Oct. 11, 2012
Head coach John Calipari
Q. Coach, do you notice anything to start out with the new team?
COACH CALIPARI: It's another new team. I'm still trying to figure it out and not get too much anxiety about how we're going to have to play. Because until I get on the court I'm not -- we'll do some things, and whatever works, we run with.
Q. How much have you learned how to mesh a star freshman into the game?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, what I've said to you guys before, if I had my choice between experience and talent, I'm going to take talent. This is a talented group. I don't know how talented until we start playing, but we've got good size. We've got length. We've got some slashers, got a couple shooters. We were worried about our toughness a year ago, and I would tell you, I'm a little worried about the toughness of this team based on the fact that you have a couple of guys, but you just don't have a -- we were worried about it last year. I'm probably more worried this year.
Q. Question regarding returning players like Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer …
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, I sat down with Ryan Harrow, and told them (him and Kyle Wiltjer) they need to start working out together. They need to be in practice early together. They need to be after practice together, kind of doing what (Dirk) Nowitzki and Steve Nash did, where they did their workouts together and they got real comfortable with each other on the court, especially in a late game. You're talking about two guys that are going to have their hands on the ball a lot. So, we just had that talk about five days ago.
Q. You were talking to Joe B. Hall about using two big guys, trying to get some information?
COACH CALIPARI: I sat out by his statue, and he and I talked a little bit. He wasn't real talkative. I don't know. He usually is.
Q. What are a couple of things you picked up from Coach Hall?
COACH CALIPARI: I may stack them together. Put them both on the same side of the court. I may put them on the elbow. I'm going to mess around. I don't know how much per game we'll play those two. I really have no idea. It may be five minutes, 15 minutes, what if they're both really good together? It may be 25 minutes. So I don't know yet.
But, we have some ideas random pick-and-rolls, and some things we may try. But right now, the basics and the first week of practice is going to be a great defensive team. We'll fly up and down the court. We'll teach the dribble drive, attacking the basket. We're going to really zero in on rebounding, because I think that's one of the things this team should be good at and needs to be good at, those kinds of things.
Q. Question regarding having players leave the program and getting so many newcomers integrated into the system …
COACH CALIPARI: I wish I had the whole team coming back. I wish I had teams for three and four years, but that's not the way it is. I've talked enough about how I can't stand this one and done stuff, but it is what it is. I'm not going to cheat the kids. I'm not going to have kids stay that need to leave.
If kids should stay and they choose to leave, that's their family's decision. I'm not going to argue with that. We just deal with what's left. It's funny. We've had kids leave every year, and our teams have been good, if not better. So they're chasing their dream, and it's not hurting us.
We had a 3.2 grade point average. We had nine players over a B-average last year. Nine. Anthony Davis left with -- what was his last term? 3.75? His last term. Guys finished all their courses. They finished their courses, so it's not at the expense of academics. They're taking care of business.
Q. Question regarding the early season schedule and playing Maryland and Duke at neutral sites …
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, Maryland-Duke to start. We could be 0-2. I was with the guys at Wheelers (Pharmacy), and I said we're rebuilding. How are you guys going to be? And one guy says we're with you, Coach. Win or tie, we're right there with you. Then I said, well, what if we really start off slow. Are you still going to love me? They said oh, man, come on. We're going to love you. We'll miss you, but we're going to love you.
Q. Has winning a championship changed recruiting?
COACH CALIPARI: Kids all want to win. The kids that want to win are the ones we're recruiting. DeWayne (Peevy) and I were talking about it this morning. Every group we've had has come in with the idea we want to win a championship, whether it was John (Wall) and that group, Brandon (Knight) and that group, whether it's the group last year with Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) and those guys. They all talked. They wanted to win a championship.
So what happens first is we're a players' first program. All of us, including DeWayne, all our jobs is to care about those kids. It's players first. Their job is to care about winning championships. Our job is we're about them. Every decision we make is about them. Then their job is to go out and basically drag us where we're trying to go.
Q. How would you compare the challenge here each year, compared to the challenge at UMASS?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, this is a much better program. I don't know what you mean by that, but I will tell you -- what I would tell you is that this has made me a better coach. I was just with Jim McCoy whose father passed away last weekend. I basically said, you know, I apologize that I wasn't a better coach when I coached him. I was 28 years old, 29 years old. I said to him, Jim, I wish I knew then what I know now about coaching and preparing young people, and I didn't. I mean, you were one of the first.
His mother grabbed me and said people said why would you send your son with a 28-year-old that's never coached? She said I looked him in the eye and said (Indiscernible), which made me feel good. But the reality of it is, I'm a better coach now because I can't -- it's like a teacher having the same lesson plan for 12 years.
Well, when I was at UMASS, I'm going to be honest with you, five of those years, I had exactly the same lesson plan. We were going to play, and we won a lot of games and we were good, kids did good, but we could have done better. I could have coached better. No question that I could have been a better coach. I wish I would have been for those kids. But at that age, that was my background and my history.
Q. When you talk about being a better coach, why are you a better coach?
COACH CALIPARI: I have more knowledge, been through more experiences. There's nothing a kid is going to do or say that I haven't seen and I don't respond to it better. In a game you have a better feel for all situations because there are probably been time you’re up nine with two minutes to go and lose. There's not much I haven't seen in 20-something years.
