Before Kentucky leaves for the Bahamas John Calipari spoke to the media about his team.

John Calipari

From UK Athletics 

John Calipari

On using the platoon system the last time in the Bahamas (2014-15 season) and what objectives he has going into this trip …

“Really trying to look at different kind of combinations, look at how we want to play offensively in the half court. Defensively, how much can we stretch the court out? Can we force action and still be the kind of team that plays percentages? So we’re going to be experimenting with a lot of stuff, and I told them that. There are some things that we’ll do defensively that we’ve not done here in the past. I just want to try it. There are some things offensively that we’re going to try that I really haven’t done here in the past, but I want to try it. I may like it, I may not.”

On what he’s seen in practice so far with PJ Washington and Reid Travis in the lineup and separated …

“We’re a physical team that we haven’t been because you can also throw Keldon (Johnson) in there with a couple of the guards – both Immanuel (Quickley) and Ashton (Hagans). You’re talking about a physical bunch. Those two have played together, I think, once. The rest of the time they’ve gone against each other, and I think I’m going to have them going against each other today. I was going to do something different but I’m just going to go with what we’ve been doing right now. They’ve done fine. Tell them, ‘When you’re on the court together, make sure you’re playing for each other.’ ”

On how much of a head start this is before the start of the season …

“I don’t think game one, but I’ll tell you what’ll happen is when we get back, we’ll be working on individual work to sure up guys more than team stuff because I’m doing a lot of team stuff now. Now we’re ahead of where we should be with the kind of teams that we’ve had historically. That’s why when we come back, we’re not pressed to get started. We did a lot of work before they go back. When we’re done with the Bahamas, I think they go home for about eight or nine days then we get started.”

On if there’s a concern for doing too much or starting early …

“I’ve already told them we’re going to make mistakes. I said, ‘Are we really going to be a good execution team when we go down to the Bahamas?’ They said no. Said, ‘We can’t be. We haven’t been together long enough, but I want to see you play hard. I want to see you compete. I want you to see things and then fix it. Things happen in the game; just work your way through it.’ I’m trying to get them to talk more. (Travis) really, really talks because he’s done this a long time. He’s trying to get the other guys to talk as well. We have a couple freshmen, who have never – they don’t say anything on the court and never have, so now they have to start. Yeah, all that kind of stuff. We’re going to be what we are down there. The things that I want us to try to see if it works for this team, we’ll have enough in. There are things that we do that we haven’t put in and won’t try it down there. Stuff that I know works for our team.”

On if everyone will be healthy for the Bahamas trip …

“I don’t know. Jemarl (Baker) hasn’t practiced for, probably, four or five days. His knee had swelled so he’s been out, but everybody else has been pretty good.”

On how Reid Travis looks to him on the court …

“He’s been good. There are times when he’s struggled to get the ball in. I said, ‘You know, of all the tape I watched, I never saw you miss a shot like that. Tell the guys why you’re missing some of those.’ He said, ‘Length.’ Like, all of the sudden you’re out there and everybody is really long and big. So I said it’s the best thing for him. Physically, he’s beating some guys up a little bit, which is good for them – EJ (Montgomery). I mean, EJ, he’s better than I thought. Like, woo (gasps) – he’s a basketball player. He’s 6-foot-11 but he’s a basketball player.”

On Quade Green’s experience and how it factors in to this team …

“Well, he’s not tried to take over the team. He’s done it through playing and that stuff develops over time. I think you ought to talk to him. We have some freshmen that are looking at this and one of them told Joel, ‘I know you told me this was hard but this is ridiculous.’ And then one of the others, we thought we were being coached and taught and all that and now you’re here, it’s totally different. The good news is we have some veterans. Like PJ (Washington) right now, you can see there’s no anxiousness. His body looks good. His starting point last year was here. Well, here’s his starting point now. Now let’s see where we can go. Quade’s body looks better. Like, he’s lost some weight. He looks faster, quicker. And that’s been good. Nick (Richards) – I told Nick – we met in the office last night and I just told him, ‘You’ve never been a better player in your life.’ They’re all wanting to please me and Nick really does. I told Nick, ‘You gotta be in love with you. You gotta please yourself and try to define a little of what he can do so.’ I really think some of the guys, you don’t have that hard of a job. You just got to play really hard, run really fast and go after rebound. Well, that’s really hard. Let me go shoot some jumpers. They say it’s easy to play and be that guy. But I’ve been pleased. They try. They’re coachable. They don’t talk enough, which is normal. This is August. I’m trying to be a little aggressive at times because I need them to deal with it. I’d rather get that out of their system now then come back in September and October and you start coaching someone and the guy cries. Let’s go. Let’s understand what this is. It’s real.”

