COACH JOHN CALIPARI
Q. Talk about the way you feel Andrew (Harrison) played tonight and has basically played all season, basically compare back to this time last year.
JOHN CALIPARI: It was funny, I told him, he made passes to ‑‑ he had a shot, another guy had a shot, he was a better shooter than who he was passing it to. I said, you've got to shoot that; you've got to be down and ready and shoot it. And he looked at me and smiled, and he said, I'm a play maker. And I laughed back at him. I said, I understand ‑‑ you've just got to figure this out. You've got to know when you've got to score and you've got to know how you're creating shots for his teammates. Alex (Poythress) was sick today. You knew he was going to struggle. He hadn't practiced with us. He did a little bit yesterday. He struggled. But I thought everybody ‑‑ Marcus Lee struggled a little bit today. I don't understand what his deal was. But he struggled a little bit. But the other guys I thought really played. No one played 20 minutes, or Alex played 20 minutes and Tyler (Ulis) played 20 ‑‑ well, now I see Trey (Lyles) and Dakari (Johnson) played 20. But everybody ‑‑ they're sharing. The story, everybody wants to talk about defense, they all want to talk about the energy, the blocked shots and the length, and the story is you have 10 guys sharing minutes. That's the whole story in a nutshell. Why is that happening? Because they're allowing it to happen. Is anybody being hurt by this? No. Will their NCAA stats be as much as some other players? No. Their team NCAA stats will be way beyond most, and their efficiency stats, the big data stats, will be some of the best in the country. And that's how they're evaluated more than anything else.
Q. What's the difference in Devin Booker starting the year 1 of 11 from 3?
JOHN CALIPARI: Because he never defended this way. You have to understand, in high school he didn't guard. He was like the biggest guy on the team, so he never guarded the little guards, he never had to go play like this, so now he's playing, and absolutely running up and down, sprinting up the floor, staying in his stance, playing with great energy, and then trying to shoot a ball, and he was stepping in holes. He was bank missing shots like oh, my gosh, he bank missed that. Well, that's all he's getting used to it. Trey is getting used to playing guards out on the floor. Alex and he got to catch up. They've got to catch up. I mean, what I did today, I told the guys if anybody out there was not playing with great energy, you are allowed to sub him if he's at your spot. So if a guy didn't play, sub him. There's nobody giving away their minutes. You must respect that.
Q. Dakari shot free throws really well today. What did you think of that? Why do you think he ‑‑
JOHN CALIPARI: I don't know, you'll have to ask him, but I'm happy for him. He does want to play, and he knows I'm not playing him at the end of a game if he can't make free throws, so he's making them and now Karl(-Anthony Towns) is missing them.
Q. No player played over 21 minutes. Is that something that somebody on the bench keeps that stat or makes sure no one is getting too many minutes?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, I wanted Dom(inique Hawkins) and Derek (Willis) to get in there and gain some confidence. I left Alex in there because, again, it can't be me. They've got to build their own confidence, and that's in demonstrated performance. They've got to be out there doing it. Karl, I thought Karl played better today. Willie (Cauley-Stein) played okay, but why not be better? Why not be the best guy on the floor? But it's hard, you get up 40 on a team, it's hard.
Q. As you're building this team toward March, if push comes to shove, would you rather have your defense ahead of the offense or vice versa?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, the dribble drive, teaching dribble drive as an offense, even if we're running things into it, it gets them to guard the ball, and I think that gets us usually ahead defensively. But we didn't do any defensive teaching this summer. We didn't do any in the spring when the kids came back. We did it on October 3rd. We started talking defense. This team has a chance of being one of those teams you talk about defensively, like of all time, if they choose to be. But they're going to have to choose to be that. My job right now, and it's on me, is offensive execution. There you can say, well, they're getting a lot in transition. Well, if you guard, you're going to go get it versus anybody, but either way, you've got to be able to create a good shot and a good rebound opportunity each time down the court. We are so big, if we take great shots and we have opportunities with two and three guys around the basket, now with that defense, we become really tough. That's what makes the difference, I mean, when you're offensively really efficient, and we are right now, but still, we're not executing. We're really not.
