Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Media Says Kentucky Is Pre-Season Favorite To Win SEC Championship

 The Kentucky men’s basketball program finds itself in familiar territory under the direction of eighth-year head coach John Calipari. UK is faced with replacing more than 75 percent of its scoring and 70 percent of its rebounding, yet a select panel of media voted the Wildcats to repeat as Southeastern Conference champions. Should Kentucky achieve that standard, it would mark the fifth regular-season title under Calipari and the program’s 48th overall.

It’s the 12th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite. UK was picked to win the title a season ago and did not disappoint, sharing the crown with Texas A&M. Calipari has directed his teams to regular-season SEC crowns in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016. 

Each school selected media members that cover their team and additional media from across the nation were selected by the conference office to comprise the voting panel. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each media member also voted for two All-SEC teams. 

In addition to the preseason poll release, four players were selected to the preseason All-SEC squads. Freshmen Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox were picked to the first team, while sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and freshman Malik Monk were tabbed to the second team. 

Adebayo and Fox were joined by Arkansas’ senior forward Moses Kingsley, Georgia’s senior guard J.J. Frazier and Texas A&M’s sophomore center Tyler Davis. Kingsley was tabbed the preseason pick for the league’s player of the year award. Briscoe and Monk were named to the second team alongside of Florida’s sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen, Georgia’s junior forward Yante Maten, LSU’s sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney, Mississippi State’s sophomore guard Quinndary Weatherspoon and Vanderbilt’s senior forward Luke Kornet. Ties were not broken.  

Adebayo was the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 18.9 points and 13.0 rebounds for High Point Christian Academy as a senior. He was an All-USA Boys Basketball Second Team selection and a McDonald’s All American Game Morgan Wootten Player of the Year finalist. He led High Point to an appearance in the state title game, while also earning selection to the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.

The 6-foot-10 forward was ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (No. 5) and Rivals (No. 7). He was listed as Scout’s No. 11 overall player and 247Sports ranked him at No. 12.

Briscoe is the team’s unquestioned leader heading into his sophomore season after a stellar freshman campaign. The 6-foot-3 guard is the team’s leading returning scorer at 9.6 points per game and rebounder at 5.3 boards per outing. Briscoe was UK’s best on-ball defender a season ago, while also ranking third on the team in scoring, including posting double-digit tallies in 18 contests.

He dished out three or more assists in 15 of his final 23 games played and had a pair of double-doubles. The Newark, New Jersey, native ranked ninth in the league a season ago with 32.2 minutes played per game. Following his freshman season, he ranked among top-10 performers in the Calipari era in total assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and assists per game for a single season.

Fox is a Naismith High School Player of the Year finalist, and was named a first-team selection his senior season for both the All-USA Boys Basketball and the Naismith All-America squads. He played in both the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. In the latter, he earned co-MVP honors with Monk after scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds.

Fox was a three-time all-state performer out of Cypress Lakes High School in Texas. He was tabbed the Texas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2016 after leading Cypress Lakes with a pair of back-to-back 40-point performances in the Texas high school state playoffs. The 6-foot-3 guard was ranked as the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2016 by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports.

An explosive 6-foot-3 guard, Monk is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He captured the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald’s All American Game and finished runner-up in the slam dunk contest showcasing his athleticism.

Monk was the 2016 Arkansas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in addition to earning the state’s Mr. Basketball award. He averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game as a senior at Bentonville. Known for his scoring ability, Monk set a single-game school scoring record with 53 points in a game during his final campaign. A consensus five-star athlete out of high school, Monk was rated as the No. 9 overall player by ESPN and Rivals, No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 13 by Scout. 

Kentucky begins its season Friday in the annual Blue-White Game at Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. Tickets for the Blue-White Game are still available. 200-level tickets are $5. The game will also air live on the SEC Network.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Malik Monk On Pre-Season Jerry West Award Watch List

When Kentucky guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk shared MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic game in April, the Kentucky faithful knew UK had hauled in another impressive backcourt. Just a day after Fox was named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list to honor the nation’s top point guard, Monk was tabbed to the Jerry West Award watch list recognizing the country’s best shooting guard.

Monk is one of 20 candidates on the preseason watch list for the West Award, which will be presented for the third consecutive season to the nation’s top shooting guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame announced its original list Tuesday.

By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players will be narrowed to 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to the award’s namesake and the Hall of Fame selection committee. The winner of the 2017 Jerry West Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 7. Players do not have to be on the watch list to win the award until the five finalists are announced.

An explosive 6-foot-3 guard, Monk is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He captured the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald’s All American Game and finished runner-up in the slam dunk contest showcasing his athleticism.

Monk was the 2016 Arkansas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in addition to earning the state’s Mr. Basketball award. He averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game as a senior at Bentonville. Known for his scoring ability, Monk set a single-game school scoring record with 53 points in a game during his final campaign.

A consensus five-star athlete out of high school, Monk was rated as the No. 9 overall player by ESPN and Rivals, No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 13 by Scout.

Other previous winners of the Jerry West Award include: Buddy Hield of Oklahoma (2016) and D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State (2015).

The Jerry West Award is named after Jerry West who attended West Virginia University and averaged 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in his three varsity seasons. He led his team to the NCAA Championship game in 1959 and was named a consensus All-American in 1959 and 1960. In the summer of 1960, he was co-captain of the U.S. men’s basketball team and won an Olympic gold medal. As a professional player, West played 14 seasons in the NBA with the Lakers, making the All-NBA First Team 10 times. West won an NBA championship in 1972 and was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1969 despite his team not winning the championship. In 1996, he was named a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kentucky Mens Basketball Single Game Tickets on Sale Tomorrow

Tickets for Kentucky's men's basketball games vs. Duquesne, Cleveland State, UT Martin and Valparaiso will go on sale Tuesday at 5 p.m. On Tuesday evening, tickets will only be available online at or by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000. Fans are encouraged to purchase on Tuesday evening to secure the best seat locations.

Based on availability after Tuesday’s sale, tickets will also be available on Wednesday morning through the UK ticket office and the Rupp Arena box office.

Tickets for Kentucky's games vs. Duquesne (Nov. 20), Cleveland State (Nov. 23), UT Martin (Nov. 25) and Valparaiso (Dec. 7) will be available.

Remaining tickets for sale will come from the unsold student ticket allotment.

Including Tuesday, there will be four more dates to purchase single-game tickets this season, based on availability:

·         Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. – Duquesne (Nov. 20), Cleveland State (Nov. 23), UT Martin (Nov. 25), Valparaiso (Dec. 7)

·         Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. – UCLA (Dec. 3), Texas A&M (Jan. 3), Arkansas (Jan. 7)

·         Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. – Auburn (Jan. 14), South Carolina (Jan. 21), Kansas (Jan. 28), Georgia (Jan. 31)

·         Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. – LSU (Feb. 7), Tennessee (Feb. 14), Florida (Feb. 25), Vanderbilt (Feb. 28)

For a complete listing of on-sale dates, single-game ticket prices and other ticket information,

De'Aaron Fox on Bob Cousy Pre-Season Watch List

 For the first time in the history of the award, a Kentucky basketball player (Tyler Ulis) won the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award in 2015-16. The Wildcats, based on the preseason watch list for 2016-17, will look to make it two in a row with freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox.