What Mrs. McCoy said to me, do you remember our home visit? That was 25 years ago. How am I going to remember that? She said all you did was talk to me. I thought you were recruiting me and not my son. I said, well that hasn't changed in 25 years. That's still the same. The game is different. We all grew up five passes, set screens. It's the motion game, wanting to run motion offense.
Well, one, everybody's now in the lane. You shoot jumpers, and the NBA's not doing it. Obviously, the game has changed and evolved. It's no disrespect for anything, but it's just changed and evolved. It's done at different times, and now the game has changed. The three-point line -- when I was at UMASS my first couple years there wasn't a three-point line. That's how long ago I coached. There wasn't. Jimmy, maybe his senior year it came in, the three-point line came in. But prior to that, there was none.
So the game has evolved, and hopefully I'm learning. And you learn from players. Every player I've coached here, you learn different things from.
Q. Any news on Nerlens Noel’s status?
DEWAYNE PEEVY: Just so you know our policy on student-athletes, we don't confirm academic eligibility until the first day of class and we don’t confirm athletic eligibility until the first day of competition.
COACH CALIPARI: He will practice, and if we played tomorrow, he would play. But I'm sticking to that policy. I'm not saying one word. That's the policy. I know some of you are angry right now, but that is the policy.
Q. Why is it you have the ability to communicate with athletes today?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, tell them the truth. Not embellishing. I mean, we undersell, overdeliver. I'm not going to BS you. This is how it is. If you don't want this then you don't come here. I'm not the only coach that can help you prepare for your dreams. This is what we do and how we do it. If you want this, it is a great place to go. If you don't want it, you can go somewhere else.
Everybody says, Coach, we want you to keep it real, keep it real. Unless you're keeping it real with them, then they're not real happy. So the other one is I need four years to create a relationship. Well, my wife and I we've been 26 years. I think we were four months together and I knew. I don't need four years with these guys. We create a relationship in a year or two. I tell you after that, they start disliking you, I think.
So we treat them right. It's about them, there is no question. Last year, how did you get guys to play this way? They trusted that it was about them. So they shared their sacrifice, they shared sacrifice. From Anthony Davis who shot 22 points the other day and looked in the camera, ‘Coach Cal didn't let me do this.’ But he was a shot taker, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Darius Miller coming off the bench who was undraftable as a junior, and is draftable coming off the bench as a senior. They trust that we're going to do what you want because we know you care about us. This is not about you, Grand Poobah. It's not about. We don't care about winning. You care about us. I've only known that way.
I've coached that way and made it about kids, and it doesn't mean I don't scream and yell. If somebody says you can't really get on kids anymore. Yeah, you can, if they know you care about them. They know it's about them, then whatever you tell them to do, they'll do. This group is going to do whatever I ask them to do. Whatever I ask them to do, they'll do. I have to hope I'm asking them to do the right things. They're going to do what we ask, so hopefully it's the right stuff.
Q. Question regarding his relationship with Coach John Wooden …
COACH CALIPARI: I called him in the 2010 season, and I had been in touch with him at different points in my career. I said, "Are you watching my team?" He said, "Yes, I am." And I said, I'm worried about this, that and the other. He said, Coach, look. Bottom line, and I know why you're doing it, but you play too many people. We've played six guys, maybe seven, and those other guys had to work their way in. You guys because of transfers and all the other stuff, you don't play as many guys, or you play more people. You're playing ten.
Jack from UMASS used to tell me the same thing. You're playing too many guys. You try to play 10 guys because you want it to be about a system and how you play versus those kids. You've got to play less and let them learn to play with each other. That's why we have eight kids on scholarship. Nine kids -- most we'll have is 10 on scholarship. Now I have scholarships for walk-ons. But, we have eight kids on scholarship this year.
Next year somebody called me and said, if all these kids come, I said, we'll have eight or nine on scholarship. They all come we're going to end up -- these guys are going to do this. And these guys graduated and we end up with a couple, five come, we'll have seven or eight guys. But that was his comment. And I talked to his daughter, Nan about it. We were at dinner, and it was kind of neat.
Q. Question regarding the ESPN All-Access show …
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we said no. They approached us, and we said no for about a month. We didn't want to do it. Do we really need more exposure? The one guy said we'll help this and this. What about your recruiting? I said I don't think we need help. I think we're okay.
So what we've talked about, and I don't mind sharing, we have a lot of guys and I'm not saying they're wrong, but I'm not sharing what I do with anybody. This is our secret. I've never been that way in my life. If you walked into my practice -- not you, because you're not allowed in there, but the other people that walk into my practice, I'm not hiding anything. I'm not embarrassed about how we do our jobs. I'm not embarrassed about our kids or how we coach. And look at me, I sleep good at night. I sleep like a baby at night. So I'm not worried about people being here. It doesn't matter to me. I mean, that's fine.
Then it was like, okay, we'll be good for our kids, and we decided, you know what, let them come in for a while and see how it plays out. Again, look, once something happens, we've got people 24/7, how can I find, what can I do? How do I? Well, whether ESPN's here or not, if something happens, what? They'll be here in two hours. So I feel comfortable with what we're doing and how we do it.
