Kentucky-Kentucky State Postgame Quotes
Q. It looked like early on Alex was a little bit tentative. When he came to the bench, you got in his face and then all of a sudden --
COACH CALIPARI: I didn't get in his face. I just said you got to show that you're an elite athlete. So just don't worry about anything else, except being an elite athlete. Run, go grab rebounds in traffic, be tough, be lower than the other guy, play him before -- none of the other stuff matters. But, again, this is a mental breakthrough. Now, you saw spurts today where you said, ‘woo’, but that's got to be who he is, not every once in a while.
Q. Was that a potentially big hurdle for him to respond to you that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes, I told him he went in and laid one and I said dunk that. Don't lay that ball, dunk that. But, then he's busting through some stuff. It was like Skal (Labissere) in the first half. You got to be kidding me. Like, you know what I told him at halftime, we're throwing it to you every time, I don't care. You can go 1-for-15 or can you go prove you're the player you are. And he proved it. He came in after, coach, I apologize for my first half, I'm sorry. I said don't be sorry, be better, get better.
Q. You said Monday that you would like to play Derek but he's got to prove he can take minutes?
COACH CALIPARI: He took minutes. Now he's like the first guy you want to put in because he can play the four, the three. You saw that if we needed to, we can put Alex (Poythress) and Marcus Lee at the four and the five. You can play that way. I thought Isaac did some stuff. He fought because I didn't play him a whole lot -- it was a hard game. They didn't have a guy for him to guard. But the press that we're running is against a team that doesn't want to pick up play. This team wanted to go. So a team like that, you don't need the press as much, because they will run anyway. But we're working on our conditioning. We're working on the press and what they did is they gave me some stuff to look at to make us better.
Q. One thing about Skal, it seemed like he scored in a variety of ways in the post. What does that say, left shoulder, right shoulder?
COACH CALIPARI: He can do it. He can make free throws. What we have got to start working on with him is being double teamed. We haven't done any of that yet. I just told the guys, we have a big weekend, tomorrow and Sunday, we got two a day, both days. They're off Monday. And then Tuesday, Wednesday are big days for us because Thursday we got to back up because they play Friday, Saturday. But we haven't worked on what we're doing and if they trap us. We have done a lot of zone work right now, but we still got to get down to -- the next three teams are going to play 2-3. They will play a 1-2-2. They will play a 1-3-1. If teams stretch out against us, I'm going to feel good because of our guard play. We'll get in gaps and we'll be pretty good if you stretch a zone out. But a packed-in zone is the one that we're going to have to figure out what we're doing.
Q. You've had a lot of guys in here for a short period of time. Is it especially rewarding to have a guy, like Derek, who has been sort of checked in and checked out at different points over the course of his time here, develop and fight for this thing?
COACH CALIPARI: Derek (Willis) is a typical college player. Which is, you come in your first year or so, you're struggling to get time, and then you bust through your junior year, and then all of a sudden it is your time and your senior year, you're out on the floor and you're doing the things that you need to do. I'm proud of him. I grabbed him and I had said you need to have a great weekend this weekend. Now build on this game. So, we went in one huddle, and I said to the guys, you know, Derek has four -- right now, he has four deflections, and he said ‘I have five’. I said he has five deflections.
Q. Do you like Derek Willis in the press?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. He's terrific. Terrific. There were a couple more shots I wish he would have taken, and I told him. But it didn't hurt how we played. It's like I'm saying to Alex (Poythress), it shows you how you're playing is not based on are you making a shot, or are you getting balls, are you shooting -- it's are you playing well, are you playing athletic, are you deflecting. Derek gives you another -- he's 6'-10" now, with long arms.
Q. What was your overall impression with the randomness of play. You talked a lot about wanting them to be random.
COACH CALIPARI: We’re doing fine. There's some stuff we haven't used a whole lot yet, some offensive stuff that we'll do versus man. But the more that we can play through our guards and let them make choices, the better we'll be. But there's still plays, like Alex slowed down and Tyler was giving him a long pass for a lob or a dunk, and he just kind of jogged versus sprinting. We're missing some of those. I think it was, Jamal (Murray) drove in, he had a lob to somebody and he threw a direct pass. That's all because we haven't been together a long time. But like I said, we had probably 15 one-handed rebounds and if you've been to my practice, you know that's my No. 1 thing. Marcus Lee had about six or seven. Did not get one of them. And he ends up with 11 rebounds. He would have had 20 rebounds today. Alex did the same thing. And Alex ended up with eight rebounds, but he probably had four or five one handed attempts. You don't get them. You reach with one, you're not getting that ball. Skal, the same. So we have stuff we have got to work on. It's a combination. We're not ready to focus on other teams right now. We got to stay focused on us, especially this weekend. It's a big, big weekend for us. A day off, we come back Tuesday, Wednesday, and then basically it's on. We are adding small things to who we are as a team.
