John Calipari spoke to the media after Kentucky’s 92-63 exhibition win over Morehead State. He gave injury updates on Jarred Vanderbilt and Jermal Baker. He also discussed his guards and how they played and spoke about a Will Smith quote he gave his team.
University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Monday, October 30 2017
Men’s Media Conference
Kentucky – 92, Morehead State – 67
JOHN CALIPARI: Let me start by saying what a job Preston [Spradlin] did. He’s got a bunch of inexperienced guys to play Division I basketball and I watched the organization of how he had both sides playing because it was an intrasquad and I told him, you got them organized, that doesn’t look like a come down and just jack balls up. You’re playing pick and roll. They posted, they posted us more than we posted them. Think about that. They out rebounded us. They weren’t afraid. We needed this kind of game, to be honest with you. And I know it was for charity and raised half a million dollars and the Team Rubicon people are here. Is anybody in here from there? Just what the job that they’re going to do with that money.
But Morehead State should be proud of what they have got going. Somebody said they were picked ninth in their league. Wow, they’re going to have four teams going to the NCAA Tournament then, if they’re ninth. My gosh. I mean, so. Good for them though, I’m happy for them.
Q. What did you think of your guard play tonight? All three of those guys seemed to play well — have moments, play pretty well, scored it.
JOHN CALIPARI: I thought Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]’s energy and his ability to deflect balls and make plays. And then I thought that Quade [Green], that’s the best he’s played. I still got to get him to get rid of the ball. He just wants to hold that thing. But when he gets rid of it, it comes back to him and he scores. Because he can do it. And the second thing that happens when he gets rid of it, he’s in a position that they have to space the court and play him, because he can shoot that three.
Hami [Diallo] shot threes and I took him out. You’re not playing that way. You’re going to drive the ball or I will sub you. It’s not that hard. So shoot a three, you’re coming out. He shot one, he came out. From that point on he drove the ball. He drove, he drove, he drove and then he got one three late in the game. That’s who he is. He will play that way, folks, and I love him to death, or he won’t play, but he will play that way.
I thought we had at halftime, we had three or four guys with one rebound and I challenged them, they came back the second half and banked. Hard game for Nick [Richards] to play because he’s so much bigger and he’s not as physical, so it was tough for him to play in that game.
I thought Sacha [Killeya-Jones] was good, I thought Tai [Wynyard] was good, Wenyen [Gabriel] was good, six rebounds and came up with some balls and blocks. But, again, I can say what I want, but Nick got three blocked shots in 12 minutes.
Q. You said this is a good game for you guys, what you need. What do you hope your guys can get out of it?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, they shot 49 percent. That’s not a team that I’ve coached. My teams — and they got out rebounded. That’s not my kind of team. That’s not how my teams play. What I did like is 15 assists, 11 turnovers. Are you kidding me? A bunch of freshmen? And we’re still learning how to play too. If we did not turn them over, they may have beaten us. We turned them over and that’s what — that’s the advantage we had.
But they out rebounded us, made more baskets from the three than we made. But I’ll tell you, Shai, Quade, Hami in that second half playing the way we want to play. Kevin Knox could have done some more stuff, I didn’t think he was driving enough and we kind of got on him.
P.J. [Washington]’s got to do more and be more than he was in this game.
Q. You all turned them over a lot, but once they got into the half court it seemed Morehead was really efficient in shooting the ball. What do you have to say about your half court defense today?
JOHN CALIPARI: Not very good. I said if we didn’t turn them over they were scoring. Not only that, they were making some threes where the breakdowns that bothered me were we switched on a pick and roll and our guys had their hands down. So you’re 6-9 and you make yourself look 6-1. And the guy shot two threes on us.
Second one that I got bothered by is we tried to steal balls. It’s not how we play. We’re not trying to steal balls. We’re trying to deflect balls, but we’re not trying to get out of position. And every time we got out of position they made a three or a basket. We didn’t stay in the stance, we didn’t – they did some handoffs, we stopped playing, but that’s what freshmen do. Now we’ll be able to see it on the tape and talk about it.
Q. Since the little cramping problem with three of your kids, how much better, when it comes to being in shape, are your kids? From A to B are they getting closer or not yet?
JOHN CALIPARI: We’re a ways away. I cramped up today though, but we’re a ways away. I cramped up, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m trying to drink water. I guess when you get older, can you explain that to me as you get older? So I got a few years to catch up to you, like eight, but.
Q. You talked a lot preseason about Shai’s length, his wing span. What can that do for you? And is that maybe a unique player compared to what you’ve had in years past?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s different but he’s just getting better. He works so hard. There was a quote I gave them from Will Smith. The question was asked to Will Smith, ‘What do you owe your success to? How did you separate yourself from the pack?’ And he thought about it and he said, ‘I was willing to die on the treadmill.’ You were willing to die on the treadmill. Explain what that means.