We'll let it go. Everybody's going to be mad. I know. Did I do it just because of that to aggravate people? Might have. Did we talk? I may have said that. Let's aggravate everybody and do this, because really for us --
Q. How much access is ESPN getting?
COACH CALIPARI: They've been in my house, and they've been around my wife which is very unusual. She's very private. I did not want this to be about me. But I said from day one, this is not about me. They said my name and we took them out. It's about the program, the kids, the staff.
What they want to see is how in the world does he get a young group to play that hard and be that unselfish in that period of time? Is that right? Now if you're not curious that way, it's just like you want to see nasty stuff. Well, fine, look at something else. But that's what I hope comes across that this is a good group of kids. They come together. They shared sacrifice. They know they're going to give up stuff. They work hard. They go to class. They do what they're supposed to. Good kids who are good students and trying to chase their dreams in under a magnifying glass that's ridiculous.
Q. How much playing time do you expect (Twany) Beckham, (Jarrod) Polson and (Jon) Hood to get?
COACH CALIPARI: I hope so. My hope would be that they get some time, but that will all play out.
Q. How different is your lesson plan this year from last year?
COACH CALIPARI: The beginning will be the same, but after we get started we'll probably do more scrimmaging this year than I did a year ago earlier. But normally I'll have four to five practices already planned. I've got two, and those are in pencil, let me put it that way. But I've got two planned. I like my team. I really do. I like what we are.
Kyle Wiltjer said he never thought he'd play on a team as close as last year's team. Now he's saying this team may be as close, if not closer than last year's team, which makes me feel good. I mean, that is the kind of stepping in that you want to have.
Q. Question regarding his communication with recruits about playing defense and if he can get a sense of their defensive style while watching them …
COACH CALIPARI: You watch them. But I was just in a home last week, and I sat down -- and I won't tell you if it was boys or boy because I can't. If there were two of them or one, okay, but I sat down in that home and I looked at those -- that boy and I said I want to tell you I've seen you guys play -- I've seen you play and compete so hard that it's scary.
Then I've also seen you act like it doesn't matter and you're just going through the motions. I want you to know in front of your family that player will not be on my court. He will not play. The minute I see it, he's out. Do you understand that? I don't want phone calls. I want nothing. That's how it is. Some of it is just coming in.
The other thing is they recruit each other. Last year's team, they all talk to each other. It is a different time and age. If a coach is a jerk, they are texting each other that my coach is a jerk. He doesn't care about me. It's different. The 25-year-old model is out the window. It is. If you promise everything and you don't follow through, that family is blogging that you said this, this and this and this. That's why I said, I'm not going to tell you how many shots you're going to take, how many minutes, starting. I can't tell you that. Just tell you our freshmen have done well. I can let you in on that little secret. They've done fine, but I am not going to be in that.
Q. You've talked a lot about how this team is different from last year's team. Last year's team had returners, but this team does not have as many. How does that make your job not having those guys back?
COACH CALIPARI: This is all exciting. I mean, think about it. It would be boring to have the same team every year, I think. We're coming in and have no idea. I have in my mind things that I think will work, and they may or may not work. There may be things that they do. Just so you understand, the hand-off stuff we started doing happened because Josh Harrellson popped out, grabbed the ball, and handed it to Brandon Knight who made a shot. It was not anything designed. I said, oh, my gosh, that looks good. And all these handoffs came from that play. It was a breakoff play, popped out, caught it squared up. Handed it off, and Brandon shot it. I said, man, I like that.
So there will be things that these guys show us. We may do both elbows, two guys on the elbows. We may even open the court wide open and have both bigs on the baseline five feet off the block. So now figure the court out. You've got wings wide. And now if you drive, if you help, we throw lobs. You've got both of them. You can throw a lob to either one. 7-feet, 6'11. It's all kind of stuff you can try, but it's what will work.
It's hard because you're going to be experimenting against Maryland and Duke. Can you go down twice, take two Ls and still be good? A couple years ago we lost a bunch of league games and everybody was in a full-blown panic. I kept saying I like my team, and we were a basket or two away from winning the national title in Houston.
Q. You mentioned this summer trying to get that motor, out of Alex (Poythress). Are you seeing that out of him?
COACH CALIPARI: He's getting better.
Q. If not him, is there anybody else on the team that can be?
COACH CALIPARI: Archie (Goodwin) right now is looking more and more like out of the mold of DeAndre (Liggins) and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) who can guard two or three different positions. Alex, I'm just trying to help define his game, but he's a wonderful kid. The thing we've been working on with him is he looks at his feet all the time. So my biggest thing is you don't look down. You're always looking up. We have lines on the wall at the practice court that if he's practicing and he does a drill and his head goes down, I'm just yelling, "head, head, head," because it's a body language that he said, you know, I didn't even know I was doing it. Like make a play and look down. Then it zaps us of energy. It zaps him of energy.
That is part of the reason I think there are times in the game that he didn't have the motor. It's something that simple. But he is a great kid. He's the most conscientious kid I've had since Brandon (Knight) who is where he's supposed to be on time, working the school, all that stuff. And he'll help his teammates if they're lagging or anything like that. He's really, really conscientious.
Q. Can you talk about Ryan (Harrow) being part of the program last year and how that can help him contribute right off the bat?
COACH CALIPARI: He's ahead of the game because he was here last year but he didn't play. So now what I call the self-confidence, the self-esteem you build is through demonstrated performance. He's got to go in the game and perform. People are going to look at him and be real physical. If he can't play through that type of game, then we've got to make decisions, how are we going to do this, because that's how they're going to play him.
