Kentucky-Stephen F. Austin Postgame Quotes
University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Head Coach John Calipari
Q. Derek Willis list your senior, really, 10 points, the way that your veteran guys sort of took charge of those guys early.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he is. We started him based on the fact that I just didn't feel comfortable starting the first game out of the gate with four freshmen on the court. He proved me right. He gave up some offensive rebounds, what hurt us, but if he's playing with that much confidence, the good outweighs the bad. So, Bam, we talked for a week about not fouling. He is so big, when he moves, he fouls. And I told him, you just got to be just be aware, you got to have high hands, you can't be pushing in the back, you can't have hands on people, you can't go after a block you had no business getting. But that was a bunch of freshmen and you could tell. We didn't defend, they shoot 44 percent, 45 percent, and we gave up some baskets. I liked the fact that we had 21 assists, 13 turns for the first game out of the gate. And that team denies wings. Kyle has them denying passes, denying wings, which could lead to turnovers. And so we had 13 and four of them were Isaiah Briscoe. So, he and De'Aaron had seven of our 13, which is pretty good, being that the other guys have six turnovers amongst our team.
Q. Did De'Aaron make up for his turnovers with his 12 assists though?
JOHN CALIPARI: De'Aaron, the issue for he and Malik are defensively and rebounding. Now I got on De'Aaron and he started rebounding at the end of the game. He ended up with five rebounds, I think. Is that what he had? Four? But Malik ends up with no rebounds? Come on. Come on. If you can put your head on the rim, you can go in and rebound the ball. So, those guys, off the ball, it's typical freshmen stuff. Sacha, first game out, I thought Isaac looked a little more comfortable, mainly because he's played here for a year. But we'll see how we go forward. And I played guys a lot of minutes. Now we played three guys 30 minutes. And that's a lot of minutes for -- I thought Wenyen was terrific, too, by the way. I thought Wenyen played well. Could have played more. Probably should have played him more.
Q. That kind of leads into my question, for Wenyen to be in that kind of situation, how much of a surprise was that for him to have those kind of points?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, he's been doing it. It's just that -- he has been starting in practice, I just changed up two days ago, because I didn't feel comfortable starting four freshmen. But you know what I like is five guys in double figures, and the other two with nine and eight. That is how we play here. Now you say, well, they're all McDonald's All-Americans, they scored 30 points a game in high school. Yeah, you're not playing that way here. The biggest thing is having discipline defensively and that's going to take us a lot of time. Now, Stephen F. Austin, you got to understand, they're going to win their league. I'll be stunned if they don't win their league. That's a big team, they got good guard play, they shoot the ball well. You know what they did, they came in and fought us now. There was no, like they weren't giving us an inch. And we needed that kind of game. And Cannissius is going to do the same. And then the game in New York, Michigan State just lost. So what we're going to be playing a mean dog up in New York. So these three games to start off the year against or when we're a bunch of freshmen, it's going to be a rough go.
Q. Could you just talk to me about the way that Willis started out and then you also briefly touched on your guards rebounding, Isaiah only had one, your five guards only had a total of five rebounds and De'Aaron had four of them.
JOHN CALIPARI: Right, and he got those at the end. So, it's something that we'll show on the tape, but, look, I'm so proud of Derek Willis. He came up to me in practice to remind me of something we did in a zone offense. Like he's the first one at practice, and he's the last one to leave. That went from, I blow the whistle, we are done with practice, and he would run to the door. And I would say, Derek, can I talk to you guys first before you leave? And the last one -- now, he's on a mission. And it's just, look, you build your own self esteem, your own confidence, it's not what I say and what I do on the sideline, it is about you. Isaiah Briscoe has been in the gym working on his shootings, that's why he made that three. Missed some free throws. Bam the same. These guys are in there, they spend extra time. But in Derek's case, you know, it's taken time. And everybody's on a different calendar. Derek's showing great maturity and it's nice to have him and Dom to be able to say, look, we got two seniors that are in this rotation that are going to be able to give you quality minutes.