Fox is one of 20 candidates on the preseason watch list for the Cousy Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame announced its original list Monday.

By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players will be narrowed to 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to the award’s namesake and the Hall of Fame selection committee. The winner of the 2017 Bob Cousy Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 7. Players do not have to be on the watch list to win the award until the five finalists are announced.

Though Fox has yet to play a college game, he has the credentials to warrant the preseason recognition.

A Naismith High School Player of the Year finalist, Fox was named a first-team selection his senior season for both the All-USA Boys Basketball and the Naismith All-America squads. Fox played in both the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. In the latter, he earned co-MVP honors with current UK teammate Malik Monk after scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds.

Fox was a three-time all-state performer out of Cypress Lakes High School in Texas. He was tabbed the Texas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2016 after leading Cypress Lakes with a pair of back-to-back 40-point performances in the Texas high school state playoffs. 

The 6-foot-3 guard was ranked as the No. 6 overall player in the class of 2016 by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports.

Ulis became the first Wildcat in the history of the award to win the honor last season. The 5-9 guard, now with the Phoenix Suns, put together one of the best individual seasons for a point guard in school history. Among his many accomplishments included setting the UK single-season record for assists in a season with 246 dimes.

Other previous winners of the Bob Cousy Award include: Delon Wright, Utah (2015); Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (2014); Trey Burke, Michigan (2013); Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (2012); Kemba Walker, Connecticut (2011); Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (2010); Ty Lawson, North Carolina (2009); DJ Augustin, Texas (2008); Acie Law, Texas A&M (2007); Dee Brown, Illinois (2006); Raymond Felton, North Carolina (2005); and Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s (2004).

The Cousy Award is named after Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic and Holy Cross guard Bob Cousy. Cousy played for Holy Cross from 1946-50, winning an NCAA championship in 1947. He was named a Consensus First-Team All-American in 1950. Cousy’s success continued at the professional level as a six-time NBA champion (1957, 1959-1963), NBA Most Valuable Player (1957) and 13-time NBA All-Star (1951-63). In 1996, he was named a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pre Big Blue Madness Press Conference Quotes

John Calipari:

Q. You talked about Isaac's (Isaac Humphries) work in the offseason, but has it transferred over to the practice?
COACH CALIPARI: It's been really good. He doesn't even look like the same guy. It's funny, when you see a team picture of last year and you see him now--but he was 17, and now he's 18. When you have young guys, it's like the guys this summer, Sacha's (Sacha Killeya-Jones) body's not the same as it was two and a half months ago. Neither is De'Aaron (Fox). Neither is Malik (Monk). You've got guys that they're so young that it's like putting water on a flower. They just start to blossom.

Q. Cal, what did you like about moving Joel (Justus) into a full-time assistant?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the initial part of that -- the question was about Joel -- was I wanted to give John (Robic) some time. His father had passed away, and one of the things I found out was we were really able to do stuff with younger guys, it was going to be important to us. And then the other side is the more I thought about it, I need John around me more anyway.

You won't believe this: As I get older, I start forgetting things, and for all of you here, if I ever tell the same story twice, just laugh and roll with it because, when you get older, you start doing that kind of stuff. Like "We've never heard that before." Just make me feel good. "That's the first time I've ever heard that story."

So having John with me and then putting Joel in a position to really attack and establish us with some young kids, at least have our presence known with young kids, I thought was important.

Q. Talk about how De'Aaron has changed since he got here.
COACH CALIPARI: No, he's -- the great thing about the majority of the kids that we bring here -- and as you know, you guys know the numbers. Seventy-five percent of the kids we bring here that we recruited and given scholarships have been drafted. Seventy-five percent. Of that 75 percent, 75 percent of them that go to the NBA go to second contracts. So it's a big deal.

Most of those kids, yeah, they have talent, but whether it's Devin (Booker) or Karl(-Anthony Towns) -- you know how they work at the beginning of the year. Someone looks at your guys and say, ah, they were pros before. They were stable. You all go, no, no, we watched it all year, and they got way better.

What happens with a guy like De'Aaron Fox, they're comfortable in their own skin. They want to be the best version of themselves. We never compare players. There's not one player that I'm going to say you're going to be like. No, no, I want you to be your best.

I was in Indiana about two weeks ago, and the mother says to me, “I cannot wait to be at practice.” “Why?” “I want to see how you're doing this.” “Well, what do you mean?” “Trey Lyles from Indiana averaged seven points, four rebounds, was a lottery pick, and going to be an All-Star. Devin Booker came off the bench, lottery pick. What are you doing?” “I'm telling you, ma'am, it's simple. How do we make each player be the best version of themselves? How do we do that?”

They have to have a level of talent or they wouldn't be here, but they also have to be comfortable in their skin. We're doing this together, and numbers don't matter. You know it.

I probably never told you this. Anthony Davis took the fourth-most shots. He was the No. 1 pick. Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) took the fifth-most shots. Have I ever told you this?

Q. Never (laughter).
COACH CALIPARI: Never? And he was the No. 2 pick. And Willie Cauley(-Stein) took the seventh-most shots on our team, and he was the sixth pick. John Wall took the most and Brandon Knight took the most, but it doesn't matter. You can be the seventh scorer or the first scorer; just be your best version.

And then we've got to win, and if we win, it helps you all. You guys got to play to win, play to win the championship, go into every game with an idea of what you're trying to do, but you've got to win and understand that means you become a great teammate, that we're all in this together. You don't have pressure on yourself to have to go nuts.

Just be your best version, and guess what? Seventy-five percent of the time, the guys that come here, they've been drafted, and of that group, 75 percent have gotten to second contracts. You know, we have 17 guys in the league right now that aren't eligible for their second contract yet. So if that's 75 percent and it holds, which it probably will, maybe higher, we're probably -- in three years we've had, in the NBA, current NBA, you have over $2 billion in contracts, $2 billion. Not shoe contracts, endorsements.

And you have the kids that have graduated. And who won the Community Assist award? Who won the Community Assist award in the NBA? John Wall won that thing. Who was the runner-up? Oh, Anthony Davis. It's not just basketball here. It's everything. You're at Kentucky. You're trying to do it all.

Q. Does this year's team remind you of any other team from the past?
COACH CALIPARI: No, but the interesting thing is what are the combinations going to be? My guess would be three guards. A little different than the three guards we played last year, but different, but three guards. At times we may go big with 6-10, 6-10, 6-10, and a couple guards who are 6-4. So there are certain players, if I put in, will probably play some zone: my son (Laughter).