I think he's played stronger than he looks. He's out of the mold of Brandon (Knight), but Brandon was just a crazy worker. Like 11 at night he'd be in the gym. So he willed himself where Ryan's not that way. I'm not saying he doesn't work. But Brandon was off the charts. But they've got the same body frame, you know, narrow shoulders. You look at him and say he's skilled. He's fast. Pretty good athlete.
Q. What kind of point guard is he?
COACH CALIPARI: Out of the mold of Brandon. Yeah, he can score the ball. He's skilled like Brandon was. He's becoming a good lay-up shooter. Playing through bumps, getting it off the glass and throwing lobs and all. He's getting better. But this process is going to be in November I need us to play like it's November.
In December, I need us to play like it's December. I don't need us playing like it's March in November. We're not going to be that. Then when we hit February and March, let's play like we're in that month and maybe a little bit beyond. Then see what happens. I like my team. I like our size, our skill set.
Q. Has a ring changed you at all?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't think so. Trying to work harder to show everybody like DeWayne (Peevy), quit going home at 10:00 at night, that's crazy. But I just committed that I'm going to spend more time. I'm going to recruit harder than I've ever done, and with the ability for us to make phone calls and texts now, I'm spending more time than I have in the last couple years at it.
I want everybody in my office, not by me saying it, but they look at the pace and say, man, you'd think he'd back up. Well, I'm trying to go harder to keep everybody around me. Let's stay on our toes. We've made a lot of people happy around the country that we won. So let's stay on our toes, and let's keep marching forward. We're going to take some arrows and some bazooka shots, and let's just take them and move.
My thing again, and I said this today, coach, there are people, this, that, and the other. I said, listen, I'm not dealing with all of that. So I'll say to you guys here, which I've said, whatever you think I am, I agree. Now let me go coach my team. Is that easy enough?
Q. Just a follow-up, I don't think anybody's surprised that you're taking it in stride and getting right back to work. But in your mind you've accomplished something enormous.
COACH CALIPARI: No, what I've accomplished is helping prepare young people. This job I'm in now, I don't even think I'm in the basketball business anymore. I'm in the business of helping families. It's incredible. We've had 15 draft picks, seven players drafted. We're teaching people how to be men, how to be fathers, how to go on. Our kids have gone on and done well in a short period of time.
This Kentucky effect is there and it's real. So now you're in the business of helping families break generational cycles. We've had probably 45 to 50 kids get college degrees during my time as a head coach. I'm guessing 80% of them are the first college educated in their families.
You may say, well, how many of them are lawyers and doctors? Probably not many. But when I grew up, I was the first college educated in my family. I could not think about being a lawyer or a doctor. I was going to be a high school coach. Teach high school English. Then I went and did the college thing, and the NBA, and they fired me, and I came back. But my daughter's going to be a doctor. In two years, Erin will be a doctor.
Well, that's how this is supposed to work. How about generational cycle of poverty? Senator Mitch McConnell said to me, How many are leaving last year? Said six more. He said, "You're creating more millionaires than a wall street firm." And I went, wow, we are.
So when you say that to me, when I hug my wife, I'm saying -- when I hugged her on the court I said now my friends and family don't have to argue, and we can get on to the business of coaching young people, because that's what mattered more for my high school coach and my college coach. He should have won national titles at Memphis and Massachusetts. Everybody wins there. Why hasn't he won any national titles? And then arguing stupid stuff.
So now before the game they said how does it feel to be known as the best coach never to win a national title? Is that a compliment? What is that? Then after the game a guy came up and said how does it feel to be the worst coach to win a national title?
Q. Did anybody actually say that to you?
COACH CALIPARI: No (laughing). Whatever you think I am, I am.
Q. How do you deal with the criticism that comes from the outside?
COACH CALIPARI: You can't. You can't. He'll tell you. I don't have a computer. I don't look at Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, nothing. If something's gone on, I get up in the morning, I'm getting a coffee and say anything I got to deal with? If it's something I have to deal with, he tells me. If it's not something I have to deal with he doesn't tell me and I go about my business. I have a sign on my wall. Coach your team.
My staff gets mad. How can they say this, and this, and that, and that? What do you want them to say? We're getting the kids. We're winning every game. What are they going to have a party for you? They're not going to have a party for you. They're not going to be happy. So you deal with that? Don't deal with it. I don't. Do I? Whatever you think I am, I agree.
Q. What have you said to Nerlens Noel about the inevitable comparison between him and Anthony Davis?
COACH CALIPARI: I worry about it because he's not Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis is a once in a ten-year. He's just not. Anthony Davis was a skilled basketball player. Nerlens is a long bouncy -- way more bouncy than Anthony and longer, but he's not Anthony. He's not. And we shouldn't expect it now.
The same thing with Willie Cauley. Willie's bigger than both of them and runs better than both of those guys. Anthony ran pretty fast. He and Anthony would tie in a race. Yet he's not the basketball player that Anthony was, neither one of those guys. But Alex (Poythress) is not Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Archie's totally different than Doron (Lamb) or Darius (Miller). Totally different. And Ryan's totally different than Marquis Teague, they're all different.
