John Calipari Press Conference

Calipari Video | Labissiere and Humphries Video

Head Coach John Calipari


On Skal Labissiere getting more aggressive …
“Yeah, but he’s got a ways to go. We’ve got to really do a better job of teaching him how to fight position and how to hold his position and how to make sure you’re catching balls and catching it close. It’s all new to him. We can’t just run by and say, ‘Just catch it!’ because he can’t. And you’ve got to do it without fouling. So we’ve got a long way to go.”

On what Labissiere can get out of a game like this against an undersized opponent …
“Again, like every game, I’m not worried about the opponent. I’m worried about my team. When we watch the tape, it’s our scheming, what we’re doing in the press. Are we in the right spots where we’re supposed to be? Are we moving our feet or are we trying to hold and grab people? Do we have the correct spacing? Because the last game, what we did is we made a bunch of shots. They were where they were suppose d to be, but the shots went in. So you score like we scored. It didn’t matter who we were against. ‘Well, the other team …’ Well, we really didn’t score in the post. It wasn’t like we just threw it in there and you know you’re going to score in the post until they double team and then you kick it out. That’s not what we did. It’ll be interesting. These guys are athletic and they’re fast, so we’ll how this places off.”

On how the team is coming along protecting the rim …
“We’re OK. We’ve got a ways to go. Alex (Poythress) has got to get back to where he’s blocking shots and doing stuff. Now you have one more shot blocker. But I thought other guys tried to do what we’re trying to get them to do, which is block it at the rim. Don’t come away from the basket. Just stay in there. Make them shoot tough shots or make them come all the way to the basket.”

On how aware he is of Kentucky State’s tradition and how he feels about giving them the opportunity of this this game …
“We understand the tradition and what that program has been about. This was an opportunity that they deserved. For us, I want whoever our opponent, they walk away from this (saying), ‘This was great for us. This was a great experience that we’ll remember.’ And it’s not just playing the game. It’s more than that for the programs that come in and for us.”

On Kentucky State head coach Darnell Williams making his debut and what it’s like to do it in Rupp Arena …
“You’ve got a chance to do something crazy. That’s what I would be thinking. Let’s go do this. Let’s see if we can shock the world. Let’s rock everything.”

On if he has a better feel of what his rotation will be now that he’s seen the team play someone else …
“A little bit. Is it going to grow or get smaller? You get a grasp of where we are with five or six guys. Does it become seven or eight or does it stay? It’s just too early to tell. If guys deserve to be out on the court, then they’ll be out there. If someone deserves to be out there more than them and it’s obvious, then there’s nothing I can do. I wish it was eighth grade where everybody gets 10 minutes, but that’s not what this is.”

On his satisfaction with the three-guard lineup after watching film … 
“It was very good. There are things that happened that we have to get better at. We’ll see.”

On what he wants to see tomorrow night and through the next week of practice before the first regular season game …
“That we’re getting better and understanding more. We have to watch some more tape today. They’ve had a couple days off. We really have to watch some tape and get down to some areas that we have to get better at. A lot of it is focus, concentration, and playing off one another. It’s important that you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing within our team. We’ll get after it today and see. It’s a big weekend for us with big practices. We’ll have to take Monday off. You’re getting ready for a big weekend.” 

On how important it was to get an athlete like Isaac Humphries to go up against Skal Labissiere for practice purposes … 
“More importantly, I think this is a great situation for Isaac. He’s getting better. He’s fighting for his time and he does certain things. We told him after the last game that he didn’t get enough defensive rebounds. If you’re in there, you have to rebound the ball. You’ll see now that he understands. You just be honest with guys and tell them, ‘If you don’t do this, then you can’t be in.’ I told Isaiah (Briscoe) after the Blue-White Scrimmage, ‘If you’re 1 for 7 from the free-throw line and that’s who you are, then you can’t be in the game late.’ I said it in front of the team, ‘You do know that, right?’ Last game, he was 3 for 4. He did shoot an air ball. I said, ‘Hey, if you go 3 for 4, then I’ll take the air ball. Go 8 for 10 and I’ll take two air balls.’ I just think if you’re honest with them, tell them the truth, don’t make it personal, then guys get better. I’m just trying to keep it honest with them then it’s on them. They know it. ‘If I just had more time.’ Talk to the guy you want to take minutes from. Tell him you want some of his minutes and see what he says. I can’t help you. I know you want more time. You have to take it from somebody. There’s someone here that’s going to give up less minutes. I haven’t met that guy in all of my coaching years.”

