John Calpari on UK Basketball’s 2017 Media Day (Not Coach Day).
University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Men’s Media Conference
JOHN CALIPARI: Questions.
Q. I thought I heard you say the other day at the pro day, Jarred’s foot injury wasn’t quite as bad as you originally thought.
JOHN CALIPARI: We don’t know. They’re going to reevaluate here in another week or so, then figure out where it goes. It would be an unbelievable blessing for him or us if he were able to start coming back to play.
But, you know, you let the doctors and the experts deal with that. They wanted to look at it a little bit more before they made a decision and let him feel it, see what he felt like.
Q. What is your reaction to the whole FBI investigation of college basketball? How much of a pale do you think that puts on the whole thing?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, what’s out there right now is a black eye. But here is the thing for everybody here: I don’t want to come across as uneducated or dumb. None of us know where this thing’s going. So for me to really comment much on it, I mean, I don’t know where all this is going.
Obviously, what’s happened to this point isn’t good. At this point I don’t think me commenting without knowing all the facts is the right thing to do.
Q. How do you react to Mark Emmert’s statements yesterday? Do you think the culture of college basketball is so hopelessly corrupt that something has to change?
JOHN CALIPARI: I read the statement. I kind of liked it because at a point in there he mentioned about the students. At the end of the day, this is about the student-athletes.
I would say, again, this isn’t the format for me to go full boat in this. I would say if we make decisions about these kids, what’s right for these kids, we’re going to be right. If the NBA is worried about the NBA, and if the NCAA is worried about the NCAA, if each individual institution is just worried about themselves, and the last thing we think about are these kids, we’re going to make wrong decisions.
I would say, let’s be fair with the kids. Now, you’ll say, What do you mean by be fair with the kids? I’ll answer the question you were about to ask me when you smiled.
Being fair doesn’t mean you treat every kid the same. When I coach my basketball team, I try to keep it real and I try to be fair. That doesn’t mean every kid’s treated the same way. One player may never have done anything wrong and one has tripped up three or four times. I’m going to deal with those kids differently.
Every player is treated fairly as though they’re a starter. But I just come back to that, there are a lot of players of different levels, of different abilities. Let’s be fair with them. How we’re being fair, I’ll leave that up to the powers that be.
But again, with all this stuff, there’s a commission out there now. Smarter people than I am on that commission. There’s still stuff going on. For me to spend my time today on all this stuff, I just don’t want to do that. Let’s talk about this team. There’s going to be a time where I’ll say, ‘Here are some things I think we need to do.’ It will probably be on CoachCal.com where you can read it.
But now isn’t that time.
Q. Since you want to talk about this team only, should your players and every other player across the country now start getting paid to fix this mess?
JOHN CALIPARI: This is like him (Alan Cutler) chasing me down the hallway and slipping by the door (smiling).
Again, there is so much stuff, treating kids fairly, I have some ideas, but I just don’t think it’s the time for me to talk about that stuff. Folks, you all know me. You know where I’m tilted to. You probably could say, ‘This is how he feels,’ and be right without me saying it.
But I think we all should come together here and, again, be fair. Being fair with this kid. We have kids that are insured. You do know that, right, for disability? But not every player can get that insurance. They’re not all eligible.
Well, that’s not fair.
This is America. So be fair with every one of these kids. Be about them. I’m not saying don’t protect the game. This is how I make a living. I’m not saying don’t protect our university. I’m not saying that. But the first decision should be, ‘Alright, what’s right for these kids, and how do we deal with that?’
If we do that, we all come together with that being fair, doesn’t mean you treat every kid the same. They finally did away with this level playing field. Do you remember that one? 350 schools. There’s no level playing field. That’s just words. But let’s be fair in that, and I think we’ll move in a direction.
I would say this: We’ve had the highest graduation rate in NCAA basketball history of African-American basketball players. They raised the standards on all these kids academic entrants, and I wasn’t for it. I said, ‘You’re affecting one group, and you know who that is, and it’s not fair.’ Well, that group chased that and reached it, and they’re doing so much better in school than they’ve ever done in the history of our sport.
