Friday, October 31, 2014

A Wildcat Kind Of Halloween





Kennedy's Wildcat Den posted these pictures on Facebook earlier this evening. I gotta say, I've never been much a of Halloween person, but, these pumpkins are quite AWESOME. This should go without saying, but the first one wins my vote as pumpkin of the year...

Great Picture to be In Lexington Harold Paper This Sunday



Mark Story has a college basketball preview article coming out this Sunday in the Lexington Harold Leader. The picture above will accompany the article. Gotta say, seeing this just gets me more pumped for what is shaping up to be an incredible season.

Kenny Payne's Pre-Pikville Press-conference Quotes (FULL TRANSCRIPT)



Kentucky Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne



Opening statement ...
“First of all I want to say a big congratulations to Coach Stoops. What he’s done here is unbelievable. We over in basketball are big fans of his, and what he’s done for this program is unbelievable. So a big congratulations goes out to him.”
“Getting to basketball, not really looking forward to it, but it’s on us. We’re happy we’re playing against somebody else for a change. We’ve been going against each other for a while and it’s been grueling. So it’ll be fun to play against somebody else.”

On who is starting Sunday ...
“I have no idea. That’s why you’ve got Coach Cal.”

On who has surprised him the most this summer and through the preseason workouts ...
“I think it starts with Andrew (Harrison) and Dakari Johnson. When I look at Dakari from last year to this year, body type, mobility, touch shooting the ball, he has made a big jump. Andrew has done everything it takes to run a program. He took the summer to change his body. He’s worked on his game. He’s playing with extreme confidence. I think yesterday we talked about assist attempts – how many attempted assists are you getting. Yesterday he had 12 assists on 17 attempts, which is really, really good.”

On how much they’ll go with the platoons on Sunday ...
“Coach hasn’t talked about today as much, but I’m sure we’re going to – we don’t have a choice. We’ve got 12 really good players. We’ve got to find time for all of them, and they all deserve to play.”

On if they need a voice and a leader and if Andrew Harrison needs to be that guy ...
“I think Andrew needs to be that guy for a couple of reasons. One is ‐‐ that’s more important than anything else ‐‐ the guys respect him. The guys love him and they respect him. And his energy exudes our team. So that’s important for us.”

On if having the ball is key for a leader ...
“I think so. I think that the fact that he’s a giver and that he’s willing to give. The fact that, for this to work, there’s a bunch of really good scorers out there on the floor and he has to mix it up, him and Tyler. I think the fact that Tyler can learn from him ‐‐ that the pressure isn’t strictly on Tyler ‐‐ is important.”

On if that means Tyler Ulis is the leader on the second platoon ...
“That I don’t know. I just think that naturally, Tyler, his feel for the game, it is a leader. His instincts is that of a leader. He’s just got to get used to it and get acclimated to what it takes to make this team work.”

On if it’s a challenge for a point guard when there are so many players on this team ...
“There’s a lot of things they’ve got to learn. Karl Towns, for example, his game is growing, so his instincts are that of a three or four. So we’re trying to get him to understand that when you’re around the basket, you’re shooting 70, 80 percent. So those guys are not going to give you the ball 15, 18 feet from the basket. They’re going to give it to you where you’re going to score the best percentage. So there’s adjustments to be made from every player. When you have so many great guys, great kids that are about winning, those two positions, Tyler’s and Andrew’s, are important. It’s important for the growth of our team. It’s important for the team as a unit to play together, to share the ball. But more importantly, it’s going to be a process, now. It’s not just going to be come out there and steamroll people. It’s going to be a process. I know the fans don’t want to hear that ‐‐ that they want to think we’ve got a bunch of talented people. People are going to come after us and we’re going to have to learn through adversity and play hard.”

On goals for the new players and facing an opponent instead of teammates ...
“I think every day and every game it is to get better. Every day that you’re in this program you try to get better. That’s what we expect. At the end of the year, we’ll see what we are.”

On how one platoon will not consist of all four freshmen ...
“No question. I think the first thing starts with Karl. Do we want to put Karl out there with Trey (Lyles)? No. Do we want to put Karl out there with Dakari? Not right now. It’s important that the freshmen have a veteran leader on the floor with them to help them through tough times. That’s really important. Last year, I think Cal actually asked the guys really how hard it is. They explained that it was really hard. We don’t want them to go through that when we have so many veteran guys that can help them through it.”