Now Kyle Wiltjer is just like Kyle Wiltjer, but he got stronger. Legs are stronger, quicker. But he's pretty much the same. I think Kyle Wiltjer being Kyle Wiltjer, it's all different.
Q. Are you worried about Nerlens trying to be Anthony or dealing with the heat that will come by replacing Anthony?
COACH CALIPARI: Everybody's acting like he's Anthony, and he's going to come out and he's not going to be Anthony. And see he went out to California, and they said he's not as good as we thought. All of a sudden, he's not that good.
By the end of the year if things work out and he's drafted really high, they'll say, wow, he was one and done when he went there.
Well, wait a minute, you just said he stunk. Yeah, I was just kidding. He's over here now. So I will tell you as the year goes on he'll do his thing. But when you see him, you're going to compare him to Anthony in March, and that's not fair.
Comparing this team to that team in March is not fair. They're not going to be. We're going to turn it over. We're going to get pushed around. Defensively, we're going to have breakdowns. Offensively, we're going to look like what in the world are they doing, and it's going to be the process we go through.
Q. You're telling him all the things that are going to be wrong in November. Tell us why you like your team?
COACH CALIPARI: I like what they'll look like in March in my mind. Right now, that's the only thing I can live with. I have a vision of what they're going to be in March, and that's what I try to drive them to. I know it's there and we're right here.
I'm going to try to be as patient -- I'm not the most patient guy, but I'm going to try to be as patient as I can to drag them along. We were patient last year with Marquis Teague, and it paid off, didn't it? We had people say you can't play him at point guard. Let somebody else play the point guard, and we let it go. We just said we're sticking to this, and we're going to be patient with him. We were, and by the end of the year he was the best point guard in my opinion.
Q. Do you expect to play zone?
COACH CALIPARI: Coach Hall's trying to get me to play a one-three-one. We're going to have to play some zone just because we have to play against it. I thought of two things. With the two big guys out there, what kind of zone could we play that would be effective with a 7-footer and a 6'11". Could you put them on the wings of a one-three-one, and let them be your wings? I don't know. I'm worried about us step slide, step slide. Close out with your hand-up.
I told my staff you've got to start this season like they absolutely know nothing. Let's not take anything for granted, and that's what we'll do.
Q. How do you balance that handful of veteran guys wanting to teach them maybe some more advanced stuff? Starting every year with so many guys that have to really go to the basics of this?
COACH CALIPARI: The guys that came back will tell the young guys you have not seen him yet. He's all friendly and happy go lucky. Wait till we start practicing and it gets close to a game and the pressure is on. You're going to see a different animal. They've already told those guys. Right now, yeah, he's all happy and hugging you. Wait until we start playing. You're going to see this other guy that you don't recognize right now. That's what they tell them.
Whenever whatever I ask our guys to do, they'll do it. I just have to make sure whatever I ask them is the right thing. You talk about playing zone. If I choose to do that, I just hope it's the right thing, or what kind of zone. We're going to change some different offenses. Well, let's hope it's right. Because whatever I tell them to do, they'll do.
We've got a great group that understood coming here, hard deal. Tell us what you want us to do, and we're going to do it.
Q. Who will be the vocal leader of the team?
COACH CALIPARI: Maybe Archie, but he's quiet. Ryan and -- they're all quiet. I'm just telling you, we've got a quiet team. We've got a quiet team. Maybe the most quiet.
Julius Mays, very steady and a veteran, but he's not saying a whole lot. So one of the things we'll do from day one is talk on offense, talk on defense, and we'll make them. So that probably will evolve. But I hope we're a good team that talks because we're going to need to.
Q. How about placing so many players in the NBA, and the success you've had here, how in terms of getting the guys to take what you say and trust it?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there is trust based on the fact that we didn't oversell them a bill of goods. There is trust that we already told them it's going to be hard. It's not for everybody. You're not going to be the only guy shooting the ball, blah, blah, blah.
Then the other side of it is there is trust in the results. You know, the thing, why would you go down that path where everyone else goes? Blaze your own trail. Don't go down the path where everybody else is going. Why would you want to go where everybody else is going? Well, that path that everybody's going is a straight up and down hill where you're not promised anything. It's a lot of hard work. It's crazy. It's nuts. The fans are crazy and nuts. At the top you can see what's there.
Now I don't know if you can do it. If you can work that hard like the other guys, but you see the result. The one less taken, blazing that trail goes two steps and they hand you a machete and say go at it. You can do this. So I would say I'd rather go up this one straight up the hill, and you go after that one. See what's there. Kids were seeing that there are results.
Q. Question regarding the use of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer on the floor at the same time …
COACH CALIPARI: If I did that, we'd play zone. Kyle would be the middle of the zone, those two guys, the wings, because they're really active and have quick feet. Kyle is in the middle big at 6'10", you'd be 7-foot, 6'11", 6'10". But it would be hard to practice against that because we'd have Jon Hood and Jarrod (Polson) be the front line of the other team. So I bet you it would look good though.
Q. Is that an issue for you when you only have six or seven guys that play actually getting good practice reps?
COACH CALIPARI: We don't practice long. Again, I'm not saying this is the only way to do this. There are guys that practice four hours, and they win and they do well. We practice two hours. If I can't get it in in two hours, then I didn't do my job. Going four hours is okay. There are some kids that need it, and there are some coaches that are more comfortable going long practices in the full 20.
