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Kentucky Closes Three-Game Homestand with Georgia




Jan. 24, 2014

Cat Scratches: UK looking to take next step toward ‘quantum leap’ against Georgia

Imagine if UK ever played a game in which each one of its talented players played to his vast potential.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Georgia
Saturday, Jan. 25 - 1:30 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | UGA Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via ESPN3
Gameday Live: Live stats, audio, blog, and social media
Text Updates

What if the Julius Randle who dominated Michigan State in the second half and the Willie Cauley-Stein who blocked nine shots against Boise State manned the Wildcat frontcourt?

What if the Andrew Harrison who scored 26 against Tennessee and the Aaron Harrison who poured in 28 vs. Robert Morris were on the floor together?

What if John Calipari could sub the Alex Poythress who went on a one-man 7-0 on Tuesday against Texas A&M for the the James Young who had 26 points against Mississippi State?

The prospect is certainly a tantalizing one, but it’s not realistic.

“Everybody’s not going to have a good game every game and people have to understand that,” Andrew Harrison said. “But at the same time, it’s not always about scoring points and stuff like that. It’s about playing hard. If everyone plays hard, we’re really tough to beat.”

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Polson to have high-school jersey retired Friday

UK will take a break from its Georgia preparations to celebrate with Jarrod Polson as he has his jersey retired at West Jessamine High School on Friday night.

"I told them yesterday we were all going to go and be there for him, and they went crazy for him," Calipari said. "And what a great gesture for their high school to do."

Polson averaged 18.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds as a senior, leading his team to a Sweet Sixteen berth and finishing his career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,884 points.

Even so, it's an honor Polson didn't see coming.

"I was pretty shocked," Polson said. "I didn't really know they do it actually while you're in college or anything like that so when they told me I was pretty excited and my family was pretty happy about it so I think it'll be a good night."

Pregame Media Opportunity - January 24, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On Willie Cauley-Stein
“He banged his head at the last play, he fell on the floor and banged it so I haven’t seen him yet. Whether he is hurt or not, but he should be fine tomorrow. But he was outstanding yesterday. It was good to see him back to, instead of avoiding everything, creating and doing the stuff that we’ve all seen him do. You go down that road and you start thinking the wrong way, this game is more mental than anything else and for him, he got away from what he was doing to make himself and set himself apart, so he’ll be fine.”

On Jarrod Polson getting his high school jersey retired and if he ever had his high school jersey retired …
“No, they were happy I left. No, I’m – you know, for him, and the team was great when I told them yesterday we’re all going to go and be there for him and they went crazy for him. What a great gesture for their high school to do. Obviously we can’t stay for the game and I’m not allowed to speak, we can’t do anything because there are all kinds of rules to what we can and can’t do. But we are going to go and while that’s there the team will be there and then we’ll come back.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein having a certain look to him in practice yesterday …
“When you’re coaching there is a look of, ‘keep telling me,’ and then there is a smirk. And what I said, the smirking ain’t working. You need to, you need to understand why we tell you to do certain things. You know, this all, you know I talked about Jon Hood probably three or four days before, you know it’s amazing how much he’s grown. I mean, amazing. It’s like we have another coach in him. I told the team about Jon, I said, hey, if you want to know how good you are compared to who he’s played against, there is no player in the country that has played with more pros that Jon Hood. There isn’t one, there is not one, maybe never will be one. He’s gone from what about me to how do I help this team and what do I do? And all of a sudden he’s having a ball making it about everybody else and if he gets his opportunity, Jon Hood will be ready. We talked about Alex (Poythress), and Alex now, in my mind, when he’s 35 years old and something hits him, he’s not going to blame anybody. He’s not going to listen to the alibis. He’ll work on changing and his quote failure won’t be for long. That’s what you hope you get from all this stuff, that you’re teaching life lessons, that they use this. Willie, when you have it going good, you better keep riding the stuff that you’re doing well. If you embrace the wrong stuff, you start sliding the other way and that’s a hard slide. I mean, he did well yesterday and I hope he goes in the game but it’s like a diet, you do right for five days doesn’t mean you’re going to lose 72 pounds, maybe even gain weight but you’re doing the right stuff so you stay with it, you know it’s going to work and you keep marching. That’s what I’m trying to tell all these kids. Derek Willis, talked about him yesterday. Derek, when he gets his opportunity is going to do fine. He’s our best post passer. They play zone, I’m going to start putting him in. We may be able to play zone with him because now you’re really big because he would be our three. You’re talking 6-10, 6-10 – I mean, it’s a huge zone if we want to play that way. So there are things that we’re talking about that go beyond just the basketball. But, you know, again, the clutter they hear, 100-man marching band and that band is step-by-step, 99 turn right, this guy turns left and his people, that clutter says to him, ‘what’s wrong with those other 99?’ That’s the clutter and you’ve got to get beyond all that. I’m taking - I’m owning what’s happening, I’m taking responsibility. He was in the gym the night before its 11 o’clock at night. We didn’t have a practice, he came in anyway. So doesn’t mean it’s the next game, but he’ll change, he’ll get it going.”

