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Wildcats Meet Kentucky Wesleyan in Final Exhibition

  • Head Coach Tubby Smith

    On the Northern Kentucky game…
    “Going back to our game against Northern Kentucky, I felt there were a lot of areas of improvement and we addressed some of them. I thought we had some good individual performances. I thought our deflection numbers were outstanding. We had 56 for the game, but we didn’t really convert on them as well as we’d like. Our free-throw shooting dropped off, and we tried to address that. Hopefully, we will have improved and we’ll see that improvement in the game against Kentucky Wesleyan. I was very impressed with Northern Kentucky, especially the (Mike) Kelsey kid. He made some unbelievable threes.”

    On Kentucky Wesleyan…
    “Now we have to worry about a team like Kentucky Wesleyan. They understand what it takes to win championships, having won so many championships in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Northern Kentucky and Kentucky Wesleyan will compete for that championship again this year. It will be a good test for us tomorrow. I know (head coach) Ray Harper. He and I go way back to our days when we were assistant coaches at Virginia Commonwealth under Mike Pollio. This team is always well-coached and well-prepared and will always get after you. I know they have some good players returning. I watched some of the tape from the Louisville-Kentucky Wesleyan game. They mixed it up a lot, played some (2-3) zone (defense), but they are mainly a man-to-man team.”

    On who will start against Kentucky Wesleyan…
    “We’ll probably switch it around. I thought Rajon (Rondo) and Randolph (Morris) played extremely well in that game, so we’ll see (if they start).”

    On the significance of playing a team with similar championship credentials as Kentucky…
    “It is unique that they are the winningest Division II program and we’re the winningest Division I program. They have eight national championships, and we’ve got seven. Theirs are more recent than ours. Having said that, it’s still two different levels of play. But, you have to go in there and respect your opponent. I respect what they’ve been able to accomplish. They’ve had some great coaches over the years like Wayne Chapman, Guy Strong and Mike Pollio. All those guys have won conference championships at one time or another, if not a national title.”

    On Chuck Hayes…
    “He’s the most experienced player on the team, he’s the toughest player on the team and he may be the smartest player on the team. That separates him from a whole lot of the guys. He’s a blue-collar worker and he doesn’t mind doing the little things that help your team win. He’s in the right place doing the right things, whether it’s defensively or offensively. He does more of those things more consistently than other players.”

    On Hayes’ willingness to accept a leadership role…
    “Most people want it but they can’t have it. Chuck was a leader for us last year and he was a leader since he got here. One thing we try to emphasize with each player is ‘you are a leader and that’s why you’re here at Kentucky. That’s why we recruited you to Kentucky, because we feel like you’re not just one of the top players but one of the top people in college athletics.’ When you don’t live up to those expectations and the responsibilities, then you’ll be held accountable. Chuck has done that. He does it in the classroom and with his community service. He has been a great ambassador for Kentucky Basketball.”

    On Randolph Morris…
    “He runs the floor extremely well. He has to work on his stamina and endurance, but he helps us with his shot-blocking ability and his quickness off the floor. He is two or three inches taller than anyone we started last year, so that’s a big help. He’s got a lot of things he needs to work on, but he has good basketball intelligence. He studies the game. He works extremely hard in practice.”

    On Kentucky’s size in the low post…
    “That’s something I’m excited about. There’s no way to counter size. You can’t just make up for it. You would much rather have that size with someone who can clog the middle and defend the middle and score like Shagari (Alleyne) and Lukasz (Obrzut) did the other night.”

    On whether Kelenna Azubuike will take on a “go-to” role this season…
    “He has always had that ability. We’ve had other players who have stepped up. I never really have a go-to guy. We have a go-to play that we think, when we plug it in and execute a play, we can get you a good shot. So, that’s the same way with Kelenna. He will probably be on the receiving end of a lot of opportunities, based on what we need at that particular time. He gives us the great scoring and makes plays. He works extremely hard on creating plays for his teammates as well.”

    On whether he will settle on a regular starting five during the season…
    “I would like to settle into one, and I think we will eventually. I think that’s best for the team, but we’ll see how that goes.”

    On what he remembers about Coach Ray Harper after coaching with him at VCU…
    “I remember how hard a worker he was. I knew he had a great mind for the game. He was there early, stayed late, and you could usually gauge how long a guy is going to last based on his willingness to sacrifice and commit the time to get the job done. He was always willing to do that. He was very inquisitive and always wanted to know more.”


    UK Players

    #24 Kelenna Azubuike
    On summer workouts…
    “I just tried to shoot everyday. I just tried to get in a bunch of shots each day and work on different aspects – inside the three and outside the three.”