Q. In general, in a sentence, how will this team play?
COACH CALIPARI: If you're 10,000 feet looking down, I would say we're going to be a mauling, helping, rotating, shot-blocking team. Probably picks the ball up the court because we can. On offense, a team that tries to score within three seconds, and if not, is doing something to attack the rim or throw it to the post. If that's not there, probably some sort of pick-and-roll, or give it to somebody who can jump this high or get a jump shot off if you can't get something easy. At 10,000 feet, I'm going to say that's what it would look like.

Now, I'm going to be disappointed if in February this isn't the best defensive team, but right now we don't know terminology. We don't help each other. We don't understand what it means to even pick-and-roll defense, post defense. What if they cross screen? We haven't done it yet. What about a UCLA cut? We haven't done it yet. How about your out-of-bounds play? We don't have them in yet. What if you need a 3 late? We don't have it yet. What's the jump ball? I hope they all get around that circle.

We just don't -- when you start like we do, young, you've got to let them go and figure out who they all are, and then we go from there.

Q. On the televised practice Sunday, Fran Fraschilla said how perimeter shooting is a question for your team. How do you assess that and each individual shooter out there?
COACH CALIPARI: I wouldn't go specifically shooter by shooter. It could be. May not be. May end up being the best shooting team I've had. It's too early. The combine was a huge success for these players because every player helps themselves. Every single guy that was there helped themselves.

They now can put all that stuff behind them and understand you've been evaluated. Now you're going to get better. And then are you going to be a great teammate that they'd want on their team? Are you going to be a winning player? If you're a winning player and you're a great teammate, it's a wrap. You're a lock. But you've got to do all that.

And we're just -- you know, there have been teams that they told this team wouldn't shoot the ball well, and we did. We shot the ball fine. If you remember at the beginning of last year, Tyler Ulis didn't shoot the ball well. We had games where we were like, holy cow, I hope he can make some shots. And by the end, he and Jamal (Murray) ended up giving us two guys that could shoot 40 percent from the 3.

Derek Willis is a stretch. Wenyen (Gabriel) is a stretch or a three. They may not be consistent right now, but it's only physically being consistent.

Q. How different are Dominique (Hawkins) and Derek (Willis) now than when they got on campus?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, first of all, they're good kids. And Dom -- can you imagine who they played against for four years in practice? How much better they got. How much more confident they are. How about all of us, when you put them in the game, you don't have any anxiety. None of you do. I don't. The fans don't. They want him to play well. They're Kentucky kids, so they have their own following.

I'm proud of both of them. Right now I talked to you about Derek coming in early and the last one to leave the gym and gets extra shots up and knows this is his time. Dom's going every day to get better. There are times where he's doing something and the guy will score anyway, and he looks at me, then he'll go score on the guy. And he's even getting to where he talks a little bit, which is not his nature, but he does. It's good stuff.

Q. During the football media days, Coach Stoops was asked if he still had the passion. You look like you've been doing this a little bit longer than he has. You still look pretty passionate to me. Specifically, what about this team keeps you so passionate?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, first of all, I'm blessed to have this job. What this job does is every morning you wake up to put your feet in your car, you sit down in that chair and say my team has a chance to win the national title. That's every year. You know you do.

The second part of this job that keeps you going and makes you excited is at no other time in the history of our sport has a program done what we're doing for players. You can all say what you want. 28 kids, four a year for seven years, have been drafted. Two others are in the league that weren't drafted. You're talking about 80 percent of the kids. You're talking Rookie of the Years. You're talking All-Stars. You're talking kids that are giving back to the community, that are role models, that are doing things, that are making us proud, that are coming back to us to help us, to be involved, or they need help. Can you work me out in the gym?

The stuff that's happened, if we can keep this going, it keeps me young because nothing excites me more than seeing young people get better, seeing young people grow up. Like Isaac was in my office yesterday, and I just smiled and said, “You're not even the same kid.” And he said, “I know, Coach. I don't feel like the same guy. It keeps you young.”

Have I ever told you the story about DeMarcus Cousins' mom? Say, no, Coach, you've never told us before.

DeMarcus' mom calls me in tears after he'd been drafted by the Sacramento Kings, tears. So I think something is wrong. “Is everything OK, Ms. Cousins? What happened? Is there something I can do?” “Coach, no, these are tears of joy.” “What?” “I just moved into my new house. I'm standing in the living room. Coach, it's unbelievable. I've got a rug on the floor. I've got furniture. I'm looking out the window, and I see the ninth green.” “The ninth green? You're on a golf course?” “Yeah, Coach. Do you golf?” “No, I don't. Well, why would you move on a golf course?” “Because I can.”

Generational poverty, most of us don't know what that means. But these kids, not all of them, but a lot of them, this is the opportunity for their family, and I don't take it lightly. People will say to you, “He doesn't care about winning! He doesn't care about national titles! All he wants to do is get players drafted!”

If you want to pin that on me, I'll take it. We all know it's not true because we've won more games than any team in the country the last seven years, we've been to more Final Fours than any team in the country. We won one national title. Probably should have won three or four, but we won a national title. In our league, we've done what we've done every year.

I'm happy with what's happening on the basketball court, but I'm more happy about what's happening for these kids. If my team won a national title and no one got drafted, I'd be disappointed. Oh, that will just rifle through our state. I would be disappointed.

Q. John, this is your eighth go-around trying to do it with a young team from scratch. Have you changed from how you used to do it?
COACH CALIPARI: What I'd like you all to do, you have a picture of me in the opening press conference, what I look like today. This thing I do is in dog years, seven years in one. So I'm buckling down on Coach (Adolph) Rupp right now. I'm at 49 years going on 56.

Coach tells me I've mellowed out, that I'm not as hard on the guys. Well, as the season goes on, you guys know I get a little more intense. The initial part is trying to figure them out. I can't just say, this is how we're doing it. Do it this way. This is the only way. I don't know. Half the time I learn from them.

Who coached my team last year? Tyler coached my team last year. What was great about that for me?

Q. You got the check.
COACH CALIPARI: I still got paid. (Laughter). But I could learn, and there were things that he and Jamal did. Like right now Malik Monk is doing stuff that is oh, boy. Do I let him do stuff that I haven't let other guys do? Maybe. I see De'Aaron Fox.

I see how Isaiah (Briscoe) is shooting the ball. You know what I'm saying to Isaiah every practice? You shoot every open shot. If you have a 3 or a jump shot, you shoot it. If you don't shoot it, I'm going to get on you. I know you can get to the basket. I know all that. That's not what we need, and that's not what you need.