On the clutter he keeps referring to …
“It’s everywhere, it’s not just here. I know it’s happening across the country. Everywhere. You can become delusional and I’ve had guys do that. Like, you’re listening and buying it and it’s making you feel good and you become delusional. Or you can man up a little bit, own your own performance, listen to it but understand this person is not helping me. Then you want that call less and less instead of more and more. ‘Tell me what I want to hear, makes me feel good because I don’t want to take responsibility.’ Then that’s who you talk to all the time, become delusional. Let me just say this, what I’m saying, I’ve done this a long time, every team I’ve coached has the clutter. Now who’s going to deal with it and who’ not. My good teams, don’t buy it. Sometimes the clutter is they’re on each other, the other players, turn against, try to – ‘he shouldn’t be shooting all the balls, you’re better than.’ You know, that stuff, doesn’t just happen here, it’s everywhere. Now is that a major problem? It might have been but I know this, it’s out there now, if it was, I think it’s been addressed.”

On Brian Shorter …
“They’re still looking at all those things.”

On the benefit of Jarrod Polson having his number retired…
“ … Jarrod Polson, the reason he’s getting it retired is because of how hard he worked, what he’s become, how respectful and how much grace he shows and how much appreciation he has. They want to retire his jersey because of that. I think it rewards good. I think it’s a great thing for other players to look at him and say, ‘He wasn’t the best player in Kentucky,’ but he made himself into something and has always been appreciative. He’s always been that guy that is gracious to people, so I think it’s good for that.”

On the challenges Georgia brings to the court…
“They’re good. I told Mark (Fox), he’s doing a great job. They are playing exactly how they have to play to win. Their guards are scoring, they’re shooting the 3 when they need it, they are plus 10 in rebounding in our league right now, and they grind it out. One team gave them trouble and that was Florida, one team, at Florida. If that game were at Georgia it would have probably been a two point game. At Florida they got them pretty good, but other than that this team has weathered every storm. They are 4-1 in our league. For us, it’s that next challenge up. Ok, where are we?”

On the play of Dakari Johnson…
“Well he has had ups and downs. We can go back to Arkansas, where I wasn’t sure if he was playing for us or them. And that may be a hard statement, but it’s the truth. Then he comes back, and again his practice habits were so good you could almost predict if he got in this is what was going to happen. He has this ability, but it’s hard, because once again he is playing behind Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Willie is really playing well so you are not going to give him any minutes then. But Willie didn’t play well so what are you going to do with his minutes? He went in and said, you should be playing me instead of Willie, but you don’t say it with anything other than your play. So he’s growing. He’s going to be terrific and I’m proud of him. This is all game to game for us, whether it’s my point guard, whether it’s; this stuff is all game to game with these guys. If they get caught up in one game and they take their eye off the ball, which is the process of getting better as an individual and more importantly right now for us, as a team. That’s what we have been zeroed in on for the last two days and what we are going to continue on today. There something that is going to get us to make this big jump and it’s not individual performances going up enormously. It’s our team play, both on defense and offense really elevating. That’s what’s going to get us where we need to go. Other teams are well ahead of us right now. Either because they are veteran teams and they are way ahead of us as a team, or they’ve just needed each other more than we thought we needed each other. So we haven’t made the strides we’ve needed as a team, but we have made strides. We are getting better, but we are looking for that big leap. That’s where the leap will come, when we really, truly start playing for each other. When we have no ball stoppers on offense. That ball moves or you make a play. On defense, when we play an entire possession. When we show energy for our team, not just when we are guarding the ball. When we’re not guarding the ball. That we block out on an errant shot with .2 seconds to go, because we are going to finish the possession. When we get there, you’ll see this team make a quantum leap. If we don’t get there, we’ll never take that quantum leap. It’s all going to be about us as a team.”

#5, Andrew Harrison, G, Fr.

On the better start against Texas A&M …
“We just thought about bringing more energy and that’s what we did and we played well in the beginning.”

On Georgia playing well lately …
“Yeah, they have been. They’re a really good team. Coach said they can really shoot it and stuff. We just have to play our best to beat them.”

On whether they are adjusting to physical play …
“Yeah, I think so. Every game is tough. Everyone wants to win in this conference and they’re important games, so we have to bring our ‘A’ game every game to win. That’s what we try to do.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein practicing well …
“Willie definitely practiced great. I mean, he’s getting better. He just had a little slump, but he’s probably going to get out of it tomorrow.”

On whether Cauley-Stein was motivated to shake that off …
“Yeah, definitely. Definitely. He’s going to play well tomorrow.”

On how much they need Cauley-Stein …
“I mean, he’s probably the best center in the country and we need him to be as good as we can be.”

On playing an afternoon game instead of at 9 p.m. …
“Everyone knows what we have to do. We don’t go out or anything that night and make sure we all stay in right after practice. We just go in and hang out with each other and just get ready for the game the next day.”