I don’t think you blow up a system for 10 players, 20 players. I just don’t believe you blow up a system. You figure out how you make this work. There are things out of our control. The NBA and the players association would have to come up with it. It’s not in our control. They have to do that. What if they choose not to do it? How do you be fair with the players? How do you do that? How do we make this so that every player that’s here is treated fairly?
Doesn’t mean they’re all treated the same, but they’re treated fairly.
Q. There’s a decent chance that next week Rick Pitino won’t be the coach at Louisville. Will you miss the rivalry in coaching against him?
JOHN CALIPARI: Look, it’s unfortunate, all the stuff that’s come down. But let’s talk about my team, please. Does anyone here have a question about my team, please?
Q. One more question about the FBI.
JOHN CALIPARI: Anybody have a question?
Q. Wait a minute. This is a Media Day, not Coach Day. I am entitled to ask a question.
JOHN CALIPARI: Ask it.
Q. You cannot answer it, fine.
JOHN CALIPARI: Ask it.
Q. The FBI reportedly has expanded into looking at Nike. Kentucky is a Nike school. What reassurance would you give your fan base, the Big Blue Nation, if they’re anxious about what this could mean?
JOHN CALIPARI: Again, you’re asking like you know something that I don’t know.
Q. That’s all I know is right there. If a fan would put two and two together…
JOHN CALIPARI: Wait a minute. We don’t know what you’re saying, if it’s true. Do we know if it’s true?
Q. It’s been reported.
JOHN CALIPARI: Oh, that makes it true.
I have no comment to it. I mean, we haven’t been contacted. The NCAA hasn’t contacted us. We’re going about our business of coaching this team.
How about a basketball question since it isn’t my day.
Q. I’ll ask you about this team. Defensively how you think they’re going to be shaping up? Last year you said your team was going to be one of the top defensive teams, yet it took them a while to come together. What makes you think this team is going to be different defensively?
JOHN CALIPARI: I’m a little bit worried because we’re so far behind in all their habits. Defense is about having great habits individually and then collectively having habits. When things happen, we react a certain way.
We’re not there yet. We’re just so far from that. We’ve had I think six practices. We’ve had to have a couple days off because of injuries, because we would have been practicing with six players.
Everybody talks about this being a great shot blocking team. Maybe, could be. We’re not in shape right now. We’re not in the kind of condition we need to be.
We just for the first day started talking zone defense so we could work on zone offense. Yesterday, excuse me. We haven’t talked about press yet, haven’t done anything with the press. We haven’t talked about guarding out of bounds. We’ve done a little bit pick-and-roll defense. The screenings, everything we have to do, we will be ugly early. That’s just how it’s going to be.
We could be a good defensive team. If we’re going to be a good team, it will start with that. That will be the first thing.
Q. How many guys could play point guard for you this year if needed?
JOHN CALIPARI: I would say two to three. Quade (Green) and Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) right now are competing. It’s a great battle. I’m starting one and then I’ll flip them and start the other. I say start – I’ll put them with different groups to watch them.
Hami (Diallo) could play it in a pinch. We’re a good enough handling team that you could play basically without a point guard. But our teams have been centered on having guys out there that can really control the game somewhat. So I would say two. And they can play together, by the way, because Shai is big.
Q. Do you think the Jarred’s injury is going to get in the way of performing this year? Do you think (PJ) Washington sees any minutes at the small ball five?
JOHN CALIPARI: The first thing is, I’m concerned with Jarred and his health. I told him, ‘You’re going to be fine, but this hurts us. You’ll get through this, but it’s going to affect us.’
It affects us two different ways. One, if we were to press or play a small lineup, it would have been with him in there. Second thing is, if we were going against zone offense, the first thing you do is put him in the middle of the zone because of how he plays, passes, drives, his ability to make plays. So that changes us.
Now we’re trying to figure out how much do we press and how do we press. We’re trying to figure out who do we attack in the middle of the zone, which has been one of our ways of really playing.
Last year Isaiah Briscoe is who we put in there a bunch. Could be a guard, could be a big. We got a lot of questions to answer, which is why days matter for us. We’re trying to figure out if guys are hurt, what do we do? How do we play? What do we try to accomplish in that short period of time?
