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Kentucky Continues Road Swing with Missouri




Jan. 31, 2014

Cat Scratches: Cats counting on team meeting to propel them into Mizzou matchup

Their flight home postponed by a day due to weather and stuck in Baton Rouge, La., the Kentucky Wildcats could do nothing but retire to their hotel rooms.

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But instead of sulking alone after a disappointing loss to LSU, the Cats decided to put the time to good use.

"We had a team meeting actually, a players-only meeting after the game, which we shared a lot together," Dakari Johnson said.

It was Alex Poythress who called the meeting. The soft-spoken sophomore wasn't happy with how Kentucky played and summoned his teammates via text message to talk about it.

"Everybody shared their own opinion," Johnson said. "Lot of players apologized for not giving their hardest. I think it was a real important team meeting."

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Pregame Media Opportunity - January 31, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On his feeling about the players calling a players-only meeting …
“Don’t want to know. Don’t want to know, don’t care. Let’s play. This is all about what we do on the court preparing to go to war, understanding the other team is excited to play you. That’s all that this comes down to.”

On the significance of Alex Poythress calling the players-only meeting …
“You’re telling me stuff I don’t know because I don’t care to know. All I want to see is that we are preparing to play and understanding that the other team is absolutely excited to play you, and you have to be excited and energetic and passionate. That’s how you have to play basketball.”

On if he’s frustrated things aren’t clicking yet …
“(I’ve) never had a team this young. This is the youngest team I’ve ever had. I wish they would have changed right away, but it’s more of how they think than just trying to change sole basketball habits. Their emotion is tied to their play. If they’re playing bad and we’re playing really good, they’re really sad. If we’re playing bad and they’re playing really good, they’re really happy. They know they’re doing it and they’re trying to change. It’s not that it’s not being addressed; it’s just a hard thing to crack. You have to be more into your team than how you’re playing. You have to bring us great energy and passion, and you have to play for your team more than yourself. That’s a hard one when you’ve got a bunch of 18 and 19 year olds.”

On possibly changing the starting lineup …
“I might, but then again, I can sub a guy four seconds in. I can look, ‘okay, you’re out.’ I can do that. Who starts doesn’t matter unless you’re leaving them in the game for five minutes.”

On what concerns him about Missouri …
“Guard play is really good. Their inside people are very role-oriented. They do what they’re supposed to do. The big kid sets great screens, gets around the goal and makes baskets. But their guard play, the combined three of their guards are as good as we’ll play in or outside of our league.”

On how leadership on this team is coming …
“We’re trying to teach them. The thing ‘leaders are born’, you know I’ve done this 20 years. My job is to continue to teach them what it means to lead. What it means to lead is to serve everyone else. So when someone says there’s no leadership, there’s no one serving another player on our team. All of their emotions are tied to how they’re playing. We’re trying to do a little thing, where every time down the floor, you catch a teammate doing something right and compliment them. Well what does that do? It means you have to look at the other guy and see how he’s playing. Now if he’s doing something good, tell him. Get into a habit of watching your team. ‘Now that’s a great screen.’ Now we’ve had a couple of guys that haven’t said anything. ‘Well, I did.’ It was three trips ago. Notice your teammate doing something good and talk to them about it. Those are all things again where when you’re dealing with a young team, you’re trying to get them out of their mindset and get them into ‘team’. Lose yourself into the team. When we do that, you’ll start seeing change. Part of that is that mental toughness that we talk about. It’s also the mental discipline we talk about that you’re focused on everybody else and not your own play.”