    On coach running more plays for him…
    “Of course it’s welcome, I’m not going to turn down plays. I feel confident that I can score and hopefully everybody else feels that way too.”

    On he and Chuck Hayes being the team’s main veterans…
    “Chuck and I are going to have to be leaders on this team. Chuck is a great player and hopefully we’ll be able to help this team on the offensive end.”

    On the freshmen…
    “I think we have some great freshmen. I’m really excited about the freshmen we have this year and I think they’ll be able to help us out a lot. They played great last week. It just shows maturity to be able to come out the first night and not force everything or get too excited and really play a solid game. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do for us the rest of the season.”

    On working on his game…
    “I work on everything really, but I tried to focus on the mid-range game to make sure that becomes more a part of my game. I tried to make sure I covered all aspects and didn’t leave anything out. I feel like I can still get better so I’m going to keep working.”

    On what the team has to do against Kentucky Wesleyan…
    “(We have to) play the way we’re supposed to play – play Kentucky basketball – up-tempo defense and get out and run on offense and execute on offense. We can’t give up open threes. That’s how they got ahead of us last game. They got a bunch of threes and got ahead, so we have to make sure we do those things.”

    #22 Patrick Sparks
    On Kentucky Wesleyan…
    “I know a lot of their players, they have some great players. I’m looking forward to playing against them.”

    “I know that they are usually at the top of Division II every year. I know their coach, Ray Harper. He’s from where I’m from and I know him real well. He’s a great coach and I’m looking forward to playing against him.”

    “They’re definitely at the top of their division and they can take care of a lot of Division I teams, I’m sure. Hopefully we’ll come out ready to play.”

    On practice this past week…
    “We worked a lot on transition defense and talking on defense. Just the little things like communicating on handoffs and screens and the deep threes we were giving up, so hopefully that won’t happen anymore.”

    On whether it helps to play a college team rather than an all-star team in exhibitions…
    “I think so. They are a team and they run team sets and have team defenses. It’s good to play against things like that because it’s what you’re going to see in the regular season.”

    On the difference between the one- and two-guard positions…
    “They’re definitely two different positions. When I’m at the point, I’m definitely more organizing the offense and getting everybody involved. When I’m at the two, you have to have more of a scoring mentality and be ready to knock down shots. They kind of go hand in hand at times and I can use both to my advantage.”

    “It’s not that big of a transition when you think about it. It’s just that you have different responsibilities and different roles in each spot. You have to know the plays from each spot and I think I do. That’s basically what it is, but basketball is basketball from any spot.”

    On his first game in a Kentucky uniform…
    “It felt good. That first game is over with and now I’m more settled in and more relaxed. So, I’m looking forward to playing (Tuesday) night.”

    #44 Chuck Hayes
    On the opening half against Northern Kentucky…
    “Our intensity, it shows that we can pick it up when we have to, but I don’t know if that is always a good thing or a bad thing turning it on and off like that. I like our composure and how we handled the situation - we knew they were a good shooting team so we adjusted and we were able to shut them down.”

    On senior leadership…
    “The first thing that I have to do is being consistent myself. If I am consistent myself, then hopefully that will set a trend with my teammates.”

    On having the being the winningest starter in the country…
    “It’s pretty neat, I don’t know what to think about it. I may be the winningest player, but some players out there that have a rings and I don’t. They have something I want.”

    On trading that that title for a Final Four appearance…
    “Oh yeah, anytime. That would be the quickest trade-off ever.”

    On Kelenna Azubuike…
    “His confidence level has stepped up a lot. He is taking shots he knows that he can make. He knows he can get to the rim and make a shot when he wants to. His confidence level has stepped up.”

    #2 Ravi Moss
    On getting into the starting lineup…
    “(It takes) hard work and experience. I worked hard over the summer and in practice. I have a little more experience than the other guys, so that is probably it.”

    On what the freshmen bring to the team…
    “They bring a lot of athleticism. They are all athletes, they are quick and they can give you a lot of different things. They attack you in a lot of different ways - that makes this team more dynamic, more deep and probably a little bit better.”

    On the team’s style this year…
    “We will probably will press a little more and get up and down the court a little more. We have always done that, but we can do that harder and more often because we have so much depth.”

    On Kentucky Wesleyan…
    “We need to continue to define roles on the team and get to know each other on the team a little bit better on the court.”

    On starting throughout the season…
    “Starting is cool but it is all about being on the court - all that matters time on the court. If you get it from coming off the bench or starting, it doesn’t really matter.”


     

     

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