We have 20 hours to practice. We probably put in about 15 hours maybe. We have time in the bank. Is that like vacation time or anything that we can use? No. But we're not trying to -- look, I need November to be November. I need December to be December. I don't need to bulldoze, and we don't do it.
So if you have 10 guys you're practicing with, two hours is plenty of time. If you have 15 or 16, you need three hours, three and a half. We don't practice with that many guys.
Somebody says, well, what about injuries? Well, if the wrong guy is injured on any team, I don't care if they have 13 McDonald's All-Americans. North Carolina last year could have had anyone else injured except that point guard. The minute he went down, they were finished, and they had 12 McDonald's All-Americans on the team.
Fab Melo goes down at Syracuse. Anyone else could have been out and Syracuse would have been in the Final Four. He goes down, different. The same with us. We'll be watching and looking.
If something happens to Anthony Davis, we're done. When the Baylor thing happened with his knee and all that, believe me, I went over there like, you're all right. Come on, kid, get up. I was like please get up. Please get up. Come on, mama's boy. And I was sick, sick to my stomach; believe me when I tell you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
#3, Nerlens Noel, Freshman, Forward
On freshmen going pro and possibly being the next to do so ...
“I’m not too worried about that at this stage. I am mainly focused on getting better and staying on the books. This is just a regular school where you are going to do regular things and where you come to get better every day.”
On playing with Willie (Cauley-Stein) ...
“Willie has come a long way with himself, and I think that will be a great duo. Not too many shots would get up in the paint. I am looking forward to it, and the season should be real fun. Whatever coach Cal (Calipari) decides to do, and whoever he decides to put in, we will just go out there and try to ball.”
On working out with Coaches (Kenny) Payne and (Orlando) Antigua...
“They really push you to get to where you want to be. They are great, and people you can look up to and talk to whenever you want to speak about something. I appreciate them.”
On bonding with the guys ...
“Yeah we all had prior relationships before coming here, and I always had a good vibe since I got here that we have a close-knit group. We have all come a long way and have been our own brother’s keeper.”
#4, Jon Hood, Junior, Guard
On this year’s team compared to last, and what to expect ...
“Fun, we have a lot of fun. We are really close together and that is one thing you can expect. That is probably the main thing you can expect. It is fun to watch in pick-up and in practice a lot of people get dunked on and a lot of blocked shots. We have a lot of speed so we are going to be fun to watch.”
On who amazes him on the team ...
“Everybody is so much better than they were last year and the new guys are obviously amazing. (They’re) the number one recruiting class again for a reason. Sometimes in pick-up we look like the Atlanta Hawks playing in the ‘Highlight Factory’. It is just fun to watch.”
On what his role is on this year’s team...
“Whatever coach Cal needs me to do, I am going to try and do that. I will not be begging for playing time. I know since I have been here three years I understand that it is ‘you get what you deserve.’ That is in basketball and in life; if you put in the work at basketball then you will get time. That is something I am ready for and I think I have put in enough time.”
#5, Jarrod Polson, Junior, Guard
On how this team is said to be quiet...
“I don’t know if that’s the case. We are quiet, but we are pretty funny. Arch(ie) (Goodwin), (Kyle) Wiltjer are all funny.”
On being ready to have a leadership role as a veteran...
“Yeah, a little bit since I have been here the most except for (Jon) Hood. I know what to expect and it is fun to tell them what to expect. They are always asking questions.”
On Coach Calipari’s comparison to Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash...
“I see some Dirk in Kyle’s game when we are playing open gym. He takes a lot of steps back and stuff but I do see a lot of Dirk in Kyle.”
#10, Archie Goodwin, Freshman, Guard
On how the players feel about the season approaching ...
“We just started practice so everybody is excited about that. We are just trying to focus on our grades and make sure everybody is in a place to be successful.”
On his experience as an athlete at UK ...
“The atmosphere is what I expected. I expected great fans and there is a lot of support around here. As far as expectations on the court, they are similar to what I expected. Coach Cal wants to get the best out of you. It is everything I thought it would be.”
On fans camping out for Big Blue Madness tickets ...
“My 10th grade year I got pictures from them doing that. But just to see that was crazy.”
On his and the team’s identity ...
“We are just a tough team. I feel like we are going to work hard and listen to our coaches. I just do whatever Coach Cal needs me to do.”
On Coach Cal’s comparison of him to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeAndre Liggins ...
“Those were two great guys who brought a lot of intensity on defense. So being told that makes me work that much harder so I can live up to those standards.”
On being defensive minded ...
“When I was younger, all I wanted to do was shoot the ball. I was not the type to play defense. That came as I got a little older and I matured, later in high school. Me and my mom and my stepdad used to have a lot of talks about me playing defense. I could score 30, but if I was letting my guy score 30 that wasn’t good.”
On his role on the team ...
“My primary role is shooting guard, but I will play a little point guard.”
On why the top recruits are wanting to play at Kentucky...
“It’s simple, Coach Cal is here. The things he does for players in such a short time. It’s simply amazing to see what he does. To have the staff that he has and they all want to see you succeed from academics to athletic ability.”
#11 Twany Beckham, Senior, Guard
On living up to the expectations of Kentucky fans ...
