Men's Basketball
InteractiveTwitterFacebook
Kentucky Hosts Alabama on Senior Night




March 3, 2014

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Alabama
Tuesday, Mar. 4 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | UA Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
Gameday Live: Live stats, audio, blog, and social media
Text Updates

Cat Scratches: Polson, Hood take different paths to memorable UK careers

Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood grew up as so many youngsters in the Bluegrass do, dreaming of one day wearing a Kentucky uniform.

Nonetheless, their decisions to ultimately become Wildcats were very different.

Leading West Jessamine High School to the Sweet Sixteen, Polson played his way into a walk-on offer from John Calipari. Following in his father's footsteps as a lifelong UK fan, Polson didn't hesitate for a moment in bypassing a scholarship to play at Liberty.

"I knew that if I ever got the opportunity to play for Kentucky that I would always take it," Polson said.

Hood, on the other hand, was a blue-chip prospect from Madisonville, Ky., who drew interest from the likes of Florida, Duke and Tennessee. Kentucky was always on his list, but Hood was no lock to choose his home-state school.

"Once I started getting recruited it just became another school," Hood said. "And then Kentucky turned out to be the best fit for me, my family and where I should go. Now I'm here."

Read the full story

Cat Scratches: Taking responsibility: Cal willing to change to whatever team needs him to be

For whatever the reason truly is, the 2013-14 Kentucky basketball season has not played out the way it was supposed to.

After UK raked in a record six McDonald’s All-Americans, collected what some hinted as the best recruiting class of all time and started the year with a preseason No. 1 national ranking, there was talk of a 40-0 season.

Regardless of where the undefeated chatter originated and whether or not the Wildcats did (or didn’t do) themselves any favors by failing to temper expectations, the season is what it is now. UK is 21-8, just barely hanging on to a top-25 ranking in both polls, and slip-sliding its way down to an NCAA Tournament seed no one thought was possible when the year began with such visions of grandeur.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since Saturday’s loss to 11-18 South Carolina – John Calipari did not attend the postgame press conference because he was doing his radio show at the same time – Coach Cal said if you’re looking for someone to blame for the way things have gone so far, look no further than him.

“I don’t know if it was my arrogance or the team’s arrogance, but at the end of the day, whatever’s going on with this team comes back to me,” Calipari said.

Read the full story

UK to Release Fourth of Four Collective Posters Prior to Alabama Game

The University of Kentucky will unveil the fourth and final poster of a four-part men’s basketball poster series Tuesday night at the Kentucky-Alabama game at Rupp Arena.

The four-poster series features current Wildcats on the men’s basketball roster.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Doors open 90 minutes prior to tip-off.

The first 7,000 fans in attendance at Tuesday’s game will be able to pick up the poster in the Rupp Arena lobby upon entry.

Pregame Media Opportunity - March 3, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On how he fixes the problems …
“One little thing at a time. Just keep coaching them, keep meeting with them, keep talking with them, showing them tape. They’re 18 and 19 year olds. It was only two weeks ago we thought ‘OK, we’ve got this figured out.’ Two weeks later, you know, we don’t have it figured out.”

On how he adjusts his coaching style to this team …
“How this plays out, at the end of the day, they’re 18 and 19. It’s my job. They need me to keep leading them. It was two weeks ago, four weeks ago where I said if I need to be 35-year-old and coach like that, I will. Throughout my career, there has not been one way that I’ve done things. There has not been one offense or zone defense or press. It’s whatever the team needs from me, and that’s what I do. At the end of the day, I take responsibility. I never put it on the kids. It’s on me. So, we’re here. We’ve got to get these kids playing more confident. Part of it is that you have to work your way through it. Part of it is when adversity hits, will you come together? It’s all stuff we’re learning.”

On getting ejected from the game …
“People walked up and said you did it on purpose. I didn’t do it on purpose. But, after that point, hopefully I’ve lead well enough that they don’t need me out there and they can perform. That’s leadership. Sometimes you’re sick, you step away, something happens, and the ship moves on and you look back and you say ‘Boy, I’ve done a good job of leading because I’ve had other people around me and a team that knows they can do this without me.’ I think that was important for them to see. But again, this team is a work in progress; a lot of young players. Two weeks ago, Florida/Mississippi (we thought) we had this figured out. Two weeks later, all the sudden we’re like a bunch of teams in the top 25 that lost. Some of us lost to unranked teams. You lose. And you regroup and figure it out.”