So, yeah, I do things different. And the biggest thing is that's why every year we play different. You look and say, wow, he's doing different things, and it changes through the year because we don't --

We had an early offense last year, and we worked and worked and worked because I was looking at tape of stuff that we did a year ago, and I saw it. I said, “Oh, my gosh, we never ran it after we did in the beginning because it wasn't good for our team.” So we do do things different each year, and it's all based on who we have.

Look, there may be years we have one point guard, and then the other point guard's going to have to be a combo kind of guard. How do you play? Do you put the combo in pick-and-rolls? Or maybe he's not a pick-and-roll guy. He's more of a handoff guy. That stuff, we figure out as we go.

Q. You've mentioned so much about doing something that hasn't been done. Do you take pride -- or how much pride do you take in other schools trying to do what you've done with young kids?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, that's the ultimate compliment when people are trying to do the things that you do. Can I just tell you, everything all of us do is stolen from somebody. The people that are around me that give me ideas that I pass along or we try, the one thing I never do, I never give credit to anybody but myself. So I take all of the ideas. So everybody thinks that all of the ideas are mine.

Let me just tell you something. Whether it's staff, whether it's what we're doing on social media, there's always a group. I don't want to be in there trying to think I have all the answers because I don't, and I've been wrong before. I think it was 1978. Might have been 1977, '78. The reality is this is a group effort here.

When they talk about it takes a village, to coach at this place, if you think you're going to go here and do this by yourself, good luck. That's when they find coaches in the fetal position under the desk, like where is he? He's hiding under there. You can't do this. And you got to listen to everything.

And the reason is, if we're going to stay the gold standard, we're going to stay ahead of the curve, well, then, when people try to do the things we're doing, we're trying to do more. We're trying to do something different. We're coming at it a different way. That, for me, to be honest, is the fun part. Coming up with things and getting in a group, what do you guys think? There's many things that we've thrown out or tried, didn't work. Or we're like, ooh, don't do that. A lot of that in-house stuff that I thought let's do this, and they all laugh. Are you crazy? You know what that would do?

But it's fun. This is different. The way we're doing this is different. The way we're trying to do it every year is different. Having players leave -- 14 have graduated in seven years. Fourteen. Three graduated in three years. Six of the seven years, we had a B average. All these kids have lifetime scholarships. They can come back when they want.

Eric Bledsoe has started. Julius Randle has started. Dakari Johnson has started. Somebody else, I'm missing a name. Four or five have already started coming back, taking a course, doing some stuff. They have lifetime scholarships.

They get involved in the community. You guys know the fund-raising we bring the team together and do. You know what we try to do. We're trying to do everything here and making sure you don't get away from the fact they want to be the best version of themselves on the court. Their families want to be comfortable that they're going to be the best version of themselves off the court, and that's what we're trying to do here.

Q. John, just to clarify. You wouldn't be totally disappointed if you won a national title and nobody got drafted, would you?
COACH CALIPARI: The question is would I be totally disappointed?

Q. Just to let you clarify that.
COACH CALIPARI: Now you're mincing words. You're putting words. Look, I would enjoy the fact that I had a team that won a national title, but I would be disappointed that none of the kids got drafted because that's not how it's supposed to work. Everybody should benefit by the success of this program -- everybody. The fans, the university, the athletic department, the assistant coaches -- everybody should benefit when things like that happen. And then not the players? No, they should benefit just as well.

Q. Wenyen seems like a guy who's been really motivated to play for his family and seems really driven. How driven has he been since he's been on campus?
COACH CALIPARI: He's been great. See, he's one of the guys that may be a little bit -- like fear is driving him. Am I good enough? What do I have to do? His mind races sometimes. It's fine. I was just with Michael Kidd(-Gilchrist) down in Charlotte. That's exactly what moves him. My thing to those kind of guys, stay in the moment. You do things other people cannot do, so just stay in the moment as you improve the other areas.

Michael's back five games. He thinks he should be in All-Star form, and it's driving him crazy. Stop it. You've been back five games. What Michael Kidd does, no one else in the NBA does. Now, there are some areas he can improve, fine. Wenyen, the same. You're talking about a 6-10, inside, outside, stretch four-three, good with the ball, but only touched where he's going to be.

Sacha is the other one. Look, I knew Sacha was good. I wouldn't have him here if I didn't think he was good, but I didn't know he was this good. So now he's finally pushing through knees. He's not trying to say I can't go. He's staying up with the pack. He's now been challenged by other really good players.

See, you don't come here to say I want to be the only guy on the floor. You come here to say you walk into practice and know you're going to get pushed. I'm going to get challenged every day in practice. If I don't bring it, I'm going to get dunked on, and I'm going to look bad. So I have to come every day ready.

Sacha by that, going against these guys every day, we've got guys looking at me going, Coach, he's really good. Skilled, 6-10, blocking shots. He's like a -- feet are flying everywhere still. You look at him, and you're like what? Then you watch him play, and he's getting it done.

Q. Coach, this team seems to be very fun and charismatic. How does that translate on and off the court? And do you enjoy them as much off the court as you do on the court?
COACH CALIPARI: All the teams you have have different personalities, and you kind of want it. We do a great job of talking social media, teaching social media, making sure they understand interviews and where they can be drawn and where you're trying to stay, what you're trying to say, and how you get it across. A lot of them, we're teaching 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds, but we have to do it. But they all have their own personality.

It has to be fun for you when you see somebody at a distance and you take their opinion of what they're going to be like and then you go interview them, and they're totally different. You're like, wow, I didn't expect that.

The greatest thing about being at Kentucky -- I said it from day one: You can get the best and the brightest. You can get unbelievable players who are smart kids, who are great kids, who have great hearts. You don't come here if you want to shoot all the balls and be the face and be the only guy. You don't come here. You come here to be the best version of yourself and play against other really good guys and be around other really good people, and then they learn from each other.

Q. What are you seeing with De'Aaron going up against two physical experienced mature guys like Dom and Isaac?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm going to tell you, Isaiah and De'Aaron have gone (at it). It's been great. I haven't put them all together yet. I want them to continue to compete against each other. Malik and Dom -- now, the issue Dom was figuring out is that he can jump over Malik, like he can go and just jump and shoot it. So Dom has figured out how to keep him in front so that, when he jumps, Dom jumps. So now Dom is learning. That's what competition does.

My son was playing Mychal Mulder. Mychal went right and dunked on him. Then he went right and dunked on him. These are four straight plays. Then he crossed over, and he dunked on him, and he dunked on him. And I said, “Son, he just dunked on you four times.” He said, “My hip is bothering me.” “You better get it replaced. I don't know what to tell you, but he can't be doing that.”

But Brad came back, and he said, “You know what, I was too tight. I've got to get hands up and make sure I'm retreating back because I can't let him run by me.” That's what playing against good players does, and instead of it being 12 times a year in games -- we may have 35, 36 games, but you're playing 12 to 15 against guys that are really going to be guys in that league that challenge you. The others are not with players as good as you unless you're in a practice and every day you're facing someone who's just as good as you. That's how you get better.

