Kentucky Basketball Previews LSU

Briscoe, Labissiere Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Kentucky State Postgame Quotes
Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 4, 2016


Assistant Coach Kenny Payne


On thoughts about Ben Simmons …
“Very unique basketball player. If you guard him with a big, he has the ability to play like a point guard. If you put a smaller player on him, he has the ability to play like a big. He’ll play great against us. I’m sure he’ll be excited. He’s an excellent rebounder. He’s a challenge. I’m sure our guys will feel obligated to go at him. He gets a lot of hype. Everybody considers him hands down the best player in the country, so we should be excited to play against him.”

On which player has said he’s going to prove they’re better than Ben Simmons …
“Well, I think it’s going to be a number of guys. I think it has to be Alex (Poythress), Marcus (Lee) and maybe at times Isaiah (Briscoe). We want to throw a bunch of players at him that are going to compete against him, put pressure on him, make everything that he does hard. Just compete.”

On Skal Labissiere’s improvement over the last month and what he still needs to work on …
“Great question. Skal is a very, very talented player. And I know he’s struggled some. I personally think that’s good for him. Sometimes adversity, when it comes so easy to you, adversity brings you down and makes you start over and revaluate who you are as a player. It hasn’t been easy for the kid but the kid is super. Again, super talented. He has lost a little confidence. The greatest thing is in the last game we saw a step in the right direction. He has to continue to do that. He will. We expect that at any time he’s going to break out and have a super game. Hopefully it’s against LSU.”

On if he worries about Labissiere this game with all the comparisons and talk about Ben Simmons …
“Not at all. I think that every game one of the things we do as a staff and Coach Cal does is takes the pressure off individuals and (make it) more about, yeah, we have to meet the challenge, but it’s more about playing the right way. (It’s about) going out and competing. We like to see Skal do better rebounding the ball. Offensively, if he’s aggressive and he shoots the ball instinctively and makes moves instinctively and plays strong, he’ll be fine. We’re more concerned and want to see him do the little things: rebounding, defending and blocking shots.” 

On Tai Wynyard …
“Tai is getting better. The first thing is the conditioning. We’re trying to get him in type of shape where he can go out and play whatever many minutes that we give him. He’s really strong and a big kid. He sets great screens and rebounds. We’ve just got to get him in shape where he can play in a game.”

On the impact of throwing different defensive schemes individual players …
“Similar to (Ole Miss’ Stefan) Moody. Just wear them out. Just keep the pressure on them for 40 minutes defensively. Hopefully over the course of the game they get fatigued and we got at them.”

On LSU’s play since Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor came back into the lineup …
“They bring a lot to the table. Hornsby is a really big key for their team to succeed. He’s been playing really well. He shoots the ball. He’s a leader for their team. He’s going to be a tough guy that we have to guard. We just have to get after him. Be on him on catch and shoot -- jam him up, no space. He’s tough. He can play. Victor is a big-time rebounder. He’s averaging right around 14 points a game. Big-time rebounder, can shoot the ball, good in the post – he’s a challenge.” 

On the team’s progression since the UCLA game …
“It starts with defense. Hopefully after the Ole Miss game something clicked. For 32 minutes of that game we were really good. Really good. It starts with defense and putting pressure on the ball and just getting after them. If we take that mentality into LSU we’ll be fine, but it’s not going to be easy. Typically LSU against Kentucky plays their best. So we have to expect them to come out and play better than they have been.”

On if he thinks the two losses have helped UK …
“One thing that happened against Louisville is we played hard. We played aggressive. Our energy – in a sense you can say we played desperately. I think that’s who we are and who we have to be. If we do that we’ll be fine. If we come out casual or nonchalant and let (other teams) be the aggressor, we’re going to struggle.”

On Labissiere regaining confidence … 
“It’s very hard because there are times when you work so hard to get back to where you want to be and it doesn’t happen for you right away and mentally it gets you down. But Skal has worked hard. Skal is getting better. He’s learning every day. He embraces the work. He’s just got to go out and play well.”

On the difficulty of being in Labissiere’s position with the added challenges of being at UK …
“It’s hard. I mean, Karl Towns went through it. Anthony Davis went through it. Almost every player that has had success here has gone through some adversity. And that’s the good thing about our situation is guys go through it and they fight through it and then they end up having success. We have no reason to believe that he’ll be any different.”

On Marcus Lee’s improvement this season …
“Very proud of Marcus Lee. Before this season started a lot of talk was he’s done it in spurts. (This season) he has probably been one of our most consistent bigs, if not the most consistent. Just overall the energy that he brings to the table. Had a couple of games where he had five blocks, in two games in a row. Just playing man, and just having fun. Enjoying it. Rebounding. Helping this team become better. He’s done that. So he’s been a really good surprise for us.”