On if anyone has been struggling with playing time scenarios ...
“Right now I will say no. I think everybody has bought in. I think what we did in the Bahamas was vital. It showed that it could work. These guys at core are really about winning and that’s important. Right now everybody’s bought in. We don’t like to have them not buy in. We just have to make it work and it will.”

On reflecting on the Bahamas trip to prepare for the start of the season ...
“The Bahamas trip gave us a blueprint of how we have to do this. It starts with sharing the ball offensively, but defensively dictating the pace of the game and imploding our will on that team. If we do that, then it will work. We did it in the Bahamas against professional teams. Let’s see what we do now.”

On having 12 players who deserve time ...
“I think the way Coach Cal is doing it now; he has five guys on the floor that each have a sub. Meaning that one of those guys being Dominique (Hawkins) or Derek Willis will come in. Then on the other group, we’ll have a sub and it will be Derek or Dominique.”

On nerves and excitement of players for exhibition against Pikeville ...
“I think they will all have some nerves, not just the freshmen. I think that when you walk into that arena, see all of those fans, see how big this program is, and you see the pressure that’s on each and every one of these kids to perform, you get a little nervous. You have to embrace that. That’s why you’re here. That’s why this is a special place. We can recruit the special players.” 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Calipari and Player Thoughts on Blue/White Game



COACH JOHN CALIPARI

COACH CALIPARI:  Questions. 

Q.  What were your initial thoughts on the game?
COACH CALIPARI:  I'm going to have to watch the tape.  A lot of one‑handed catches, which drove me nuts, which means they were playing sloppy.  We've got a lot of things we've got to get done.  Turned it over too many times which is typical of trying to make hard plays.  The one team had nine turnovers, four or five of them unforced.  But I think we'll be fine.  Needed some guys to play with a little more confidence.  As the thing got going, they did.  But that's going to be important. 

Q.  On if the team is where they thought they would be?
COACH CALIPARI:  No, just sloppy.  They're not into that mode yet.  I mean, we fumbled balls to start the game.  I thought Dakari (Johnson) played great, he just didn't make any free throws.  I mean, you can't get in there and we're throwing you the ball and you miss free throws.  I thought he played great.  He played hard. 

Q.  On Karl Anthony-Towns play … 
COACH CALIPARI:  Yeah, and he's just not coming up with balls, he'll try to make some hero plays offensively.  But he's learning. I thought he, Devin (Booker), Tyler (Ulis) and Trey (Lyles) for freshmen all did pretty well.  I thought the vets did well.  Alex (Poythress) started poorly, then started playing better.  He has been making shots.  He's just got to create his own swagger.  It can't come from me.  I'm begging him to shoot those balls. Again, we got some stuff out of it, but we got a long way to go. 

Q.  What did you think of the platoons?
COACH CALIPARI:  You know what, we'll go watch tape.  I'll probably try some different combos.  I kind of like two freshmen on a team, three vets on a team.  It gives it some balance. We're just going to see what happens.  I mean, I'm committed to it.  It's the best thing for these players.  Now we got to make it the best thing for our team. 

Q.  On the play of junior Alex Poythress … 
COACH CALIPARI:  Maybe.  Maybe that was it.  I mean, I thought he missed three one‑footers.  I don't think that had to do with the twins or anything else.  Then he missed a couple jumpers.  Then he didn't want to make plays, so... 

Q.  When he didn’t want to make any plays … 
COACH CALIPARI:  First half. 

Q.  On what he saw in the game from Alex Poythress … 
COACH CALIPARI:  No, he had too many turnovers in the first half.  The pressure came.  He put his head down and just went.  He can't do that. Again, you got to understand there's two things that are happening.  In a normal situation, I can get by a man and get one to the basket.  The problem is in this gym there's two seven‑footers.  There's actually not.  There's three, and another 6'10" guy that's jumping out of the building.  So all those plays end up being turnovers. The same I was saying with Trey and Alex rebounding.  Well, get in there and rebound.  It's them and two seven‑footers.  Everyone is battling.  It's unusually big and long.  Affected Tyler (Ulis) a little bit in the second half. I mean, what happened early is we didn't pressure him.  He had his way.  Then Andrew (Harrison) went up and played him, made it a little different.  Well, why?  He can go by you, but eventually he's running into big people, like seven foot.

Q.  When you're making these platoons, are you primarily concerned with evening out the scoring between the two groups or other things you're looking at first?
COACH CALIPARI:  You want to have a point guard on each group.  You want to have some size on each group.  And how do they fit together?  What I don't want to have is four freshmen on one team.  It's just not fair to those kids.  Would I ever go with three on one team?  Well, the other two would have to be veterans that are playing well for me to do that. 

