UK Men's Basketball Previews Duke

Matthews, Ulis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Duke Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Nov. 16, 2015

John Calipari

On being a guard-driven team like Duke … 

“I wish we were playing a year ago at the end. Mike (Krzyzewski) has done a heck of a job, because when you watch the tape, they’re driving the ball. They’re running good stuff to put them in positions to drive the ball. He is mixing up their defense like I’ve never seen. They’re running a 1-3-1, 2-3, 1-2-2, 1-2-2 press, and sometimes they fake and sometimes they come. They spread out a 1-3-1. He’s trying everything to see if he figures out what he likes for the team. I imagine they’ll do it in the game. You’re going to have two driving teams. The game will probably take two-and-a-half hours because there are going to be fouls. We’re going to foul and they’re going to foul. Both teams are driving the ball. His team is driving the ball and my team is driving the ball.” 

On if he feels like he and Coach K are in the same boat of trying to figure out their teams …

“We’re trying to figure it out. Just like they can’t be ready for everything because they’ve only had one day of preparation – unless they’ve prepared before the weekend games. They have nine out-of-bounds plays, four different offenses, they do two different things against a press, and they have a nice side out-of-bounds play. We’re not going to be ready for everything. It’s too early. We have Tyler (Ulis), who never started a game, and Marcus Lee, who only started a few games. Then, all the other guys are freshmen and Alex (Poythress) coming off the bench. This will be a good game. I’m anxious to see Alex. Again, an elite athlete. I don’t care about anything else. When people watch you, they say, ‘That is an athlete.’ If not, then we’re still not getting through to him.”

On the new rules with blocking and charging fouls …

“It’s not block-charge. It’s like you can’t touch anybody. You put your hands or forearm down there or hip check them and the guy’s driving and there’s body contact, then it’s an automatic foul. Maybe I’m wrong, but if we both play how we’ve been playing, then there are going to be a lot of fouls called.”

On if there were any issues in the first two games that stemmed from the new rule changes …

“We had a 30-second violation, which is unusual for us. So maybe the five seconds matter a little bit. I don’t believe so, but I just want them to continue, whether it’s my team or the other team, or if it’s both teams, call the fouls and make us adjust. That may mean that we have to play zone. That’s my job to figure it out. But I think Mike has done a fabulous job. When I watched them, he’s trying stuff. He’s not just saying, ‘We’re playing like we did the year before.’ He’s not. They’re doing some of the same actions, but the idea of what they’re doing is totally different.”

On Poythress’ performance in the Duke game in November 2012, and what he thought he had on his hands with Poythress at that point …

“I don’t do that. Alex has had an injury. He’s had a good career. Now it’s time to be great. With an injury like that – my son called me, who had the same injury, and said, ‘Dad, he’s just coming back and I know how hard it is.’ So that’s my son getting on me because I want more than maybe what he’s willing to give right now.”

On what the “guard-heavy” game will give Skal Labissiere the opportunity to do …

“Skal will have trouble with (Marshall) Plumlee, who plays very physical. It’s going to be a challenge for him. This is a grit game, a grinding game. They do a great job of wedging on rebounds. When they shoot the ball, they will wedge you all the way under to the cheerleaders. So if you’re not ready to fight they’re going to get offensive rebounds. Like I said, they’ve got good players, good shooters, size. They’re going to start 6-9, 6-9, 7 foot, and two 6-5 guards. That sounds like our team a year ago. They are big and long.”

On the pressure of Tyler Ulis and Charles Matthews playing in their hometown ...

"I think Tyler will be fine. Tyler is a different cat. He has a different way of doing things, but I'm anxious for him to get home and let him see family, and Charles the same thing. It's neat for those kids to be able to get home and play in this environment. It's time for us to learn who's who. I mean, Derek (Willis) has played well. Alright, Derek, he's excited out there. I just looked at him and I said, ‘You know, I'm happy I have Derek Willis on my team.’ He laughed, but you know, let's go do it here now. So, Jamal (Murray), Isaiah (Briscoe), you foul, you're coming out. You better play without fouling because they're driving. So it'll be interesting with the stuff we have to do to and how we are going to try to feel this thing through. And the game, who knows? We're going to try to do our stuff and they're going to try to do their stuff. They deny a lot, they spread the court, they make it hard on catches. We're working hard to get open. We don't do a great job of it right now. You know, they'll play gaps so the dribble drive is a little harder, which means it forces you into some 3s that maybe you don't want to take. So we gotta figure some of that stuff out."