On where he’d like Lee to improve …
“Just a little more offensively. One of the things we’re talking about now is getting him to sit down in the stance and take pride in defending the way Willie (Cauley-Stein) did. If he can do that it takes his game to another level.”

On if Labissiere is improving because he plays against Tai Wynyard in practice …
“Not really. I think it’s not about another player or somebody. Those guys are beating him up and trying to play physical with him the way that teams are doing in the games. He’s getting used to that. He’s expecting that, but he has to go out and just play hard. Rebound the ball, block shots, move his feet defensively, which he will do. It’s not a choice. And the offense will happen. The offense will happen for him.”

On what type of environment he expects at LSU …
“The same that it’s been every time that we go down there. Everywhere we go is capacity crowd. It’s a great environment to compete against. And they’ll be hyped for us: the fans, the players.”

On Jamal Murray’s growth …
“Jamal is an excellent shooter of the basketball. He just has to be disciplined in the shots that he takes. He’s so gifted, in his mind there are times I can fall down and shoot it with my off hand. Left-handed behind my head, and it drives Coach crazy. We just want to see Jamal shoot disciplined game shots that we practice. He has unlimited range. He can shoot the pull-ups, he can make layups. Coach is on him about finishing and playing like a big guard instead of flipping shots or floaters or trick shots.”

On if Murray is making trick shots in practice …
“We try to keep him from shooting those trick shots.”

On welcoming the hype around LSU’s Ben Simmons …
“It’s one of those issues that we don’t have to bring up. Players know and respect other players, so when you turn on the TV and you see commentators talking about Ben Simmons you can bet that our guys are watching.”

On what reaction he hopes that elicits from UK players …
“That ‘I’m up for this challenge.’ That we want multiple guys calling Coach saying, ‘I want to guard him.’ “

On if anyone has called to ask that …
“A couple have.”

On who those players are …
“I can’t say.”

On how much he saw Ben Simmons on the recruiting trail …
“Heard of him on the recruiting trail. Didn’t see a lot, but saw him a few times. Really gifted. Knew he was special. Didn’t know how long it would take him to get embraced to college basketball because it’s a different pace than high school. But he’s a very talented player. He’s a mismatch problem. You can’t hit him with a steady diet of one player, whether it’s a big or a guard. He’s unique.”

On if Ulis could challenge Simmons away from the basket on offense …
“No question. I’m sure that’s one of the things Coach will look at, exploring that option as well.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#13, Isaiah Briscoe, Guard


On if he knows much about LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons from the AAU circuit …
“Not really. I played against him multiple times on the AAU circuit, and we played against him at Hoop Summit.”

On what he thought of Simmons’ game …
“He’s a great player.”

On the key to defending him …
“Just try to contain him, but we’re focused on us and we’re going to treat this like any other game.”

On how UK has progressed since its last road game at UCLA …
“I think from that UCLA game to now we have a lot more experience. I think that for another road test we should be ready.”

On if his ankle is back to 100 percent …
“Yeah, not 100 percent, but it’s about 80, 70 percent.”

On how much he wants to take on the challenge in facing a guy with as much hype as Simmons …
“I think that everybody on this team will take on the challenge. Like I said, we compete here at practice every day. Going into LSU and playing at LSU versus Ben Simmons, I think that we’re all ready to compete.”

On if he knows who told Coach Cal that they want to guard Simmons …
“No, I don’t know who those people were.”

On Coach Payne saying he hopes something clicked defensively vs. Ole Miss, and if he saw that …
“Watching film, it pointed out a lot of key defensive stops that we had during that game. A lot of us were shocked at the way we were playing defense so hard, rotating and stunting, everything like that. Coach just explained to us that that’s the way we have to play for 40 minutes.”

On if that’s a blueprint of what they need to do each game …
“I hope so, yeah.”

On how much of their defense is a product of disruption to the opposing team’s offense …
“Yeah, and like I said, just helping each other out with stunting and switching on pick-and-rolls. If we play hard on defense it makes our offense much easier.”

On if he’s heard anything about what to expect at LSU …
“I mean, just for conference play in general they said going into these other teams – going to play at their house is going to be challenging. That’s why Coach Cal challenges us every day in practice because he knows in a game on the road is going to be much harder.”

On if he feels like they’re ready for another road game …
“I think we’re ready for this road game. Like I said, we have a lot more experience than before the UCLA game. I think that everybody’s ready.”

