John Calipari, Nick Richards and Tyler Herro talked to the media before UK faces off against Auburn. They discussed replacing Reid Travis and the potential NBA rule change.

John Calipari 

Nick Richards

Tyler Herro 

Transcript from UK Athletics 

Head Coach John Calipari

On how has PJ Washington’s responsibilities have changed with Reid Travis out of the lineup … 

“He’s a little more of the muscle game. He’s got to be ready. I told him he’s gonna be begging Reid to come back quicker because he’s going have to go down there and do stuff that the other two cannot do. But I think he’ll be fine. He’s played there at times. He’s just in the best shape of his life. He’s winning every run. He’s leading. He’s getting guys to stand up. If a guy is on his knees he’s telling him, ‘Let’s go.’ He’s learning to play a full game. In other words, I watched Missouri in the first half. He bounced and moved. In the second half he didn’t bounce quite as much, and I just said, ‘You just gotta get where you can go a full game and that’s who you are.’ That’s what’s nice about coaching guys two years. I would love coaching guys four years. Could you imagine having guys that know exactly what you’re talking about, and how you have to play? To have the freshmen try to do the stuff that we’re doing, even sophomores, it’s hard.”

On if he thinks they will go small with Travis out …

“We’ve practiced that way. We can. We can.”

On what the advantages of going small are …

“If you can defend and rebound with it, you get another perimeter scorer. It spreads their defense. But, he’s (Keldon Johnson) gotta be able to defend and really he’s gotta be able to rebound. Go get balls.”

On if there is a potential silver lining with Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery getting more playing time …

“I always say one guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity. The thing that happened with Reid, my worry – we didn’t get it checked until we came back. We didn’t know. It could have been an ACL. He could’ve been out, done. Being out and done for us, our fans are –  wait a minute, what about him? All that he’s done, all that he’s sacrificed, all that he put into this taken away. You’re not going to work out for an NBA team. So what I said to my team yesterday was this, ‘Now I know he’s healthy, I’m happy. He may be out two weeks, you ready, three weeks, four weeks, seven weeks. It doesn’t matter. He’s going to be OK, so I’m good now. We’ll figure out how we play as a team.’ I think they got what I was saying. Don’t know how long he’s going to be out, but whatever it is I’m good.”

On Nick Richards and a mud-wrestling match …

“Yeah, I don’t want him to. I want him to use his quickness, his length and his ability to go get balls vs. getting in mud-wrestling matches. So when the ball bounces to you, you’re not worried about pushing and the ball bounces right there, or a guy drives that you can block the shot, but you’re mud-wrestling. Quit it. Stop. You cannot mud wrestle Jonny David and win. So don’t try. [Laugher.] Use your quickness, use your length, use what your strengths are. He’s trying. He’s such a great kid. He’s like a sweetheart of a kid and he wants to play so well, and he’s so hard on himself. Like I said, you’ve got to relax and go do what you do best. Don’t dribble the ball in the post just shoot it. Just catch it and shoot it. If you bounce it they’re coming after you.’”

On if some of that is a product of what Richards is going against with Travis in practice …

“Yeah, he’s trying to survive. He’s got to survive. Not mud wrestle him. ‘I’m just trying to keep him away from me.’ So, you end up mud-wrestling. When he moves those feet and bounces and runs and is active he’s really good. Well, why wouldn’t you play that way all the time? Because it’s really hard. It’s easy to just lean on somebody and mud wrestle. That’s easier than bounces and moving, alert, running, sprinting, sitting, bouncing. So, again, everything we’re asking these guys – one of my messages today to them is I hope you understand all season I tried to make you uncomfortable. I’ve tried to make you uncomfortable in games. I’ve tried to make you uncomfortable in practice so you can begin being comfortable when you’re uncomfortable and you can learn that every game we play the other team is trying to make you uncomfortable. And if you can withstand that and still play and have a slow mind, you’re going to be in pretty good shape as a basketball player the rest of your life.”

On flipping a switch in March …

“At some point they become empowered, and what I’m starting to see in practice and amongst them, the camaraderie, how they talk to one another. It’s starting to happen.”

On Richards spin move vs. Missouri …

“I don’t know. He’s inventing stuff, I think, but that’s fine. [Laughter.] The ball went in. I’m happy for him. Anything that he can do to build his confidence. I just say, ‘Make easy plays. You try to do hard stuff, they steal the ball, and then your head goes down, your shoulders go down, and I got to take you out because you’re not going to rebound, you’re not going block a shot. I’ve coached you now for two years.’ When he’s back and shoulders are back and he’s running, leave him in. Now, what he’s got to do is sub himself when he’s tired, ‘Coach, get me. Can I come out? I want to go, but just get me for a minute.’ ‘Gotcha. Then you’re out a minute, You ready to go? OK, at the 12-minute mark go back in.’ But it’s hard because they’ve got people that say why’d he take you out. ‘I took myself out.’ ‘You never take yourself out. You took yourself out? You play every minute and shoot every ball.’ I mean, they’ve got deal with that stuff.”