Q. Isaac said yesterday that he's been working to develop some skills out away from the basket so he can play the four more and sort of be on the floor at the same time as Bam. He showed some stuff tonight that we really hadn't seen from him, getting the ball up high and attacking. What do you like about the way he played?
JOHN CALIPARI: The first one he did because he just reacted to what happened. The second one he tried to do. Look, I really, with these guards, I don't need you to drive the ball, I need you to finish. What I would say to you with -- again, he's in better shape than he's ever been in his life, he's bouncy, he now can guard pick and roll better. He's in the post, he can continue to move his feet. He has better discipline than Sacha and Bam because he's older. But again, that discipline defensively, we, it will, it's going to hurt us as we go forward, but it is what it is. I talked to the staff, I mean, it's going to be a process, I can get on them to hold them accountable, but the reality of it is they're 17 and 18 year olds. And you got Isaac who is an 18-year-old sophomore and you got Isaiah Briscoe who is a sophomore. You got all young kids. These guys, they, I love the fact that they were not, they were like, man, no way, we're not, you're not doing this to us.
Q. Do you foresee -- you said you had De'Aaron Fox play 30 plus minutes -- do you foresee him playing extended minutes, being your floor general, much like Ulis last year?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don't think so, because we didn't have anybody else I felt comfortable putting the ball in their hands. We do now. But here's what I would say, if he catches up defensively, he'll play every minute he can be out there. But you can't just be out there. Like I said at halftime, you guys that are getting the minutes, you need to sub yourself, be respectful of the other players on this team. If you're tired, come out. Don't try to just stay in the game. These other guys deserve to play, too. And that's kind of what I'm saying to him. But he was really good today. He's just so good with the ball, he's long, he can finish around the goal, he's a terrific passer. He's special. You saw Malik come to life a little bit, but he still is too casual. Can't be casual out there. You're like this, you're not like that, you're coming -- I'm coming after you. I have a wide open shot, I'm not taking a tip toe. I'm making it like I'm guarded. Give me this one, I'm jumping and shooting it. So, they -- look, they're freshmen, they have things to learn. They will be held accountable here in this program, they know it. They know they have to share. Other guys here can play. And they're doing that.
Q. I know it's ridiculously early, is there any one thing that you like to see the team improve on Sunday before you head to New York?
JOHN CALIPARI: Probably defensively. I don't think Cannissius will play that type of man-to-man, which makes you play a little different. I'm glad they did it. What they do is they disrupt your offense, they take you out of what you want to do and make you play one-on-one. The issue is we're pretty good at playing one-on-one. But that's what they make you do. I think Kyle what he's done with that team and he's just taken over and, shoot, he's done a good job. And now Cannissius, I don't know, I'm glad they played us some zone, we got the ball right where we wanted it, we didn't make the plays, but we'll watch the tape and show them what was there. I thought that, again, I thought it was pretty good stuff.
Q. After the last game you said that you can't play winning basketball without feeding the post. And can you comment on the progress that you're making in that area?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I thought that we did okay. Dom had a play in the wing away from us here that the guy was wide open. Throw it in. There is no reason, don't tell me, I don't want to hear it, throw the ball into him. I thought the last play that Malik shot, Sacha was open. But you just got to show them on the tape. You got to show them -- Bam got in foul trouble. Then I started the half, I didn't want to go with Bam right away, because I'm like, he's going to get another foul. He'll charge, do something. So let's just let him get going. Which is what we did. He was -- I had him shoot the technicals. Why did I have him shoot the technicals? Basketball bennies. Just let him build his own confidence. And if he misses, good. Now what are you going to do? You going to cry or are you going to figure out how to make some free throws? I mean, you, he missed a couple more and then he went up and he made two. And now, okay, now he's thinking good thoughts instead of bad thoughts. And so, like I said, we're one of those teams that is so young, not enough discipline defensively, should be a better rebounding team, we got out rebounded. They had 14 offensive rebounds. They out rebounded us by eight rebounds? They out rebounded us.
