Cats Welcome Former Cat Back to Rupp

Dec. 17, 2010

Cat Scratches: Cal's different coaching approach; coach supports NBA in Louisville | Video: Calipari, Harrellson and Lamb on Mississippi Valley State, finals week

Gameday Information
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | MVSU Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Sat., Dec. 18, 8:00 p.m. ET
Coverage TV: CSS
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio
Live Video via ESPN3
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Location Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.

For the second time this year, the Wildcats welcome back one of their own to Rupp Arena, as former UK standout Sean Woods brings his Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils to Lexington.

Earlier this year, in UK's second exhibition game, the Cats took on former Wildcat Dale Brown's Dillard Bleu Devils.

Kentucky enters the weekend on a two-game win streak over 23rd-ranked Notre Dame and Indiana. In UK's most recent victory over the Hoosiers, Josh Harrellson recorded his second double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. DeAndre Liggins scored a game-high 19 points, while Brandon Knight (18), Terrence Jones (10) and Harrellson joined him in double-digits.

The Wildcats dominated the boards, outrebounding the Hoosiers 45-33, including an 18-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

Pregame Press Conference

UK Head Coach John Calipari

On how the team is doing after finals...
"They're doing well. Yesterday was one of our better practices and they seem to be pretty focused, with intensity and some good emotion. So they weren't bad yesterday."

On starting a home stretch in the schedule against less heralded opponents and what he wants to get out of it...
"Well you say that, but they give me the tape of Mississippi Valley State against Georgia on (December 12th), but it wasn't on (December 12th), it was on (November 12th), but they're up six with a minute to go and got robbed. You couldn't say how they lost the game; you would be embarrassed to say how that happened. They're playing Arkansas, it's tied at half. They're playing Indiana, it's tied at half. They've played all road games against big-time opponents and if we don't show we'll get beat. It's just how it is. They shoot it well enough, they're athletic enough. Sean (Woods) has done a good job with this team. As a matter of fact, they're running some dribble drive. So I can see traces of what he's trying to do. It's the basics of it, but I'm seeing that he's trying to run dribble drive. I gave (the team) the Georgia tape, I said watch this tape before you walk in because we all thought we just played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, all of them on the road, no one at the level we play does that. They all play home games. Now we think we're playing this team, `Well this is a win.' You all thought it, I did too until I watched the Georgia tape. Then I had that pit in my stomach like, oh my gosh."

On the leap his teams usually seem to take in between semesters...
"Because it's all basketball. I say, `We'll go three-a-days, what else do you have to do? What do you have to do? You have people to see? You got shopping? You have to hang out?' No, I mean you have nothing to do except basketball. So we'll go twice, three times a day. Now one of those sessions might be cerebral, one of them may be specifically for foul shooting. But we have no time element and I can just coach basketball. So we get better. Now, this isn't the week because they're in finals. Our practices have all been in under two hours, an hour and 45 minutes, an hour and 40 (minutes). They're in finals; they need to make sure that I'm not physically draining them. That's why they're here. Today's practice will be about the same, an hour and 45 minutes."

On Mississippi Valley State's defense...
"Well they're athletic, they're long, and they press. They do a little 2-2-1. They trap, they're active. What I saw when I watched the Indiana tape was they were like a step ahead of Indiana on a lot of fronts. They got up on Indiana six or eight points. Even at the end of the game, it was a 10-point game, 11-point game."