On the NBA’s proposal to lower the age limit from 19 to 18 …

“Let me first of all say I knew that going straight to the G League wasn’t going to work. You all knew it wasn’t going to work. They finally figured out it ain’t going to work, so they had to go back and say now we’re going to let all of the 18-year-olds be eligible for the draft, and we hope 50 of you come out because only four of you are going to be drafted, then the rest of you, you can go to the G League. I told you it wasn’t going to work. I do read tea leaves pretty good.”

On kids reclassifying …

“Well, they still got to be 18 to be drafted, so I saw it and I’m good with it. These kids should have – now listen, we should not go to a baseball rule. If a kid goes to college and after a year or two wants to go to the NBA and is good enough, he grew, got bigger, he got more confident, let him go. Why would you now force a kid to stay two years? How about if that’s your child? ‘Well, it’s different if it’s my child.’ Oh, OK. But, if he’s able to go after a year, let him go. If they come to college, let me explain, very, very few will be able to leave after a year or they would have left. They would have gone. So now they go to college, they’re going to stay two or three years. You don’t think I’m happy about that? I’d be ecstatic. I’d be happy for the kids that got drafted, happy for the kids that would say look, ‘I’m going to need two or three years, let’s do this,’ who have a guaranteed education, who have insurance for injury and are being taught. Like, we’ve had guys here – to say when they were 18 that they would have been ready to go to that league – and I know they think, ‘Well, I could have gone.’ I sit here and say – as a staff we talk about it. I just don’t see it. You look at a couple of the guys on this team who are now playing well. At the beginning of the year? And then you’re going to have a couple that will start playing well that maybe their stock goes up. That’s how this works, but if they’re out of high school and they can go directly to the NBA and be drafted and get millions of dollars from the NBA, I’m for it 100 percent. Just let’s not devalue education. Let’s not devalue it. Let’s not make it solely about basketball, and what we do and how we do is important.”

On if he’s surprised the NBA changed the rule …

“I think they kind of want to control basketball. You know, you’ve got the G League. You’ve got the mechanisms you believe that will do that. I just hope that the NCAA in their infinite wisdom [pause] don’t try to go to two and three years to challenge all the kids to not be educated. Let’s not be educated. Let’s just do – because every kid – we’ve had straight A students here. Straight As. They belong in school. So again, happy for them, happy for the kids if that happens. I don’t know, if they gave them that what were they asking back? We’re not in the negotiations. There was something. They don’t just say, ‘Here take this,’ unless they’re trying to help somebody else within – like, ‘This would be great for his program if we do.’ I can’t believe that they would do that.”

On seeing a Nike shoe blow out like it did with Duke’s Zion Williamson …

“That kid’s torque and his explosion would blow out any shoe. When you look at it, you’re like, ‘Holy.’ He’s not 120 pounds now doing that. He’s got some weight to him. If you looked at it you’re like, ‘Holy cow!’ Again, what Nike will do for him – if he decides to go with Nike – is that they would make a shoe special for him. I’d doubt if they were able to do that because he’s a college player. Now they did some stuff with Karl Towns because he had a 19 or 20 foot or 20-inch shoe, but his foot was like that wide (thin). So, they had to do something special for him. I just think that the kid (Williamson) is so unusual size-wise, explosiveness, quick twitch. I mean, I don’t care what he had on. When you saw him [makes explosion noise] it’s a wonder that both shoes didn’t blow out.”

On how recruiting changes for Kentucky once the new NBA rule takes effect …

“Don’t know yet. I mean, it just came out. You won’t believe this, we’ll figure out what it is and we’ll be first at it. Whatever it is we’ll – whatever we do. We would? Somebody else would do what we’re doing? So whatever it is we’ll figure it out. Everybody will be watching. I’m a guy that doesn’t say much. I like to keep quiet about stuff. [Smiles.] Then they’ll just pile on and start doing it. Look, we’re here because this program has been special and it will remain special whatever the rules are. So anything like this I believe it helps us. I’d love to be coaching kids three and four years. Are you kidding me? That’s what I used to do. Believe me, I wasn’t as anxious. I could walk into games with juniors and seniors being down 10-0. Timeout. ‘Come on guys. You know you’re better than this.’ Knowing where the game’s going. Then all of a sudden you’d look up and we’d be up 20 at halftime. It’s just different. This here – I got a call last night. ‘How do you get these kids to defend?’ And a friend that knows me knows – do we do any defense in the summer? Most of you don’t listen to what I say so you probably wouldn’t know but we don’t do any defense in the summer. I’m not going to have them doing defensive slides and drills in the summer, which is why when we went to the Bahamas we couldn’t defend and stay in front of anybody. Then we played Transylvania – and I was just with Coach (Brian) Lane – and we couldn’t stay in front of them. And it took us time and then we’ve become pretty good defensively. But how about you have a team for two or three years and one of their things is their defensive-minded. Now you’re just making adjustments on how you’re playing and bringing a young kid in that can maybe help the team.”

On Auburn …

“They’re going to shoot. They’re shooting 35 to 40 3s. They’ll shoot 35 3s. What if they make 17? Then you lose. So your job is to make sure if they shoot 35, they’re hard 35 so they don’t make 17. But they may anyway. Are they going to shoot them? Oh yeah. What if you really guard them? Really shoot them. They are shooting them. It’s just what they do.”