On what is different or puzzling about this team …
“They’re just younger. They’re younger.”

On what isn’t working on offense …
“Well, part of it is that we’re getting no free baskets, and the one’s were getting next to the goal, for some reason, we’re missing. So, if you look over the last three games, I’m guessing we’ve missed over 20 one-foot shots. I mean right next to the goal. You’re talking about out-rebounding teams by 20-something rebounds each game and getting no breakout baskets. So, we’re not getting enough free baskets. We’ve been working hard on running and getting it out and going. The other thing I think again is getting the ball in the basket with contact. You’ve got to get it in. You can’t have an excuse. You’ve got to get the ball in. We’ve been working on some of that stuff with the kids. We’re trying to do stuff to let them know what they do, you’re capable of doing. Now, you have to get out there and do it.”

On where the team goes from here …
“You just keep going. It’s all a process. I mean where we are right now has no bearing on where we’re going to be. It’s what are you willing to do to get yourself to play better. We have a team, we have a style, we have the defense, we have an offense. We’re good enough to do what we have to do. Now, the biggest thing is that when adversity hits, will you come together? You just keep making a point of it, you keep showing them in the tape where we started to break down, where things didn’t go our way.”

On if the preseason expectations have crumbled this team …
“I’m not in their mind. I don’t know. All I’m trying to do is let’s get ready for our next game.”

On him maybe softening up his approach with the players …
“Whatever they need from me is how I coach, and that’s what they know. Whatever they need. And I’ve done it everywhere I’ve coached. Anywhere I’ve coached, that’s been the same. Now, if you remember two weeks ago, if you really were listening, where I said ‘We need this to be driven by the players’. Well, what does that mean? That I’ve stepped back and they’ve taken on more responsibility. Obviously they weren’t ready. Now, if I’ve got to coach every possession, I will. It’s not what I want to do. What I want them to do is take on more responsibility, also, to where they’re talking to one another and holding one another accountable. If they hold each other accountable, then it’s one less thing I have to do. But it’s hard for an 18 or 19 year old group. When you’ve got juniors and seniors, you can do it. We’re asking them to grow up fast. That’s what we do here. That’s what we’ve always done here. Again, I’m going to be what they need me to be because the job here for me is about them not me. Now you can all focus it on me. But, my job is about these young people. How can I get them to understand adversityhits and you have to come together, how you’ve got to play more for your teammate, how you build self-esteem and self-confidence. That’s what we’re doing. And I’ve said it, there are a lot of things that we’re teaching now that may not hit home now, but will hit home 10 years from now. Inner-dialogue. All the things that we’re talking about. The dregs of all of that stuff that we’ve got to deal with. But again, my mind hasn’t changed about this team. It’s just that we’ve got to get them in a little different mindset. We’ve got to practice it and then they’ve got to carry it over to the game and when adversity hits, when the other team tried to take the game or take it from you, you just don’t let them and you respond to it.”

On what’s been working and what hasn’t been working offensively for Julius Randle
“Again, they’re still – they’re being really physical with him. They are still running people at him. You say what’s not working, the kid is averaging a double-double last three or four games. I don’t know if he should be averaging 25 and 15. Want him to shoot a few more jumpers than he’s shooting. Everything is a drive right now when there are opportunities for him to shoot jumpers. But again, he’s got to be comfortable doing it, more confident doing it. He’s doing fine, I mean, again – you know, we talked about our 2010 team, they were never an execution team, they just were a competitive team. They would look at another guy – that’s what we’re trying to grow to here. You gotta make this personal, you gotta make some it like, ‘I’m going at this guy.’ And that’s what we’re trying to get to.”

On Aaron Harrison saying after the South Carolina loss that this is going to be a great story …
“Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s exactly what we want. Exactly what we want. You know, I know we were the only team to lose on Saturday, but you deal with it and you move on and now how do we get this team thinking right? Great group of kids, just young. Like I’ve said to them, I’m not saying that an 18- and 19-year old kid is responsible, I’m responsible to get them to play right, to get them in the right frame of mind. If they are not in that frame of mind, that’s back to me. This team is young because we recruited a young team so all of it comes back to me.”