On if he's happy on where the team is for this point in the season...
"Yeah, I mean it's the middle of December and we're playing like that. We break down, we stop playing, we've got freshmen, the game is in the balance and we'll take a bad shot, Why? `My fault. I know, stop, I didn't ask my fault, why did you do that? It's the game-winning rebound and you let the guy jump over your back and grab the ball. Could you explain? Well, I tried. Then I should be playing someone else because that's the game-winning rebound. You get that ball or you sit that bench.' Stuff like, we're not quite at that will to win, we're not quite there. But I will say they're trying. The emphasis we've made is, they don't talk and none of them like to talk. Well, that's selfish. You don't like to talk even though it will help our team if you talk, you don't think you should have to because you don't like to. But you're not selfish, OK. You'll have to explain that to all of us. So now when you go out you'll see us talking more. They're all trying to do what we're asking them to do. We're not deep enough right now; it's a problem we have. We have to find a couple guys to play. We've got guys who have played and when you do the plus-minus the minute they're in the game we're down 70. I'm not saying we're down 35 or 40; it's a 70-point drop. So now you have to say, `How do we do this? How do we play that small lineup some because what the numbers prove is that's our best team even though Josh (Harrellson) is playing really well. Our smaller lineup is putting up better numbers so how do we play that some?' We have so many things to answer right now. Of all the teams in the country, I can't name a handful that has the upside of this team. We have upside. And I'm coaching them so I know. But whether we'll all do this together, `I don't feel like it today. Oh, so should we all take a day off?' I mean, it's all stuff of having growing pains with young guys, and a new team."

On his team's reaction to him telling them how high their upside is...
"I think they believe me. When I tell them they know I'm talking truthful because I say some stuff that's pretty hard. So when I tell them that I think they believe me. When I told last year's team it's the most talented team I'd coached, they believed me and then they started repeating it. These guys know. If we don't come together though, you'll never reach your potential. If you're not playing for your teammate, if you're not your brother's keeper, you will never reach your potential. If it's all about, `I need to get mine. I haven't shot it in awhile. Why should he get all the balls? Mommy tells me that it's somebody else.' All that stuff. If that is what it is then we'll never reach our potential."

On how special this weekend is with Joe B. Hall and having many former players coming back...
"It's great stuff. Sean (Woods) and I have been pretty close for the last five or six years. He was very close with (Auburn head coach) Tony Barbee. Tony and he were from Indianapolis together. I've always been on his resume and helped him and will help him with the next job he has an opportunity to get. And then for Coach Hall, he's been a special friend. He's been like a mentor. He was in practice yesterday. He comes to practice two-three days a week. He gets on there, starts diagramming stuff for me. A great day for me was last year when we introduced him, I think it was for the Blue-White scrimmage, I sat him on the bench and the response from our fans was like, wow. And sometimes when you coach and you've been away, I don't know if he realized how people feel about him here. They truly love him. So, for 40 players to come back, for us to be a part of that and be around, for me to be around him and him to be able to help us today, it's great. Here's a guy who coached in the 70s, won a national title and has nothing but good things for me. There's no jealousy. It's not, `Well Cal got this and I never had this and I had to do without this and my office-' all he is, is happy Kentucky is doing well. And he wants to be a part of it and wants to come to practice. And he's become a dear friend because of that."

