Q. On the health of Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein?
COACH CALIPARI: Trey's probably about 90‑some percent, Willie's healthy and able to go. Trey's still a little more speed and lift, and him trusting his leg a little bit, but he's fine.
Q. You're not used to having juniors around here. How have Willie and Alex (Poythress) changed since they got to school?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, you say that, but I had Darius (Miller), and I've had Josh (Harrellson), and I've had upperclassmen, they've done well. The greatest thing is they're on a team that pushes them as they push the team. There's not going to be anything easy about it, and they know that, so they've responded pretty good.
Q. Have your practices been what you'd expect from a team that's got 12 starter‑caliber guys as compared to two years ago when you had walk‑ons guarding Nerlens Noel in practice?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, the practices should be what they are, which is they're competitive. There are no easy baskets. You're not getting lay‑ups. But we've got a lot of learning to do. I'm still not convinced of what the groups will look like. Yesterday or two days ago I changed the groups a little bit and I didn't like them. I went back. We may change some big guys and switch them on different teams to see what that looks like, because at the end of the day I'm coaching two teams. All my mentors that are the older coaches, Jack Layman, Joe B. Hall, Gene Bartow, even Coach John Wooden, when he talked to me saying the best teams they coached they played six guys maybe a seventh, but it was more like six. The best teams that I've coached, I've coached six guys, whether it's Massachusetts, Memphis or here. Now that being said, I'm doing it twice now.
In other words, I'm coaching these guys together, and I'm coaching two different teams I've asked to be paid twice. I'm not sure they'll do that, but if I've got to coach two teams, then I think it's fair, a fair question anyway.
Q. You only have so much time, now to go along with your theme, two teams instead of one, how does that hurt your time?
COACH CALIPARI: The issue becomes they need to compete against each other because we've got to figure out are these the groups we like? But on the same sense, you can't skip steps and you can't go by things that they really need. There are probably, I would tell you things that to score against this team, because this team is very long, you have to beat us in transition, so obviously we're working on that.
Down in the Bahamas, it was probably one of our weak areas. The second thing you'll have to do is shoot a lot of 3s, because you're not going to get anything next to the rim. We're spending more time than I have in the past how to guard the 3 line, and also knock down 3 shooters, that we're playing them a little different than I have in the past.
The other non‑negotiables are diving for the balls, loose balls, and the other would be sprinting the court. If you don't sprint the court, it's an absolute you will sprint. If you don't, you come out, so those are kind of things that we're working on right you now.
Q. Once we do see Trey (Lyles), what type of player are we going to see?
COACH CALIPARI: The biggest thing we saw with him is he's got some of that dog in him like he's bringing it. Like if you came at him, he's not moving. So when you come at him the next time, he's in the same place. When he comes at you, he's coming at you, and you're going to know he came at you. The biggest thing though is his skillset. He's really a smooth player who can shoot. And he's 6'10", so playing him at the three is not like people say you can't play him.
No, if you watch, he can easily play the position. Now guarding the position, maybe he guards the four, and Willie guards the three, or he guards the four, and Marcus Lee guards the three. We're just trying to figure all that out.
Q. How do you coach Andrew and Aaron Harrison different ways since they're sophomores now?
COACH CALIPARI: They came in with a 16% body fat, they're down to four. The thing that the feedback from the combine about those two, their speed and athleticism, their bodies look great, they're better skilled. So everybody knows they've gotten better. And, again trying to get those guys to play the way this team needs them to play which is what they're starting to do, that's going to be the key to this.
Q. How significant are the benefits from the Bahamas trip off the court, and how evident is that in team chemistry and how close are these guys having spent so much time together already?
COACH CALIPARI: You can't separate on the court, off the court. What they did in the Bahamas is they celebrated each other. They weren't leery of each other. They celebrated each other, and that's what brought them together.
When you're watching your teammates as you're playing, cheering you on and talking to you and telling you how you're doing, it starts bringing them together. The other thing, we had to bring in legitimate teams so that they could see and buy into two platooning.
If we had played like just the teams that are down there and won each game by 50 they would have said, yeah, it works against them. But does it work against good players? Now we're playing three professional teams down there, and guess what? We did all right. So I think they're bought in. We just have so much ‑‑ so many things to figure out.
But the combine, the summer, they know we have their backs. They can worry about each other. My thing, we had individual meetings as soon as we were done. I told them, their job now, all this other stuff is done, is to be the best teammate they've ever been. Be the best teammate, and that gave them the four or five things that they could do and focus on to be a great teammate. Because if we're to be a great team, it starts with being great teammates.
We can all say, well, Cal, you bring them together. No, fall into each other's arms and they'll go jumping off. It's all great theater. The reality is, do you really care about the other guy, and does he know you care? That's when you become a team, and that's what we're trying to get to.
Q. Any reaction or surprise being ranked No. 1 in the Coaches Poll today?
COACH CALIPARI: Not really. We may have been ranked No. 1 when we lost in the first round of the NIT. We may not have been ranked number one when we won the national title. I can't remember. Looking back, I don't know where we've been ranked, but that's fine. I mean there are probably five, six, seven teams that all could have been No. 1 in the country. At the end of the day, you've got to play games and figure it out.