Q. If there's been one question about will this catch up to you, it maybe outside shooting, Mychal Mulder tonight --
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah and he's got to do better defensively so I can leave him on the floor. But you have Mychal, I'm confident in Malik, I'm confident in De'Aaron. Isaiah's shooting it better. You have Dom, you have Mychal, how about Derek Willis. Now you saw Wenyen, I mean -- you can say that, it's kind of like politics, just keep saying it, it will become true, just say it and say it and say it, over and over and over and over and now it's true. I don't think it's true, so.
Q. Can you talk about the rebounding and they had 14 offensive rebounds.
JOHN CALIPARI: We're going to go watch. A bunch of them were on Derek. A bunch of them were like on Sacha. Some of them were over the big guy's heads and the guards were taking off. I mean, we're just, we'll go look at it. Probably something we'll do on Sunday will be some rebounding things. To get them to understand that and we'll see.
Q. You said a lot of this was building up your own confidence, how much of it is the mental aspect of the game for these guys at this point in the season?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, they're just, they had 21 assists, so their instincts are good. We have enough in, I don't want to put any more in right now, let's just get good at what we are. We only have a few things, you saw us, I'm not out there running 17 different offenses, we're just not ready for that. I'm more concerned about defense and rebounding and blocking shots. We had eight today, which is good, but they had five. So, like I will tell you, this was a good game to wake everybody up to understand, okay, this is college basketball. You're not just walking, you're not beating people by 80, you're not just trying to dunk balls. You got to play basketball, you got to be disciplined, you got to create good shots for each over, you got to rebound, you got to be tough. You're not fouling tough, you were fouling tough. Yeah, that's tough, but you're not playing now. So, all that stuff, you know, it's just going to be a process for us. I have not watched any tape on Cannissius yet, so if you ask me I haven't.
Q. What's with the zone defense? Are we going to see more of that this year?
JOHN CALIPARI: It looked good, didn't it? I put that in yesterday. It was pretty good. We'll watch it on tape. We're big and long and active. Got the ball in the middle, but, you know what, you get the ball in the middle and everybody's big, it's a tough play.
#13, Isaiah Briscoe, Sophomore, G
On how this game prepares the team for the rest of the season …
“This was a good game for us. They were physical and older. We are going to face a lot of tough teams during SEC play and we have to get better on defense. Coach (Calipari) spoke about that. We have practice tomorrow and we have to go in, work hard and get better.”
On sharing the basketball …
“I think this is an unselfish team. We all play for each other and that is what is going to take us to the next level.”
On how UK played defensively …
“Defensively, I think we did okay. There is always room for improvement. Coach (Calipari) watches the whole game and sees it from a different perspective. He said we need to get a lot better on defense and that will be one of the key things we work on tomorrow at practice.”
On how to get better defensively …
“Covering for each other, talking on defense, things like that are crucial. He stresses defense so much because if we play good defense we can get stops and we can score in transition. That’s when we play our best, so we have to get better on defense. We don’t even worry about offense, because that will take care of itself.”
On how it feels to start his second season …
“It felt good. I think I played well. I had a lot of unforced turnovers, so I just have to be smarter with the ball.”
On veteran play …
“Before the game Coach always reminds us that we have a lot of young guys. He tells us it’s their first game and we have to make sure that everything is in order to help them transition into this kind of play.”
#0, De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, G
On setting a UK record his first game …
“I didn't even realize I was doing it. I know I wasn't shooting the ball well. My teammates were cutting and finishing when I was passing it to them so all the credit is to them.”
On playing with another point guard like Isaiah Briscoe …
“It makes it easier for me because I'm throwing it to another guy who can make plays. I don't always have to be the one to be a playmaker. He's taught me how to do what Cal wants correctly.”
On leading the team in assists while Briscoe led in points, and if that can be switched in future games …
“It can be switched easily. Anyone can lead in assists and anyone can definitely lead in scoring because we have so many different ways to score. That’s just how it happened today, and in any upcoming day it can be flip-flopped.”
