John Calipari Press Conference

Player Quotes (Video)

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

On Alex Poythress …

“He’s doing fine. He’s got to get back in there, and demonstrated performance is going to build his confidence and self-esteem and all that stuff. But he’s got to get out on the court and do it. He was out for about three or four days because he bruised the knee. It might have been the other knee, but he missed three days. He came back a little bit last night, yesterday. He just has to play his way through it and start playing.”

On what he’s looking for from the Blue-White Scrimmage …

“I just want them get out in front of people. See who plays well in front of people. Other than that (nothing).”

On how he will determine playing time …

“No real rotation yet, but we will split the teams and then we’ll also play with the three guards, so I may change teams as we go. We’ll all get a look at stuff.”

On Derek Willis’ shooting …

“Well, he lets it go you think it’s going in now.  A lot of times when you’re trying to get back on the floor to get your feet underneath you don’t do a thousand things. I know I’m going to be doing these two or three things. That’s all I’m telling him. Shoot the ball, one-dribble pull-ups, defend, rebound, fly up and down the court, don’t show us your whole repertoire of your game. Just do those (things). Build from there to expand your game. He’s been doing fine though.”

On Willis’ confidence …

“He’s matured. Part of this is not just as a basketball player. It’s just growing as a person. Knowing who you are, what you’re about. He’s been great.”

On the biggest area where the team has improved …

”There are two things for this team if we want to be serious where we’re going with this: We’ve got to fight. Fight doesn’t mean punch and swing and grab. Fight means 50-50 balls. Fight means you’re not afraid to dive on the floor. Do extra things, take charges, full rotations. You just fight. The other thing about fight is, before you catch the ball you’re in a fight. Before the man you’re guarding catches the ball you begin to play. That’s fight. We don’t know that yet. The other thing is you’ve got to value possessions. In other words, shot selection, turnover, assist-to-turnover ratio. Valuing each possession so it doesn’t matter what we run. Just value each possession. It doesn’t matter how we’re defending; just fight. Fight on both ends of the ball and lets value possessions and then we’ll be OK. That’s all we’re working on right now.”

On freshman catching onto being aggressive and fighting for the ball …

“Slowly.”

On if Poythress’ return will contribute to the team’s ability to fight …

“Lead the nation in rebounds. Just be a beast.  All the other stuff will come in time, but focus on one thing: Let’s get that down and build your confidence in yourself and in your body and through that you can do that. Then let’s begin to rebuild the rest of the stuff.”

On if he gives each player specific things to work on …

“Yeah, I do. I tell them, ‘If you do that, you won’t be playing much.’ I say, ‘Do these three,’ and then when they start doing other things, I say, ‘That brings you over to the bench.’ “

On Skal Labissiere’s improvement …

“He’s done well. He still has to fight more, go get tough rebounds, block more shots, and act on offense and defense quicker. Think and see and be ready before. A lot of the stuff that he’s done has not been based on that, but he’s pretty good. “

On guys who perform better in front of people …

“I’ve done this for so many years I can’t look back and think of guys, but I have had some that look really good in practice but get in front of people and then they smell popcorn and don’t play as well. If you’re going to be any good you have to have one or two game guys. In other words, when the game is on the line they want to make the play. It doesn’t mean they have to; it means they’re not afraid to make the game-winning shot. I think we have a couple of those on this team. But you have to get in the game and see who takes the shot when it really matters. You don’t make them all. If you remember, Brandon Knight didn’t make four or five, but when we got into the tournament he made every game-winning shot, which put us into the Final Four.”  

On how important live scrimmages are for the guys …

“I watch the tape. It’s developed; it’s not one game. I would imagine that we will have some minds racing and it’s good for them to see themselves. Hopefully we won’t have a lot of cramping up like we had at the combine, but we will see.“

On how to get Isaac Humphries on the floor for offensive purposes … 

“The crazy thing is we scrimmaged Saturday and he had eight rebounds. He led us in rebounds. I had another guy call me today and say, ‘You have to figure out how to get him on the floor some.’ And I agree with that. Part of it is he is 17 years old. His muscles aren’t defined yet. He’s really trying. He has some good things he’s been taught and there are other things he has to be trained in. But he’s a great kid. Gives you a skilled 7-footer.” 

On preseason flying by without a trip this year … 

“Thank goodness we started on October 2. Could you imagine if we would have started on the 13th, 14th or 15th like we normally do? Then after five or six days I say, ‘I don’t like this, let’s change,’ which is what I’ve done, and we’re going to go another direction. That meant we would have had four days before we play on national television. Oh my gosh. So having us start when we did, for our program where we are with all new young guys, most inexperienced team in the country with the No. 1 non-conference schedule in the country, we need some time. Some teams would say we need scrimmages more than an exhibition game against a team we can beat. We need just games in front of people. That’s what we need.”

On what he didn’t like and what he changed (about preseason) … 

“I didn’t like how we were playing offensively and then trying the three guards, threw that in and threw some dribble-drive stuff in. I keep telling them we want to be random, yet organized. Basically saying, know how to play not run plays. Now there is pick-and-rolls, there’s handoffs, down screens, back screens, but we’re trying to teach them. Having a young team, I’m looking at them saying, is that the best way to play for this group? It (knowing how to play not running plays) wouldn’t have been for last year’s group, but for this group it might be.” 

On if this team is the ideal dribble-drive team … 

“It could be. It could be. If we’re really good at it we will be playing against a lot of zone. If we’re real good at it they will just say, ‘Forget it, I can’t put a hand on the guy, can’t put a forearm on a guy, they keep coming at you, go zone.’ Then we better have a good zone offense and a good zone team.”