Q. With so many freshmen that you have, just a few sophomores to kind of lead them, with no real senior guys this year, how do you tell your veterans, so to speak, to really step up their games and make them realize they have to be leaders?
JOHN CALIPARI: Wenyen (Gabriel) is way better. Part of the thing is you have to perform. People are not going to follow if you’re not out there doing your job. Wenyen is way better. Sacha (Killeya-Jones) is way better. Tai (Wynyard) hurt himself, so he’s been out since the combine. He has not been back. But those three have gotten way better.
But the leadership can come from anybody. Doesn’t have to come from veterans. I’ve had it different ways here. Sometimes the guys they want to follow is a guy that’s really getting it done on the court or a guy that puts himself out for his teammates. Again, that develops over time.
Q. You come from pretty humble beginnings. I think we can all agree you’re pretty rich now. A lot of the players that you’re coaching are following that same trajectory. This idea of giving back to the community, that’s a big part of you. Where does that come from and why is that important for you to instill into your players here at Kentucky?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, first of all, I’ve said it before, my grandparents came through Ellis Island, did not speak English. My mother’s side of the family was from Webster Springs, West Virginia. My grandparents worked in the coal mines in Clarksburg, West Virginia. My mother was a pay-it-forward. Whatever opportunities you had, you made sure you passed it onto somebody else.
I talked about re-gifting in the past. Anybody come from families of re-gifters? You look around, if somebody comes to your house, you gave them something given to you, wrap it in the bedroom, they can’t hear. That was my mother.
When you’re teaching servant leadership, which is what we’re trying to do here, if they learn that, they learn to be the best teammates because they’re more worried about their teammates than themselves.
When you talk to them about what their ‘why’ is, what is your ‘why?’ You’re going to come across all this good stuff. You’re going to have all this stuff. But after you start collecting, it doesn’t change you. It makes you hollow, shallow. What are you doing for other people? What is your legacy going to be?
We talk about it. John Wall getting the Community Assist Award in the NBA, the runner-up was Anthony Davis. That’s a big deal. Those are men who are giving back to their community, and not just financially, they’re becoming involved actively.
It’s not just them. Whether it’s DeMarcus Cousins, whether it’s Eric Bledsoe, from that wave of guys, to the guys now, Karl Towns going back to his high school and doing stuff. I was with Pat Riley. He said, ‘The one thing about your guys that come to this league, they’re good teammates.’ Well, to really perform here, you got to be a good teammate, you got to be about other people.
We try to show them through telethons where they can make a difference. We try to show them through different things we do to raise money to give it away to different people.
Again, instead of saying it, you’re trying to do it and have them watch and say, ‘You know what, this is what I want.’ We talk about it in the recruiting process. What is your ‘why’? Bam’s (Abedayo) immediate ‘why’ was his mother. I got to do this because I got to take care of my mother, who was walking to work at a supermarket in Little Washington.
These kids come from all different kinds of backgrounds. They have all different things. Some of them better homes than others. But if you can get these young people, like Michael Gilchrist, to (care) more about other people, then that becomes what this program is about, you continue to win even when the team keeps changing.
This program is not about me. This program started well before I became the coach here. This program has had five different coaches win national titles. That’s what this program is.
This program, when I took the job, I said it was going to be about players first. We’re going to make sure that we’re focused on their success and what they’re doing. We’ve had 17 players graduate in the last eight years. Three of those graduated in three years, two of those are in the NBA, playing in the NBA.
It is more than just playing basketball here.
Q. I remember you saying Shai had an old man’s game. I remember it that way. What did you mean?
JOHN CALIPARI: He is so long and lanky, he’s gained 10 pounds, so now he’s got a little bit — he’ll try to bully you a little bit, which he never did before. But he has step-throughs. He has flip shots. He has an ability to get the ball to the basket.
My thing right now is, I keep telling him, ‘You’re playing a little bit too tight this way. You’re not seeing outside of that range’. Again, that’s something with all freshmen because they’ve always played with the ball. Trying to get him to expand his vision is what we’re trying to do.