On if he showed the team the clip of Dakari Johnson diving into the stands after a loose ball …
“No, we showed all 50-50 balls, which the tape went on and on and on and on. And there were times we really tried and they tried harder. We fought for balls that they still got so now it becomes; OK do you get the viciousness that everybody plays us? I think this is all new. You know, when you tell them, there are a couple things I say in the recruiting process: this isn’t for everybody, this is the hardest thing you’ll ever undertake and, are you ready, I can’t hide you. Not one of you I can hide. So you’ve got to be prepared to come and go to war. Its tough playing here, it’s tough. I think they’re doing a good job and we’ll be fine but this is the process you go through. And them learning that you’ve got to be ready for a war, man. You’ve got to be jacked, you’ve got to be passionate and it can’t be the coaches, it can’t be my staff. It’s, they gotta do this and when you say leadership, that means somebody on the court talking to another guy about being passionate because he’s watching, ‘come on man, step this up.’ But when you’re worried about your own game and your own emotion, you’re never going to lead. So let me just say this, I’ve never coached one guy that walked in was an unbelievable leader. We had to teach it, every one of them. Most of them were the same thing these guys – they were into their own thing. And I can go right down the line coaching here and right down the line coaching at Memphis and right down the line coaching at Massachusetts. Part of what I am supposed to do is teach them all what it means to lead. What that means. We’re learning.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein and assistant coach Kenny Payne’s exchange on the bench …
“I didn’t see it so I don’t know what you’re talking about but they were coaching and I don’t know. Was it ugly?”

On if he likes getting feedback from players …
“I didn’t see it so – well, no when there is emotion in there, yeah, they can come back. They’ll come back at times. Better be right, though. Because one thing doesn’t lie, what is that Jerry (Tipton)? ‘Camera.’ It’s not lying; they got a tape on that game. A lot of times guys are just trying to get away from their performance, you know, and that’s just say whatever comes out of my mouth to make it not my performance. But that’s young guys. Look, this is a great challenge for us. I’m anxious to – we had a good practice yesterday, guys went really hard, longer than I wanted to but at this point there are things that we have to get in. Today we’ll be short and sharp and we’ll get on our way and go to another tough environment for us and let’s see how we perform and what we learned. This is – you know, somebody, I was having coffee in the morning and somebody said, ‘boy, I wouldn’t want to be at your practice today.’ I’m like, why? These 18, 19, what do you think, I’m going to beat the crap out of them? I mean, I’m coaching, we’re showing tape. I’m talking, if I have to get louder I do, if I don’t, I don’t. My job is to teach and continue to pick up and if someone needs, that needs to (be) addressed in an aggressive way then I do it. I told them yesterday, I don’t want this to be about me and my ego, winning or losing. This is about me preparing them to play great and preparing them to be their best. That’s what I have to do and if I stay on that point, we’re fine. If I make it about me and, ‘if I won as a coach or lost or this guy.’ Look, bottom line is we got outplayed and I got outcoached, now we march on to the next game, let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.”

#44, Dakari Johnson, C, Fr.

On nobody helping him up late in the LSU game after he had dived on the floor …
“Yeah, (Coach) brought it up. But things happen sometimes during the game. It was probably heat of the moment or something like that. It’s just one of those things. We’ve got to play not just for ourselves but just play as a team, and that’s what he said.”

On hoping his team would pick him up …
“Yeah, I know, we’ve been working on that a lot during practice and stuff like that. Coach Cal, actually, during the last couple of practices, every time someone does something good, he just tells us just to say good job or stuff like that and be encouraging.”

On what went wrong at LSU that can’t go wrong again …
“We just got to play harder and be as a team.”

On how he played …
“I think I played good, but at the same time I let Johnny O’Bryant outplay me, so I feel like I have to do a better job defensively.”

On whether Coach Cal has said anything to him about a change in the starting lineup …
“No, not really. We’ve just been preparing in practice and that’s it.”

On how they have been practicing …
“We’ve been practicing pretty hard. I couldn’t practice yesterday because of my hip but I’m going to go today.”

On what is wrong with his hip …
“When I fell (during the LSU game).”

On what they have to accomplish inside against Missouri …
“We just have to know that they’re a tough team and everybody’s going to give us their best game. We just have to be prepared for that.”

On how significant this game is to see if the problems are fixed on the road …
“We just got to treat every game like it’s our last no matter what.”

On whether he’s accomplished his goal to bring more energy off the bench …
“Yeah, but I have to keep on going. I still have a lot to improve, especially on the defensive end. I just got to work on that.”