Q. I'm speaking of Karl here. He had a double‑double in 17 minutes. How significant is that, and how difficult is that to do, get a double‑double in just 17 minutes regardless of ‑‑
JOHN CALIPARI: And he had four assists, no turnovers and three blocks and a steal. Was it the last game he was 1 for 4 from the field? Now, last game the white unit went nutty. Today the white unit didn't play as well. That's how these groups are going to feed off each other. If I need to take a guy out and he loses his minutes, you're going to lose them, and it's all based on effort or being ‑‑ playing tentative. You've got to go play. You're playing 20 minutes, 21 minutes, 22. You have to play. You've got to go. And if you're being tentative ‑‑ even if it's because of me you're being tentative, that doesn't matter, you're still not going to be in. You've got 20 minutes. See, the greatest thing is a lot of guys, I need some time to get going. How much? About seven minutes. Really? Yeah, I need about five shots, and then ‑‑ what? Well, those are players who don't play on winning teams or winning programs. These guys getting in and being ready, we haven't had great starts right now, but the other teams are pretty hyped up.
Q. That sharing you're talking about, how much credit do your point guards get for what's going on there, and also talk about Andrew (Harrison)'s defense a little bit this year.
JOHN CALIPARI: It's amazing, isn't it? I don't know ‑‑ we've got to get Aaron caught up to where Andrew is. The thing I added to Andrew's plate now that he's really pressuring the ball is I want him to be a defensive playmaker. Well, what a defensive playmaker does is either blocks shots or steals away from his man, not guarding his guy. What he does to the guy he's guarding is deflect balls. But he's never trying to steal from his own man. He's trying to deflect a pass. That's a play maker. It's when you're off the ball. And now you're seeing him be more alert, be more active, because he's trying to come up with ‑‑ he listens. He's trying to do what we're asking. And when I told him about shooting and he came back at me and laughed and said, I'm a playmaker. He had 11 points in 20 minutes or 18 or whatever he had. I mean, basically these guys are all scoring 18, 19 a game. That's their efficiencies.
Q. You've got guys, players, actively talking about wanting to be the best defensive team in the country. The goal was to not allow any points in the second half against a team. How do you get a whole group bought in that way, taking that sort of pride in their defense?
JOHN CALIPARI: Just tells a lot about who they are. I'll come back to this: In this day and age, every one of these kids has pro aspirations and pro potential, and they're draftable players, and they're doing this for each other. This is crazy. That's why I say, for anybody in our society, where everybody talks about the me and mine and narcissism and all that, why wouldn't you root for this to happen and be good? I don't understand why you wouldn't root for this? You're not rooting for Kentucky or me, okay. Short of that, why wouldn't you root for this? Most of us do care about society. Now Jerry (Tipton) is going to write that I think I'm changing society. I don't, Jerry, I'm just making a point that people should want to see this work.
Q. That would go over good on Good Morning America.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yes, it would.
Q. That was where you should have said it, not here.
JOHN CALIPARI: No, it went on the Today Show. Good Morning America cut us off, but Today Show ran with it.
Q. How much do you struggle or deal with the idea of trying to be as efficient as possible and really go for the throat with not humiliating the other team?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, the issue becomes, you know, I've got to worry about my team, and I'm sitting on the bench, and you want to say, okay, let's just don't play. Well, my guys aren't playing enough to do that. If you're only going to play 19, 20 minutes, do you really want to go in and not play? And then it's not like you're saying, okay, put your last five in. Well, those five are pretty good, too, and you throw Dominique in and Derek in and a couple ‑‑ you're still not bad. So I'm not ‑‑ if you've followed my career, I'm not one that tries to run up scores on people. I don't do it. But this is a unique situation, and all I'm doing is coaching my team. We're going to have to play games like we did with Kansas and Providence coming up and Texas, and we've got a Louisville game, we've got a North Carolina game, we've got a UCLA game, we've got hard games that we're going to have to play 40 minutes, so I can't come out in this game and say let's play 30 and let's stop playing. We've just got to finish it out, and I'm half the time rooting for them to make baskets.