Each of the kids – I got off a plane yesterday, and before practice I said, ‘Look, I’m feeling anxiety. I have an anxiety because here is what I’m saying. I got to get you, Quade, to give up the ball quicker. I got to get you, Kevin Knox, to drive the ball. I got to get you, Nick (Richards), to rebound this ball with two hands and fly. PJ (Washington), more motor. Hami, narrow this down to three or four things. Shai, I got to get you to get those blinders off.’
I said, ‘Now, my concern for you as an individual player, I also got to build this team. You got to be concerned about you and you are responsible for you. I’m telling you what I want you to do. Now you got to take that on and say, I’m going to do it.
‘If you fight me, they lose. You’re not winning that battle. We can fight long or we can fight short. I’m going to ask you what you need to do for us and you. But you’re responsible for you.’
We’ve got a great group. My wife said this is the best group. Now, the other groups are going to be all mad at you. She said, ‘I’m telling you, I have a feel about this group, how together they are.’
I’m telling you, they’re not as sure of themselves as they’ll stand there. Because they’re 6-11, 6-10, 7-foot tall doesn’t mean they’re grown men especially mentally. They’re 18- and 19-year-olds. They’re going to be thrown into the fire. We’re all going to have to be patient.
I stop every practice at some point and tell them to tell me to be patient. ‘Coach, be patient. We’re good kids. We’re good players. We just don’t know anything. Be patient.’
Then I go, ‘Because I’m ready to choke some of you right now.’ That’s every day I have to do that.
But I’m enjoying it. This is what we do here. This is what it is. Wave of kids come in. They have no idea, I have no idea. We all grow together, figure this out. We make decisions based for them on the program or a system, what’s right for them, then we roll with that.
You know what? We love on them, they love on each other. The stuff usually works out.
Q. For however long he’s out, what will you miss with Jarred off the floor? What does he bring to the table?
JOHN CALIPARI: The shot-blocking team we were going to be changes with him. He may have been our best shot-blocker. When you block shots, it’s not your man that you block. Someone else is guarding a man, and you block that guy’s shot. That’s shot blocking. Shot blocking isn’t ‘I play a guy and I block his shot.’ That means you left your feet, fouled. My job is to occupy his eyes and you block his shot. He was unbelievable at that. So that’s going to hurt us.
The ability to stretch the court out both defensively and offensively, it’s going to hurt us. But this gives guys an opportunity for more minutes. Maybe Wenyen gets more minutes. Maybe Kevin Knox gets to play multiple positions. Maybe there’s more of a focus on PJ doing stuff. Make Nick or Sacha gets his opportunity now.
One guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity.
Q. It seems like every year you’re always harping on rebounding the ball with two hands. Why don’t players come in that way and why is it so important?
JOHN CALIPARI: Karl Towns thanked me. He said, ‘I’m getting three more rebounds a game.’
I’m watching closely. The guys that don’t rebound as well, the ball gets away from them because they rebound with one hand. It’s also catching the ball with two hands. You’re not going to reach up with one hand and catch it and me not notice.
Again, I’m trying to say, why would we give up three balls a game and have two more turnovers because of one hand, which basically you’re being mentally lazy. Reach here, reach here. Sometimes, you know, one arm is longer than the other. Not really, I guess not. It’s one of those pet peeves I’ve always had.
Everything with two hands. If you walk in our practice with this team, it’s the same. If they grab it with one hand, go again. One-handed rebound, no good, get on the baseline. Rebound the ball with two hands. I’m trying to force them to have a mental focus.
Right now I’m just playing. There are certain things you have to have a focus on. They become habit, then you don’t have to think about them. Right now their habit is this. I’m trying to create a new habit, that. I’m not trying to eliminate old habits, because you can’t. They’ve been doing them too long. Forget it. You’re going to create a new one with two hands, everything. You don’t have to worry about breaking old habits, just create new ones.
Q. As you try to figure this team out, forget about that for a moment, physically speaking when you’re looking at these kids as athletes, where is this team athletically today versus all the other teams you’ve had?
JOHN CALIPARI: 2010 was ridiculous. I mean, it wasn’t normal. So to compare them to that is not normal. 2012, athletically it was ridiculous. Just not normal. They were so fast and long and strong. Those two teams probably stand out in my mind.