I imagine ‑‑ where were we ranked last year? Probably one or two, and we almost fell off the face of the earth, so to me, that's fine. It's good. It's something for our kids to live up to, but really it has no bearing on what we're about to try to undertake. Let me just say this about the two platooning. And this is not my political affiliation, but this isn't communism, so if one group deserves to play a little bit more, they will. It's not communism. If two guys separate themselves and need to get more minutes because you all look and say that kid is so good, he needs more minutes, it's not communism, they'll get more minutes. But we're going to figure that out as we go.
Q. Would you elaborate how the key to the team’s success might be how Aaron and Andrew Harrison play?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, we've got 10 guys, so I don't think it's just how the twins play. What I like is that they've gotten way better. Their skillsets, everything about them, they're better. Their attitudes on the court, and, again, they are the greatest kids. When I say attitudes, it's more their body language. You're not seeing any of that now.
That was the biggest comment I got from the NBA people, like, wow, these two, they have totally changed. But what if they play great and the other 10 stink? Then it really didn't matter. I mean, this is about every player trying to be the best version of themselves.
Q. On his biggest takeaways from the open practice:
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, the combine was done for our players. I wanted the NBA to walk away and say this was really worthwhile. This helps us evaluate guys, and they did. But it was more based on our kids, and it was based on the fact that I'm going to try to play guys 20 minutes that deserve 33. They've got to know that in 20 minutes nothing is going to hurt you. You're going to be fine, and I've got their backs. That's why I did it, solely. The other side of that is the NBA could then come back and give me feedback, which I could then use to help them become better players.
People are saying, well, he did it for recruiting. If it helps recruiting, great. That's not why I did it. My good friend Tom Izzo says if he says he didn't do it for recruiting his Pinocchio nose will grow, and hang 10,000 shirts on his nose. I said I don't need my nose to grow to hold 10,000 shirts on my nose.
But it was done for the players on my team. You even had some guys in the NBA saying it was really scripted. Yeah, it was to help my guys, not try to hurt them. So it was somewhat scripted, but they did play three-on-three. You can't script that, and they did play five‑on‑five. You cannot script that.
Q. What things are you seeing from Dakari (Johnson) this year that might add another dimension to his game that can really help your front court game?
COACH CALIPARI: Everybody that saw him in the combine said I can't believe that's the same kid. He's running up and down four or five times in a row, where last year he'd go once maybe the second time and die on the way, and the third time he's not crossing half court. Now you see this guy flying. The thing that I'm most proud of, of all the players on our team, he pushes his limits, and I'll stop the team and say now watch him. He's running absolutely as hard as his body will go. I said if we have a team full of guys running that way and playing that way, we're going to be really good. His body has changed. He went from over 20% body fat to I thought it was 8.8 (percent). It may be a little higher than that. But everybody looked at his body and said oh, my gosh. Making jumpers that he's never made. The best play in it was the guy drove, threw him a ball to 12 feet, and he pulled up and made it. Swished it. I said that's the kind of stuff you want to see as a coach.
Q. What has been so impressive about Dakari's conditioning?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the question is do you play he and Willie (Cauley-Stein) together or do you play he and Marcus Lee together? Okay. Do you play Karl (Towns) and Willie together, and we have not done that yet. But we've got a lot of things to try. Then at some point you've got to settle in because of all my veteran coaching friends, my mentors that say you've got to play five or six guys if you really want to be a good team. We're going to do that.
Five or six guys are going to play on a team, and they're going to be responsible for each other and they're going to work together, and they're going to practice together, and they're going to play together, and they're going to, you know, be held accountable. You have a sub, you're going to have a guard sub for any of the guards that don't sprint the court, don't dive on the floor, give up the 3, don't sprint back. You'll have a guard that will come in for them. They'll lose that part of their rotation. The same with the bigs. You'll have a big that can rotate in for them.
Q. Is your thought at the beginning of the year to establish those fives? Or do you think well, in this match‑up it might make sense to put this five together and this five together?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, here's what I would say. At the end of the game if they're fouling, it would probably be pretty smart to have five good foul shooters in, and you won't believe this, I'll probably do that. But short of making all these kind of changes, I'm not doing this to be a genius. That's not why I'm doing it. I have never done this before.
If I was worried about me, we'd play seven guys. Do you know how good those seven would be? And you'd be fine with it. You should only play seven. Well, your son is one of the three not playing. You should play ten. Two platoon. Really? What I'm doing is what's right for these kids. Will it change? Will it morph into something else? Probably will. But right now all I know I'm trying to make sure that I'm taking care of every one of these kids. That they're eating first.
This is the best solution that I could come up with, and I racked my brain how do I do this and make sure none of those kids are left behind? That's what I'm doing. We can say you're trying to do this or you did this. The one thing you have to ‑‑ I speak the truth. I tell you how I feel.
I'm telling you why I did the summer tour. I needed them to buy in. Why I played great teams down there. Why did we do it? I needed them to buy in against good teams. Why did you do the combine? I got your back. You don't have to worry about you. I've got you. Worry about each other. Be the best teammate you can be. Why are you shutting everybody out now? Because I want to work on team, and I've got to really be focused on who are the units going to be?
The quicker I can get to what I'm comfortable with, we stick with that.
Now the game ends, five great foul shooters, will we work on it? Probably. But I'm not trying to do this for any other reason. It's right for these guys.
Q. Is it fun? Is it invigorating the challenge?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm just on a mission to make it work because I'm hearing all the reasons you can't do it. You can't do this, that, and the issue for our guys is can they keep the clutter away?