Q. You guys had a prolonged stretch in the first half where you looked pretty good against the zone. Have you done anything with it in practice?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, the way they played, I watched last year's tape, and you had to attack them on the baseline, and that's what we did. So again, without a whole lot of practice, we show them the video, we talk about it, in the walk‑through I show them and then they come out and perform. This is a unique group because they're really intelligent kids, and they've got great hearts. The only reason this is happening is they're allowing it to happen, and this was not done for me to be a genius. This was done because we're trying to take care of 10 guys. Now, they must respect the minutes they're getting. If not, they're going to get less because the guy on the bench is just going to go in for him, say I'm not giving you minutes if you're not going to play. Compete. Quit being tentative. Play hard, or I'm going back in. They're not going to do it in a mean way, but they understand that. Today the one unit was really on the bench getting on each other because I took them out because we had two guys not playing, and they were like all over them, like come on, man, you're costing me minutes, too.
Q. Coach Cross said it was very possible you guys would go undefeated. How do you put up with the clutter from these opposing coaches?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you know, all this stuff, I say it again, Coach (Joe B.)Hall told me when I said the 100‑pound jacket, he said, coaches wear that 100‑pound jacket, too, and you've got to deal with all that same stuff. All I'm doing is focusing on this team. I'm focusing on individuals. What can I keep adding to their game. And then I'm looking at a team, how do we become a better execution team offensively, how do we continue to play with this kind of energy, and what other tweaks can we give the defense? What can we do, because folks, I'm going to have to keep this team engaged all year, and right now we're ahead defensively, so I need to start adding stuff, and even if it's little things to make them think so that they don't get into that rut of just hearing the buzz, Zzzzzz, like I'm making them think, I'm making them be engaged, those are the kind of things we're going to have to do as the year goes on.
Kentucky Student-Athletes#1, Devin Booker, G
“I wouldn’t say there was a difference. I didn’t change anything. They’re falling now. I guess there’s just not much to it. I’m shooting it all the same. It’s just going in now.”
“He told me I wasn’t accustomed to playing defense in the beginning. The defense in high school depended on the game, honestly. In high school you don’t always have to lock in defensively, but I’ve said that before in college you have to or you’ll get exposed out there. The talent level is higher so you have to play defense.”
“I wouldn’t say it just Cal getting us into it. It’s us getting us into it as a collective group. We just want to lock teams down and we take pride in it so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
“You just have to focus. You can’t really focus on the score. We’re playing for us. We want to play the best we can play and not worry what the other team is doing. We want to keep playing hard. The score will pan out how it is. The other team doesn’t really say anything. They just kept playing and I respect that. They keep playing hard and keep going at us, but we take pride in our defense in trying to stop teams.”
“It’s all a read or how your body is feeling. Towards the beginning of the game you want to get more involved in the paint area or get a free throw just to get your rhythm going. From there on out, if you’re feeling the three, then just keep shooting it.”
“Excited. It’ll be good for us playing a team that’s undefeated and we’ll be ready for it.”
“First half we came out with a lot of energy on defense. The offensive end responded well to the zone that they played against us and made it work. Most teams are going to play us zone now and try to make us shoot jump shots to get us away from posting the ball. If we go out there and play hard defensively then offense will work itself out.”
“Coach is into it, we’re into it and we’re into it for each other. So we go out there and try to play hard all the time.”
“It was much more difficult early on in the season, but going through it in practice Coach has been requesting it and wanting it from me. It makes me get down low and lock in with pressure on the ball.”
#12, Karl-Anthony Towns, F
“We did a good job, especially in the first half. We played great defense, and we executed offensively. In the second half, we slacked off a little bit defensively. We gave up too many points that should have been stopped. However, it was a great team effort.”
“We can be very dangerous. Our biggest opponent is ourselves. We have to stay strong mentally, and we need to continue to pray to the man upstairs that we stay healthy physically. If we can do that, we will look very good all season.”
“It is pretty difficult to do. You have to put in a lot of effort, but that is why we train so hard. The amount of training we put in makes it a lot easier. Since we know that we are all limited on minutes, it makes everyone put in full effort for every minute that we are given. I am mainly glad that I could offer quality minutes to my team today, not necessarily the double-double. It feels good to give my brothers a helping hand.”
“We are all so talented, so it is not about getting started. It is more about entering the game and playing the whole time with energy. Today, we played with a lot of energy in the first half. It all starts with energy, so if we can continue to do that, then everything will fall into place.”
“He has made a tremendous improvement from last year to this year, especially as a passing point guard. He drives the ball up the court so well and makes defenses have to think. He almost always makes the right decisions, and he has great vision on the court. He is a dual threat. He throws us lobs sometimes, but then he can step back and hit the jumper. Andrew and his brother are a deadly duo.”