On how the veterans kept the game steady for the younger guys …
“They just make sure we don't get rattled. As a point guard I’m just trying to develop that trait where I won’t let my team get rattled. Derek (Willis) came out showed what a senior is supposed to do. He put up points and got comfortable, which helped us get comfortable.”
#35, Derek Willis, Senior, F
On his performance tonight …
“I think there were about three or four possessions, probably even more, where I didn’t come up with defensive rebounds. I let them get by me. I wasn’t too happy about that, but it’s the first game of the year – season opener. We’ll just try to work out what we can and learn from our mistakes ”
On how he played offensively …
“Yeah, that was good. That stuff works itself out. I think what we need to get done is on the defensive end. We executed most of our plays for the most part, but communication and defensive mishaps we just need to work on and keep moving forward.”
On working on not rebounding vs. shooting …
“They just cancel each other out in a sense. Come up with the rebound and that’s an extra possession for the team and an extra two or three more points potentially. To me, it’s almost like I scored like five points instead of whatever. I just need to be a more efficient rebounder.”
On how he’s seen himself mature in practice and as a leader …
“It’s my senior year and I want to make the most of it. I come in an hour or so before practice and stretch out and shoot around a little bit. I work out with KP (Kenny Payne), which all the big guys do. I set out and practice what I want to do for the day. I think what I’m going to start doing though is work on some kind of rebounding drill or getting more physical with somebody because I just feel like with how I rebounded tonight it’s something I need to improve on.”
Stephen F. Austin Head Coach Kyle Keller
Opening statement …
“I think Coach Calipari has the team that is advertised for sure. We like to hang our hats on playing defense and obviously we turned it over as much as we do during a weeks’ worth of practice against ourselves. We just handed it to them, and they forced it. You can’t simulate their length and quickness on defense. They’re going to have a lot fun with their team. I said this to our team, it’s amazing. I told them before the game. He makes young kids play old really fast. He a special coach. I know everybody appreciates who he is. He is a special coach. It’s a special gift to hold kids accountable, and play defense like that. To get them to buy in and play for the team doesn’t happen in these kids’ generation with them being coddled like they have been. No disrespect to my guys right here. To play for each other and play defense like that is a special talent. I hope everybody appreciates what he does with those kids because it’s really, really good. We appreciate being here. I’m just disappointed in our guys. I thought we shot a good percentage, and I thought we were rebounding pretty well but we just allowed a lot of transition points. It’s hard to guard the basket when we aren’t there, and that’s a credit to them.”
On how different Kentucky is from last year …
“You know their length having Bam (Adebayo) inside. I thought Ulis was one of the greatest college point guards ever. He even knew where the referees were, the ball boys were and everybody else on the court. He was unbelievable how he could dominate a game and make others better. I think De’Aaron (Fox) and (Malik) Monk with their speed, quickness and athleticism. I told Briscoe during the game ‘dude, you’ve gotten so much better.’ You could guard (Isaiah) Briscoe with your arms behind your back and you can’t do that anymore. But those three cats on the perimeter? Phew. You have to guard them. They’re just really, really good. Those three guys on the perimeter. (Derek) Willis is the perfect stretch four for their team and then Humphries has gotten better and Bam inside. The other kid who I don’t know very well at all. (Wenyen) Gabriel has ten at half. We don’t have anyone to guard him. Leon (Gilmore) is our best chance to guard him and he’s going back-and-forth. Coach Cal is just toying with us. Him (Gabriel) and Willis both have 20. We don’t know who to guard him with, either one of them. The other freshman, big kid, inside who looks like he’s about 7-2, I mean, he’s going to be so good. He doesn’t know who to play. He’s just picking. I guess who ever is the best at shootaround today, that’s who he plays. He’s got so many to choose from.”