On if it’s odd to answer so many questions about an opposing player since UK typically has the most talked about player in games …
“It’s fine. Like I said, he’s a good player, but we’re going to go out there and play the way that we’ve been playing.”

On if UK’s veterans have talked about their game at LSU last year …
“No, we haven’t.”

On what they want to accomplish starting SEC play …
“Just playing hard for 40 minutes every game, knowing that we’re going to get everybody’s best game.”

On if he really knew they’d get everybody’s best game early on …
“Yeah. When I was in high school it was like that, but Kentucky’s at a much bigger stage. I see it.”

On the No. 1 thing he’s learned about his game since he’s been at Kentucky …
“That I can play harder than I was playing in high school.”

On how he would grade himself so far …
“A.” (laughter)

On what’s been the toughest thing for him …
“Just playing hard on both ends of the court. You have to be in tip-top shape to do that. I’m in pretty good shape, but there’s room for improvement.”

On if he thought Simmons was the best player in the country back when they played in high school …
“Yeah, he is.”

On what makes Simmons so good …
“He can do it all, 6-10, he can dribble, pass, shoot. He can do it all. He can run a team. He’s a good player.”

On if he’s told Coach Cal that he wants to guard him … 
“No. I’ll let them make that decision.”

On if he’d be happy to guard Simmons …
“It is what it is.”

#1, Skal Labissiere, Forward


On how he hurt his hand …
“Just tried to block somebody and hit it against the backboard.”

On what he went through mentally while he was struggling …
“Mentally, I just have to get into myself a little bit more. There was a period like you said where my confidence was down a little bit, but I’m good now. I think I’m getting better every single day.”

On what has changed in his game …
“Every day, I’m just getting better. Every day in practice, going against my teammates, practice has gotten harder over the past few weeks. But I feel like I’m getting better, and that’s what I came here for. Coach Cal, when he was recruiting me, told me it wasn’t going to be easy at all. So right now, I came here to get better and that’s all I could ask for, and I feel like I’m getting better.”

On it sounding like he has a good attitude about it …
“Definitely. Definitely.” 

On what was the lowest part while he was struggling …
“I’m not sure. Obviously, I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to. But I’m just here every single day trying to get better. That’s all I could ask for.”

On If there was anybody that reached out to him to help him with his confidence …
“You know, Karl (-Anthony Towns) is one of my best friends. We talk all the time. He just told me to hang in there and things will get better.”

On what turned his play around …
“Just me working. Working even harder than I have before. Coach Kenny Payne has been on me the past couple of weeks. We had Camp Cal the last few weeks, and I definitely see myself getting better.”

On what it was like against Arizona State having no points and fouling out …
“It was tough, but I just have to understand that it’s early in the season and we got a win. As long as we’re winning, I’ll be happy with that.”

On how great it was to get the rebound and dunk early against Ole Miss …
“It was good. It’s just showing that I’m making improvements. That’s what we do in practice every single day. We work really hard and expect it to pay off in games.”

On how much of a rude awakening was it to realize how hard it was going to be at this level …
“It was a good awakening I would say. I’m still learning. I haven’t made it yet. I’m still learning every single day. There are ups and downs.  It’s still early in the season. I’m looking to get better as the season goes on.”

On if he felt any pressure of going to the NBA after his first year …
“I put pressure on myself every day to be the best I can be. So that’s the only pressure there was. I put too much pressure on myself sometimes, and I think that’s one of the things I need to work on.”

On if the transition was a little harder considering where he played last year …
“I don’t think so because I still played 17 games in high school my senior year. Did some in the summer with the AAU and the All Star game. So I don’t think that’s a problem. It’s about this year and what I’m doing here.”

On what he thinks of Ben Simmons …
“I played against him and he’s a really good player. He’s really good.”

On if they were teammates at once …
“Yes, we were teammates.”

On how that worked and who did what …
“On the court, we had a very good chemistry I would say. He’s a really good passer. His basketball IQ is off the chart. We played really well together on the court.”

On if he sees it as a personal challenge going against him …
“It’s about our team going against LSU. So it’s about us going to get a win when we go down there. So that’s been the focus for us.”

On how difficult it is to break through struggles while playing at Kentucky …
“It’s difficult, but at the same time, I have to embrace the challenge. That’s what I came here for. I’m glad I came here. I’m just looking to get better every day.”

On if coming off the bench has helped …
“It’s helped a little bit. I get to see what’s going on out there. I watch Marcus (Lee) and Alex (Poythress) and how they play together.”