And Jay Bilas gave a great talk to our guys about understand that it's coming. He said we in the media, that's what we do. So what we're going to do is pit you against him. Who is better? He should be playing, he's not. Well, why would these three say you're better and these three say he's better. What about this big guy versus that big guy? What about if he was only doing this? Oh, he needs to play 30 minutes to show his game.
It's coming. Jay Bilas talked to them. If they can't get through to the players and break those guys down, they'll try to go to the parents. We have guys in here doing that, calling the parents and saying what do you think? To try to get that. It's all what we're going to have to deal with, and they know that. Jay Bilas' talk was really good.
Q. Earlier in the preseason I think it was on the website, you said that it could be a watershed moment, this season could be a watershed moment. What did you mean by that?
COACH CALIPARI: It's funny. FOX right now is doing a story how the 2010 team was a watershed year. What they're saying is by all those guys willing to come together and sacrifice, they all benefited and they continue to benefit. And it showed the country that what was happening has changed. I made the statement that it's the biggest moment in Kentucky and some of you went crazy. It gave you a chance to just go nuts, but you're seeing that that moment, that year, it did something that changed what we did here, and it did. Now I'm telling you, can you imagine if we do this, and all ten kids eat and benefit and really all 12, and we win? What do you say now? Like right now, you don't want to go there, they may not leave.
Why would you go there? These guys aren't leaving. Here, oh, what if you only play 20 minutes? It's okay. It's less pressure. It's not on me. It's on us. I can be a great teammate. I can improve my skills, and they all got drafted and they all won, and then ‑‑ so it's an issue now if this works. I'm on a mission to make this work for each of these kids.
Q. How are you feeling physically?
COACH CALIPARI: Very good. I just left the rotary and asked how many people had ever had their hip or knee replaced, and only three didn't raise their hand (laughing). I'm sleeping. People are looking and saying wow, you look great. You're refreshed. I'm sleeping for the first time. I don't have to sleep two hours a night.
But, again, what I'm doing is staying focused on these kids. Part of being focused on these kids is not the selfish, just this kid. It's how do I get them together to understand they need each other and if they'll all come together, if they'll keep away from the clutter and not buy into any of that stuff that's trying to break us down, we can do this. Is it going to be easy? No. How about this? Will there be bumps in the road? Oh, yeah. We probably in all likelihood are going to lose a couple games that you in here would say if he were only playing seven, we'd have won that game. The people in our state are fine if we lose games (laughing).
I have to be patient too and understand that's going to be part of the process. You cannot skip steps. Last year we started five freshmen. Halfway through the year and toward the end what happened in 2012 will never happen again. It's crazy. You look now. You can't do what he's doing. And then there was radio silence when the team started winning and winning and winning. I hate to tell you now. I went over to (former UK head) Coach (Joe B.) Hall, when I have a whip or a team's playing well I'll speak a little bit crazier. And I went over to Coach Hall and I said, Coach, how about all those people that jumped off the bandwagon? He looked around and he said I hate to tell you, I did too (laughing).
Q. Your championship team had several guys back who had been important players on a team that had made it close and come up short. What kind of impact does that have? How much do you think it affects the team next year? How much do you think it drives the guys that are back this year?
COACH CALIPARI: I’ll tell you something I did after the combine was over. I walked in and I said to the guys I am so proud of you guys. To have 90 people in that gym watching your every move that you cared about each other. You all helped yourself, and you made it about each other. You looked like a team in a short period of time. I can tell you right now, the anxiety you must have felt, all of that, I can't believe. What you just did is harder than playing in the national championship game. And Aaron and Andrew said, are you out of your mind? You know how hard that was? I said, well, maybe if we are lucky enough to do something it will be easier this year for you. But it just showed that what they did last year, they had said do you know how hard it was in that game, and we all saw. Five freshmen playing in a game like that and having a chance to win? Crazy.
Q. What is your perception of shoe branding in recruiting. The loyalty the players may or may not feel?
COACH CALIPARI: Now you know I've been doing this a long time, right? I'm like the old guy now. I used to be the young guy in the room, and now I'm the old guy in the room. I'm no longer the oldest coach in the SEC, I'm very happy to tell you, but I was last year. When I first got started, my team was in Reebok, and then my team went to LA Gear, and all I asked was please don't have us in the light‑up shoes. They were very heavy, but we wore them. Then my team went to Adidas. So I've had teams in Adidas.
When we went to Adidas, I was somewhere, and the guy looked at my shirt and it said Adidas. He said, ‘you're with Adidas, I didn't know that.’ And I said, ‘they don't know either that we're with them,’ and I've been with Nike. All I can tell you is it's not had an effect on how I've done the job.
I would even like to tell you I was with the P.F. Flyers, but you know I'm not that old to say that. I think I may have even been with Converse, really. So I'm not sure that it has that. I don't think it does. But you know, people have their opinions on it.
Q. Have you gotten any sense of the kids choosing schools based off apparel contracts?
COACH CALIPARI: I've had kids from all different teams play in all different shoes. I'm not, you know, I'm not feeling it, but I'm nuts.