On Isaiah Briscoe’s free-throw shooting …
“Each of these kids has to make 500 free throws in a week. They get a manager. A lot of this stuff is repetition that they’ve never done. They do a move one time and say, ‘Man, I like that move. I can’t wait ‘til the next time I can use it.’ Versus I’m going do that move 50 times in a row ‘til this becomes part of my game. They’ve never learned that way. They say, ‘Well, I don’t remember what I did, but it was good. Let’s see if I can do that again.’ That’s not how you train in this sport. This sport is as much about repetition as anything. Then it’s doing it the right way over and over. Because if you’re doing it the wrong way you’re just creating a habit that you can’t ever break.”

On Briscoe being open to coaching …
“Oh yeah, he’s been great. He is a heck of a player. My point to him, because he texted me yesterday just about, ‘I believe I can be the best defender,’ and I said, ‘You’re more than a great defender; you’re a heck of a basketball player.’ There are a few flaws in his game that he’s going to have to tighten up a little bit, but he’s a basketball player who happens to be physically able to be a great defensive player.”

On if he saw all of Briscoe’s potential when he was recruiting him …
“Both, but he messed with the ball way too much. Everything was too much show, not enough play. Talked too much. All that kind of stuff. He had to get the body right. All that stuff, but you could see that this kid can play basketball, and he’ll fight to win a game. I’ve had teams here that I’ve used the term: just a will to win, man. He has a will to win. That he does. And now we just have to help him with all the other stuff, but he’s been good. He’s been maybe even a pleasant surprise. I knew he would be good; I didn’t know he’d be this good. Kind of like Jamal (Murray). I knew he’d be good; I didn’t know he’d be this good or could be this good.”

On Skal Labissiere playing with his back to the basket …
“The reason you want to step away from the basket is that it’s easier. Not going to have body to body. You don’t have to fight. You just have to shoot this fade-away jumper. You aren’t going to win a whole lot of games shooting that shot all the time, but it’s a lot easier than going in there and mucking it up with some guy that’s going to beat on you. So he and Karl(-Anthony Towns), it was the same thing, teaching them winning basketball. But he has gotten so much better in a short period time, but he’s got a long way to go. He has to learn that will to win, to fight for balls, all that stuff, and everything we do in practice just keeps trying to bring it out of him. Every drill, everything we are putting in is based on that. He showed some signs and glimpses of stuff, catching and jump hook quick. He’s so big that you aren’t blocking it. So fight for position, catch the ball, and that’s better than your fade-away 15-footer. For anyone watching, that’s way better. ‘Yeah but I had to hit the guy. He grabbed me and I had to fight. With the 15-footer I’m not near anybody, I just shake and shoot it”. Yeah, I know, Karl said the same thing. But he’s a great thing. He walked in smiling today. He has a smile on his face every day. This is a good group. We just have to figure it out as we go forward and know that this is just the beginning of what we are doing. I kind of like the open court where guards had room and the randomness of how we played because the guards made good decisions. The better of a decision maker you have at guard, the more you can make it more random.”

On what he thinks that Charles Matthews took out of Ottawa exhibition game …
“Charles just has to relax and play. I mean, he played good but he’s playing better in practice. He just wants to be perfect, and you’re not going to be perfect. He knows how we want him to play. He took a 3 when he could’ve taken that elbow jumper, the one dribble pull-up which he makes. He took the 3 and it was an air ball. Now that was his choice to shoot that when we are working every day on that elbow. Just do what we are working on because he can defend, he slashes, he’s a good-enough passer. He’s got a good feel. He’s not a playmaker; he’s a finisher. And that’s how he’s got to play. Why won’t he keep spaced on the court? Because those are tough shots for him so he will run in. Yeah, but you can’t run in because the court has to be spaced for everyone so you must be out, so his mentality is let me get closer so it’s a shot I can make. Yeah, but you can’t that way here. You have to start out and attack the rim and take the shots you can make. He’s done fine.”