On if playing big is what he wants Marcus Lee to do …

“Just has to be really consistent in what he does and keep defining who he is as a player. He’s got to be willing to shoot 10-to-12-footers. You must. Just take it. And then if you’re – you don’t have to make them all, you just can’t miss them all. My thing is get in the gym at night, and if that’s a shot you have to shoot – you must shoot it – then get in here and make them. Make your free throws. Block shots. Rebound every ball. Fly up and down. Get us dunks around that goal. Be that energy guy. Let everybody look at him and here’s how he’s defined. It should never be, ‘What is Marcus Lee?’ He’s doing it. He’s been much better. He turned his ankle yesterday. I think he’ll be alright for tomorrow. We played in the morning and he hurt himself.”

On if there has been an unusual amount of nagging injuries this preseason …

“The funny thing is – we talked about it – they’ve all been fluke. Like a finger, Dom’s thing, a couple ankles here and there. Usually we’ve been blessed enough to not have that. Alex’s thing is just something that has hasn’t happened much around here, so hopefully they’re just dings and bruises. One of the things is when Charles (Matthews) hurt his thumb I went to three guards and it gave me a chance to totally look at, OK how will we play, what will it look like if we went this way?“

On if he will start three guards in the Blue-White scrimmage …

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t made that decision yet.”

On if he’s nervous about picking the Breeder’s Cup post positions later today …

“I was going to go recruiting today and everybody told me, ‘You can’t miss this,’ and I go, ‘What is the big deal?’ ‘You can’t. You have to.’ I said, ‘I’ve got to go recruiting.’ ‘You need to.’ I said, ‘Can’t somebody else just stick their hand in there and pull them out?’ ‘You don’t get this.’ I called a friend of mine and he said, ‘Cal, this is worldwide stuff.’ So I am going. I hope no one’s mad at me when I pull out (their horse’s number). I guess I pull out, what, one at a time? And whoever’s No. 14 is not happy with me? If I knew what I was doing it would be a lot of pressure, but since I have no idea what it means – I don’t know what No. 14 means. Like, don’t pull a No. 14. What in the world does No. 14 mean? (Reporter says, ‘Post position.’) Is that inside or outside? (Reporter: ‘That’s outside.’) It’s outside. Wow.”

On pressing in practice …

“Yeah, we’ve been doing it. I’ve been messing around with my press that I used in my past years. With some players it looks good. There are a couple players I said, ‘Guys, if we press you’re not playing.’ So if we’re pressing half the game, uh oh, that’s 20 minutes you’re not playing unless you figure out how to do this. Again, one of the things we have to do here is keep it real, be honest with these kids. We move fast. I tell them, the train’s moving. You can either be on the train or you’re running from behind. And if you’re running from behind, you better run real fast and grab because this train is moving. And it’s how I’ve done it here. You’ve got to be alert. You’ve got to be watching. Our practices move fast. The games are faster. So everything around here is moving.”

On if he knows who he’s picking for the Breeder’s Cup …

“Where is that race run? I’m just kidding. I know it’s here. I don’t because I really don’t know who’s in it. Normally I would pick a horse of a friend of mine. I may not have anybody because I think they would have called by now and said, ‘You’re picking mine.’ So I don’t even know who’s in it. I do have tickets to the race though. When is it?” 

#22, Alex Poythress, F

On being excited for the Blue-White scrimmage …

“Yeah, a little bit. It’s the same as practice. It’s just an intra-squad scrimmage. (It will be) Good to get out on the floor and get used to the team and everything.”

On having scheduled rest days …

“The training staff and coaches are all doing a great job of telling me when to go and when to sit out. Some days I need a rest day, but I’m going hard. I’m doing everything with the team, practicing and everything.”

On what to expect at tomorrow night’s scrimmage …

“Just how hard we can compete and everything. We really are going to compete hard, and we’ve got a lot of competitors on the team. It’s going to be all of us just throwing lobs and showing a good show. We’re actually going to be going hard afterward.”

On beating Terrence Jones’ record 52-point game …

“I’ll try and see if I can, but it’s going to be hard to top. He had a great game that game. I’ll just try to go out there and compete.”

On Coach Calipari telling him to be a beast …

“Yeah, I understand. I know by far that I’m the strongest on the team and to just use my strength to my advantage. Just use everything else to my advantage, you know, rebounding, blocking shots, getting tough rebounds, everything like that. Just trying to help the team.”

#35, Derek Willis, F

On how the team has developed to this point … 

“It’s just a process right now, just like it is every year. There’s still a lot of things we’re having to learn.  (It’s) Just figuring out how to fight and get through a lot of stuff.”

On how being an experienced veteran has helped in practice so far … 

“Yeah, I mean, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of understanding how to fight. Yeah, there’s tangibles in the game, like shooting and all that. (It’s) Just really learn how to fight and value a possession.”

On the importance of the Blue White scrimmage …

“It is important to me.  It’s a scrimmage. There’s going to be parts where we mess up, parts where I mess up, [we just] need to learn from it.”

On what qualities Tyler Ulis possesses that makes him a leader … 

“He’s a real individual and that just makes me respect him off of that. He’s trustworthy. For the most part it’s deemed that point guards are usually the leader of your team or they play an important leader aspect. He’s been really good with that. Coach Cal has been on him, too, about bringing the team together. He’s just doing well, really playing his role.

On how his finger injury has affected his role on the team …

“I think it did set me back a little bit, but now I’m getting back into the swing of things and it’s all good.”  

On what he can add to the rotation … 

“Offensively it’s hitting 3’s, one-dribble pull ups. Defensively, I think that’s where questions come up. That’s just stuff I’ve been working on, Just trying to move my feet and guard guards. Once I do that that will be key.”