Q. Does a great team have to have one guy that sort of takes the reigns that is the go‑to leader or go‑to guy at the end? Have you come close to finding that guy?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, here's what I would say. In a normal situation you'd like to have the best player on the court when the game is winding down in a close game. Your player, the one you have is better than anybody he has. That is obvious. But what we're doing right now is something that's never been done. I've never done it, and I'm telling you right now, I'll make some mistakes, I'll stub my toe. I'll try things that I look back and say why did I even try that. Will that matter when you're coming at them with so many guys? They did it different, but when Arkansas made that run in, was it '95? I don't believe they had the best player in the country and they made that run. You could even beg to differ in '96 when they were playing 9 and 10 here, was any of those players the best? They probably had four of the top 11 or 12 in the country, but did they have the best? I don't know.
Q. Does there need to be some collective leadership? You mentioned on ESPN it's going to be a long year if you’re dragging your team.
COACH CALIPARI: You guys that follow me know I try to empower my team and make it their team, not mine. The other side of it is I'm trying to teach all of these kids what it means to lead, and what it means to serve. So every player that leaves this program, if he's ever in a leadership position has something to draw back on. Now, does that mean I'll have 12 guys leading this team? No. Does that mean I only want one leading this team? I absolutely don't want one. What if he struggles. What if something happens? If he hits a spell and he's down. You step back, you're fine.
You want to have probably four different guys that can drag this team at some point or another, and that will play out. Look, it can be young guys. It can be a freshman too now.
Q. Coach, could you talk about Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis and how they've changed since last year?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, they're so much better. Dominique, right now, if you leave Dominique open, like last year, they left him open. It wasn't if he was open. Oh, he was open, they weren't guarding him, and he knew it. Now, if you leave him open, he makes shots. You look at Derek Willis. He's gained 20 pounds. They're playing three-on-three, and I think he's with Andrew, and Andrew keeps creating the 3 for him, and they're like one of the best three on three teams. They've got a big guy, and if you help in a pick‑and‑roll and iso, he's throwing a skip pass to that kid and Derek's nailing it. So they have gotten way better.
I think, again, as we put this thing together, they also deserve to be in some sort of rotation. So how do you do it? We're still trying to figure all that stuff out.
Q. I think you'd agree there are really outsized expectations for this group, like several of your groups. I wonder if you've learned anything from last year's experience that might help in dealing with that? What do you think about those kinds of expectations?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, last years’ experience, again, I'd never been through starting five freshmen. I don't know of many people (Who have). So there were things that we went through that it took time. This year it's more the outside influences that will affect these guys and how strong they are. I tell you, I'll give you an example. We play a bad game or two and things were going a little south. Will they stay together like last year's team? Last year's team never wavered. They just knew they weren't ready. They were good kids who had talent, and eventually they got it. They made us all happy. Maybe not all of you, but most of you, they made you happy because of how they finished the year.
So I'm not ‑‑ the only expectations I have, again making this work for all these kids. If we do that, they'll drag this where it's supposed to go. They'll drag it. Last year's team dragged it, 2012 dragged it. Even that first team that was not an execution team in 2010, if we didn't shoot 0 for 20, we'd probably have been playing the last day of the year that year, too.
Q. How and when did this notion of platoons first come to you? How much did you have to convince yourself, yeah, we can do this?
COACH CALIPARI: As soon as the twins said we're coming back, I went, oh, my gosh. What am I going to do? Then I had to call the freshmen parents and those kids to tell them I've got your back. You just keep training. This is going to work.
So, again, what else would you do? All right. I'm playing eight. Who are the two you're leaving out? I also didn't want to do anything that would hurt ‑‑ it's almost like you have a classroom and you're playing to the C‑student. No, you play to the A‑student, and make the C-students chase the As, and maybe they become Bs, because they were chasing As. You don't want your As to become Bs because they're going down to the Cs.
I'll say it again the easiest way. It's not communism. We want greatness. We want those guys to strive for greatness. I couldn't think of any other way of doing it other than let's do it.
Then we had to do the trip. The trip, we put that trip together within a month, didn't we? A month before we left we put it together. Would you say?
Q. Could you have done this this year without this happening in your fourth year?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, what I'm going to try to promote right now is I think we should, because it's good for the kids, there should be two summer trips every four years. Why not? Why? What's the negative? Now we all can do it. There are 90 of us. We're all the same. You can take two trips or don't. Don't take any. But why take away from these kids educational experience of being on the road, traveling together, coming together as a team, learning about each other, kind of like spring football. Why would you say no? So that's my new challenge. We're now allowed to feed these guys. Let's make two trips out of four.
Q. What's been your early impression of Devin (Booker) and the way he's playing?
COACH CALIPARI: He's really helped himself. Really helped himself. Not only his shooting, physically, athletically, he's been good. He's been shooting the ball well. He's got to get it off a little quicker, so he's been working on that. But when he shoots it, we all think it's going in.
Q. Every time we bring up the twins, we always say the twins. They almost become one person. Have you ever considered playing them apart maybe in one of the platoons?
COACH CALIPARI: Here's what just happened. First of all, I go out to dinner, and each night of the combine I went out with a different group because I wanted to talk to them about what they saw, an NBA group. One of the guys said I hate to tell you, how do you tell the twins apart? He said I said “two, Andrew”, “two, Andrew” to get myself to know because I can't tell.
The problem is all of you couldn't tell them apart, so if one played bad, they both played bad. Even though one played really well and the other played bad, you don't know which one. They played bad. He reminded me of that.
The second thing is when we were in the combine, and I split them up, I told them I was going to do that. I didn't want any NBA team thinking you've got to draft both or don't draft either. So, yes, I want them to play apart so that their value is what it is. To be honest with you, they did pretty good. They did good, and both teams did good, and I told them that.