Q.  John, what did you like best about Dakari (Johnson) tonight? 
COACH CALIPARI:  He's playing with great energy.  I mean, he's going after every ball.  He has a fight and a fire in him.  Got a little tired tonight.  But, again, you see he hasn't totally cracked it.  Like he's been shooting in practice great.  He's been shooting free throws.  He's been shooting 15‑footers.  But now he went in front of all these people, the popcorn is cracking, it's on TV, and the dregs of last year came back a little bit. Well, that's the same with Alex (Poythress).  You've got to work through that.  And it can't come from me.  It's got to be you working your way through it, knowing you worked hard, you deserve to play well.  I deserve to play well, I worked hard.  I missed a play, so what.  That inner voice has to start changing on those guys as we go forward. 

Q.  On the play of Dakari Johnson … 
COACH CALIPARI:  Yeah, he missed every free throw, though.  He's another one, shot four for eight from the free‑throw line.  He and Dakari together shot a whopping 12 percent.  I mean, they were down at halftime for one reason.  They missed every free throw, 2‑for‑12, and Alex (Poythress) missed three one‑footers, or it's a close one‑bucket game. Again, I liked the competitiveness.  I wanted Aaron to do more competitive‑wise.  I wanted him to get up and do some things. Like I said, we got a lot of work to do.  We pressed a little bit.  Again, they played a whole game running up and down, pressing.  That's not easy. 

Q.  With Derek (Willis) and Dominique (Hawkins) coming off the bench, how are they progressing right now?
COACH CALIPARI:  I think they both played well.  Derek is still trying to make hard plays instead of just making an easy pass or an easy play.  But he shoots the ball.  He's long.  He can go get balls. Dominique (Hawkins) is just way better than he was a year ago.  A year ago they did not guard him.  Literally just said, Let him shoot.  Now if you leave him open, he's making those shots. 

Q.  On the major advantages of the platoon system to this point … 
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, the good news is that other guy we start playing against is going to have to figure out what these 10 guys or 12 are, and how one unit plays versus how another unit plays, what are they doing in pick'n rolls, what are they doing on post‑ups, this group plays one way, this group plays the other way.  The issues I'm going to have, the other coach is going to have, too. 

Q.  On his thinking of the platoons and how he went about making the teams … 
COACH CALIPARI:  If we were going to go to the young team against the veterans, I was going to do that, yes.  In practice, when I went vets against the rookies, it's been competitive.  That's why I wiped the score out.  I didn't want one team to think, We're down 15, 18, whatever it was.  I said, Wipe it out at 0‑0, let's see them compete. 

Q.  How the platoon system is working
COACH CALIPARI:  I don't know.  We're going to find out.  We haven't done it yet.  Today we just played a bunch of guys. 

Q.  On how he plans on using the system of platoons when he is in in-game situations … 
COACH CALIPARI:  I don't know yet.  I got to get in games and do it. 
There are going to be issues that we'll have that I'm going to have to deal with, and there are going to be issues that other coaches are going to have that he's going to have to deal with. How we finish games, we haven't gone over that yet.  We're just now getting to how we're going to grind it out, how we're going to play.  We just started that yesterday. So, yeah, I'm pleased with them.  Like I said, it is so early.  We're ahead based on the fact that we did go to The Bahamas.  We're ahead by the simple fact I've got guys coming back for the first time.  Now all of a sudden there's a little less anxiety that bleeds down to the freshmen and makes me less anxious because I see that these guys are comfortable.  Then it becomes, okay, you got to compete at a higher level. 

Q.  You said last week you wanted to see Karl (Anthony-Towns) fight more. 
COACH CALIPARI:  Yeah.

Q.  Have you seen that?
COACH CALIPARI:  Still has a ways to go, he really does.  But he is so skilled.  He fumbled balls today.  There were some one‑handed catches, some rebounds he didn't bring in.  Plays like that, you know, those are plays that are easily made.  Go make those. I thought Willie (Cauley-Stein) did some good things today.  Willie just is a different soul now.  He's out there.  You saw we were switching pick 'n rolls with him.  I may even switch pick 'n rolls with Karl, make him guard, make him move his feet. 