On if the last couple of years have caused him to reassess how he recruits …
“I don’t think so. I think – look I’d like to have guys stay for me but if the opportunity arises for them, I’m not going to hold guys back. I’m recruiting good players, some of them people think would go, others think they wouldn’t go, you don’t know until the year is out, you just don’t know. The environment we’re in, you can either convince kids to stay that should leave or recruit players who aren’t quite good enough to be here and compete. ‘I’ll recruit a top-50,’ he thinks he’s one-and-done too. I mean that’s why the rule – like I keep coming back to – I’m hoping this rule changes and it goes to two years. Makes it good for the kids, high school kids, college kids, the NBA, it’s good for everybody.”

On the one-and-done rule being an NBA rule and his impact on it…
“It’s not, it’ll be between the NBA and the Player’s Association, has nothing to do with us. My hope is they come to terms with it and they know it’s best for everybody involved, including the players.”

On if he thinks the team is having fun playing ball this year …
“It’s hard to have fun playing ball here. You remember John Wall coming into me, ‘I’m not having fun.’ I think we were 19-0 at the time. It’s hard to have fun here, you gotta make it fun and today when we met it looked like they were good with each other. They know, playing at Kentucky is not easy, it’s a tough deal. And lose a couple games, makes it even tougher. Just how it is here. You buy into it being the coach here or being a player here.”

On how tough it is to balance being demanding with trying to reinforce and build confidence …
“Well one thing I know being a coach, if you don’t hold guys accountable you lose your team. So one thing I know, if you don’t hold guys – this in that story you’re trying to write probably the most important thing – the most important thing as a coach if you do not hold guys accountable, you lose your team. Now how you do that, there’s all kind of different ways of doing it and throughout the year it changes. You talk for a while, you have them in the office, you yell, you scream, you sit them out of games, you take them out of games, you do whatever you have to. Everyone on the team needs to know everybody is being held accountable. If you don’t hold them accountable, you lose your team.”

On if he will start Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood tomorrow …
“Yes. Yes.”

On if the bench hasn’t been his friend as much as he thought it would be this year …
“Bench has been fine. Bench has been fine. I mean, I don’t – I think Jarrod, Dominique (Hawkins), I think Alex (Poythress) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) or Dakari (Johnson), I think Marcus Lee at times has done good things. Jon Hood has gone in and played as well as he’s ever played in his career so I don’t think that’s the issue for our team.”

On issues he had with the officials on Saturday …
“I can’t talk about officials, no reason to do it.”

On if he has to address officials with the team …
“Players play, coaches coach and officials officiate. That’s how it is and that’s what we talk about all the time. You try to protect your kids but at the end of the day, the way the game is being called, it’s being called. Play, they officiate, you play and I coach.”

On if he sends examples of officiating to the conference …
“Look, the rules have changed how they’re supposed to officiate. It’s supposed to be called closer. 20 feet and two feet, it’s supposed to be the same. Those are what the rules – did I do, I made the one-and-done rule, am I also the one that changed those rules? I didn’t change them, they were – and then we were all taught a certain way of having to play and that’s what you’re teaching. In short of that, the only thing I can control is how we play. Not how the other guy plays, not how the official officiates, not how the other guy coaches, only on how what we teach and how we do it which is, this is what we were told the game would be called like.”

On if he’s saying they aren’t calling the rules the way they said …
“No, you asked me a question and I gave you an answer. I can only control what they tell me we can do and that’s what we’re doing.”

#3, Jarrod Polson, G, Sr.

On if it’s felt like he’s been here a long time …
“It does in a way. At the same time it feels like it’s flown by. I can remember freshman year, getting here, and it seems like forever ago that that was the case. So yeah, it does seem like I’ve been here a while.”

On his favorite memory …
“Oh man, I’d probably have to say the national championship. Just growing up and watching it on TV and then just being a part of it was really special for me.”

On who is more likely to cry between him and Jon Hood
“Jon. Easily. No hesitation.”

On how much he grew up wanting to play at Kentucky …
“That was always my dream school. I’ll be honest, I would probably never have expected I’d actually be here, but yeah, I was a Kentucky fan my whole life and my dad was his whole life before that. I knew that if I ever got the opportunity to play for Kentucky that I would always take it. So it’s really just a dream come true for me to be here. I’ve been here for four years and all the things I’ve experienced are really special for me and my family.”

On if he thought all along that he could make a sizeable contribution when he was recruited as a walk-on …
“I mean, me personally, just being a competitor, I always thought that maybe down the road I would get significant minutes and be able to compete with Division I opponents. I don’t know if a lot of people thought that – even people close to me would ever think that – just because Kentucky is on such a high level. So I’m just really grateful for everything I’ve been a part of and everything I’ve been able to accomplish. I don’t know, it’s just like a dream come true.”