“We all have Kentucky jerseys on but we can’t be expected to be the same, it’s a totally different team. We try not to worry about it. We come in everyday and do what coach wants us to do. Expectations are going to be there, it’s Kentucky. So as long as we go and try to win every game we aren’t really worried about expectations.”
On how the team got so close in such a short time ...
“Some of us were already here and we just brought it together. We all have to be our brother’s keeper. We have to be this way to win when we go on the road and it’s an entire arena against us.”
On what new players amaze him athletically ...
“Everybody is good in their own way. All of the freshmen are athletic. They all play hard. They all love to win. So we are just looking forward to the season.”
On what he can do to help the team ...
“Leadership. I played in the SEC for four years. I’ve been in and out of tough situations. So just leadership and being ready whenever my number is called.”
On the pressure on Ryan Harrow ...
“He is a very good player. I think he’s going to be ready to handle it.”
On his individual goals ...
“I don’t have any individual goals. I just want to be the best teammate I can be.”
#12, Ryan Harrow, Sophomore, Guard
On dancing at Big Blue Madness ...
“Yea, I’m dancing at madness. My sister told me I had to. I am always dancing at the house with her so I have to dance in front of everybody now.”
On his hairstyle ...
“I’m going to keep it like this. A lot of people told me to keep it. Nerlens (Noel) wants me to keep it. We think of it like ‘Kid-N-Play’. Plus the girls’ team really likes it, so I have to keep it.”
On getting other teammates to grow the same hairstyle ...
“We have asked some of the other guys, but none of them want to do it. Some of the fans ask them too and they always tell them no as well. I think if Kyle (Wiltjer) was able to do it, then he would do it.”
On being ready to be a leader on this team ...
“Definitely. I have to or Coach Cal isn’t going to play me. I just need to do whatever he expects of me.”
On working closely with teammate Kyle Wiltjer...
“Coach sat us down and he told us that we need to be like best friends. Kyle and I have a pretty good bond already because we were both here last year and played with each other in practice. So we know what each other likes to do.”
#13, Sam Malone, Sophomore, Guard
On having a brand new team ...
“I wouldn’t say it’s scary, it’s been proven that it can work. It is just a challenge, a unique challenge that we have at this program.”
On team chemistry ...
“I don’t know if it’s anything different. Our situation is different because we have so many guys coming in. We only get to play pick-up. We can’t play as much as we want to play just because of other conditioning. I think that a lot of it builds off the court and having good relationships off the court. Seeing our brothers being able to succeed, seeing the guys in the locker room next to us want to do well. Guys know that the guy next to them can complement their game. Most of the guys aren’t complete players yet, but by helping the other person out they can complement.”
On how they have been building team chemistry...
“Just being good friends, that’s really important to the guys and helps them transition.”
On if he thinks this team could be as good as last years’...
“Yes I think so. I don’t want to compare this team to last years’ team. I don’t think that we should. I think that if we are the best that we can be, we will be in a position to win it again. We shouldn’t worry about our records. It might take a while to come together as a team, but as long we are ready in March.”
#15, Willie Cauley-Stein, Freshman, Forward
On what he thinks of the media labeling Coach Calipari’s coaching as one-and-done ...
“Most of the reason why we come here is to win. You watch every year and know that they are making it to the Final Four and they always make it to the end of the tournament. You see that, and going to the NBA is a perk, but winning the national championship is the ultimate goal. Especially me, I didn’t get a ring in high school, so I really want one now and that’s my goal.”
On knowing that this team will get compared to last year’s team at the end of the season ...
“It puts a target on your back. They were beating everyone so badly last year and we have a target on our back to see if we are going to be as good as them or if we are going to fall. That’s the biggest challenge we have. We can’t compare ourselves to them. We just need to keep going out there and playing and doing whatever Coach Cal tells us to do and being effective about it.”
On what the team needs to improve on at this point ...
“It is hard to tell now. Right now we are really close, but we need to come together more. The biggest thing he (Coach Calipari) preaches to us right now is to come together, be friendly, go out to eat with each other, play video games together, and just be around each other and the court stuff is going to take care of itself as we start going.”
On if getting a national championship ring will motivate him to get multiple rings here ...
“That’s tough, you come here and you want a ring so bad, and honestly it depends on how you feel at the end of the season. That’s a hard question.”
On how he felt when Nerlens Noel committed to Kentucky ...
“A lot of my friends from back home asked me if I was worried that I wouldn’t get as much playing time. Honestly, that didn’t go through my head. You care to some sense, but if we are winning, I don’t care. If you win, you win, and it doesn’t matter how many minutes you get. It didn’t really bother me that much. It was kind of more like a challenge. I was really low key and nobody really knew about me. Going with the number one recruit in the country and having to play against him every day builds your confidence.”
On how Coach Calipari can increase a player’s draft stock...
“I think Cal has so many connections and resources and he just knows so many people. How can you not trust what he is saying? He has sent so many people to the league and done so many great things in his career.”
On what he thinks of the one-and-done label UK’s basketball program has ...
“Even on Twitter, fans, not even our fans, just other fans, are against us. They always have something to say about us being one-and-dones, and Cal only recruits one-and-dones; he is just recruiting the best players in the country. If they are one-and-done, it is their decision. He is not telling them to go. It is more of a self-decision.”
#22, Alex Poythress, Freshman, Forward
On what his position is ...
“I just say wherever I am needed. I will play anywhere, the three, four, or two, one if I could, but I know that isn’t going to happen.”