On Duke's play off turnovers verses how UK plays off turnovers ...

"They fly. They fly up and down the court. It all depends. Our one issue is when our point guard drives, when he's underneath the basket, to get the two and the three to go back. That’s been an issue for us right now. So if he drives and misses, it's a good chance they're throwing it ahead. That’s something that we have worked on, talked about, but it’s not hitting home right now."

On his relationship with Coach K …

“I think we have a good relationship. I mean, we’re not part of the same, quote, tree. I really respect him as a coach. I respect him as a person. I told him – I did it publicly and I told him personally – what he’s done through USA Basketball for my players. Derrick Rose went from being really good to being an MVP. Anthony Davis went from ‘Who am I?’ to an all-star. DeMarcus Cousins – and I told Jerry Colangelo at the time, ‘If you put him on this team, he will be an all-star.’ They put him on USA Basketball, the kid becomes an all-star. I’ve told him both privately and publicly. I appreciate what he’s done for my guys. Now, I want John Wall in there. Let him go. Eric Bledsoe’s having an all-star year right now. I mean, Brandon Knight. We’ve got guys. Karl Towns cannot (play); he’s going to play for the (Dominican Republic), but we’ve got guys out there. Terrence Jones was so excited to be called out to play in Vegas. First thing he did was call me. ‘I just got a call coach. I want to tell you I’m here.’ We had a bite to eat and the excitement that he had that he had a chance to be in that grouping.”

On security after Paris attacks …

“I think everybody should step back and let’s evaluate security. What are we doing for security? And again, I worry about my players, our fans, my own family, that they’re there. And I think it’s something that’s not just in football and pro sports, but in college. What’s our security? What do we look like? And I think, as I say that I don’t think I’m the first person to say it, but I think we’ve all got to really look that hard and say, ‘What’s the security?’  Sad though. I mean, all this stuff just doesn’t make sense to me, but it puts us in a different mindset. Having to think at stuff like, do you really have to think about that? Yes, you do.”

On Brandon Ingram and what kind of things he presents …

“Well, obviously I know him pretty well; we recruited him. He is a terrific player, he is long and active, and he also can score the ball. Derek Willis will probably be a pretty good matchup for him. Two guys who are that size and mobile, both can score, so that could be a matchup that can be a good thing for us. Again, we are going to do what we do. We are not going to change a whole lot because we need to know if what we are doing will work. So let’s do it and do it for a whole game, and if it doesn’t work I’ll be able to come back and say, ‘Alright, we’re going to have to make some adjustments here.’ They are going to play how they play and find out what works for them. Right now they have played man-to-man defense 75 percent of the time. They’ve (also) played zone, but when you look at the numbers, their field-goal percentage defensively is better when they’re in a zone than it is man-to-man. Does that mean they’re going to come against us and say le’s just play them zone? That could happen. Now will we be prepared for it? We are as prepared as we could be – two passes and throw it to somebody and try to get a shot. We’ll just see”

On how hard is it for a coach to go into this game and say we’re going to try some stuff because I need to know if that’s going to work down the line …

“Well, we have enough within what we’re doing to keep trying. Like, if something else is not working, then we will move to something else. I’m saying how the overriding thing of how we are playing, is this the right way for this team? You know, we’re talking about Skal. If you try to make Skal Shaq, he’s not and you’re kind of cheating him. If you give him the ball at like eight or nine feet, Tim Duncan, he’s pretty good. He can make the shot, he can make a play and he’s a pretty good passer, so we’re still trying to figure out personnel. We’re a different team with Derek Willis on the court. We’re a different team with Isaiah on the court. Where do we fit in with Charles? This may be a good game for Isaac (Humphries) going against Plumlee. This may be his chance to go do his thing. All of that is out there and I just want these kids to be excited. I’m excited about this game. I woke up at 6 o’clock, like, what’s going on. I’m excited to coach this game. I don’t know if we can win the game; I just love the challenge to see where we are right now. That’s what I want them to feel. We’ve been together a month and a half and it’s a brand new team. Here’s what I would say: They listen to everything I say, so we’re going to find out if I have been saying the right stuff.”