On if the Maryland game last season is his top individual moment …
“Yeah, I guess so, individually speaking. I mean, that was the first time I ever really played in a game that mattered. I don’t know that was just kind of the rise of my career or whatever, my playing time. So yeah, that was definitely special for me.”

On what it’s like behind the curtain at UK that regular people don’t understand …
“Probably just how hard it is. I guess people a lot of times see the glamour of it and how everyone’s a pop star and all that stuff. And that’s really cool and being able to be a role model for kids is really cool. But a lot of hard work goes into it, and we like that. We call it the grind. So that’s pretty cool for us. So yeah, I guess just the hard work and everything you have to put into it to be successful.”

On what Calipari means when he says it’s hard to play at UK …
“Um, I mean, you’re always looked at. The fans are always looking at you 24/7. If you have a bad game then everyone’s going to see it. I don’t know, it’s just a really – I don’t know what a good word is – everyone’s just watching you at all times. So that’s probably the hardest thing about it.”

On Calipari saying it’s hard to have fun playing here …
“I don’t think it’s hard to have fun playing here. We have the best fans in the nation. I don’t know. For me personally, I mean, I’ve always wanted to play at Kentucky, so every time I step on the court it’s fun for me.”

On where this team’s mood is at after Saturday …
“I think we’re in a good spot (compared) to where we could be. I don’t think we’ve given up on the season at all. I think we’re just trying to improve and work harder than we ever have before. We really don’t think the season is over and we think we can write our own story, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. So we can’t look at the last two games and say we’re done. We just have to work harder than we have all season, and I think that’s what we’re doing right now.”

On why this year’s team is made up differently than last season’s …
“I mean, I don’t know how to compare the two, but I know for this team specifically, we’ve met a lot. We’ve told each other that we are writing our own story from here on out everything that’s passed us is gone. We’re starting 0-0. We’re starting fresh. I think our spirits are better than what people think they are. I don’t know, I just think it’s on us and we’re just going to go out and compete every day.”

On what the team would respond to from Calipari …
“Um, at the end of the day it’s on us. People are kind of hounding Cal right now, but at the end of the day it’s really on the players. No matter how he’s coaching, we have to respond to that in a good way. We’ve had a lot of talks with him personally and us as a team, so I think we’re in a good spot. No matter what happens, we know that, at the end of the day, we have to go out and perform. It’s not anyone else; it’s us as players have to perform.”

On if it’s kind of like an us-against-the-world mentality now …
“I mean, that’s kind of how we’re looking at it. Everyone in the nation doesn’t think we have a shot. They think we’re done for. Yeah, that’s kind of what we’re rallying behind. It’s us against the world and we’re going to prove everyone wrong.”

#4, Jon Hood, G, Sr.

On it feeling like he’s been here a long time …
“It does, but at the same time I feel like it’s flown by. It seems like yesterday I was playing with John (Wall), Eric (Bledsoe), DeMarcus (Cousins), in here late nights working out and national championship. It flies by, but when you really think about it that was five years ago.”

On the relationships he has built …
“It definitely means the world to me being able to call those guys up, chit-chat, talk, whatever. Need something basketball wise or just talk to them how they’re playing, how they’re doing even outside of basketball. Guys that I’ve met around here – media guys, different people around the program – it’s good to connect with people and I don’t think that the fans understand that part of it.”

On what he sees in this group that tell him this season will be different than last …
“Well, we’ve met with each other a lot, both as a team and then individual sub-groups with Cal and without Cal. It is kind of us against the world. It’s on us; it’s not on anybody else. Kind of got our backs against the wall, fighting the way that we need to.”

On Coach Calipari saying he’s trying to figure out whether to be tough or a players’ coach …
“Whatever works. Honestly, it’s not anything that he can do. It’s the way we take it, the way we take the messages and the way that we play. He’s not out there playing for us. He’s not in between the lines. He can only do so much. Once you step across, there’s no turning back. You just gotta turn it loose and play.”

On how he explains UK’s inconsistency …
“I don’t know. It’s the same team; it’s just a different mentality. I don’t know what the mentality is and how it changes like that.”

On whether he grew up wanting to play for UK …
“I did. To a certain extent I did. I’ve told you all before: Once I started getting recruited it just became another school. And then Kentucky turned out to be the best fit for me, my family and where I should go. Now I’m here.”