On how Calipari has been teaching mental toughness to them …
“Just when we get down during games, we kind of think the same old way. If we’re losing, it’s a 40-minute game. We just got to compete all 40 minutes.”

On what happened at the end of the game when his teammates didn’t foul …
“Our heads just weren’t in that. We weren’t mentally prepared for it, but we’re getting better as a team. We had a team meeting actually, a players-only meeting after the game, which we shared a lot together. I think we’re going to get prepared.”

On why they felt the need for a players-only meeting …
“We just felt like we didn’t come out and compete like we should have. We just talked amongst ourselves, so I think we’re prepared for this game.”

On what the meeting was like …
“No, it wasn’t heated. We just talked. Everybody shared their own opinion. Lot of players apologized for not giving their hardest. I think it was a real important team meeting.”

On who called the meeting …
“Alex Poythress, who texted all of us and we met in our hotel rooms.”

On who did a lot of the talking in the meeting …
“Everybody. We just went one-by-one. A lot of people apologized and just said this wouldn’t happen again.”

On whether there were any coaches there …
“The coaches didn’t know about it.”

On whether it’s a problem when Calipari is talking about togetherness at this point in the season …
“No, it’s not a problem. I think it’s a process. We’ve just got to learn. The way we played at LSU, that was just learning that we can’t play like that again.”

On whether the meeting will bring them together …
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”

On why it will bring them together ...
“Because a lot of people just expressed a lot of things. I think everybody’s competing.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F, So.

On whether UK’s problems are difficult to fix …
“You know, all the problems are fixable. It’s just little mental lapses. We correct those we should be in pretty good shape.”

On whether the team has a sense of how much opponents want to beat UK …
“We got pretty much of a sense. Every team’s coming in hard. They play real hard with great energy. We just gotta come out and match their energy and then just try to play with better energy.”

On how Coach Calipari teaches mental toughness …
“Just gotta be mentally focused. It’s more about focus. You can’t make mental mistakes. If you run this play, you can be in the wrong spot. You just gotta know where you gotta be at.”

On how this team compares to last year in terms of mental toughness …
“I really can’t compare the two teams. Last year was a different year from this year. We’re focused, we just have some mental lapses like most teams do, all teams do. We just gotta be more prepared.”

On whether youth makes it more difficult …
“I guess it becomes—they’re just making freshman mistakes. It’s their first year playing college basketball, so you really can’t blame them too much. They’re doing the best they can. We just gotta do a better job being more focused.”

On what he tells the starters about getting out of the gate better …
“Really you just gotta get stops to start the game. You can’t let them score the first couple plays to give them energy, to give them confidence. You just gotta come out playing defense really.”

On feeling pressure to build a tournament résumé …
“No, we’re just playing basketball. We gotta be more focused, ready for the next game, take it one game at a time.”

On an explanation for UK’s 2-5 road record …
“I honestly don’t know. I guess we gotta be focused, just win games away from home.”

On Missouri …
“I think they have some really nice guards. I think we just have to come in, play some defense and be able to guard them.”

On whether it’s good to play another road game so soon after LSU …
“It’s real good. You want to see how focused we’ve been, how much better we got in the last couple days, see how far we’ve come.”

On whether there is a pride factor involved in responding …
“Yeah, pride factor comes in. We don’t like to lose. Nobody likes to lose like that, so we just gotta come in prepared, ready to play the game.”

On UK’s defensive struggles to begin games …
“We just gotta take more pride in defense and take pride in stopping our man. We gotta take more personal challenges, like we gotta step up and say, ‘This man’s not scoring on me,’ and stuff like that.”

On whether Jordan Mickey was better than he thought …
“They all played well. They played a great game. They hit a lot of their shots. They blocked some shots, played better defense on us so you gotta give them credit.”

On how Coach Cal tries to get that pride out of the starters …
“We gotta learn to step up to the challenge. We can’t take challenges lightly. We gotta come in ready to play.”


 

 

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