That's why we are doing this at Kentucky. That's why it's happening. It's that they get better because they compete, and that's what they want. If you don't want that, they don't come here. They go other places.

Q. Cal, about a month ago, you talked about if players wanted to get involved in social issues, talk to me, all those things. Have any of your players talked to you since then and brought up whether they want to be involved?
COACH CALIPARI: We've had different conversations. For all of you, I'll do this kind of quickly, but I do it every year, and then it became -- I try to explain race from my vantage point, where I've sat, being with an assistant and how he was treated ,and how I was treated and seeing it firsthand, and I tell them. And I also tell them, because you've got a Kentucky uniform on, you're going to be treated differently than someone who doesn't. You'd better understand that. So I talk to them about it.

Then I talk about, if you want to become involved in a cause, thoroughly know what that cause is. If someone asks you to be involved, educate yourself. Thoroughly know. These kids are 17 and 18 and 19. These aren't 30-year-old men that I would say, you've got to go with your heart. These kids, I've got to give them a plan. Educate. Are you in total agreement with everything that group wants to accomplish or wants done? If you agree, that's the first step.

The second step would be, can I make a difference? By me getting involved, am I going to make a difference? And how I'm doing it, am I going to offend so many people, it's not going to make a difference, or is there another way I can get involved?

And then the third thing is what's the downside? Muhammad Ali decided that where I stand on these issues is more important than my career. That's what he did. And people were offended. People hated him. How many years of boxing did he lose? Seven years? Five years? Prime. He was willing to give that up for what he stood for. At the time, it wasn't the right thing, and all of a sudden, he's an icon who happened to box. He's an icon who happened to box.

So when I talk to the kids, I'm like you better educate yourself. You don't stand in the front of the line unless you're up there because you know everything that's involved. And the last thing you said I said, before you do something, please tell me so we can talk through it. I'm going to support you, but you're going to have to explain it all to me. They're 18 and 19. These are not 30-year-old men. But I want them to be socially active. I want them to be engaged.

We talk about police, if you're approached. I mean, I bring in people. I do it myself. We talk about relationships with women, and I go through it all. We talk about it. They're 18 and 19. I've got my own son in the room now. I'm a father first to my son and them. I'm a teacher, a motivator. That's what I do. And I'm a protector on top of that.

Q. So have any of them come to you?
COACH CALIPARI: We have some guys that just sat down and said, “Coach, talk me through some of this stuff,” but we still as a group -- I've got to sit down and really how do you feel about all this stuff? And we haven't done that to this point, but we will. I went from recruiting to coming back to the combine to this weekend. I was going to do it last weekend and really feel some stuff out.

But I'll say this. I want them involved in community. When they leave us, I want them to know how they proceed if someone's asking them to be involved in their cause, you'd better make sure it's your cause. You'd better make sure that you know you can make a difference, and if it's a difference you want to make, is there another way to do the same thing, and what's the downside? What's the repercussions if I do this? To my career, to my family, whatever else.

Q. Cal, this weekend you have some of your top targets on campus. One target says this is when you want him to be on campus. Why is this such a big recruiting tool?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, most of the kids decide when they want to come here. I like it when I have a young man by himself, but they all like to come to this event. We have some guys that have come Thursday, Friday, Saturday, which I'm ecstatic about because I get to spend some time. Tomorrow we've got a couple of underclassmen. Tomorrow I'm going to get the families together and say, this is the only time you're really going to speak to me. I don't have time, but I'm happy you're here. With young people, you just don't have the same time.

But you want to have time so that they understand what this is, and I want them to see practice. I want them to see how the team is together. By seeing the madness, it's more like a game, like you walk in and say, this is what our games are like, just different people. It's not -- I wouldn't say it's 25,000 season ticket holders.

Q. How much has Isaiah's shot improved?
COACH CALIPARI: Isaiah's shot has really improved. Again, when you're trying to make -- not just Isaiah. When you're trying to make somebody the best version of themselves, you have to keep defining that over a period of time because sometimes it changes. And there have been guys that you have to -- being a defensive player, a rebounder, a sprinter, a shot blocker, a guy that dives on the floor, that's who you are. That's how you're going to do this. Michael Kidd, dah, dah, dah, dah. That guy either buys it and works like heck to be that guy and tries to improve his other skill stuff, or he says, that is too hard. Let me shoot more.

The other guy that you're saying you have to improve your shooting may say, what do you mean? You've got to come in the gym every night after practice and make 500 shots, game shots. Really? How about you just give me the ball more and I'll just -- no, that's not going to be your best version. This is what you have to do. Then it becomes do they buy it? Are they bought into it?

Isaiah's bought into it. That's why I couldn't be more pleased. He's leading on the court. We're teaching him how to lead off the court just like we did with Tyler. Early on, Tyler was great on the court. Off the court, he wasn't as good leading and being around. Now Isaiah is going through that process. Unbelievable on the court, unbelievable. Shooting the ball better, really proud of him. Still the same defending, rebounding guard that he was.

Q. What is Malik Monk doing -- you talk about you were saying, oh, boy.
COACH CALIPARI: The hardest thing for a basketball player to do is dribble two really hard dribbles. You are flying, and then pull up and shoot a ball from 15, 17 feet. It's the hardest thing in the game, and he can do that easy. It's very easy for him to do. And that's why -- the best players I've coached make really hard things look easy. Like you may say, well, that was easy, and then, well, go try it. You think it's so easy, go ahead and do it. Then you say, wow, he makes this like it's nothing. So there are things that he does.

Now, his game is still like this, and we need it to narrow in, but he knows it. Mind races. His feet move fast, so does his mind. We're trying to slow his mind down a little bit. But that's all time.

This team is not going to be what it is until February. I'm telling you now. I'm here watching it. Whether it's Bam (Adebayo) and all these kids. You have a chance of starting four freshmen. What? Oh, yeah, we're going to be -- we're the best team. We're starting four freshmen possibly. At minimum, I would say three freshmen.

Q. Cal, since Bam has been back, what have you seen from him? Is he getting more in the flow?
COACH CALIPARI: He's just getting better every day, and it's going to be a process. Just like it was for any of our big guys that bought it, Karl, and you saw guys, and as the season went on, they just got better and better and better. I really believe that's what he'll be. His footwork, he's still learning. He still fades some. But he's skilled. He can pass. He flies up and down the court, flies. Literally, we can go boom, bing, lob, dunk, and it's him. He may have rebounded the ball, like what? He's fast.

So that's why I say we should be a fast team. Our bigs are fast. Our guards are fast. An efficient team, I don't know yet. An execution team, we don't have anything in to execute yet right now. But hopefully we will be.