On how his knee injury affected his career …
“Made me stay here longer (laughs). It made me look at things in a different way, look at the relationships I had with people, helped me develop my sense for basketball, love for basketball in a different way and a new light. It just made me respect the game a lot more.”

On his best team and individual memories …
“As a team, I’d say it would have to be of course winning the national title. As a player or personally, I really enjoyed spending the last four years with this young man, Jarrod Polson, over here (laughs). Personally, it’s not about on-the-court stuff. I really—I enjoyed late-night workouts over here. I’ve done it with John, Eric, DeMarcus. Jarrod and I have come over. Kyle (Wiltjer) when he was here and different guys. That’s what’ll mean the most to me after this. Just the relationships I’ve had with people and the connections.”

On what he wants to do next …
“I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t know. Nothing’s set in stone yet, so we’ll approach that when graduation comes.”

On whether it will be basketball-related …
“I don’t know if I want to go get a job or if I’ll want to go into coaching. I feel like I’d be a really good coach, but at the same time I feel like I wouldn’t be a really good coach.”

On why he thinks that …
“Because I would nitpick people to death. I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to basketball. I know how it’s supposed to be played, I know what it’s supposed to look like and I think that can go both ways. It’s just at what level would that be.”

On whether it’s been frustrating as a basketball perfectionist to play with so many freshmen …
“It’s hard, and I think that’s why Coach has called me a coach because I’ll get on different guys. I’ll tell them, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to do this, you’re supposed to lift, you’re supposed to cut backdoor when he turns his head.’ I mean, little stuff and mostly it’s just veteran stuff that Coach Cal sees. I mean, just veteran plays. ‘Hey, if a guy’s got his arm in, go up into him.’ Stuff like that.”

On what he will take from Coach Calipari if he does become a coach …
“Well I know the Dribble-Drive offense in and out, so that’s one thing. I know how to motivate players, how to make it a players’ program and he’s a good coach. He knows what he’s doing. I would take everything from Cal.”

On John Robic’s effect when he coached the final 10 minutes at South Carolina …
“I mean, Coach Robic’s a good coach. He’s coached before. He was a head coach. He knows what he’s talking about and it’s not like we brought in some Joe Schmo from off the street to finish the game. He’s an assistant coach, associate head coach for a reason. He knows what he’s talking about. I don’t know if that affected the game or anything, but it was new light, fresh air, I guess. I don’t know.”

On whether he regrets not transferring …
“No regrets at all. I wouldn’t trade this for anything. My experience and my five years here have been the best time in my life. I don’t know, I guess it’s kind of hitting me right now that it’s coming to an end but oh well.”

On whether he’ll remember the Mississippi State game when he played a major role …
“It doesn’t matter what role I played. A win’s a win. I played five seconds in the loss against South Carolina. It was a loss, so that’ll haunt me. It was a loss. The games that I don’t play in, we lost, we won. I’ll still remember those the same way.”

On what he’ll think in five years when he sees all the NBA players he played with …
“Yeah, hopefully I’m sitting in whatever arena they’re playing in thinking that and call them up, get some tickets. But I’ll keep in touch with every guy that I’ve played with here, NBA or not, and I’ll keep a good relationship with Coach Robic. We’ve always had one and I’ll see where I go.”

On what fans don’t know about playing at UK …
“All the hard work. They don’t see the hard work that we put in in the summer. I think fans, some fans, think that we just go home and take a break all summer and don’t do anything and just sit there. No. We’re here, we’re running. Constant workouts. We do late-night workouts with different coaches, weight-lifting. They don’t see all the hard work.”

On whether he knows what Calipari means when he says it’s hard to have fun here …
“No. I’m having a blast. I could see if you’re not playing if you have the wrong attitude, wrong approach to it I could see that. I’m having fun. Jarrod’s, from what I can tell, having fun. All the guys this year, we’re—basketball’s fun. If it’s not you need to go somewhere else and do something else with your life.”

On why he and Polson are fan favorites …
“Probably just because we’re Kentucky kids. That’s probably the only reason.”

On the students’ “Jon Hood” chant …
“It’s hilarious. I didn’t realize what they were doing until like two or three games after they started it last year, but it’s pretty funny.”

On whether he is more likely to cry …
“No. That’s Jarrod. No. Honestly, I don’t think either one of us will cry. We’ll be happier. We won’t cry.”


 

 

Kentucky Interactive CoachCal.com