Q.  On people overreacting to the Blue/White scrimmage: 
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, I don't know if you remember some of our blue‑white games, like Terrence Jones had 50.  Do you remember some of the Blue/White games? This is one where we tried to guard each other.  Got a few breakouts.  Reality of it is in the halfcourt we're hard to score against.  You know why?  You're not getting anything near the basket so now you have to take jumpers, got to figure out where you can get drives, try to get fouled. Like I told Tony (Barbee), I don't know if we're that bad offensively or if we're hard to score against.  I think early on in the season we're going to have to rely on our defense.  We can really make it hard on the other guy to score.  Let's get some breakouts. 

Q.  On the NCAA redshirt policy:
COACH CALIPARI:  That's a player's decision.  I would never.  Young man wanted to do that, they'd have to explain why, if that were what they wanted to do. You know what's great about playing here?  You only have to have one good year.  You only have to have one good year.  You don't have to have five good years.  No one playing under me has four good years.  You only have to have one. Some guys are ahead mentally and physically.  It doesn't matter if you didn't play for a year or two.  How about this?  Or three.  That one year you have your breakout.  See ya.  Kids are on different timetables. It's just the normal thing.  Everywhere else, freshmen and sophomores don't play much.  Here we got spoiled.  They're all playing.  So now you get a couple that maybe aren't playing as much, yet they're still very talented and they're going to make it, both of 'em. I think Dominique (Hawkins) and Derek (Willis), at the end of the day, if something happens, there's an injury, somebody has to step back, I have all the confidence putting them in. You understand that without Dominique, we probably don't beat Michigan.  He took Stauskas out of the game.  Much better player, and so is Derek. 
Thanks, folks. 



Kentucky Student-Athlete Quotes
#5 Andrew Harrison, PG
On what he thought of the team … 
“We are far ahead of last year, I feel. I feel like I have gotten a lot better. I had six turnovers in the first half, and that is unacceptable. I just have to play better.”

On if experience has helped the team… 
“We worked so hard in the offseason that I feel like we have confidence. I feel like I am the best guard on the court and can make my team better.”

On if this will be the biggest team you are going to face this year… 
“Yes, with Willie (Cauley-Stein) on my team you can really pressure the ball. It is hard for the guards to get it over him. It is the same thing for Dakari (Johnson). He has gotten so much better from last year. It is tough, but it makes you better as a guard. ”

#12 Karl-Anthony Towns, PF
On how it felt playing in the game …
“It felt really good. Starting out I had some nerves, but I shook them off really quick and I felt that we had a great showing as the UK Basketball team. The whole squad came out and played well together; we showed some great spots and we just have to build on those.”

On being willing to play inside out … 
“It’s a big focal point to make sure the game is as versatile as possible for everyone and we’re getting everyone involved and I think that’s a great thing we’re utilizing this year.”

On this game compared to the practices … 
“We were a little more juiced; having a lot of people in the stands and just competing shows that we really were competing really hard and acting like we were playing against U of L. We really went hard against each other and I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed today and I just can’t wait to play the other teams.”

On the season…
“We have to get better everyday and this was one of those days to use. There are no days to waste and we had to use the scrimmage to get better and we did that. I feel like we grew as a team a lot now.” 

#44 Dakari Johnson, C
On overall competitiveness…
“You know we have a lot of competitive guys on this team and when you put us out on the court we are going to compete against each other.”

On playing in front of a crowd…
“It’s a different atmosphere compared to playing in practice, and coming out here in front of the fans and just showing the fans what we can do,” 

On Playing with Tyler Ulis …
“When you play with Tyler you always have to make sure you are ready because he is going to get the ball to you. He is a crafty point guard. You always have to keep your head up when he comes off of the pick and roll just get into a position where you can score and he will get it to you.”


Notes From Tonights Blue/White Game

FINAL SCORE: BLUE 94, WHITE 66
Team Notes
This was the seventh year that the Blue/White Scrimmage has been played in Rupp Arena.

This was the 13th-consecutive time that the Blue team has won the game, with the last loss to White coming in 2000-01 (scrimmage not held in 2007-08).

Two students who came to tonight's game will be awarded tuition scholarships for the spring semester. The winners are Katie Wolf, a senior biosystems engineering major from Kearneysville, WV, and Hank Curtis, a freshman integrated strategic communications major from Franklin, Tenn.

Kentucky returns to the court Sunday, Nov. 2, as the Wildcats play host to Pikeville. The exhibition game is at 7:00 p.m. EST and will be televised live by the SEC Network.

The regular season tips off Fri. Nov. 14 as UK hosts Grand Canyon.
First-Half Facts

The Blue team started guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, along with Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein in the frontcourt.