I'm not locked into you two having to play together. If I had my druthers I'd rather you play together, but I'm not totally locked into that. I told them. I know you two. Now I'll split you up and you'll play like crap so that I've got to play you together.
Q. What was the most surprising piece of feedback you got about a player from that whole combine process?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the two guys that they had not seen, Trey (Lyles) and Devin (Booker), they all like Karl (Towns). They were so impressed with Willie (Cauley-Stein), all the agility stuff and the feet and all the other things. They looked at the twins, and we did drills so you could see their speed and they were stunned and looked at their body, and I go back to Alex (Poythress). The only thing that they said, Alex would never be coached the way you're coaching him, which is to encourage him, to pick him up, to do this. When he comes to our league, they don't coach you that way. Either you go do it, or someone else does it, and the players on the team are trying to get your minutes, so they're not encouraging you. You've got to do it yourself.
It was a great thing that I could sit down with him and say, you understand you have to build your own swagger. No one else can do it. No one here is holding you back, but you've got to go for it.
He's such a great kid. You think about him and how he's been. But Marcus Lee, I mean, they all helped themselves. Every one of them helped themselves.
Q. Cal, you’re looking to speeding up on defense and pressure and stuff like that. I haven't heard you say anything about that. Is there still consideration of that?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, but what's happened right now, we're playing fast. I'm trying to get them to play fast and play with poise. In other words, there is nothing there how we're playing now. The second thing, defensively we want to pick up every possession and play even if it's straight man. Why? Because if you want to come in the lane and try to beat us down on the dribble, fine. We don't want to give up 3s. We want to make sure you're scoring within the 3‑point line. Thinking you're not going to get all the way to the rim, but we're working on all those break downs. The second thing is guys don't get off the floor.
So I can't practice two hours and 15 minutes and running and pressing and going nuts because we all know if you want to win a national title, you want to compete at that level, your half-court offense, and your half-court defense is going to be how you do it. Not that you press and you do all the crazy stuff, because you're going to get to the tournament and timeouts are like five minutes, so no one's going to get tired. The second thing is you're going to play against a team that will not let you speed them up.
So how are you going to play in the half court defensively and offensively, and we're working on that right now.
Q. Has the new hip allowed you to work on a Matthew Mitchell‑type dance routine for tomorrow night’s Big Blue Madness?
COACH CALIPARI: No, no. Matthew, no. Matthew has his niche there, and I don't want to infringe on his niche.
Q. Are you sure you're going to play Andrew and Tyler apart on platoon?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, tell me who you think my best five free‑throw shooters would be? Who are the best big guy free‑throw shooters? Karl (Towns), Trey (Lyles). Who are the best three guard free‑throw shooters? Now, if I'm not comfortable with that, I could change it. We could go with a fourth and say Devin, you're in too and one of those bigs are out. Because, again, let's just say, you got a little 5'9" guy, you're going 6'5", 6'6", 6'6", 6'6", 7', 6'10". Other than NBA teams, that's a big team, and that's our small team.
Q. At the end of a close game, how much does Tyler's frenetic defense matter?
COACH CALIPARI: Don't know yet. We'll have to see. We put him in down there and he missed a 3, missed a free throw. So when he was in that situation, that's what happened. Now the other day I made him shoot a free throw in front of his team for us to get off the court, and he made it.
So you don't know until they're thrown into these situations. Same with Trey (Lyles), same with Karl (Towns), let them be in these situations and they'll play their way through it.
Q. How do you let Willie be Willie and still keep him in the team concept?
COACH CALIPARI: Willie's been fine. Willie's just got to stay connected with these players. You've got to do it within. I talked to you guys the last time. There is a circle of our players. You have to be in that circle to lead and be a part of something. If you're not, you're outside the circle, you're never going to lead, and you're never going to be a part of what we're doing. That means you don't have to be attached at the hip, but you must be in the circle.
So Willie, I don't want to take away from what he is. I'm not trying to tell him you've got to be this. I told him, you're painting your hair, you better play well. You want to do all the stuff you're doing, all I'm telling you is you better play well. I'm not going to tell you not to do it. You are who you are. You want to be your own self, that's fine. But there are things you're going to do that will bring more attention to anything other than basketball in your mind, but it just brings more to how you're playing, more attention.
So hopefully with him, he's been great. I mean, his shooting is better. They were amazed at how he shot the ball. But, you know, he still plays too fast. He still plays out of balance some, but it's nice to have a guy that can guard a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on the court. We have a couple guys like that. I'm not sure Karl and Dakari, but both of those guys have worked on moving their feet.
We're trying to play pick‑and‑roll different. Teaching it different. I have people say why would you teach different? You guys are great in pick‑and‑roll. Because the game is changing a little bit, and how we're doing it is changing a little bit.
Q. How good can Karl (Towns) be? And what does he need to do to be as good as he can be?
COACH CALIPARI: Karl is established, like some of the great players that I've coached here. He's established. Now because of what's happened to this point, okay, he's established himself. The best players ‑‑ I'll give you an example, like an Anthony (Davis). He had one question. How do I make the team better? What do I have to do to help the team win? Which means all the ego stuff has to be out the window. If you're worried about touches, minutes, and shots, you will never be the true player you can be.