Q. Have you seen any similarities between this year's team and past years?
COACH CALIPARI: No. And I don't mean to be -- I'm not being disrespectful, I'm just thinking like where you have played a lot of guards, normally I don't play as many guards. And then you say, well, you did last year. Yeah, we did, but we didn't have that size around the goal that this team has.

That team was totally focused on one guy having the ball, and we all played off of him. This team will probably have three guys having the ball, and we'll play off them. One may have it more, but the other two are going to have it a significant amount of time. So that makes it different.

Every team -- that's the fun thing about this. I mean, literally, every year is a different group, and you have to figure out how you're going to play.

Q. Cal, who's the last guy that you had that was -- you felt like you do right now with Sacha where you say, obviously, I knew he's good, and then you get him here and watch him improve, and you're surprised by how much he has?
COACH CALIPARI: I knew Patrick (Patterson) was good until I started coaching him, and I thought, wow, he's really good. Brandon (Knight) in practice was really good, but in the games he was off the chain. When the game started playing, he was ridiculous. I never thought Josh (Harrellson) would play. He played great, got drafted. At the end of the day, he worked his way into something special. Maybe a James Young. I knew he would be good, and then we started coaching him, and I'm like, oh, my. But I've had a few.

Q. In June, you were named to the ad hoc committee on the NCAA selection process. We know last March you weren't too happy about the way it played out. Have you had any confirmation that the commission met?
COACH CALIPARI: The good news is Mitch (Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart) is on the committee. Now, he'd have to leave the room when they talk about us, but he's on the committee, and I think he'll do a very good job. He and I talk about it all the time.

The first thing is being the composite of an RPI. You can't use RPI. It's got to be composite. In other words, there are four, five, six different ways of evaluating teams. Do a composite of them. Kind of like what do they do in the voting stuff? They have all the polls. They have one poll called the -- come on, politicians. What's the one poll that brings all the polls? Clear choice poll? What is it called? Oh, my gosh, is anybody watching the politics here? Real Clear (Politics). And do that so we all know.

I think we talked about defining what quality wins are. There was a bunch of things that we proposed that went before them and that they're going to talk about. So I feel good that we coaches -- and, again, 14 coaches got in a room, and in one day came up with seven things we all agreed on, 14-0. I've never seen it before in the sport, never. Because guys go in and they only think about their own program, and you can't get a consensus because they don't think it's going to help their league. That's not what we did. We went in. And it was for everybody, not just Kentucky or the SEC. It's just how are you evaluating us? Let us know beforehand this is how it will be.

Q. What do you remember of those seven proposed ideas?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, they agreed to one. I said the top four seeds should pick where they're going. The No. 1 one seed, what region do you want to play in? OK, here are the two sites. What site do you want to play in? You're the No. 2 one seed, where do you want to play? I want to go in the East. Where? You want to play in Philly or Bangor? Oh, you want to play in Philly, OK. The No. 3 seed, you're going West. You're playing in Portland or L.A. Where do you want to play? And the fourth seed, you're in the Midwest.

I mean, it's great because now there's no -- anything you can take off their hands that we choose ourselves, you're not going to see me on TV saying stuff. You're doing what we want. What am I going to say? Me or the other hundred coaches that were doing the same thing I was saying.

Q. Coach, parents always -- they want their kids to play a little bit more, but you can kind of tune that out. What do you do now when you go home and live with one of them?
COACH CALIPARI: My wife has been to three practices since I've been the coach here, and she's been to two this year. (Laughter).

You know, she understands, and I'm coaching my son. He's a walk-on. He's trying. He can shoot the ball. He knew coming here that you understand this is Kentucky. He wants to be challenged. He wants to see how good he can be. He's in the gym at night with Kenny (associate head coach Kenny Payne). Works as hard as anybody, if not harder. Shoots it pretty well.

Biggest thing he told me that kind of got me to say, OK, you can do it, is he wanted to get into coaching, which I never knew when he told me that. OK, this is a good place to go if that's what you want to do.

Look, for our children, you want them to build their own self-esteem and their own self-confidence. For your own child. You don't want it to come from somebody else because, if it does, that same person can take it away. You want them to learn the grind. Nothing is given to you. You're going to have to work for it. You want them to understand competition. That's our country, competition. You want them to learn about teammates, coming together, melding with other people, seeing where you can help. You want them to learn about servant leadership, even as a young person. Be more concerned with everybody else than yourself.

If my son is learning that here and, when he leaves me, that's what he's developed, I'm going to be a proud father. Now, let me say, if I had a son, I would want him to be Brad. That's the truth. He's a great kid. He's done some stupid stuff, though, I'm going to tell you.

He's got two sisters, Erin and Megan. I was with them the other day. One's 29, and one's 26. And I said to both girls, “At what age -- 40, 43, 44 -- are you going to get your own credit cards? At what age?”

Q. Of all these things you want him to learn, does he really know how tough it's going to be?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. I was in Charlotte, and a friend of mine said, “Do you know how hard it would be to be your son?” I never thought of it in those terms. Look, I don't see myself as maybe some of you do or other people. I grew up in Moon Township (Pennsylvania), grandparents came through Ellis Island. I know who I am. I don't see myself as this whoever they see me as. I don't.

But when someone says that to me for your children, and now where they're going with their lives -- and Brad wants to have his own name. I hope someday someone says, that is Brad's dad. That would be my hope. Wow. For me. Right now he's Coach Cal's son.

And he understood, coming here, it's a tough deal.

Q. Is Brad a better basketball player than you are?


Q. Can we have a reaction to the NLRB decision that declared Northwestern football players be employees? What do you think about that?
COACH CALIPARI: When did that happen?

Q. That was in the last few days.
COACH CALIPARI: If you give me some time to research it and look at what happened and the result, I will call you and tell you. I'll be honest. I didn't even know. Tell me again what they did.

Q. They defined the Northwestern football players as employees based on some criteria of what qualifies an employee.
COACH CALIPARI: Let me go through it. The one thing I think in the one case that I think we all need to come together on is that who defines amateurism? We can't have one group that oversees everything and then they define what amateurism is. Is expenses amateurism? Does that make them professional? Doing things where parents can go to the NCAA Tournament games, that makes them pros and not eligible to be amateur? Does a kid that can't afford to come to campus when he's going as an 18-year-old, 19-year-old, can we fly him to campus and home at the end of the year? Does that make him professional?

We've had people define what amateurism is, and that's my story and I'm sticking with it, and that's why this stuff is all happening. Now the same in that case. We're not moving fast enough with where things are going.

Assistant coach Joel Justus

On the televised practice … “I think anytime you can put our guys on a stage to get them ready for what this is really going be like, hopefully 40 times this upcoming season (is great). It gives them a chance to get a feel for what truly being a Kentucky basketball player is like and the amount of eyes will be on them. I think it’s fun to see them but I also think it’s an opportunity for them to see where they are and where their teammates are.”