Again, there’s a length to this team. We talked yesterday. I told them, ‘Why don’t I like to play zone?’ ‘Because it doesn’t prepare us.’ ‘You’re right. If you left here, it would be the last time you ever played zone. Not preparing you. Why else?’ ‘Because you’re not responsible for anybody.’ ‘Yes.’ But the third thing is, what’s it going to make the other team do, play faster or slower?
JOHN CALIPARI: Slower. So now they play slower, it means we get less possessions, less shots. Instead of getting 70 shots, we get 58 shots. Which of you in here like to give up three shots a game? No one, really? So if we play zone, it’s against a team that plays real fast. If a team plays slow, you better trap and make them play faster, or everyone here, if you want to play zone, I’m good, if you’re willing to give up three, four shots per man. Yeah, let’s play man-to-man. I figured that would be the case.
Q. Are there some guys on this team that you look at and say they thrive or pressure or on the challenges?
JOHN CALIPARI: Don’t know yet.
Q. Or you’re presenting them the challenges?
JOHN CALIPARI: Don’t know yet. Who would we go to late in the game if we needed shot? Again, if we needed three, where are we going? How are we getting it? I’m even telling the guys, ‘You need to tell me if it’s a game-winning shot, where would you want the ball?’ You tell me. Then it makes my job easier trying to figure this out. It’s a game-winning shot, where do you want it? Off a pin-down, elbow? Tell me where you’d want it.
But we got so much. I’ve said other years, it’s a work in progress. We had a really good practice yesterday, and Kevin Knox was unbelievable. He made a little bit of a breakthrough yesterday. I had hope. I took my foot off the panic button yesterday after practice. I still got both hands on it, but my foot is no longer on it after yesterday’s practice.
Q. Can you elaborate a little on the breakthrough that Kevin had, what he did, what you saw?
JOHN CALIPARI: It was on rebounding the ball, playing tougher. It was driving into the lane and taking hits. Normally he would drive in and he would take a shot. I’m forcing him to drive. He’d rather shoot a jumper. You’re not, you’re driving the ball. Yesterday he just got it. That’s what happens. These kids, you’re asking them to do stuff they’ve never had to do. He got it.
I watched. After practice I said, ‘That was by far your best practice. I said it to the team. And my hope is now he has back-to-back days that he has the same kind of day today.’
Q. Jemarl (Baker) was listed as day-to-day a couple days ago. What is his status?
JOHN CALIPARI: His knee is still bothering him. I talked to the doctor today. We’re trying some different things. I thought he’d be practicing by now. If he’s hurting, he shouldn’t practice, so.
But we do need him back. We’re short-handed. Without him, it takes one player off the court, one shooter off the court, makes it hard.
Q. What kind of shooting team do you think this is going to be based on what you’ve seen, what you had hoped?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, our forte is not going to be, ‘That’s a shooting team.’ But how many of my teams have been that? My teams have always been downhill runners, fast in the break, unselfish moving the ball, lane touches. That’s what I would expect this team to be.
Then shooting, some of it is going to be guys committed to really working at practice and spending extra time shooting the ball. There may be lineups we put in that will shoot better than others.
That’s not been, you know, our deal. I mean, there are some teams that play, they get a bunch of shooters, they run back-cuts, curl cuts, handoffs, shoot 3s. It’s not how we play.
You got to be able to make shots. You can’t have anything mechanically wrong with your shot. But if I’m to give up something, free-throw shooting, shooting, I’ll give up a little bit of that as long as you have all those other intangibles that I think it takes.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN CALIPARI: We have. It’s kind of like comparing Quade to Tyler Ulis. That’s not fair. Comparing any of these kids to Devin Booker, not fair. To say will they be able to hit game-winning shots like Aaron Harrison, it’s not fair. That kid on the biggest of big stages made daggers, absolutely threw daggers. That’s the great thing about what we do here.
None of you know how we’re going to be. Not one. Some of you guys can act like you know, ladies, you know. You don’t. You know why I know that? Because I don’t know. This is what makes this Kentucky. They’re not promised starting position, minutes. We’re not running every play to one guy. You’re going to have to defend and rebound.
I told them yesterday, ‘At the end of the day, the best five defenders will probably be on the floor more than anybody else.’ I told them that yesterday. Now all of a sudden you’re coming in here, a dogfight every day in practice, you start getting better like Kevin Knox did yesterday, and we go from there.