Well, I wasn’t sexier, I wasn’t prettier, I wasn’t more talented, but if that other guy and I were on a treadmill, he’s getting off first or I’m going to die on a treadmill. I would outwork everybody. I am going to outwork. I’m asking them, you’re not the sexiest, you’re not the most talented, you’re not the, hey, man, are you willing to outwork? Today, we got outworked by some guys. And it’s individuals in the room that you have to reflect and say, does this mean enough to me? Because every game we play, Morehead came in here in Rupp Arena and had a chance to play and fight, they fought. But guess what, every team that comes in here does the same thing. And if you don’t fight back, it’s obvious. People look and they say, man, that kid doesn’t compete. He’s not battling, he’s not. That’s what you learn here. That’s where our guys leave here and when they go on, they do have success. And the guys that are on the edge to get in, they fight to get in, whether it’s Dakari [Johnson], whether it’s Alex [Poythress], whether it’s Andrew [Harrison], whether it’s – they fought to get where they needed to be. You learn that here. Today was a great lesson in that.
Q. You said the other day that Jemarl Baker would, that they were going to look at his knee again. Is there any update?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. He’s, he had, they scoped it again, so he’s going to be out probably three months. So he’ll be out.
Jarred [Vanderbilt], I met with he and the doc today. We’re on a timetable, some conditioning, work with Kenny [Payne], start practicing, and then see where we are. So there’s a good timetable now for him, but it’s not just we’re by chance, happenstance, we know. And if we have to move it a little bit, we can, but let’s start with a timetable. That’s what we’re doing. Be nice to get one more guy.
Q. Looking ahead, I wondered why you went ahead and decided that scheduling Centre College Friday night would be a good thing for Kentucky basketball.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, it’s better for Centre College. And you know I’m not afraid to leverage this program to help others. We did it tonight to create money for charity. I was really happy we could do this for Preston [Spradlin] and Morehead State. I mean, I loved when their fans were chanting, that was the greatest. They made a run at us, it’s a three-point game, and they’re chanting and going nuts. I mean, come on, what’s better than that?
Now, for Centre College, it’s the same. I went and spoke to the alums of Saint Thomas More the night before, and I mean it’s just, they’re thanking me and I’m like, look, man, this is, why not leverage the program to help other people and help other schools, especially in state. Or my alma mater, we have done that twice.
Q. I’m trying to look for positives —
JOHN CALIPARI: Tough.
Q. You’re going to be in some close games this year and when Morehead cut it to two and your team went on a spurt, what does that tell you about your team?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we got to see who was in the game when we went on a spurt. See, that’s what we – we chart rotations and, OK, what did that unit do. And we had some units that were good and we had some guys that we had to take out, that may be starters, we’re better without you in there. I don’t know what to tell you, numbers don’t lie, there they are. So, we’ll look at that and say who was in the game and what you’ll normally find out it was energy guys. Guys just played with energy. Now most teams will come in here, first half, beginning of the game, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re jumping three inches higher than they ever have in their life.’ The game goes on, if they’re not a great conditioned team we may get them eight-minute mark in the first half. Normally, like this team, they battled and they weren’t afraid and they made a shot at the end and we came down and broke down and didn’t do what we were supposed to. Here’s what we’re doing and a guy went and he’s pointing and, you know, stop. So now they think they have a chance. But there was that seven-minute mark, there was a point at eight-minute mark in the second half where they, you kind of get ’em, if you keep coming. Now, good teams, whoever has the ball last wins, two good teams. Or if there’s a veteran team with veteran guards that we’re going to play against that aren’t going to turn it over like this, then we’re going to have trouble. We’re going to have trouble early in the year. I don’t care, you guys can all say, oh, he’s just saying this, no, I’m prepared for it. Now I’m going to be about these kids and I’m going to be focused on how do I get individuals better because my belief. Until individual players get it, your team can never get better. I got to get Hami playing the right way. I got to get PJ playing the right way. I got to get Kevin Knox, Nick, we got to get them playing the way they got to play for themselves and for us. Now, that’s why you play – this was an, I’ll say it again, a great game for us right now.
Q. You guys obviously went and got Jemarl Baker late for a reason. Thought you needed some other outside shooting. How significant is it that some of your other guys have shown early here they can step out there and make those?
JOHN CALIPARI: We’re not as bad as everybody says shooting the ball. I mean, I’m with them every day. But we’re more of an athletic, driving, throw the ball at the basket, go rebound it, kind of team too. But you’re going to have teams that are going to pack it in and you’re going to have to make some shots. 37 percent, not great, but again, we had a couple threes, now all of a sudden that’s, do you shoot 37. But 37, if you’re near 40, again, historically, I’ve only had a couple teams above 37 percent. Probably two or three. And I’ve been here 17 years? How long have I been here? Oh, my God. It’s dog years here. So, seven times eight, I’ve been here 56 years.