Q. How do you keep the college focus and stray away from looking -- the focus being the NBA instead of the college?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there's two parts to that. One, I'll tell them all the time, unpack your bags, let's worry about being good college players right now versus NBA players. But I'm also not afraid to tell them what people would be looking for. Right now, I'll give you an example with Alex. They're evaluating him as an elite athlete. Just be that, and you're going to be drafted. If you're not that, the other stuff doesn't matter, you're not going to be drafted. So he got -- that injury slowed him down. Now he's got to bust through and you saw signs of it today. You saw some dunks, you saw blocks, you saw -- that's got to be who he is for the minutes he plays. Guys like Marcus Lee, my thing to him, again, you got to really define who you are as a player. He did it today. Great free throw shooting. He made -- did some good stuff. He's talking more, he's being bubbly out there. But I think, again, worry about being good college players. You better be that first. But the other side of it is, I'm not afraid to talk to them in terms of, this is who you have to be. Isaiah Briscoe, there's no east and west, man, it's north/south. You get to that rim. Got to make free throws. One game he's 3-4, next game he's 1-7. How can I have him in at the end of a game? I don't know right now. If he's not in, who do I have in? So we got stuff we're doing to get these kids to play in a way -- Charles Matthews. One dribble pull ups, you you're not a play starter. You are a play finisher. So, I'll talk to them in terms of our team. But it's also them being the best version of themselves, which in turn helps them.
Q. How hard is it to drive home some of these points when you come off a 53 point victory? How do you manage to get through to them when they say, yeah, but we won by this many?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, but they know. The stuff that we have been working on, if they execute it, I really don't care what the score is. And if they don't execute it, I really don't care what the score is. What this team did to us today is, one, they weren't afraid and two, they kept trying it make plays, which I love because it's showing me against our press, if we're being attacked, maybe that's not the press we use.If it's a team that wants to hold the ball a little bit, I know it's a good press to use. But they kind of put us in bad spots and our guys, we didn't scheme right. But in this game we learned about our press. We also learned about Skal maybe different ways of trying to get him to the post. If they worry about Skal, we're going to get layups. So they got to stop our guards. But when they do, we got to be willing to throw that ball to the post and he's got to make plays. So, even all that happening, we'll learn from this game.
Q. You won the first one with a lot of threes and today you didn't even take many. Does that say something about how versatile you guys can be in handling different styles?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the way they played, we wanted to just get to the rim and get to the foul line. I mean, if these officials are going to call the plays the way they're going to play it, we're going to drive people into zone defense. Which is what we have that kind of team. Now, Jamal, who went 11-4, which is unusual, and Tyler only took one, 0-1. That's unusual for us. But the other guy would be Derek Willis took one, he had probably two more that he could have taken. But you know, again, we only had six offensive rebounds at half. We didn't, we barely scored in the post against a small team. So we came out in the second half, you know, if you saw it, all right, this is what we're doing. And it was good. But I'm thankful for Kentucky State to be here. I know those guys enjoyed it and coach enjoyed it. For us to be able to play a school with the history of Kentucky State, and what they have been able to do over the years is big. Big for our state. It’s big for our region. They aren’t used to playing against big guys. That’ why we had 10 blocks. Like they’re driving, and they were like ‘Wow! Where did that guy come from?” They weren’t afraid.”
Q: On Mychal Mulder not playing until late in the game …
COACH CALIPARI: Mychal played late in the first half and then I put him back in. These guys – they’re all fighting for time. Charles (Matthews) and Derek (Willis) and then Dominique (Hawkins) is coming back. So all of the sudden, OK, do three of them deserve to take Tyler's minutes, of Jamal's minutes, of Isaiah's minutes. If they don't, you're only spelling them. If you deserve some of those minutes, that's fine. We have got to work that out. And some of it is being worked out in practice. Some of it is being worked out in games. Some of it will be worked out as we go. I'll be honest with you, some of it will be game to game. Some games it may be Charles, some games it may be Derek. Just game to game.
#1 , Skal Labissiere, F
On shots taken over the shoulders ...
“It’s something that we work on every day at the beginning of practice with the bigs with Coach (Kenny) Payne. We worked on it all summer. So I just have to learn how to get more comfortable doing it in games, and I was a bit more comfortable tonight. I just have to establish position first before I get the ball so I can catch it and then make my move.”
On his apology to Coach Cal after the game ...
“I came out with no energy. I could’ve done better. It’s something I’m still working on, you know, keeping the same level of play during both halves.”
On the last time he went on a scoring roll without missing shots ...
“I can’t remember. I’m still working, still have a lot to work on. This was a preseason game. The season starts next week, and hopefully we can keep getting better as the season goes on.”
On Cal saying they are going to him every time in the post …
“He sounded really confident in me. Sometimes I think he’s more confident in me than I am in myself. That’s why he gave me a talk at halftime and made me believe that I could do what I did out there. It’s a confidence booster just listening to him talk to me sometimes. It feels good and makes me work even harder because I know he’s expecting a lot out of me.”
On the overall chemistry of the team …
“I think it’s coming along pretty well. Just yesterday before the game we had a great practice. Everything was flowing for us, and that’s what we’re looking to do as the season goes on.”
#22, Alex Poythress, F
On what aspect of his game has made an improvement since practice started …
“I’m getting more confident in my knee, as you can see. I feel like I’m really shooting it well when I get my feet set. Other than that, getting in shape, getting conditioned, getting my legs under me."