Q. Is this the most interchangeable team you’ve ever had? Having so many guys that can play different positions, what does that enable you to do?
JOHN CALIPARI: If we had Jarred playing, you could play without a point guard because he could be the point guard. So we were really interchangeable. When you step him back off, you’re not quite as interchangeable because probably one of those two point guards you’re going to play or both of them at points in the game. Without them, you could have played Jarred, been the point forward, played with Hami and whoever else you want out there, and played that way.
Here’s the problem with interchangeable with this group. When you’re teaching initially, it’s hard enough to learn one position versus three. It’s just hard. So you’re almost having to start where we’re not interchanging yet. You just learn this spot, then we start moving as we figure guys out. We go from there.
Q. What is the most interesting question or pushback that a family or player has ever asked you in recruiting that impressed you in your thought process?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, there have been families that want their child to shoot 25 times a game, and they think that’s the best way for them to become a pro. I wish them well. You’re not going to do that here. It’s not how we play.
Our visits are really consistent, and they’ve been kind of consistent since I began coaching. It’s presented in the same way. Look, there’s a path you’re going to go on. You can’t muddy that path up because there are people coming behind that want to climb the same path you’re climbing to success. Where you’re going, they want to take themselves and their families. You’re going to class, doing what you’re supposed to. If you’re into all this other stuff, why would you come here? Why would you do that? You have a lifetime scholarship, so you can leave after a year or two or three. You have a lifetime scholarship. If you’re here to do all this other stuff, don’t come here. You’re here to set yourself right the rest of your life. If you think it’s only about you, you’re wrong. If you’re not willing to share, you can’t come here.
My thing is, I went from the business of basketball to the business of helping families. Guess what, it’s not just your family? There’s going to be six, seven, eight other families. Guess what? I can’t let one guy screw up six other families. I’m not going to do that. Some families like it and other families say, ‘It’s not for me, I want to be told this, that and the other.’ Well, they don’t come with us. I’m OK with that.
The other one is that, looking at a pen, there’s a bunch of dogs in that pen. You want to jump in there. You want to jump in there, that’s what this is. This isn’t just you in there pushing everybody around. You’re jumping in a pen. You got to want that.
I’d rather undersell and overdeliver, give them less of what they want to hear. At the end it becomes more than they believed it could become. I’d rather it be that.
Q. When you see a guy like Darius Miller comes in, not successful initially (in the NBA), able to get back, what effect does that have on your program, recruiting?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s why I think the D-League has a great purpose. Not every one of our guys has been like a lottery pick. We offer scholarships. Seventy percent of those kids do get drafted – a 70 percent. But, many of them, whether it be an Alex (Poythress), Aaron Harrison, I should say Andrew Harrison, they don’t get drafted, yet they play their way through. Right now it’s going to be Derek Willis. Might be Marquis Teague. That’s what is great about that D-League. You can still play your way, if you learn to grind.
If you talk to Andrew, he said it was the best thing that ever happened to him because he understood what the grind was about, what he had to do, and the mentality he had to be in. Nothing was going to be given. No promises made. Either help us win or you’re not in this league.
I love the fact that the (New Orleans) Pelicans came back here and spent three days here. Our kids learned that the Pelicans didn’t want to play and exchange baskets, they wanted you to compete or don’t play. This isn’t about exchanging baskets; it’s about competing. Either you challenge me or get off the court. I am not here for funsies. This is us trying to compete.
That stuff is all good for my players to see, for them. I’m proud of the guys, what they’re doing, the different paths. Everybody is on a different path. There’s no one path here. I mean, I just want to see them all succeed, which is being the best version of themselves. Your best version may not be this guy’s, but you got to be able to feel good about that success.
We’ve had a lot of kids. Jon Hood was in here two days ago. Proud of him, what he’s been able to do. Tod Lanter was in our practice yesterday. They’re all on different kind of paths.
Q. You pioneered a new way of recruiting with Derrick Rose, Wall, et cetera. Now a lot more programs and coaches are doing it. Has that changed how you approach recruiting, that you’re not the lone one building new teams every single year?