That's a hard one now. Again, the clutter. Needs it more, touch it more, shoot it more. No, no. How do I help this team win? How do I have an impact on this game? That was Anthony Davis. And he turned out all right, and it's a great lesson for all these guys, or Michael Kidd‑Gilchrist. I'm going to play so hard, compete at such a high level.
The good news is everyone I talked to in the NBA said we don't need 35 minutes to know if a kid can play. In 20 minutes, we're fine. The question is do you play to your strengths. Do I do what I do? And that's what we're going to try to do. How do we get him, again? Be the best teammate you've ever been, which means you have to think more about everybody else than you've ever thought, which means you've got to talk. They don't talk right now.
Dakari said to me, because I've said to each individual, why aren't we talking more? Dakari says I don't know. Because we talk at dinner, we talk when we're hanging out, we talk, and then we get on the court and we don't talk. You're not talking, because who are you thinking about? You, yourself. How you feel. What just happened, what is the next play, versus how do I help the people around me? What do I do to help him? Well, I'm going to talk to him then. So that is the issue for us on the court.
These are great kids. Look, I knew last year would flip around. I knew it. I told them. We've got talented players who are good kids. This group is just ‑‑ these kids are the greatest kids that I've coached, a great group. Every one of them wants to be coached, wants to be challenged, wants to be taken to another level.
They're not here to just show us what they do. They care about one another. They're comfortable in their own skin. But we're doing something that's never been done in college basketball in trying to make it work at Kentucky, not at a place you can stub your toe five times and it will be fine. Under this glowing light that's this, and while each kid is trying to attain their own goals within this, because they have that ability, and I don't blame them and I don't blame their parents for being concerned that way. I would expect it, and we're trying to do this. Going to be hard. It's going to be a process. It's going to be a step at a time.
Some of you will jump off the bandwagon right away. Some of you may have jumped off already. Some of you may hope to jump off. Okay. Stuff like that happens. But all I'm doing is coaching these guys, worrying about them, they'll worry about each other.
Q. The autograph scandal that's occurred in college football, and you having such a high‑profile team?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't sell my autographs.
Q. Have you had a heightened awareness?
COACH CALIPARI: I could sell my autographs, just so you know. Seriously. No, go ahead. What was that?
Q. Is there a heightened awareness now because of all these things that have occurred?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, if you followed, there are things that go on other campuses that absolutely cannot go on here. Just can't. They'll make a 30-for-30 movie of it. I'll be called in front of a congressional hearing, forget about NCAA. I'll be talking to John McCain about what happened.
We're held to a different standard here, and that's fine. The other side of it is 19 of these kids have gotten drafted, and that number in the next three years may be 32, 33, 34. Okay, now you're going to be under a spotlight. If you think this happens and you just do what you want to do, you cannot come here.
If you want to drink, smoke, chase, do all that, you can't do it here. You just can't. If you choose to do that, don't come here. I tell every recruit the same thing. This is a different animal. What goes on over there cannot go on here. It can't. We're at Kentucky.
So all that stuff, our kids ‑‑ and I'm not saying that they don't do stupid things. Great kids do stupid things. My children have done some of the stupidest like, where did you come from? You had to be from the milkman or something. There is no way you came ‑‑ why would you do that?
They're stupid. They do stupid things. They're 18, 19. But at the end of the day, I think these kids understand here that there are things that if that's there and no one will know, they know. There are no secrets in this program. There are no secrets in this athletic department. There just are not.
#00 Marcus Lee, Soph., F
“It was real fun. You get to see all the different players run really fast. We saw Devin Booker running and we didn’t really know he could run that fast so we all got surprised at that. We actually got to see how high Willie can jump compared to me and Alex. And then there’s Dom who just killed us all with a 46-inch vertical and we were like, ‘Okay we don’t want to jump anymore because Dom’s just killing us.’ It was real cool to see us all compete in something different than just basketball. You get to do everything, so I was able to see how high I can actually jump from seeing off the top of the backboard and how it converts basketball wise.”
“I’m just always trying to make strides from the last game that we had and I knew that the most important thing was to develop a jump shot so that the bigs actually play me. So that’s something I really strived on. You saw when we went to the Bahamas that’s something that I became more confident in and since we’ve been back I’ve just been trying to get an outside shot and game going.”
“I know I can play at this level and I just wanted to help my team as much as possible so that’s what I just tried to do. I applied what I knew I could do to whatever I had to do to help my team win. Moments were great. I wouldn’t say my confidence has gone up just because of those games, but my confidence went up when I saw that my team had confidence in me. That’s what they showed even before the game.”
“With most of our team being sophomores, we’re definitely more relaxed because we know what’s going to come up next and we know how to deal with it. Being a freshman, we can say we weren’t terrified of it, but we didn’t really know what was going on. I can’t say that the freshmen have the “Deer in the headlights look.” They’ve gone through games already, been to the Bahamas and I feel they’re ready for this.”
“We have to stick together this year more than anything and if there’s hype or not, we’re Kentucky so most of the time there is hype, we just look how to stick together and just deal with everything together.”
“Just practice and competing. That’s what’s most important with such a good team. Practice is going to be tough competition for us, so I just have to compete each and every day.”
“That’s a tough one. I’d have to say the twins. Going into practices, they compete. That’s what you want. They go hard each and every day and that’s what you want.”
“I just had to adjust to the college game and I feel I’ve adjusted fine. I just couldn’t make a shot. I guess it was just confidence in my shot. Now I feel like I’ve got my swagger back or whatever they say so I think I’ll be good. My dad and I have talked a little bit. He told me to just stay in there and keep doing what I’m doing and stay focused.”