On senior forward Josh Harrellson's development...
"The best thing he did was the garbage he Twittered. He even today is still conditioning 30 minutes before every practice, and then he practices. Are you seeing somebody who's in the best shape of their life? Are you seeing somebody that mentally never could do this? Never could break that barrier? So here's what I learned from this: it shows you the guys that beat up their players, that mentally and physically beat them up, say they don't yell anymore, and just beat them up, some players that's what they need. Josh needed that. Now, did Brandon need that? No. So there are other players that you can get them to the level - I've had great players that didn't need that. But Josh did and it shows me that there are all kinds of ways of doing what we do. There are some guys, like I'm putting a couple others on his regimen. We've had a couple other guys that need to build their own self esteem and break barriers. It can't be me saying it or you saying it or why not. So let's just put them through the gauntlet. You either make it or you're not making it. Figure it out. So I'm happy for him. I'm telling you, I get calls every day about Josh. It makes me laugh. It makes me like, `What?' I talked to Tony Barbee today and he said, `I've talked to pro scouts who are saying it. You know that kid's playing well for you.' I mean, I'm like, `You're talking about Josh right?' I'm proud of him. I'm happy for him. But again, I'm not one that likes to beat kids up. I'm not one that likes to have three-and-a-half-hour practices. That's not how I do it. But you know what? I hate to tell you but he needed something. He needed that. And that's why, you get the mediocre guys and you get them to play well. Well look, I like to get the most talented players in the country and make them play together which is just as hard as getting average players and getting them to be good. Let me tell you, go get the greatest who have all been 30 (points) per game and make them sacrifice and come together and how about this one; be coached. How about be yelled at? How about have a guy in your face and sit your butt down? That, to me, is the ultimate challenge. Now I've found out there are certain guys you separate from the pack and you deal with them differently. But why can't I coach both ways. If I need to be this to one guy then I'll be that to him, and if these guys need this, it's hard to figure it all out but that's what I'd say. You think about it, here's a kid who never played a minute and when he did play we all, including you, would go, `Oh no.' We did it. And you look at him right now and he's got a chance for a future at this game if he chooses to do that. That's what we're supposed to be doing here when you coach. DeAndre Liggins, think about it. If I can get him playing back to where he was a year ago which is vicious, which is what he did in the second half against Indiana, that's it. He hasn't done it in any other game. Viciously go after. Be the ball hawk. Defend and do that. You know what he does now if he's open? (Shoots it). It's in. Now here's what you have, one of the best defensive players in the country who ball hawks and gets you three possessions a game that you would not get and if he's open he makes every shot. Now forget about what he does for us, think about what he's done for himself. And that's what we're supposed to be doing here. Yeah we're trying to win every ball game, but you're trying to develop these young people, build their self esteem and confidence. Sometimes, like I've got a couple guys here I'm burying right now on them and I'm being right to the point because you've got to grow up, be a man. Man up. Change. My job is to get guys to change. I probably, if Josh didn't Twitter, would not have done it this way with Josh, and you know what, it would have been a mistake and he wouldn't be as good as he is right now."

#20, Doron Lamb, G, Fr.

On how he feels like he is developing as a player ...
"I think that I have gotten way better on my jump shot and my defense. That is the most important is my jump shot and my defense. I got way better on that. Coach Cal has got me working hard on my jump shot and playing defense."

On what specifically has he been working with the jump shot ...
"Coach just wants me to plant my feet when I shoot and be ready and in shooting position when I get the ball. That was the main thing. When we played in Louisville, we missed a lot of shots because I wasn't ready to shoot. Coach is getting me ready for that."

On not shooting the ball well last Saturday against Indiana ...
"I always try to get my teammates involved. When you try to score, they look to score too because they know that you are going to pass them the ball. Coach always tells me to go into the game and be aggressive, but also look for your teammates."

#30, Eloy Vargas, F, Jr.

On how hard it is to juggle basketball and academics (with it being finals week) ...
"I think that it is kind of hard. At the beginning it was really tough, but I think that I am doing a better job to get good grades."

On how he feels he is developing as a basketball player at UK ...
"I am coming along pretty good. I just need to keep focusing in practice and keep thinking about doing the right thing."

On what coach wants from him on the court ...
"He wants me to be more physical and come out with the ball tough on rebounds."

#55, Josh Harrellson, F, Sr.

On if he credits himself or Coach Cal for his success this season ...
"It is definitely 50-50. Coach Cal is the one that put me up to this, but I could have easily said, `Forget it I am not going to do it because it's hard.' I just stuck with it and it is all paying off now."

On if his mindset on the game has changed since he might have a further career in basketball beyond college ...
"Yeah, I believe so. I think that I can play somewhere. Who knows where it will be and who knows what the future holds for me. But right now, I am focusing on this season."

On their schedule in the gym this week with finals ...
"Yeah, we practiced every day. We actually had Sunday and Monday off and Tuesday was a light day and Wednesday wasn't bad. We have been practicing. Thursday was pretty hard and today, I am sure, is going to be tough to get us prepared for tomorrow."

On the team coming together the next few weeks since they don't have school ...
"I think that there is a lot of team chemistry built over that time. (Last year) we were together all day, every day and hung out at least three times a day. If it was one practice or two practices we always hung out three times, whether it was a movie late at night or just going bowling. It was good for team chemistry and once we built that it was hard for us to separate because we knew what everybody was doing on the court."