On whether the team will go to Jarrod Polson’s jersey retirement …
“Oh yeah, definitely. We’re going to go support him tonight, so that’ll be fun.”

On his progress and whether he is getting close to where he needs to be …
“Yeah, I think so. I just try to play as hard as I can. It’s really just about bringing energy and making smart decisions and that’s what I try to do.”

On whether it was a natural process of getting comfortable …
“Yeah, basically. That’s what I thought it was, is just comfort level, being confident in yourself and just getting that confidence back that you always had when you’re playing basketball. That’s what I’ve done and that’s what I’m trying to do and I think I’m getting there.”

On how good UK would be if everyone played well at the same time …
“Everybody’s not going to have a good game every game and people have to understand that. But at the same time, it’s not always about scoring points and stuff like that. It’s about playing hard. If everyone plays hard, we’re really tough to beat.”

On whether effort is becoming more consistent …
“Yeah, definitely. I think so.”

On the cold temperatures …
“Oh, they didn’t tell me about this (laughter). Nah, it’s fine. You have to bundle up, but it’s OK.”

On whether Coach Calipari told him about the weather …
“No, no one told me about this, having to wear long johns and stuff like that. But’s fine, it’ll be alright.”

On how cold it gets in Texas …
“My mom told me it was like 32 today, so that’s really cold for them. But now I really appreciate Texas and summer and stuff like that. I really appreciate summer (laughter).”

On how nervous Polson will be tonight …
“I don’t think he’s that nervous. He’s real calm. He’s been in a lot of big situations so he’ll be alright. And everyone here is proud of him, happy for him and we’re going to go support him.”

On how far the team has come in terms of chemistry …
“I think it’s been great. Each of us has been through a slump and it’s just part of being a young player and we all understand that. We’re all just trying to play for each other and not worry about everybody else.”

On whether that has gotten better …
“Yeah. I think we’re playing for each other now. I think defensively, Coach talks about defensive spirit and our assistant coach Kenny Payne said something about defensive spirit. Those are his words. That’s what you have to do. You have to play with a lot of energy and just take it personally when you’re playing defense.”

On whether he is surprised by fan reaction when they don’t play well …
“No, not really. I feel like a lot of people were talking about me as an individual. Everyone else was playing pretty good, but me individually wasn’t playing so well and I was taking a lot of criticism. But I felt like that just motivated and made me a better person and I’m fine with that.”

#3, Jarrod Polson, G, Sr.

On his thoughts about having his jersey retired at West Jessamine ...
"Really excited about it, being able to go back. I feel really humbled and just feel gratitude really."

On being shocked when he found out ...
"I was pretty shocked. I didn't really know they do it actually while you're in college or anything like that so when they told me I was pretty excited and my family was pretty happy about it so I think it'll be a good night."

On what the team has been working on going into the game against Georgia ...
"Not really anything in particular, just back to the basics of working hard, putting a lot of effort into the defense, not stopping on defense or anything like that. We've had some really good practices, the last two, so hopefully that'll contribute to the game."

On Calipari playing him more because of his confidence ...
"I think being older just makes me more confident. I played a lot last year and I'm not afraid to do anything. I just go out there and have fun and ball. I think I am confident. I think Dominique (Hawkins) is confident too. He's done great, really great, so I'm happy for him when he goes in, I'm happy for myself when I go in so it's not anything competitive like that; we're just both in there to play."

On Calipari being with him to have his jersey retired ...
"Yeah, that's something I'm proud of and my family is proud of. I think it'll be really fun to go back and see everyone, just kind of thank all of them for how they've invested in my life and how they've supported me."

On how he found out about it ...
"My high school coach called me, Damon Kelly, and told me about it. And my dad called me that day too so they both told me."

On why he thinks Cauley-Stein fell into a period of not getting a lot done ...
"I don't know, his effort has always been there. Just any player in general has slumps and stuff like that. You can't really read too much into it, but all I know is Willie, he's been doing really well in practice and he looks like the old Willie again. It's definitely a good sign for us."

On the long season factoring into Cauley-Stein's performance ...
"Yeah, you can't really fault him. He's young. I don't think it was effort or anything. Everyone goes through slumps here and there. I think he's back and he really has a good mind set right now so hopefully that'll contribute."

On offensive improving when Aaron Harrison can play off the ball when he's in the game ...
"I think it helps a little bit. Aaron's natural position is the two guard and I think he'd prefer that over playing the one. Any time I can give him a break of running the one because running the point guard takes a lot of energy. A lot of people don't realize that it takes more energy than any other position because you always have the ball, mental energy too. So I think giving Aaron a break when Andrew goes out to put him at the two still is definitely good for him."

On how important Cauley-Stein is to defense ...
"He's the anchor of our defense honestly. Obviously we don't want to have our man beat us as the guards but we know that if we do get beat sometimes, Willie is back there. He's one of the best shot blockers in the nation, so having that back there behind you is really good for the guards. We really appreciate it and he is the anchor of our defense."


 

 

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