On if it’s hit him at how quickly he’s moved up to assistant coach since coming to Kentucky … “Every day you have to feel blessed to work with a great head coach first and foremost in Coach Cal. Someone who takes the time to mentor the people on the staff. I think he’s reached out to me and help me. Every day I’m grateful for that. Not only Cal but I think its Robes (John Robic), Kenny (Payne) and Tony (Barbee). Everybody here is on the same team. It’s also a blessing to work such great kids. You wake up energized and you feel like it is a little bit of a dream, but I thought that the moment I came here – working with Cal, being able to learn from him, watch him in different settings and really just take copious notes on what it takes to be successful.”

On coming to Kentucky in the first place a couple years ago … “I think in the game of basketball and in the game of coaching you want to always be in a position where you’re helping kids have a great experience. As a player, I had a tremendous experience and I loved being a high school coach. I wouldn’t have left being a high school coach if wasn’t for the opportunity to come work for Coach Cal.”

On his strengths and weaknesses as a coach … “I think the strength is just being a trustworthy person that cares about the kids and about the relationship. I want to help provide a tremendous experience for a young man and for his family at the University of Kentucky. I think something to grow on is, holy cow, you work for Cal and you see and listen to the things he does on the court and off the court. I’ve learned so much in every role I’ve been in here and I think you are always growing as a basketball coach. That’s the one thing I want to do is always be in a position to grow.” 

On the biggest thing he’s learned from Cal ... 
“The biggest thing I’ve learned basketball wise is the daily preparation for basketball and for basketball practice, and taking a look at how he plans a practice. I was a head high school coach so I spent six years planning my own practices, and to go back and learn a different way other than the way I’ve been doing it and the coaches I played for had done it has been fun. I think off the floor, just the forward-thinking, cutting-edge approach to recruiting but also building the brand is fascinating. 

On the perception of Kentucky … “I think what we need to continue to say is that this is a great place to come where you can be your best. Whatever your best is is different than his best or my best. I think that takes the load off of the expectations of being a one-and-done. What we want to do is create the narrative that this is a place where you come to get better, you want to be around other players, you want to be challenged every day, and be around a group of great guys.” 

On recruiting and setting the foundation … “The best thing for us is to try and identify guys that see Kentucky as the ultimate destination for them. If this is a place that see themselves being fit for. That they see coach Cal as someone that they want to trust with their development. They see our staff as a group of people that they are going to trust with their development. Identifying that is something I see at the top of my to-do list every day.”

Kentucky Players:

#3, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Freshman, Forward

On adding a jump shot and expanding his range …
“I’m just working on my whole offense. I don’t want to be one-dimensional. I want my shot to be there too.”

On the pressure of playing up to the standard of an athlete like Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns or DeMarcus Cousins …
“It’s always been pressure with me. I’ve always wanted to be the best that I can be, so it’s not just because of them, it’s because of me personally.” 

On the biggest surprise so far at UK since stepping on campus …
“Definitely how crazy the fans are. I mean, when they just sit out there for free tickets to just watch us practice (it’s crazy). Somebody got married! That’s when I knew it was a little over the top.” 

On the frontcourt as a whole and playing alongside Isaac Humphries …
“We can rebound, block shots and run the floor. We can stretch the floor a little bit, and we all play together. Isaac is playing well. We can play together, and now we’re really focused on what we can do together. No doubt we’ll be on the floor together.”

#13, Isaiah Briscoe, Sophomore, Guard

On embracing the role as a leader …
“I’m up for the challenge, and every challenge. Coach obviously trusts me 100 percent with the team. I have a great friendship with everybody on the team. I think we all get along fine. I’m just trying to push everybody to be the best that they can be.” 

On improving his shooting …
“I’ve been working hard on my jump shot. I’ve been coming in here every night and working out. I’ve improved a lot, but I still have a long way to go in trying to get better as a player.”

On ways that he’s improved on and off the court since last year … 
“I think I’ve matured more as a person on and off of the court. I’ve improved as a leader, and my jump shot.” 

On competing against De’Aaron Fox ever day in practice…
“It’s fun, a lot of fun. We make each other better because he’s a quick, fast guard, and I’m not used to playing against quicker and faster guards. With me, I’m stronger and more physical, and he’s not used to playing with that so we’re getting each other better each day.” 

#20, Brad Calipari, Freshman, Guard

On soaking in the moment while playing for his dad at Kentucky …
“It’s been good. Practice has been good and everything like working out has been a good experience. It’s good to be a part of a great group of guys. It’s fun to be around.” 

On the biggest difference between ‘Coach Cal’ and ‘dad’…
“Oh man, that’s tough. Probably how much he yells. At home he doesn’t yell too much but here, he’s all over the place.”

On his favorite memory of he and his dad growing up … 
“We were on a bike ride and my dad had the dog on a leash. Then the dog started chasing something, and he flipped over on his bike down the hill. Yeah, that was funny.” 

#10, Johnny David, Sophomore, Guard

On being able to soak in the experience of playing at UK after his first year …
“Last year was kind of shocking as far as how everything happened. Coming into this year, I have a better understanding of how everything goes.” 

On using this platform as a UK player to better himself for the future …
“I just like the experience. The things that we do here are an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget for the rest of my life. As far as games, traveling and being with the team, it’s going to benefit everyone here, not just me.” 

#0, De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, Guard

On what he expects at Big Blue Madness this year compared to last year …
“Well, it is going to be more exciting of course because all eyes will be on us. I am excited to be a part of something special and I just want to have fun.”

On how the team’s basketball chemistry can be compared to their off-court chemistry …
“I feel like if you like each other and have fun off the court it helps with team chemistry on the court. I think all of our guys really like each other. We bond together and on the court we are gelling together really quickly.”

On if the team is excited to let the fans know who they are outside of basketball …
“Yes, because they don’t get to see us outside of the court so they’ll get to see how we really interact with each other since it won’t be all about basketball tomorrow (at Madness). We are still going to show them what we can do, but also they’ll see us not so serious.” 

#32, Wenyen Gabriel, Freshman, Forward

On his favorite and least favorite part about practice …
“My favorite part is definitely scrimmaging. We go freshmen versus the upperclassmen. Coach Cal gets to teach us, and we get used to the competition. We also get to know where other people like to shoot, where they like to score, and where people’s spots are. Conditioning is probably not the best part. We do conditioning every practice.”

On how strength coach Rob Harris helped him develop his conditioning …
“He pushes you a lot. This is the best shape I’ve ever been in. Rob likes to get us motivated. We talk to each other, play music and really get into it. I’ve never had anything like that before, so it’s been new to me, but it’s been really beneficial as well. It really has helped my game.”

On if he agrees with Cal describing him as being “tough on himself” …
“Yes, I try to put in a lot of work. I am trying to become the best player I can be, so every day the goal is to get better. When I see myself messing up sometimes I am kind of hard on myself.”