On Labissiere compensating for his size in the post …
“All he needs to do is catch balls in there. They can’t foul you; they’re going to call fouls this year from what I understand. So you catch it and turn, if they’re still on your body that’s a foul from what I’m being told. We just have to teach him to fight for position initially so he can catch the ball. Then do the stuff you do. He shot a jump shot, he shot a jump hook. The true fade-aways that he wants to shoot, he missed them all. Those other ones he made (he made them). So we need him. More than that though, we need him to block shots and be the tough rebounder that comes up with balls when the game is in the balance. I think he will be fine.”

#1, Skal Labissiere, F


On how he has improved …
“Just being more aggressive. I feel like I’ve come a long way since I’ve been here this summer. And learning how to play with the other guys.”

On what it means to fight more …
“Just catching more balls and grabbing more rebounds and blocking more shots and just be more aggressive overall.”

On how he is progressing with that …
“I’m learning. I’m still learning how to do that. I think it’s coming along pretty well.”

On how he played in the first exhibition …
“I think I played OK. There is a lot more room for improvement.”

On whether he always needs to be ready for a pass playing with UK’s guards …
“Exactly. Exactly. Especially Tyler (Ulis). He always looks to pass the ball a lot so I just got to be ready for him.”

On the play where Jamal Murray passed back to him rather than take an easy layup …
“That’s what UK is about. We have each other’s back here. We care about each other on and off the court, so whenever we can make each other look good we’re always going to try to make the right play at the right time.”

On whether he is working on shot blocking …
“Exactly. Exactly. Got to block more shots. I have to be more of a presence down low. So, definitely.”

On what players he looks to for inspiration …
“I love watching Tim Duncan play. Anthony (Davis). Guys like that.”

On where he is defensively …
“I need to learn how to play lower on defense and just guarding the post better and being more of a helper on defense, I think.”

On whether he has visited with Anthony Davis …
“I talked to him a little bit, but not much.”

On what they talked about …
“Just personal stuff.”

On how Kenny Payne tries to get him tougher …
“Just teaching us how to play lower. He’s on me every practice – every second of practice – making sure I do everything right. We watch film together and all that, so he’s definitely a big help to me.”

On whether he and Isaac Humphries face each other a lot in practice …
“We do. Every day. He pushes me, makes me better, pushes me around, just tries to get me to play tougher and lower.”

On Humphries’ game …
“He’s very skilled for his size. Can shoot the basketball, can play down low, he can pass the basketball. He can be pretty hard to guard at times.”

On how much he has the green light to shoot facing the basket …
“Just a little bit. Cal wants me to be a presence down low, so I’m still working on that.”

On whether he has the green light from 3 …
“I don’t think so (laughter). I don’t think so.”

On how ready they are to open the season …
“We are still working. We are still learning to play together as a team. It’s going to be a process for us. I think by the end of the year we’ll be a lot better.”

On if he would like to face the basket in a perfect world …
“Definitely. I love to face up. I think that’s a big part of my game, but now I’m learning how to play with my back to the basket and attacking more instead of settling for jumpers. That’s something I’m still working on and have to get more comfortable with.”

On if studied the way Karl-Anthony Towns evolved over the course of the season …
“I’m going to try to be my own person, but I’ve watched Karl the whole season. I’ve seen how much better he has gotten and I expect to get better, a lot better, by the end of the season, too. I guess you could say that.”

On if he has a sense of how much better he could become …
“I’m just trying to take it day-by-day. It’s a process. Definitely, I’m very impatient to see how good I can become, but it’s a process. I have to take it day-by-day.”

On how he compensates on the court for not being as bulky of a player as others …
“I just need to play lower. That’s one of my main things right now: learning how to play lower.”