“I’d say competing against Aaron each and everyday. You know he’s a great player and he comes to play every single day and it brings the best out in me. Alex has helped me out a lot with the college game, how it differs from high school and how the defense is.”
“I think it’s because at the beginning of the year we’re trying to get more comfortable with each other. I feel like when we get to know each other better, even though we do know each other well, it’ll make it easier for us to talk and tell each other what to do on the court. When you first get here, you’re a little nervous and don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, but we come together as a brotherhood so it’ll be easier for us to talk.”
“It’s been drilled in a lot. Cal stresses that a lot, getting back on defense. We’ve been doing defensive drills all week and I feel that it’s going to help us a lot. You have to focus on both sides of the court. You can’t just be a one-dimensional player. That’s what the college game will force you to do because if you’re not playing defense then there’s better players out there that will expose you.
“The speed of the game and the pace is a lot different from high school. Bigger players, faster players, more athletic players so at the end of the day it’s just an adjustment. I feel will it help us practicing against the guys we are.”
“We bring back a lot of energy from last year and experience. Going through that tournament, playing a lot of rough games, a lot of tough losses, I think we can just help the younger guys. I think that we can’t let the tough games and tough plays break us down this year. We know there’s going to be tough games and tough times and that have to fight through it. We can get through them if we stick together.”
“I just stopped the late night snacks and just was smart about what I eat. I feel a lot better. It feels easier to just walk around and like a different person. My legs recover a lot faster now and I feel a lot better.”
“They all surprise me just coming in and being so mature on the floor and being able to take criticism as coach gives it and taking strides to get better.”
“I think about it everyday, but coming into practice we’re just trying to get better. That’s a long way off and we’re a long way away from that. We just come in and take it a day at a time.”
“I see they’re going to buy in because of the way they see that Coach actually cares about us, wants the best for us, and wants to win. Not many people care about you as much as Coach does so once you see someone that cares about you so much, you want buy into what he does.”
“It’s great. Throwing lobs, working on my game in practices. I’m never going to play against a team bigger than them so it’s great for me and helps me a lot.”
“I figured out I can’t go in there like I could in high school. I just pull up or shoot the floater. You know, just try to be a little crafty and dribble the ball and pick my spots.”
“It’s important because as a team, we have to understand that if a guy’s doing well, then he has to be in there. For example, if Andrew’s in and it’s my turn to rotate in and he’s playing well, then I should understand that he needs to be in the game. Andrew and I haven’t played together much, but I feel like if we get on the same team then we could play together. It’ll be an adjustment. We both can play the same position and get in the lane.”
“Practice has been great. I feel like I’m getting better everyday playing against Andrew. It’s teaching me how to play against a bigger stronger guard and I won’t have as many problems playing against other guards.”
“I feel like this is where I need to be. I love this school. It’s the best place for me and it’s going to get me where I need to be.”
“I don’t feel like a day will come where nobody’s going to say a word to me about my height. I’m short. I’m always going to be short so that question’s always going to be out there. When you realize people saying your short doesn’t matter, kind of like other peoples opinions don’t really matter to the game of basketball as long as you come out here and do your job, it just doesn’t bother you.”
#5, Andrew Harrison, Soph., G
On Tyler Ulis contributions to the team …
“It’s fun. We push each other, and we’re making each other better. He really picks up the ball full-court, he’s great defensively.”
On how he has improved since last year …
“I dropped a couple pounds. I feel like I’m lighter on feet, can jump higher and move faster. I feel like I understand the game better and I’m more comfortable on the court.”
On what he has learned about himself since last year …
“I enjoy my teammates and hopefully they enjoy me. As a point guard you really can’t play angry. You have to play within your team. I feel like I made that mistake last year trying to prove some stuff, but as a point guard you can’t play angry. You have to play determined. You can’t play angry, like I have to score or I have to play like this, you have to play within the team.”
On being a leader …
“I’m trying to be more vocal. I’m trying to lead every drill, go the hardest every drill. Hopefully I succeed in doing that … We know that you can’t play your best every night. But when you know you have such a surplus of talent on your team you know anything can happen. Anybody can have 20 points at any moment of the game.”
On playing in the platoon system …
“We all came as a team, and we really agreed with it. We really liked it. At the end of the day we’re all here to just try to do everything we can to try to win as many games as possible.”
On being compared to Anthony Davis in terms of mentality …
“Whatever I have to do for the team will come easy. We are going to have a lot of road blocks this year. We are going to have lot of challenges, but we have a great team, we have veterans. For me especially with Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress we have some great leaders who can make my transition to be the best player I can be for this team a lot easier.”
On playing on the Dominican Republic National Team …
“I think the Dominican Team being in my resume has helped me build my confidence tremendously. I’ve been able to do a lot of things I never thought I could do in my career so far. I just thank god for that. A lot of work, being able to be a lot better presence in the post has definitely changed my game. It’s made me even more versatile. Always had a jump-shot, always could dribble the ball, but things like that make the game a lot easier, when you’re able to add assets to you game. Coach Calipari and Coach Payne have helped me blossom a lot more, and I think I’m going to be blossoming a lot more this year too.”
On having a lot of experiences early in his UK career …
“It’s just been great. We have such a great group of guys that these trips have been just amazing, just so fun. It’s funny because I’m laughing because it brings back so many memories of things we did in The Bahamas that it just makes my time here so memorable. We still have the whole season to play.”
