With the Breeder’s Cup in Lexington, a football rivalry game and Halloween on Saturday, the tip-off of the basketball season has not gotten as much buzz as usual.
Despite the lack of zeal from Kentucky Wildcats fans, assistant coach John Robic sounded anxious in this afternoon’s press conference for Monday’s exhibition game against Ottawa, an NAIA school located in Kansas.
"It’s about that time", said Robic about the game", "We’ve been going since October 3rd or 4th for the most part. It’ll be good for us as coaches to see the entire team on one bench and see the flow of the game with substitutions, who’s playing well with who as opposed to really just going at each other every day in practice. I think Monday and the following exhibition game will be really helpful for us."
Robic quickly pointed out that though the game against the Braves is an exhibition the coaching staff believes the game has value.
"As coaches I think you have to take something out of every practice, every game, whether it’s something we’re doing well or it’s something we’re not doing very well at all because you just can’t waste a day that way."
Free-throw shooting has been a kink in the Wildcat’s armor the past few seasons and the team’s combined 13-for-30 performance at the charity stripe during the Blue-White scrimmage did not inspire a lot of confidence in this team’s ability to at the line. Robic pointed out that the issue during the scrimmage was the team getting used to shooting at Rupp Arena as opposed to the Craft Center.
"The difference between our practice gym and Rupp is depth perception."
He added that the players are required to make up to 500 free throws a week but that he thinks free throwing shooting will be an afterthought since it is so early in the season.
The pre-season hype is ratcheting up for freshmen center Skal Labissiere and expectations are high for the talented Haitian.
"He’s really skilled, wants to be coached, wants to be better and is getting better. The coaches’ big thing is that we’ve got to get him to fight a little bit more and be a little bit more aggressive. And that’ll come over time", said Robic on Labissiere
Australian import Isaac Humphries flashed signs of his potential as a player during the Blue-White game and Robic stated that the staff is excited to see what he can do as the season progresses.
"He’s getting better and better. He’s getting in better shape, starting to battle, doing more things than just shooting the ball. Rebounding the ball well in practice and puts up good numbers. Defensively, after seeing on film what he needed to see, he’s starting to defend pick-and-roll better, which is going to be an important thing in how we defend. Again, it’ll be good to see him play in shorter spurts. Those kids all played 40 minutes the other night and they got tired, especially the bigger players. So it’ll be interesting to see if the production goes up."
Another player who had a tremendous game during the scrimmage was senior forward Alex Poythress, who played as if his knee was not bothering him at all.
"His confidence has grown. He makes those plays and doesn’t even think about it. The big thing that Coach (Calipari) is telling him is to just trust it. There are times where his explosiveness is there. You just forget how big he is. Having another big player on the court is really beneficial to us. He’ll get there. I couldn’t even give you a percentage of what he is right now. It’s nice to see him do the things that he used to do", said Robic.