On being picked second- team preseason All-America ...
“I didn’t expect that, but it really doesn’t mean anything. The preseason just means how you finish out the season, and what happens in the end.”
On leadership roles ...
“Everybody has been a leader in their own way. I have been a leader sometimes, Archie (Goodwin) has been a leader. Julius (Mays) has been a senior leader, Ryan (Harrow) sometimes, Kyle (Wiltjer) too. Everyone has been.”
On playing with Ryan Harrow as a point guard ...
“Ryan is a pass-first point guard. He has a great handle, and is a good shooter. He’s a great point guard and I’ve loved playing with him so far. I think his handles might be up there with Brandon Jennings.”
On the pace to the NCAA Tournament ...
“Honestly we are taking it day by day. We can’t get it great in a day so you have to get it better each and every day.”
On the transition from high school to college ...
“It’s been a tough transition. You have to work harder everyday, lifting weights everyday. Waking up at 6 a.m. trying to be a better ball player, a better person to just get a feel for the game.”
#32, Brian Long, Sophomore, Guard
On what it feels like to be a veteran on this year’s team ...
“It’s a lot different than last year, but every year new guys come in so it is just a different experience being a sophomore this year.”
On the chemistry of the team this year ...
“It’s all mixed up really well again. Last year we were really close and this year we are really close. Coach Cal preaches that when we are really close it will make us do better on the court. He says, the better you do off the court, the better you will be on the court.”
On his individual and team goals ...
“I just want to do everything I can to contribute as much as I can. I hope as a team we can accomplish as much as we possibly can and be as successful as possible.”
On playing powerhouses Maryland and Duke in the first two regular season games ...
“Both are really good teams from a really good conference. We have to play them both at neutral sites, so it will be two early tests for us and hopefully we are ready.”
#33, Kyle Wiltjer, Sophomore, Forward
On how it feels to be one of the veterans ...
“It is good to have experience and being able to teach the younger guys what to do. We are incorporating in the young guys as much as we can.”
On practicing with Ryan Harrow ...
“Ryan and I are really close on and off the court. We are at our best when we help each other out and that’s going to be a big key this year. We have been working out together and getting shots up together, spending time together is key because when your close off the court it helps on the court, whether you know it or not.”
On the impact of playing Maryland and Duke has on practices ...
“We are going one practice at a time and working on getting better as a team. We are not worried about who we are playing. We are working on getting better as a team and individually.”
On what he did in the offseason to improve his game ...
“I did a lot of things, but most importantly I worked on my body like getting stronger and quicker. I worked on all parts of my skills and conditioning as well so there is not one thing I didn’t work on, I just kind of did it all.”
On possibly starting the season 0-2 against Maryland and Duke ...
“We don’t think about that at all. We are worried about ourselves and getting better. Practice starts soon, so we are going to see how we are going to play and we will listen to Coach (Calipari) and believe in him.”
On Coach Calipari comparing his game to Dirk Nowitski’s...
“It is an honor to be considered like someone of that caliber, but I like to define my own game and be as versatile as possible so that’s why I continue to work on my post game and my outside shot as well.”
On being on the court with both centers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein ...
“They have such great length defensively and offensively being able to throw those lobs kind of opens the game up for a lot of people and on defense they help you out so much. If we can get those guys on the court together and learn how to play together it will be tough to defend. “
On comparing this team’s shooting to last year’s shooting ...
“It is pretty early, but we have a lot of good shooters on this team as well. It is hard to compare to last year because we want to have our own identity, so we will see once this season gets rolling.”
#34, Julius Mays, Graduate Student, Guard
On how his time at the University of Kentucky has been so far ...
“It has been a lot of fun and it is everything I have expected and more. We work hard every day, and everybody brings it every day. It’s very competitive. It’s the best situation I have been in.”
On what is the biggest difference between Kentucky and his previous schools ...
“They (UK) are very successful because of how hard we work here. It’s no walk in the park, and every day is very tough, whether it’s conditioning or working out with coaches, everything is very hard.”
On the closeness of this team ...
“I wasn’t here last year, but clearly watching them you could tell that they were really close. Everybody figured we had to come together and be very close to learn a lot about each other. With us living together and being around each other each day, and spending as much time as we do with each other; it’s kind of hard not to become a family.”
On his expectations of Big Blue Madness ...
“I have heard about it, I have seen videos of it, but I still don’t think it’s going to be anything like living the experience tomorrow. It’s going to be a lot of fans, a lot of excitement, and everybody is just ready for the season to kick off. I am not nervous at all, but I am excited. I have seen the fans but seeing the gym sold out is going to be very exciting and I haven’t experienced anything like it.”
On if Coach Calipari is attempting to keep this team humble by saying they may go 0-2 against Duke and Maryland ...
“I think it is a little bit of both. We are a young team. We might not start the season playing as well as you want, but I think he is trying to humble us. I think it is trying to keep our minds off what last year’s team did and just know that nothing is going to be handed to us coming into the season. Since the team did win last year, we are going to be everybody’s national championship game and we are going to get everybody’s best game.”
On if Coach Calipari has been able to inspire him and the team to bring the level of intensity up ...
“It’s well known that if you aren’t producing, you aren’t going to be on the court. It’s either play how he wants you to play and play at a high level, or not play at all.”