On what he gets out of facing a smaller opposition, such as Kentucky State …
“Playing against guys who are shorter than me, or smaller, forces me to get lower to play against them. I think that could be a good thing. You can get better from playing against anybody.”

On the differences between facing a quick, athletic forward like Marcus Lee, and a big, bruising player like Isaac Humphries …
“Marcus, he makes you think quicker because he reacts to everything you do. So, on offense, when you get the ball you have to be ready to make your move because he’s so quick off his feet. He moves like a guard. Isaac, he just pushes you. He’s very physical. I get the best of both worlds at practice going against both of them. Even Alex (Poythress), he’s very strong down low going against him. He’s very aggressive down there. It makes me better every day.”

On seeing the progress he’s already made and if that gives him a hint of how much better he can get …
“Definitely. I’m definitely looking forward to getting better. At practice every day I have to go hard. Like I said before, it’s a day-by-day process. I’m just trying to be patient and take it day by day.”

On if he’s surprised himself with some of the stuff he’s already added to his game …
“Definitely. Just coming here, the toughness that Coach Cal and Coach Kenny Payne are trying to teach me, and how fast the game is here. How everything is, once you touch the ball you have to make a move and all that. I’m definitely learning from that and I think I’m getting better at it.”

On if he has a pet move in the post …
“Simple: go to the middle, right-hand hook. Every time.”

#15, Isaac Humphries, F


On what Coach Cal has talked about since the exhibition game …
“For me personally, just defensive rebounding. Just do a lot more than I did last game.”

On what he’s told the team as a whole …
“Obviously we need to be tough and fight. We haven’t really come together that much since that game. I think we’ll find out more today about what we need to do.”

On if it was good to work against somebody else …
“Yeah, we’ve been up against each other for a few months now. So the different competition was good.”

On how he liked his performance against Ottawa …
“It was good. I was happy with it. It was my first college game. I wasn’t nervous, which was weird, but I was happy O did well enough to make a point that I can play at this level.”

On where the team is defensively …
“He’s bringing our press and zone and stuff. We’re just coming along with those, just like any other team. We’re just putting it as anything.”

On how the press helps them …
“It’s good. It’s aggressive and we get stops from it. So I think it’s really going to be effective.”

On what has impressed him about Skal Labissiere …
“His length. He’s somebody I’ve never really come across before, so it’s good for me to play against somebody like that. He’s taught me to be more in control and stuff like that.”

On if they expect Tyler Ulis to have performances like he did against Ottawa …
“Yeah, I mean he’s just such a good player. I think he just sets himself to his goals and he’s very competitive. So whatever he sets his mind to, he’ll do.”

On what he’s seen from Marcus Lee …
“Like I said, he’s just going to come on and give energy. We all love him, so it makes us all happy to see him do well.”

On what big man he’s felt like he’s learned the most from so far …
“Probably Skal because playing against him and vice-versa teaches me how to defend such an athletic player and also how to play offense against such an athletic player. And how I need to change up and stuff like that.”

On what he would tell other teams on how to defend Skal …
“You just need to be aggressive and just body him. That’s really all you can do because if he gets up above you, then there’s no stopping him.”

On if it’s scary to here Coach Cal say Skal is still improving considering the player he already is …
“No. I mean, everyone is going to develop their whole career. He just has so much potential in him. He’s working every day, just like we all are.” 

On if he would rather win with the last shot or by a complete blowout …
“The excitement of a last-minute-shot is really cool, but blowout games are cool, too.”

On how much he goes at it against Skal in practice …
“We go hard. We like to bash around, and it just gets us better.”

On how much tougher Skal is getting …
“He’s getting a lot tougher every practice. He’s getting more physical with me being very physical too.”

On if he’s getting to be tougher as well …
“I like being physical, so I just kind of put my body on the line and go for it.”

On how much progress he’s made since he’s been here …
“A lot so far. I was thinking the other day on how much I’ve improved since being here, just going against everybody in practice and stuff like that. And the coaches we have here just helps me get better every day.”