Kentucky players in the locker room spoke to the media before Kentucky faces off against Houston in the Sweet 16.
Quotes from NCAA
(on his increased playing time because of PJ Washington’s injury) — “Coach has prepared us the whole season for situations like that (injuries) and no matter what happens, you always have to be ready.”
(on motivation from last year) — “Last year was a sad time for us after our loss in the Sweet 16, and we didn’t handle it right. This year, guys who have returned are more motivated and learned from mistakes we made (last year), to help the younger guys this year not to make those mistakes.”
(on playing Houston) — “They are a great team. They play fast. They have guards that are very good. They are very athletic inside.”
(on Coach Calipari’s message to the team) — “It’s going to take fight. They are going to come at us hard. We have to come at them. It’s going to be a competitive game for 40 minutes.”
(on Houston’s guard play) — “They have great guards. They can score the ball. We have to beat on them, early and often, and not allow them to get confidence.”
(on other teams’ criticism of Kentucky} — “Wearing that Kentucky jersey, that (criticism) is going to happen with any (other) team. We just go out there and play our hardest. We’ve got the best coach. Any team that comes out (against UK) is going to fight. Kentucky has been the top program for the longest, and we just have to go out there and keep that going.”
(on facing Houston’s defense) — “You have to take smart shots. Honestly, we have to defend as well, so we can get out in transition, and get easy baskets for ourselves. So, focusing on our defense is vital.”
(on his role with the team) — “It is a pretty versatile role. My role is to come off the bench and give energy, so, basically, whatever this team needs, offensively and defensively. Defense is always the primary thing I focus on.”
(on PJ Washington’s value to the team) — “I think we’re confident that, with him or without him, we’re a team. And if he’s not with us, someone has to step up.”
Q. PJ, let’s start with the big one. Are you going to play tomorrow and kind of what is your status?
PJ WASHINGTON: I’m trying to get back to play, but right now it’s up in the air.
Q. PJ, what has the last couple weeks been like? And I know you’re going to be bombarded with a lot of these questions, but what has the last week and a half been for you mentally and physically?
PJ WASHINGTON: I’m in a good place. I went to get checked out. The doctor said pretty much some good things. So I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m just trying to get better.
Q. I have a question for you Reid. So Kentucky is not a program known for having a lot of older players. Given that you’re a grad on the team, I wanted to know a little bit about what it’s like to have a little bit more of a leadership role, given your age? But this is your first tournament, what has that experience been like so far?
REID TRAVIS: It’s been a great experience so far.
That was one of the things that attracted me to Kentucky was there wasn’t a lot of older guys. I felt it would be nice for me to have a younger team and kind of have my leadership presence and kind of just join that. It’s been great so far to learn from the younger guys and trying to use my lived experience through college basketball to be a leader and enjoy every game we’ve been playing so far in the tournament.
Q. PJ, are you going to try to practice today? And just are you able to walk then just in shoes? And I guess, how would you describe, I guess, your gait?
Are you able to move around?
PJ WASHINGTON: I walked over here. That’s good. I don’t know yet. I’m thinking of giving it a go. It’s just in the air, like I said earlier.
Q. You posted that yesterday on Twitter of you kind of walking. Is that when you got the cast off yesterday? How does it feel in?
PJ WASHINGTON: That was the day after I got the cast off. It’s good. I feel good. It’s just about going out there and seeing if I can do stuff on the court.
Q. One more. Will you just warm up before the game and see if you can go and how much pain is there?
PJ WASHINGTON: I don’t know yet. I don’t know if — I been haven’t practicing. I’ve been — I haven’t put any pressure on it yet. I’ll go out there and see what I can do.
Q. Reid, just you guys obviously got through the first two rounds without PJ. But could you just describe how different a team are you without him in the lineup?
REID TRAVIS: Yeah, we’re very different team without him in the lineup. Obviously just look at his production, his leadership, the things that he does on the court for us, the way he can pass. He makes a lot of us a lot better.
When he’s in the game, just the rotations and the way that we move the ball, and defensively, he makes our team a lot better. Obviously we can get him back, I feel like we’ll be a lot stronger team.
Q. Reid, what have you guys seen out of Houston when you watched the video? They said they hadn’t looked at you guys until a couple days ago. What do you see out of them?
REID TRAVIS: The biggest thing is just the physicality. A big thing we’ve been working on in practice is just rebounding, just trying to box out. They’re a team that when they do shoot it, they’re all trying to chase it and get off and rebound and put it back. So for us a big part of the game plan is just finishing out possessions with a rebound and just really trying to match their physicality.
KELDON JOHNSON: Definitely agree with everything he said. Just being physical and just matching the intensity. We have to come out and do what we do and just play harder than them.
Q. Keldon, it hadn’t been too long ago that you were being recruited by Coach Cal. And I’m sure one of his biggest pitches was that he was going to make you a better player. How has coming to the University of Kentucky made you a better player this past year?
KELDON JOHNSON: Just — I mean, I stay in the gym with the coaches. I’m playing against great players everyday, and they just push me and the coaches stay on me regardless of the day. They always on me to push me to be a better — to be a better me each and every day. That’s basically what it is.
Q. Reid, I’ll follow-up on that question with you. How has specifically your relationship with Coach Cal made you a better player here at the University of Kentucky?
REID TRAVIS: Yeah. I’d say the biggest thing I take away is just the little nuances that he’s taught me in my game, that I can affect the game without scoring or just rebounding as far as blocking shots, defending multiple positions. These are all things I didn’t necessarily think about too much in my previous years in college, and when I got here, it was a big emphasis to him is that it’s not always about trying to throw up the biggest numbers but you can affect the game in so many ways. That starts with changing your body, changing the way you move. Those the are biggest things I changed in my game are the little things that don’t necessarily show up.
Q. Keldon, when you guys played Wofford, you guys mentioned they were a very good 3-point shooting team. Houston doesn’t appear to shoot it as well, but they’re tenacious defensively. What’s the give and take between Wofford and Houston guard-wise?
KELDON JOHNSON: Two different teams. We’ve got to respect whoever we have in front of us. We just going to take the game plan, go with it accordingly, and just go out there and do what we do.