Q&A: UK’s John Calipari previews Providence

first_imgNo. 1 Kentucky doesn’t host Providence (ranked 25th in the coaches poll) until Sunday, but there’s kind of a big football game for the Wildcats tomorrow, so John Calipari held his press conference this afternoon to preview UK’s game against the Friars. He talked about free throws and clutch shooting and asking players to sub themselves in for struggling teammates. Calipari also broke a little scheduling news. All of it here: JOHN CALIPARI On Providence: “Watching them on tape, (they’re) really doing a heck of a job of iso’ing guys and putting guys in (the) best positions to score. Playing extremely hard defensively. Playing both man-to-man and zone. I would imagine they’re gonna come out and pressure us in the man-to-man and press a little bit. Based on the last game, that’s what I would guess. But they’ll have the zone ready, which, last year they played us all zone. I don’t believe that’ll happen this year. Ed Cooley is one of those coaches, one of those – and in my opinion a great coach – that no one knows about yet. What he did at Fairfield, what he’s doing at Providence, he could run for mayor up there. They love him. He coaches. He’s the kind of coach I respect, that is at tough places yet does it, and stuff happens and he still does it. I don’t need to see the white-shoe guys, like, and everything’s going great at they’re the greatest. I need to see a guy like him that’s down in the trenches and that does his thing and does it right. And I tell you what, I think he is as good as they get.” On what this game and the stretch of December games will tell him about his team: “I mean, obviously you’re talking all ranked opponents or were ranked and will be ranked again. This is early season. What happens to teams is, they have some crazy losses because that’s what happens. None of us are executing the way we want right now, and you play a veteran team that doesn’t have the name, but they’re a veteran team, and they come out and beat you. Make shots, make threes, play with confidence, been there. That stuff happens.” On the importance of Dakari Johnson making free throws: “Let me ask you: If he went 12 for 14, it means he’s capable of that? So what gets in the way of him making 12 out of 13? It’s those 6 inches between his ears. If you can make 12 out of 13 – they weren’t like bouncing around and in; he swished them. So he’s capable. Now he has to have his own confidence, and it’s demonstrated performance, which he’s had. I say that to other guys on my team, and I’ve said it for years. Demonstrated performance builds your self-esteem and self-confidence. Not me. It’s demonstrated performance. Go in and perform. If you play timid, if you play tentative, you can’t do it. You’re not gonna build what you’re trying to build to be a significant player.” On if Johnson shoots free throws like that in practice: “He does. There are times that he’ll miss badly, and that’s just because he’s thinking. ‘I may miss this one.’ Well, not may. You will. This game is one where my job is not to make them feel good about bad play. My job is to make them understand how good they can be as an individual player. And the only thing holding them back in most cases, it’s themselves.” On if there’s anything he wants from a close game that he doesn’t already know about his team: “Well what we need is just a hand-to-hand kind of game where a team’s not afraid of us, that they make plays and continue to make them throughout. And then we got to understand, like, right now we’re probably getting 16, 17 seconds a possession. There’s got to be games where it’s gonna be in the 20s. And that’s gonna be as teams get better and you don’t get it in transition and you don’t get it and you got to pull it out. We’re trying to create a great shot every time down, whenever that happens. Now, if it’s a late game, we probably are using 25 seconds to 30 seconds before we do anything, unless it’s a layup or a dunk. So yeah, that’s all stuff that we need and stuff that I see will happen over time.”<!–iframe–> On how Dakari Johnson has handled getting hacked so much: “They all are, though. Willie’s getting it, and that’s why I’m telling Willie, ‘You got to have a wider base.’ Karl’s getting it. He doesn’t sit down. He plays too erect, which means he ends up getting pushed out. Marcus Lee, the same thing. But what do you want the other team to do, surrender? They’re not gonna surrender. So they got to fight you. The question is, will you fight back. And fighting back means, will you get lower than they are, so you have the leverage not to get pushed around. And the minute they work, they work, they work, they work and you stay down and catch it and score, then they work, they work, they work and you sit down and catch and score, they surrender then. They’re not gonna surrender to start a basketball game, and they’re not gonna surrender in a half. What you’re trying to do is just keep breaking them down: ‘They will not outwork me. They will not outfight me.’ Or I can make every (excuse) – ‘He grabbed my arm! He pushed me out’ OK. Next guy. Next man up. You can’t do it, someone else here will.” On if Johnson handles that the best right now: “He’s getting better. He’s not afraid to put his body on people.” On Steve Alford saying UK and UCLA are discussing a home-and-home series: “Well, first of all, we’re playing North Carolina (in 2015) in the (CBS Sports Classic) tournament in (Brooklyn). This year we’re playing UCLA, next year we’ll play (Ohio State, then UNC in ’16). They (Tar Heels) wanted to take two years off because of that. We couldn’t take one year off, because it screws up our schedule. And you won’t believe this: This is all based on what we need. (Grinning) Don’t care about anybody else. You don’t want to play us, listen, don’t play us. So they take off two years; we’ll plug in UCLA for two years. North Carolina has already sent us a contract for after those two years are over. “So this is plugging that hole right now. And it’s funny because people are saying our schedule, as a top-five team our schedule (isn’t good). What? I mean, I don’t know if it’s the guy’s hope or he really believes, when you’re playing Texas and you’re playing all these teams we’re playing, that the schedule is (weak). We have as good a schedule as anybody in the country, and we always have a brand new team. And it’s fine. That’s what we do. That’s how we do it here.” On what he wants to see from their three-point offense: “Aaron’s got to make more shots. Nothing else. Everything else is great. And I expect him – if it’s a late game and it’s tight, who do you think I’m gonna go to? I don’t care if he’s shooting 12 percent, I’m going to him. And the reason is demonstrated performance. I’ve seen it. I know it. I’m not testing the waters with other guys. Ain’t happening.” On if Aaron Harrison’s shooting struggles are also a ‘6 inches between his ears’ issue: “For him it is. For him it is. For him it is, because he believes he’s making it, everybody in the building believes he’s making it, the other team believes he’s making it. We just got to create it so he can get it off.” On how they get him in the frame of mind all game: “He’s in it himself. He’s in it himself. He’ll be fine. What’s happening for all these guys, the level of intensity and energy is so high right now, it forces you to play a way you’ve never played. Now you understand what it did to Devin Booker earlier in the season. He couldn’t make a shot. He stepped in holes on drives, because he had never played with this amount of energy and intensity for a sustained period. Well, this is new to Aaron and Andrew. It’s the same deal. It’s new to Alex. This is new. It’s new to Trey Lyles. It’s new to Karl Towns. I mean, they’ve not played this way, and it starts changing what happens to you offensively.” On he’d test the waters on a big shot with another guy if they had a healthy margin: “It doesn’t matter. If you have a healthy margin, it’s not the same. It is, ‘Game is on the line, I ain’t taking any chances. You’re shooting it.’ And they’ll know. And if they take that away, then someone else will have to score. But the good news is, it’ll be a reaction, not ‘They’re coming to me! Oh my God!’ I went in the huddle one time – I was at UMass and I drew up this play – and I said, ‘OK, we’re gonna go this to this and then we’re coming to you. You’re getting the game-winner.’ And I looked, and when his knees started shaking and his eyes kind of rolled in his head, I said, ‘Hold it.’ And then I put in a play that no one knew who was gonna shoot it. Either you shoot it, you shoot, you shoot or, last guy, if it comes to you, you got to shoot it. We don’t even have that play in yet, because I have Aaron.” On if we’ve seen his finishing team yet: “Well, the one team I liked that we played (was) Andrew, Aaron, Devin and the two bigs. I liked how that team looked. But we still haven’t figured out how Andrew and Tyler will look together if we need them in there together. But I haven’t worked on it. But we did play with Devin and Aaron and Andrew, and I liked that team. Matter of fact, that may have been — in a short burst of time, because they only played five minutes, four minutes, you know, it was crazy. But we did the stats to our guys yesterday where they saw the blue unit and the white unit. Real close in points, real close in – and there (may have been) a little change here, but it was still the blue unti and the white unit. Everything close. The margin close. “The field-goal percentage by each team about 25, 24 percent. I mean, everything is right. And again, the next level of this, and I told them, I’m not sure we’re ready for this. I stood two guys up together, Karl and Dakari. You’re sharing minutes. Willie, you and Marcus Lee are sharing minutes. You both respect that. You both care enough about each other. You’re good with it. But what if the other guy’s not brining it? What if he’s not playing with energy? What if he’s not concentrating? What if he’s not into the game? Are you OK with sharing minutes with that guy? No. Then go take him out. Walk up, take him out, and you tell him, ‘I took you out.’ And I’ll see him (and say), ‘Why did he take you out? Man. That’s something.’ “ On the benefit of that: “He just says, ‘Hey man, not your day. Go ahead. You’re not into it.’ What the benefit is, they’re holding each other responsible. And I’ll tell you again, what I don’t get: If this were other schools they’d say, ‘This is all what college athletics is about. Sharing. Team before everything else.’ Can you imagine? This is about college athletics. This is what it should be. I’d be called before the congressional hearing down in D.C.: ‘Coach, what are you doing to make this about college athletics?’ But instead the dialogue becomes ‘He can’t keep these guys happy. There’s no way these guys can be happy.’ If it were at other schools, ‘Ooh, is this great for college athletics. Is this refreshing to see, in this me society and narcissism and all that. This is the greatest thing. We all got to follow this team and cheer this works.’ Hoo, it’s not happening that way. But, all right, I got to go.”* For instant updates on the Wildcats, follow me on Twitter @KyleTucker_CJ. Email me at [email protected]last_img

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