On whether the hurdles he has to overcome are mental or physical when it comes to his repaired knee ...
“It’s both. It’s still physical because you do want to work on it, get the strength back and get it back to 100 percent. But it’s a lot mental because you’ve got to trust it. One time I was running and I kind of stopped because I didn’t want to run into the stands or anything like that. But a lot of it is mental and just getting used to it. I know I had major surgery. I know it takes time.”
On how he thinks the team is progressing early in the year …
“It’s coming together real well. We’re starting to gel and really play well with three guards. Skal is playing better and played really well in the second half. We’re just coming along together.”
On what was the difference between how the team played to start the first half vs. how they played to end the half …
“Derek came in the game, got the deflections, got blocks and did all the little things you need to do. When he’s playing like that he’s got to be on the floor, he’s got to get some minutes for us. We want him to keep on playing like that. I’m his biggest fan. Everyone on the team is rooting for him. We know he’s got the talent to do it, we just expect him to do it when he gets out there.”
#35, Derek Willis, Forward
On if you feel like you earned a spot on the rotation …
“I feel like I earned a spot on the rotation. I think I showed Coach Cal in practice and with so many guys in a rotation, it makes it hard on him to decide who he really wants to stick, to be set in stone basically. But yes, I think I’ve been doing fine. ”
On the difference for him between this year and last year …
“What I need to work on still is shooting. Part of playing a good defense is that you need to be a good shooter too. So, I need to be a more active shooter.”
On what he can take away from the press defense so far ...
“I like it actually. That’s how we should play, honestly. We are all long and athletic. I just think we need to pick it up on it more and we will be fine.”
On what is the most important part of his game when playing….
“I would say just have fun. You have to have a lot of energy and take away from certain things. That is what I did tonight.”
Kentucky State Quotes
Darnell Williams, Kentucky State Head Coach
Opening statement ….
“Really good game today, I’m proud of my guys. They competed until the final horn. One thing about this Kentucky team this year is that they are a really good team both size wise and talent wise, they have it at all five positions. Jamal Murray is a great player. Personally, I haven’t seen everybody yet, but Tyler Ulis might be the best point guard in the country by far. Skal [Labissiere] is long, Isaac Humphries is huge - they just have size, more size, and players. I’m just proud of my guys, they competed and did what I asked them to do. We focused on this outcome, but we used this as a learning tool. It shows us what we have to go back and practice every day. One last thing, I’m glad we won’t have to see another team like this all year.”
On what he thinks of Skal Labissiere ….
“His size and skill level are tremendous. You don’t find many bigs that young with skill at that size. His footwork is tremendous and they are doing a great job of working him, I know that Coach [Calipari] works with the bigs very well. He might be the potential number one pick in the draft.”
On the mood on campus leading up to this game ….
“Campus was electric. It was a big game, great for Kentucky State University, great for recruiting, not only athletic-wise but for the school in general. The atmosphere was great, I love this for my kids. Playing wise, they just played hard. My two seniors gave it all they got, and that is what I asked them to do.”
On Tyler Ulis ….
“Tyler Ulis is always under control. It never seems like he is out of control or going too fast. What did he have, 15 points, four assists, one turnover? You can’t ask much more from a point guard. He just keeps the pace and you can tell that he is the floor general of the team and he runs his team.”
On if he would like to play other big teams ….
“I would love to see more games like this on the schedule. I would play any team, anywhere, we aren’t going to run from anybody. I know we are small but we are scrappy. But it’s good for these guys, it gives them some exposure, and lets their family and friends be able to see them. I would love to play every team in the state of Kentucky. It doesn’t matter, we will play whoever.”
On some of the biggest takeaways for his team from this game ….
“My outlook for the year is that I just want my guys to compete. I know we didn’t score a lot of points tonight, but we aren’t going to play many teams like this again. Being a first year coach you just want your guys to understand that you’re there for them, you want them to believe in you like you believe in them. I take these guys anywhere, any day, any place, any time. We are trying to get back to what Kentucky State was.
#3, Tryston Ford, G
On competing against Tyler Ulis….
“I like his efficiency, he’s very efficient. Like he (Darnell Williams) said, he never gets out of control. He knows what he’s doing. He runs his team and they follow him, I like how he leads his team.”
On competing against potential top draft players….
“I wouldn’t say nervous, I would say more anxious. (It was good) To see where I am compared to them. They’re D1 and we’re D2 but we all have the same dream and that is to go pro, whether that is the NBA, overseas or D-League. Just to see where you are compared to the top guys in the Division 1 (was good).”
#15, Johntae Alexander, F
On competing against Tyler Ulis….
“He’s a leader. He pushed the ball and stayed under control the whole time. It was really hard to get him out of his game. Our best defender on the point guard was Q (Quentin Henderson) and I think he did a good job guarding him, but like I said he was under control the whole game.”
On competing against potential top draft players….
“Nervous? Not really. I’ve been playing against top ranked players pretty much my whole life, so them going to the draft doesn’t really mean much. They play just how we play.”