#25, Dominique Hawkins, Senior, Guard

On what is has been like playing with so many good basketball players coming through Kentucky’s program over his career …
“I have never really thought about it, but it is pretty unbelievable. I’ve played with a lot of guys who are now playing professionally and have had incredible years. It’s a blessing to be able to play with guys like that and be a part of a team that went to Final Fours and championships.”

On Coach Cal’s emphasis on defense this season …
“He is always emphasizing defense. The first practice he says, ‘We’re not going to worry about offense. We’re just going to focus on defense today.’ Then we do all these defensive drills throughout practice.” 

On which of his teammates has the most charismatic personality … 
“De’Aaron Fox’s personality is so charismatic. He’s so funny, anything he does just makes you laugh. I play video games with him all the time and I’ve seen him get frustrated if I’m winning and that just shows how competitive he is.”  

#15, Isaac Humphries, Sophomore, Forward

On how strength coach Rob Harris has helped him improve in the offseason …
“He obviously has changed my body. I have built muscle mass; a lot more than it was. He got my conditioning up. We’ve talked a lot about my goals and where I want to go. We set goals at the start of the summer on where I wanted to be now and he has helped me get there. He’s had a big influence on me.”

On how hard Coach Harris pushes the team … 
“He pushes us really hard. He knows what is best for us, where we want to go, and how we need to get there.”

On the one thing Coach Harris asked the team to do that they didn’t like initially, but are thankful for now…
“I am going to say those 5:30 a.m. wake ups in the summer. We aren’t doing them now, but we were all kind of like ‘Are you crazy at 5:30 a.m.? Come on.’ But then two or three went by and we just started to love it, so it was fine.”

#1, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Freshman, Forward

On the impact of Robert Harris … 
“Rob is crazy, but he’s been great, especially for me, and the whole team conditioning wise. We’ve been getting bigger and getting stronger all because of him.”

On Coach Harris in comparison to high school coaches … 
“I was lucky to have a good strength coach in high school as well, but it’s just another level, not just with lifting, but with everything including treatments, massages, all the taking care of your body stuff has been really different here.”

On his Kentucky experience thus far …  
“It’s been the best experience so far. Being in Kentucky is like no other place in the world, so being here learning from coaches like Coach Cal and playing against the best has been awesome.”

On not being considered at the top of recruiting class … 
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m not really worried about what somebody writes in an article because the article doesn’t transfer to the game. At the end of the day, I’m going to try to go on the court and prove to everybody why I’m here and they’ll see that.”

On surprising Coach Cal in a positive way … 
“It’s cool to hear that, but at the same time I’m just going to go on the court and prove what I can do. For him to take notice of that is always good, but it’s not like, ‘Oh, he thinks I’m good, let me stop.’ It pushes me to turn it up another notch and play better. I definitely use it as motivation. My motto is, ‘Never be stagnant, always move forward,’”

#5, Malik Monk, Freshman, Guard

On his Big Blue Madness expectations …
“I don’t know what to expect. It was amazing last year seeing how many fans come out to support Kentucky basketball, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the fans react to the new team. I think it’s going to be crazy. There are six new freshmen who haven’t seen anything like this yet, so I don’t really know what to expect.”

On his relationship with past players …
“Some of the past players I played against in high school, some I know personally. Every Kentucky basketball player is family. It doesn’t matter if you came 10 years before me or 10 years after me. Everybody knows one another and everybody is close.”

On his impression of Isaiah Briscoe …
“I knew him since I was in the ninth grade. I’ve seen him play all the time. I know him personally, so I didn’t get my first impression while being in Kentucky. We met at the LeBron (James) camp when I was in the ninth grade. He was the same as he is now, super confident.”

On blending a young team with a lot of confidence and egos … 
“We all want the same dream so we just try to accomplish it together. It’s easy to sacrifice if you have great players around you.”

On the team’s speed …
“With every drill Coach Cal does, we’re out running so I can tell that we’re faster than a lot of our opponents. Our guards are fast so I think the guards will push everyone else to run even more.”

On the guards competing against one another in practice …
“It’s the freshmen versus the upperclassmen every day in practice. We kill the upperclassmen every day. Us going against the upperclassmen helps us a lot because we don’t know much of anything and they know all of the plays and what to expect.”

#11, Mychal Mulder, Senior, Guard

On seeing former teammates all on the Phoenix Suns …
“It’s interesting to see all those guys on the same team. It’s pretty funny how that works out. It’s especially fortunate for Tyler (Ulis) and Devin (Booker). I feel like that’s a really great combination. It’s really cool to see the guys who progress, move on from here and are successful. That’s what you hope for, for your friends and teammates.”

On helping get De’Aaron Fox adjusted to the college game … 
“Fox is adapting really well. He’s a really skilled point guard with the ball, great off the ball even. He understands the game really well and in that you can kind of see a little bit of Tyler (Ulis) in him. His will to win is really high, so I feel like he will be really successful and play a really big part for us.”

On if there are any changes in Coach Cal with having his son on the team …
“He doesn’t really change. You see Brad doing drills and Coach Cal may have a little smirk on his face once in a while, but that might be the only difference I see. You can tell he’s proud of him. Brad’s working really hard and it’s great to see how he’s progressing.”

#35, Derek Willis, Senior, Forward

On his final Big Blue Madness …
“It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for our players and especially the freshmen who are coming in. It’s a big deal for me since it’s the last time I get to do it. It’s especially big for the fans. It’s a good time and a good show for everyone.”

On which freshman has stood out thus far …
“I would say Wenyen (Gabriel). I like how he plays and his potential is really high. His potential is as high as he wants it to be. His motor is really good for a freshman. He does a lot of good things. They are freshmen and have a lot to learn, but they’ve been picking up stuff pretty quickly.”

On being a mentor to the younger players … “The leadership role I took on is not as vocal because Isaiah (Briscoe) does the vocal part. Mine is more of pulling people aside and telling people during a drill ‘You need to do this or that.’ That’s kind of the role I have.”

#14, Tai Wynyard, Redshirt Freshman, Forward

On taking a redshirt season last year …  “I got a lot out of it. I got to see how the coaching staff coached, and how the team worked on and off the court. It was really good for me to be out during that time.”

On what the fans will see from him on the floor … “I’m going to work hard, get every rebound I can and put every ball in the hoop that’s possible. Just a lot of hard work.”

On Isaac (Humphries) and Bam (Adebayo)’s play in the post … “They are both different players. Bam tries to jump over people, while Isaac tries to move them out of the way. They are both really physical players.”

On playing for New Zealand in the 3-on-3 tournament this summer …  “It was a lot of fun. I was able to meet a lot of new people and have a lot of fun with a group of international people.”

On his expectations for the season … “Just really working hard all of the time. As soon as I’m on the court, just running up and down as fast as I can (and) to get every rebound I can.”