Quotes from UK Athletics 

#14, Tyler Herro, Fr., G

On getting the news about Reid Travis …
“It was disappointing. He’s a big part of our team and obviously, we want him. Good thing it’s a minor injury, so we’re happy we’ll get him back hopefully sooner than later, but hopefully he’ll be fine.”

On which guys have to step up now …
“Nick (Richards), EJ (Mongtomery), even PJ (Washington) is going to have to play a bigger role than he already is. Next man up, and EJ and Nick, I think they’ll be ready.”

On if playing a high-scoring team like Auburn is fun …
“They’re a great team. Obviously, they played us down to the wire at Auburn. They’re looking for revenge, they’re going to come shooting a lot of 3’s, so we’re going to have to score more than them.”

On what the team learned in the first game against Auburn …
“They shoot a lot of 3’s, so they’re going to go on a run at some point because they shoot so much, some of them are going to go in. So, just defend the 3’s the best we can and just limiting their runs.”

On why he shoots better on the road …
“I’m not sure what’s going on there. I know of it, but I don’t know why. I guess I make shots on the road opposed to at home.”

On if the scouting report on Auburn has changed since the first game …
“They have two really good guards who shoot a lot of 3’s, so we’re going to have to defend the 3 really well. They’ve got some bigs inside that are good. They like to run in transition, so we’re just going to have to have another great day of practice today and be prepared to defend the 3.”

On who can provide the physicality with Reid Travis out of the lineup …
“Really, all of our bigs are going to have to step up and be physical, but even our guards are going to have to come in there and be physical with their bigs and get rebounds.”

On how the guards/wings can help make up for Reid Travis’ absence …
“He averages about 12 points, Coach said, so the bench players that come in are going to have to contribute. But then, we’re going to have to make up for those 12 points somehow and then, our guards inside can go in there and get rebounds and battle inside with the big men.”

On what practice has been like without Reid Travis …
“It’s a little different, just because he’s a leader and he brings a lot to the table, but PJ has stepped up a lot. Nick and EJ are going to have to come and battle, but practice has still been good.”

On where EJ Montgomery has improved …
“Everywhere, really. He’s not even the same player inside. He’s a lot more physical. He makes plays (on) offensive rebounds, blocked shots, he really changes the game when he gets in.”

#4, Nick Richards, So. F

On Reid Travis being out …

“It’s kind of hard for the team. We lost a major player. It’s time for guys to step up to other roles. We wish him a speedy recovery and we know we’re always going to look for Reid and see how he’s doing.”

On how much Kenny Payne is challenging him …

“He’s been a lot harder on me in practice because he knows I’m going to have to play a lot more minutes. He’s been pushing me more in practice to do more things. Conditioning wise, he’s been really pushing everybody, to be honest.”

On the post moves he’s shown the last two games …

“It’s just natural reactions, instinctive reactions, stuff that we worked on with Coach Payne, with Coach Tony Barbee. It’s just little things like that.”

On what the plays looked like on film …

“It just looks like a basketball move. What else is it supposed to look like? It’s just a regular basketball move. I can’t really say (anything) about it. We got a bucket from it. A bucket is a bucket.”

On whether those plays are the kind of thing he expects to do regularly in the future …

“It’s just a part of my game a lot of people don’t really know about. Coach, he always talks about (how) I got that in my game. That’s not really what people are evaluating me about. They’re evaluating me from playing with a lot of energy. That’s basically what he’s saying.”

On using his quickness in the post instead of playing physical …

“I think he just wants me to move my feet more. He refers to it as a mud-wrestling match. He says if I’m a part of that, it’s not going to be the best advantage for me. So he just wants me to use my quickness instead of my strength more.”

On the importance of not fouling now that he expects to play more …

“It’s a hard situation for anybody because we’re down one guy. It’s going to be hard for us to play aggressive and not get cheap fouls. When four guys end up in foul trouble in the first half, it’s kind of hard to win a game like that.”

On Coach Cal saying he can be the best big man in the country if his mind doesn’t get in the way …

“He always tells me that. In practice, he always tells me, ‘Just stop thinking too much and just go out there, relax. Let your instincts take over. Once you do that, the whole entire game for you will be easier.’ It’s just something I’m trying to get used to.”

On how much he and EJ Montgomery have talked about their opportunity with Travis out …

“We don’t even talk about it. It’s just a part of the game. It’s a misfortune, but it’s something that we have to–the whole team has to come together and figure out, what are we going to do? Guys just gotta step up, just not think about themselves. They just gotta think about the whole entire team and how they are going to benefit the team.”

On whether he can step up and play physical like Travis did …

“I can be able to do that, but Coach says he wants me to use quickness instead of strength. I don’t know what you all want from me (laughter).”

On whether it will be easier to play through mistakes with a longer leash …

“You could say that, but Coach, he’s talking about no matter how many minutes you get, just play with the energy that we’re asking you for. Every guy has to do their job. Every guy has to do what the team needs you to do. Whatever the team needs me to do for us to win games until Reid comes back, that’s what I have to do.”

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