five star guys, sounded like there was a chip on their shoulder about it. I'm sure you guys encounter that a lot. How do you deal with that? Do you deflect it or kind of stick out your chest and say darn right we are?
EDRICE ADEBAYO: We're just here to play basketball, stick with our teammates and just be together.
DE'AARON FOX: Like we said, we're going to play basketball. I'm not worried about what anybody says right now.
DEREK WILLIS: Honestly, just taking it game by game. Was prepared for the team yesterday, and now we're prepared for Wichita State and worried about ourselves and worried about what we've got to do. That's how we feel.
Q. De'Aaron, a couple weeks ago, you were asked about what aspect of your game you were spending the most on in practice and you said at the time it was your decision making. Can you kind of assess how that's been going and how important do you feel like that is to the success of the team?
DE'AARON FOX: It's going to be extremely important, just being able to take care of the ball, help my team get into scoring positions, things like that. When I cut down my turnovers, I feel like we have a greater chance of success. And that's just with any player on the team if we're not turning the ball over. We're getting more shots, have more opportunities to make shots, more opportunities to get offensive rebounds and get second chances. I was focusing on mine, but when I'm making good decision, I feel like the whole team has been making good decisions.
Q. This one for Bam. Coach Marshall, before you guys came on said that he's going to be throwing several bigs at you to stop you. You're averaging a double-double in March. Also, the Wichita players seem confident you're not going to have 18 rebounds against them tomorrow. What do you make of their confidence and what do you see of Wichita State's big guys?
EDRICE ADEBAYO: I've got to go out there and play hard and stick with my teammates. They've got confidence, and we've got high confidence too.
Q. De'Aaron and Malik, it's often said that freshmen almost become sophomores this time of year as you mature. How much have you guys changed from the guys you were when you came in this summer to who you are now with this team?
DE'AARON FOX: Coming in, we didn't know much about it. I can speak for myself. I didn't know much about it, how to run a team just yet. But as the season's gone by, I've learned. I've learned a lot of things. And being a freshman isn't an excuse anymore. Like you said, we're basically sophomores now. We've got to go out and play.
MALIK MONK: Just like he said, I didn't know too much about it. We're here now. We're comfortable with the system. We know what we need to do, so we've just got to play.
Q. Even though Wichita State does not have that Power Five conference kind of brand about them, they've done so much in the tournament in recent years. What's your perception, just as fans of college basketball, when you think about that program, hear about it, see them play?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: I don't know too much about Wichita State. Our concern is us. We focus on us. As long as we go out there, play with energy, play hard and play Kentucky basketball, I think we'll have a great chance to win.
DEREK WILLIS: Just pretty much reiterating what Isaiah said. We haven't seen them this year. We focus on ourselves. We don't even get to see a game. Parts of what you do watch doesn't even factor in on how you can form an opinion on someone. Like I said, just worry about ourselves and worry about what we've got to get done.
Q. Malik, how would you describe how tough it would be to defend you guys when you, De'Aaron and Bam are producing at a high level?
MALIK MONK: It's pretty hard to guard us anyway. But just with all of us producing, it's going to be hard. But, I mean, like I said, we've got to play basketball and just worry about Kentucky, and we'll be fine.
Q. For Bam, it's related to an earlier question, when a Wichita State player in the locker room says about your rebounding, it's getting shut down, Gregg Marshall says he hopes you're in good shape tomorrow because you'll need to be. Does that affect or impact you at all when you know there's a certain focus from a team that's going to be on you particularly, Bam?
EDRICE ADEBAYO: No. I just go out and play my game, have fun with my teammates, just listen to Cal and listen to my teammates.
Q. For any of you, Coach Cal last night was griping about playing a game at midnight. Does that really bother any of you guys, or is that just something about an old man griping?
DE'AARON FOX: We're all young. We ain't tired at midnight. I mean, they had to play at midnight too so it was just whoever brought the most energy. I mean, I don't think you should, but we were all right.
DEREK WILLIS: It's just how the committee does stuff, so you can't really worry about it. You've still got to take it game by game. Regardless, you have to play the game, come out there, bring energy. That's all you can do.
Q. Isaiah, just getting back to the games against St. Anthony's, do you remember anything about McDuffie, what stood out about his game in high school?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: He's a good player. That's all I really remember. He's a good player.
Q. Derek, what do you remember of the 2014 tournament game with Kentucky and Wichita State?
DEREK WILLIS: Just thought it was coached real well. I thought they were in a lot of really good schemes. They had some wing, small forward player, Early. He was a really good player. We just played really good together and came out and came down to it. They got a nice shot off at the end, but came away with the "W", just how it went. Just a dog fight. We came out on top.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. See you tomorrow.