On what makes Calipari like being around a team …

“There’s a couple things you can’t transfer. Someone else’s relationship with a player, that doesn’t transfer. You gotta create your own. The only way you can really get to where you have the trust you need in this situation is you’re there. You can’t do it from a distance. You guys know in the summers I like to get out of here. This summer I wasn’t gone that much. I was gone, but not that much. I was going at least three hours a week of the four that we had (for team skill instruction). Three hours was with me. Normally I would say, ‘You guys (assistants) deal with that; I’ll come back.’ I just think this team needed a head start. Especially these young kids. I made that decision. My wife was gone; she liked it. No, and to be honest, I’m loving it. I don’t know how many days we’ve been going since Friday. I don’t even know what day it is. I’ve really enjoyed being in the gym. How about this? A couple days I was there by myself. Old school. I had no assistants. I coached the team with no assistants. It was just me. I can remember my UMass days where there were days like that where the assistants went recruiting and I had the team by myself. I didn’t know back then that was not how it’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to have a staff with you. Really. I had no idea.”

On maintaining relationships with potential students after they commit but before they sign …

“I don’t want to get to the recruiting stuff. We’ve been so fortunate and blessed that families have trusted us with their children, but this isn’t for everybody. This is really hard, and you have to want this as bad as we want you. I am always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing at Kentucky. Then I’ve got to find out if they’re good enough. Because they may be 100,000 of those but there are only three or four that are good enough to really be here to make that work. But if we look at those guys first, and then again you have to have a great faith in your own ability and confidence that you’re not – like I don’t promise anybody that they’ll start and play. Like, how much you’re going to shoot the ball. I just don’t do it with anybody, which some kids need that and that’s OK. I mean, you just wouldn’t be here. It’s the way we recruit. I’ve recruited the same way everywhere I’ve been. I think it’s been pretty good overall. And you know what? I’s been good for the kids. Like, here’s for you guys, and most of you don’t know basketball, but we have kids that will leave here yet stay in touch. Like, still text me, call me, ask me for advice. Kyle (Wiltjer) just invited me to his wedding. I mean, this is the way we do this. They know we’re honest. Sometimes they look and say, ‘Shouldn’t have been here. I need to try this somewhere else, but I love you, Coach, I love what you try, but I …’ And we’re good with that here. This isn’t we don’t take this personally. There’s no –  I don’t get mad at anybody. You want to go somewhere else? I’m happy for you. Go.”

On rule changes that have been proposed over the summer …

“I haven’t seen them all, but I think that we need to have these kids in teams as much as we can. If they’re going to let high schools do it – I mean, I met with the head of the high schools here in Kentucky. ‘Hey man, get teams together.’ Because again, evaluation. I want you to think in terms of this. They put 300 kids in a gym, and they divide them up by size and they play for a coach they’ve never seen before with players they’ve never seen before. How’s that going to work out? But you’ve got three days. OK, they’re with a point guard that never passes so the kid took two shots in a week and he’s Devin Booker. No one even knew who the kid was, and when they’re on their own team even if it’s an AAU team, or a summer league team or whatever you want to call it, that coach has begun the evaluation for us. He’s put him in the spots that they’re supposed to be. The guys that are supposed to shoot it the most, shoot it the most. The guys that aren’t supposed to shoot don’t shoot. And they practice and then they play and then it’s competitive. And they do that so why are we getting away from that? However we want to do it, we should do that. So having the high school associations put together team camps, perfect. It’s perfect. For our state, I think it would be outstanding. Get as many teams as the can. I just went to Louisville, they had 40 courts. Forty courts. Let them all get over there and play and go for three, four days. And now no one gets missed and every kid in this state gets an opportunity to be seen and get a scholarship. That’s fine. But to throw them together, who’s naming the coaches? Someone calling the kids saying, ‘Hey, I made sure you’re playing for that coach.’ I mean, how is this? I don’t know.” 

On coaching the team by himself this summer …

“I’m not as bouncy as I used to be. I can’t get in the stance the way I used to, where I used to really get low. My butt would almost hit the floor. Now my butt almost hits the floor. Who’s laughing?”

On the level of competition in The Bahamas …

“It’s going to be good. The three teams, European-(caliber) teams, (then) include Canada. Kyle was supposed to play on the Canadian team and then he got that contract so he’s not coming. You don’t know if someone will pop in somebody, a player, but it’ll be good. Again, there’s a bigger picture. Do we want to win every game we play? Yeah, but this is going to be a hard deal. We lose a couple, we lose three, whatever it is. Did we learn about this team? And that’s what I want to do. I don’t know if I’ll coach or not. I’m probably going to let the assistants coach the games and I’ll sit up in the seats so it gives me a better chance to watch and learn from them.”

 

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