On Adebayo being in foul trouble …
“I didn’t even realize he was in foul trouble. I knew our big kid inside, (TJ) Holyfield, couldn’t play, and that really affected us. I don’t try to coach another team, I’m not that good. I just try to focus on what we can do for our team and do the best I can for our kids because I know they try really really hard and I appreciate their effort. Like I said, Willis and Wenyen went for 20. Obviously we didn’t do a good job with Bam not being in the game. For us, speed and quickness is the only advantage we might even be thinking about having inside. Obviously, we weren’t very successful there.”
On holding their own on the boards, especially on offense …
“Well, we missed a lot of shots. With these guys right here, Leon is a superior athlete, speed and quickness. Most people will say he’s playing the four but he’s just a big guard really but he’s got some toughness about him. He’s hard to block out on the perimeter when he starts running in there. Gilmore had a double-double tonight and I expect that out of him from the perimeter. If we could just get a shot up we were okay on offense. It was just the 30 times or whatever we just handed it to them. We decided to drive it when there was nobody there. Those 30 possessions during the game you know we weren’t very good. If you could just take those out, I play again. Unfortunately, those are part of the game. We can’t (commit turnovers). They make you play one-on-one. Their speed and quickness. I’ve been out here a few times and I’ve never seen that court look as small as it did today. Phew. I don’t know if it’s 94 feet by 50 or whatever it is that thing looked about 64 by 20. I don’t know if it was because I was forced to move over 32 inches in seats but I’ve never seen that court look so small as it did tonight, as long as those jokers were.”
On Leon Gilmore and Dallas Cameron …
“I thought these guys played really hard, just so you guys know. For a brand new team and bringing nine guys who never played Division 1 basketball and trying to fit them in together. I thought Dallas playing a new position as a senior, he’s won 90 games in the first three years. Leon, who is taking a new role. I thought our kids really tried hard. I’m pretty proud of them coming into this kind of environment. Me throwing them in there, did no favors. I thought they did pretty good.”
On where he thinks his team is right now …
“Honestly, I don’t know where we are. Every day is a new day for us. We went from having eight suit up in our exhibition game the other night to, I looked down there and gosh almighty there were a bunch of dudes who we’ve never even had practice. Ty Charles who has practiced three days in the last six weeks who is our leading returning scorer. I just put him out there. I told the team in the locker room, ‘hey, you give us confidence.’ He was like 1-for-7 with seven turnovers or something. That’s not who he is. He, or one of these guys have to be player of the year in our league for us to be successful. They did a great job. There’s no current film on him this year because he hasn’t played. He’s just practiced one day before this week and then got in this week. I know them as people, as I’ve been here seven and a half months. They’re great kids. I know they’re going to fight. They won’t quit on anyone that we have. They represent our school the right way. I know if I get in an alley, I’d take any one of them I have. All eight new ones and the five guys that stayed with us. That’s the thing I trust with them. I believe when we get to the first of the year and we start league play, we’re going to look back on this game and draw from it. I don’t think we’re going to have a De’Aaron Fox out there. What do you think Dallas? No. Dallas tried to tell me that there was a guy in our league that was as good as De’Aaron Fox and I just let him go. I wanted him to think that. You still think that Dallas? I want him to be confident. I want our guys to be confident because that’s how they get good. We’re going to gain a lot of confidence from this even though we didn’t play our best. Kentucky had so much to do with that.”
#3, Leon Gilmore, Forward
On the atmosphere at Rupp Arena…
“I thought the atmosphere (in Rupp Arena) was pretty great. This was our first game of the season - at Kentucky. We were all prepared and we just felt good about it. We were confident and I don’t think anyone our team was nervous. We were ready to play. It was just a fun time. Coach told us to go out there, play hard, and enjoy the moment while we’re here.”
#12, Dallas Cameron, Guard
On playing at Kentucky…
“It’s a great environment. Rupp Arena is a beautiful arena. Fans are great here at Kentucky and they show a lot of support and a lot of love for their team and their players. It was really good environment. First game of the year. A lot of new guys. We just had to embrace it and enjoy the moment. That’s what we wanted to do. Go out here and have fun. That’s why we play this game. We play this game to have fun. If you aren’t playing to have fun there’s no reason for us to be playing.”