#13, Sam Malone, Sr., G
On expectations for the season …
“I think the goals are clear, to be the best team we can be by the end of the year. We just work every day at it. The season has gone great so far. I don’t think we’ve had a bad practice yet. I think they’ve all been great. Guys are getting along on and off the court. We just have to communicate a lot better and that will come in time.”
On what has changed over his four years at UK …
“I don’t think much has changed. Coach every year will coach with the personnel he has, but the way he goes about it is pretty much the same.”
On his personal growth at Kentucky …
“I’ve grown up a lot here. I’ve learned a lot about basketball. I learned a lot both on and off the court. I’ve made some great relationships with some really awesome guys and I have some really awesome friends from it.”
On his academic success …
“I just figured if I was going to be here doing this I might as well go all out. I might as well do my best both on the court and academically to help the team out in whatever way I can. I’ve put in a lot of work over the past few years and it has paid off.”
#15 Willie Cauley-Stein, Jr., F
“Well, for me, Alex, and the other guys that came back, 40-0 is not realistic. The freshmen came in and it was kind of funny because after the season we asked them ‘did y’all really believe that we would go 40-0?’ and they were like ‘honest to god we thought so!’ and so I was like y’all really thought that, like that’s crazy.”
“It’s still the same. It’s not going to be easy because you are going to get everybody’s best every game especially this year. There is not going to be one easy game, it doesn’t matter who we are playing, their players are going to be automatically jacked to play us.”
“It’s kind of the same stuff. Super athletic, runs the floor well, skilled but doesn’t really know what to do with it. It’s the same stuff but I don’t really take it to heart. I just get in the gym and build off of the things that I need to improve on.”
“If I was a new guy coming in I would be super star struck by it, but being here, that’s what it is. That’s what it’s about being here.”
#22 Alex Poythress, Jr., F
“I think everyone on the team thinks it can work, we have bought into it so I think it will work fine.”
“It helps to play games before the season. You get adjusted to college basketball a little bit, the speed, how people play.”
“We are trying to take it one step at a time. I can’t say that yet, I will let you know after the season.”
“They’re different, because this year, we have a little bit more depth and a lot of people coming back. Last year we relied heavily on freshmen, so it’s a little bit different, but hopefully we have the similar result and good fun doing it.”
“Good so far, this is the earliest we have practiced in my four years, so we’re getting off to a quicker start than usual, so pretty good so far.”
Just trying to be the best teammate that I can be, help everyone out as much as I can
“For sure, that’s how we want practice to be and if it’s not highly competitive then we haven’t got anything out of it. We just want people to kill each other and if someone kills you one day, you have to come back the next day and get them back or you’ll lose your spot and you’re going to lose minutes, that’s how it is here.”
“This place is different than anywhere else clearly having grown up watching Kentucky basketball my whole life, I was just like wow the fans are insane, they’re just very loyal and if you want to play here it takes a lot out of you.”
“They seem fine’ they’re fairly comfortable around people I think they’re still eating it up like honestly it’s kind of hard coming in like an eighteen year old kid and these people like hey, let’s take a picture so it’s really cool.”
“I was really irritated it was probably like one of the worst weekends of last year. I don’t know who put it out or whatever, it was really stupid of them to do that. They never contacted me they never contacted any of the coaches here or like my parents and it was very ignorant of them to do that and that’s all I have to say.”
“Everyone knows I can shoot, I gained weight, I gained about 20 pounds, since last year, so that’s definitely helping, I don’t know. Everyone has their little role that you do and you know for us this summer in the Bahamas it was just like bringing energy and getting the game going and if that’s what we’ve got to do then that’s what we’ll do.”
#41 Trey Lyles, Fr. F
On his health …
“I’m doing good, I’m back to practicing 100% and no restrictions, so I’m good.
“I realize how special it is to myself and that I realize that it can be taken away at any time so I just take advantage of that at all times.”
“I think it would be a great idea because you know we have got four guys on the team that could play and coach is going to use us to the best of our abilities and you know, when one team gets tired, he puts in five more, and you know its fresh legs going out there.”
“It’s a lot different, high school is a lot different than college because you know there’s more guys on the team that could play more and coach is going to make it work for all of us.”
“It was amazing you know. One group came out and there was no let down from the second group, just another wave of the team. We really just tired other teams down and got their legs tired and just beat them through that.”
“It’s definitely a competition. At practices, coach switches up the teams and we go hard on each other cause we want to make each other better and whatever coach thinks is a good group to play together is who he’s going to put out there.”
#44 Dakari Johnson, Soph., C
On how his weight loss has helped his game …
“It changes a lot. It means I can run up and down the court better and it just feels like I’m light on my feet.”
“Yeah you know it’s a good system and it gives a lot of guys the chance to take moves and go all out there.”
“Yeah it does help everybody buy in, just they can go all out when they’re in there and know that they have a guy to back them up when it’s enough.”
“Yeah, a little bit. But in the Bahamas it worked perfectly fine. When you’re out there, you can go all out in the minutes that you get and knowing that you have a back-up so you can go all out is a good feeling.”
“A little, I’m kind of surprised. Over the summer, I just worked really hard and ate the right foods, just trying really hard to get my body to where I’m in the tip top shape I can be.”
“When I came in last year I was 275, now I’m down to 255.”