JOHN CALIPARI: The issue that my staff is all over me about, we don’t offer many scholarships. We’re not offering 25 scholarships when we can only give two. In a single year, we probably offer seven, eight scholarships. Maybe kids are saying they’ve been offered when they haven’t. Publicly that’s fine. I’m not going to argue. It’s usually six, seven, maybe eight scholarships.
I don’t like offering young, young kids scholarships because the reality of it is you don’t know. Every once in a while you will know, it’s obvious. Even if he never gets better, he’s going to be good enough. One of those.
But what’s happened is people are offering earlier and earlier, then they’re creating a narrative about us and who we want and who we don’t want. In other words, a kid we may want they’re saying, We all offered you a scholarship as a sophomore, if they really wanted you, why aren’t they offering you? That’s a situation we’re trying to deal with, trying to let parents know that it’s not how many scholarships that are offered. When you really look at it, how is this going to play out, and where do you want your son to go?
I mean, for Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, we waited and waited and waited. We got them really late. Part of it was I had to see more and I had to meet with the family. Sometimes I won’t offer until they bring their son here and we look at the campus and understand what this is, look into people’s eyes and say, ‘This is not this, this is this.’ This isn’t for everybody. I’m not saying we’re the best. There’s all kind of ways to achieve goals. But the way we do this is different.
‘I got an offer from Kentucky.’ What?
I mean, here is the group we’re recruiting. We don’t expect to get every kid. We never do get every kid. There are kids we want that go to other schools. I’m not mad, not throwing stuff. It’s fine. I mean, because it’s not about me, it’s about those kids. If they feel and their family feels it’s better they do something else, it’s about their family.
As you know, we’ve moved it up a little bit. We’ve offered some juniors, which we’ve never done before. But those juniors I feel confident where they are right now, they’ll be fine. There are people offering sophomores. If I’m offering 30 scholarships, am I really offering 30 scholarships? Why would you say?
Q. (No microphone.).
JOHN CALIPARI: How about I can’t give them all. I can’t give 30 scholarships. If I’ve offered 30, I can only give two or three. We can give more, four, five or six. Most schools are giving one or two, three maybe. That’s every other year.
I just… I’d rather wait, be right. Don’t know if it’s right or not. We may be losing kids because we’re doing it that way. Obviously the program is still rolling along.
Q. Curious about the difference being fast and quick. Quade’s three-quarter sprint didn’t jump off the page, but in AAU circuits he led everybody in steals. Any correlation between the two?
JOHN CALIPARI: With what you just told me, obviously not. I would say I’m trying to get him to play faster. Play faster for him may be just give up the ball quicker. It’s not run down your neck. So quickly ahead. If a guy is open, it’s quick. That’s playing fast. For him, that’s what we have to have him do.
The reason is he’s got finishers and lane drivers. Give that thing up so we can get that ball moving. But he can shoot, and he’s got a heck of a runner. With his size, he’s got a way of getting baskets in.
He’s different than Shai. That’s what is great about him. Shai has a seven-foot wingspan, bothers the ball, deflects, does all that. He is more of a traditional point guard. But he’s playing on a team and with a coach, I keep saying, ‘You do not want to be a ball stopper. No one wants to play with a ball stopper.’ Get it, shoot it, drive it, or get rid of it. We don’t want that ball to stop unless you’re setting up offense to move to something else.
Q. Do you think you have one star on this team in De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, a couple guys you think could become that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Wouldn’t be fair to them. Watching De’Aaron Fox kill it out in Sacramento. I watched Malik Monk get 20 in a game, make some ridiculous shots. Not fair to these kids.
What I want them to do, What does the best version of this team look like? What is the best version of each individual? That’s my mindset right now. How do I get that guy to be his best and help build his own confidence? What do I do for this team? How are we going to have to play to really have a good team?
Again, I’m just being honest. I don’t know yet. We’re trying some different things. I believe if we’re not a great defensive team, it’s hard to be a really, really good basketball team with these kind of players unless it’s based on defense and rebounding, which means you’re running downhill, here we come. Length, deflecting balls. Does that mean stretch the court out? Maybe not. At some point you got to go from 20 feet in, we’re touching tips of our —