On if the fans will get them excited … 

“You know what’s crazy? The history that these guys know is like two years. You’re going to ask them, ‘Hey, do you remember (Christian) Laettner?’ ‘Who’s he?’ Those guys don’t know. They don’t know any of that stuff. If we had played them a year ago they would know, but we didn’t. The history of this stuff, it’s amazing. Like, ‘Do you know who Kareem Abdul Jabbar is?’ ‘I’m not sure.’ ‘What?’ I mean. Yes, (it does make me feel old). I throw the Wally Pipp out there and they’re like, ‘Wally Pipp?!’ ”

Kentucky Student-Athletes

# 4, Charles Matthews, G

On if he’s excited to go back to Chicago …

“Yeah, it should be a great experience. All the people that support me there, so that should be fun.”

On how many times he’s played in the United Center …

“This is my first time playing in the United Center. So it’ll be great, growing up as a Bulls fan and all the people that have played there. Just me being able to step my foot on that court is going to be a remarkable feeling.”

On if he’s been to games in the United Center …

“Yeah, I’ve been to plenty of Bulls games.”

On if he has a favorite memory being in the United Center …

“Nah, I don’t want to say there’s a favorite memory. Just watching Derrick Rose play in there a lot, so that was really exciting.”

On how excited he is for the first big game of the season …

“Yeah it’s a very big game, but I just like to look at all games as just huge games. So I’m very excited, hoping that I’ll go out there, put my best foot forward and hopefully come out with a win against Duke.”

On how the team feels after playing back-to-back games …

“Yeah I feel fine. Being an athlete, you have to take care of your body, get treatment a lot, get proper rest when you can. So for times like this when you do have hectic schedule, you can be refreshed and ready for it.”

On Coach Calipari saying he’s never had a player going home and play well …

“I ain’t never heard him say that. I wasn’t thinking that until you said that.”

On if he’s nervous …

“Nah. Just go home, play and have fun.”

On if he expects to have friends and family come to the game …

“Yeah, having my family and loved ones there. A lot of people watching, so that will be exciting as well.”

On if he’s going to try to get some extra tickets …

“Yeah, I’ll be knocking on all their doors asking who’s got extra. So we’ll see how that works out.”

On if he’s watched Duke play …

“Nah, I actually haven’t seen a game of them. Just been focusing on us. I think they played every time we had a game. So I haven’t really had any time to watch them.”

On if he watched Duke last year …

“I saw a few of their games. I was mainly watching us as well last year. That’s all I was really focusing on.”

On what he has learned from the weekend …

“Just that everything is a process. I still have a long ways to go, still have a lot to learn. But we’re winning, so that’s all that’s really is important to me right now. I’m happy about that.”

On what it takes to make an adjustment playing against teams that make it hard on them …

“Yeah, especially early on in the game, (NJIT) came out amped up. It shows they’re packed with energy and we just have to match that fire as well. Everybody is going to be ready to come out and give it their best.”

On if he has talked to Tyler Ulis about being the two Chicago guys …

“No we haven’t really spoke about it. We’ve just really been worried about us as a team preparing. You know, proper preparation prevents poor performance. So we’re really just trying to come together as a team and just worry about what we need to do for each other.”

On if he has a feel if Coach Cal is going to shorten the rotation …

“I’m not sure. That’s a coach’s decision. So I don’t really try to worry about that.”

On if he circled this game on the calendar as one he’s looking forward to …

“Yeah, I mean definitely going back home playing in front of your home town and home city. So that’s a good accomplishment right there, being able to play in the United Center. So I’m happy for that.”

On how much he thinks the first two games prepared him for this game …

“I think they prepared us well. We learned a lot and we really battle each and every day in practice. So I feel that’s the proper preparation right there. It’s still early, still the third game of the season. So it’s not going to be a perfect game at all. We just feel like we’re learning throughout as well.”

On Tyler Ulis saying it could be a measuring stick game for the team …

“Yeah, it’s still relatively early. I mean, it’s just the big names playing right now, so that’s the thing. We’re a marquee program, they’re a marquee program. But like I said, it’s early in both of our seasons right now, so we’re far from the finished product.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, G

On heading back to Chicago for a game …

“It’s good to go back home, always. We haven’t been home in a while. We get to play in front of our family and friends, guys who don’t get to see us play all year. It’s a good experience and we’re excited for it.”

On how many friends and family members he expects to have there …

“Actually, last year I had a lot, but only 13 this year because a lot of my friends are off at school.”

On how much the first two games have prepared them for a matchup like Duke …

“It just shows us where we are as a team. We have a long way to go, but we’re learning more and more each day. We just have to keep preparing at practice, keep coming to work, and we’re going to get where we need to be.”