The White team opened with guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, and center Dakari Johnson.

Sparked by a pair of Ulis three-pointers, White jumped out to an 8-2 lead.

Blue rallied, tying the game at 12, 14 and 16.  

The Blue team took the lead for good, 19-18, on a layup by Andrew Harrison at the 9:03 mark.

Blue took control with a 19-4 run to make it 35-22.

Blue took a 39-26 advantage into halftime.

Second-Half Story
The teams opened with the same lineups that started the game.

With Blue leading 65-44 at the 11:36 mark, the team scores were reset at 0-0.

Blue won the second segment as well, 29-22.

Player Notes
Blue Team had five players in double figures – Andrew Harrison with 19 points, Karl-Anthony Towns (18), Aaron Harrison (15), Alex Poythress (12) and Willie Cauley-Stein (11).  

Devin Booker of the White Team led all scorers with 22 points.

Towns and Marcus Lee of the White squad led all rebounders with nine boards.

Tyler Ulis, playing for the White Team, had six assists.


Blue Team Wins Blue/White Scrimmage 95-66


(Photo Courtesy of: Clay Jackson)

Tonight was the Blue/White Game and as always, it didn't disappoint. There is SO much talent on this team that it's ridiculous. This team is going to dominate opponents with talent as it will come in waves throughout the course of a game. The fact that Cal can sub 5-for-5 and there is absolutely NO drop off in talent is mind boggling. There are literally FOUR NBA ready big-men that will be splitting time this season and will be a nightmare for any team in the country. This is going to be one helluva year folks...


Here is the final box-score...





There were some things that stuck out to me, so I'm just going to go over them very quickly here as I'm sure everyone picked out the same things as well....


First, Dakari Johnson looks like a completely different player. He has lost a ton of weight, gotten in shape and because of that, runs the floor better than he ever has in his career. Several times tonight, he was the first big down the floor which led to some easy baskets underneath. He is going to be a force this year in the paint for the Cats, but the one thing he will need to work on is free-throws. He will be fouled a lot this season and he must be able to convert at the line.

The injury Willie Cauley-Stein suffered last season during the NCAA Tournament looks to be long gone. He shows no signs whatsoever of any lingering effects from the injury. He, like Dakari, was able to run the floor very well and finish around the rim. Several times, Stein altered shots inside and out, and at one point, stole the ball at the top of the key and drove the floor against two defenders for a reverse slam that was very impressive. The Cats will need his ability to guard out on the perimeter for them to be effective on the defensive end of the floor this season.

Once again, my favorite player tonight was Tyler Ulis. This kid has A LOT of heart and hustle, something you don't find very often.  Because of his size, he will often times find himself guarding a much bigger player and tonight was not different as he went up against Aaron and Andrew Harrison. The size difference didn't bother Ulis as he played some of the toughest defense that I have seen in a Blue/White Game. That's just his style however, go hard all the time and don't let up until the final horn blows. He is going to cause a lot of problems for opposing players this year. Also, he is going to be more than fun to watch run in the open floor. This kid can absolutely fly down the floor and make quick correct decisions on the fly. I can't wait to watch him progress throughout the season.

The Harrison's look quicker and more athletic this season as well. The have both lost between 10-15 pounds and it shows. Both of them look much improved from last season and with the entire season to go one can't help but be excited at what the end result may be for these two.

Probably the best player on the floor tonight was Karl Anthony-Towns Jr. This kid is simply unreal. At seven foot, he runs the floor like a guy that is 6'6" and can handle the ball in traffic while going towards the rim. He altered too many shots to count, something you'll see him do more of once the season gets started. He has excellent foot-work and his ability to finish around the rim will cause teams trouble this year. I will be interesting how Calipari finds enough time for all of these NBA quality big men. 

I also have to talk about freshman, Devin Booker. This kid is a true scorer and and knows what to do with the ball when he has it. Devin done the bulk of his damage inside the three-point line, but don't let that fool you as he is one of the best shooters in this years freshman class. When he starts hitting his outside shot (and he WILL start hitting his outside shot), things just get a lot harder for the opposition as they will have to guard him close on the perimeter. 

At the end of the night, this was a fun game to watch and one that gave you a little glimpse of what to look forward to this season. The most interesting thing that kept running through my mind tonight was, how in the hell are teams going to compete with Kentucky under the basket? This has all the makings of a very special season...

Halftime Box-Score From UK Blue/White Game