On what they need to work on …

“A lot. We’re not that great offensively right now, or defensively. We just have to, like I said, keep working at practice, keep coming every day, giving it our all, and we’re going to click.”

On both Kentucky and Duke being guard oriented, and if that’s a matchup he relishes …

“Both teams have great guards. They have Grayson (Allen), those other guys, Matt (Jones), and people like that. We have me, Jamal (Murray), Isaiah (Briscoe), Charles (Matthews), and we’re all just going to come out there and try to play as hard as we can, play to the best of our ability and try to get the win.”

On how aware they are of Duke guard Grayson Allen …

“I don’t know how to really answer that. We’re just going to come out there and play him like any other player. Play the game.”

On why the UK guards have had so many turnovers the first two games …

“I really don’t know. It’s just something that happens sometimes. Turn the ball over taking chances. It’s not going to happen all year. That was one game where I think me and Jamal had 10 turnovers together. That won’t happen again.”

On if this game is a good measuring stick with it being a matchup of two top-five ranked teams …

“Yeah, it shows us where we’re at early. We just have to come out ready to fight. We don’t have a lot in right now. It’s early in the season. We’re not sure how we’re going to play completely. We’re just going to have to come out there and play hard, and go from there.”

On his shooting woes in the opening two games …

“My shooting? Yeah, very surprised by it. I’m going to keep shooting the ball. I have a lot of confidence in my shot. I’m not really worried about the last two games. I’m just going to come out there and do what I do best.”

On how he is health wise after being in a boot recently …

“No, I tweaked my ankle in practice. I’m 100 percent right now. I’m pretty good. My shins don’t hurt. My ankle is fine. I’m feeling great right now.”

On getting the ball to Skal Labissiere in the post …

“He’s just learning to fight. He’s learning how to use his hips, get low in the post. When he catches the ball he’s a monster down there. He can catch it 15 (feet) in and score the ball at will.”

On if Labissiere seemed “tentative” in the opener …

“I wouldn’t say tentative. It was his first game, so, you know, he wasn’t ready for it. He didn’t know what to expect, and he hadn’t learned how to fight yet. But now, he’s doing what he has to do, fighting in the low post and when he gets the ball he’s scoring.”

On whether Charles Matthews has asked him for tickets …

“No, he knows I need my tickets. I know he needs his. But I know he probably will have a lot more than me because a lot of my friends are off at school and stuff. We’re going to have to split it up evenly and see who all can come.”

On the difference in the block/charge rule …

“I haven’t really thought about that. I didn’t even know there was a rules change, honestly. I may take a couple charges, but other than that—I took a couple charges, but that’s rare, honestly.”

On whether he has noticed any rules changes having an effect on the game …

“I feel like the 30 seconds, the shot clock, because with teams pressing now, by the time they get to half court and they get into their offense like 19 seconds in, it just helps us defensively, honestly. And then it helps us play a little faster with the 30-second clock and I feel like it’s to our advantage.”

On the lift Isaiah Briscoe provides …

“He gives us a lot because he’s so tough and defensively he’s going to get into his man. He’s just a bulldog who wants to win. He’s going to rebound the ball if he needs to and just play to win, basically.”

On how exciting a UK-Duke title game would have been …

“Really exciting, especially with Karl(-Anthony Towns) and Jahlil (Okafor) going against each other, both top-three picks in the draft and just two great teams playing against each other for the national title. But we fell short so can’t really talk on that.”

On whether facing the defending champion creates extra motivation …

“No, not really. We don’t really think about that. We’re just coming out there playing it as another game.”

On what he expects from Alex Poythress …

“I’m expecting him to come up and show up big. He’s playing great for us now. He’s been playing pretty good with the rebounds. We need to get him the ball in the post a little bit more and just let him do what he does best.”

On how aware players are of the ways fans feel about Duke …

“I don’t think we really realize it that much because it’s more like Kentucky hates Louisville. We’re just coming out there playing the game, not really thinking too much of that.”

On how well he knows Duke’s players …

“No, I don’t really know much. Brandon (Ingram), I think he visited here last year. I know him from that and then Grayson (Allen) was in our class. He was an All-American with us. But other than that, I don’t know them.”

On Coach Cal saying players don’t play well when they go home …

“Well I played pretty well last year when I went home. But I feel like it’s because when guys go home they want to prove something. They have a lot of people there trying to see them, so they’re trying to play to the best of their ability. Probably a little too excited and I try not to be that way.”

On everybody playing well in Chicago last year …

“Obviously (laughter). With the outcome of the game.”