Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari held court today in front of the media because, well, because he can and there is always a clamoring for basketball around these parts.
Jason Marcum put the video up of the press conference earlier, so feel free to go back and check it out. This post is meant to get a little deeper into what Cal had to say at the press conference.
On the loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four ...
"First of all, I never thought we were going to lose last year. When we won a couple of games and how we won them, and then what we did to West Virginia, I just didn't think we'd lose. It hurts because we had a chance, and even though we made history, we had a chance to be one of those iconic teams.
- First of all, I agree with coach. I didn't think Kentucky was going to lose, and yet they did.
- I still think that this team will be looked upon as iconic as time separates us from them. Unfortunately, I think they will be seen as the greatest team to not win a championship. And that stings. Bad.
On why UK lost to Wisconsin ...
When we had a four-point lead with five minutes to go, Idon't think there was anybody in the universe that didn't think we were winning the game because we always did. It surprised me how we finished, but it happened. And you gotta give Wisconsin credit."
- I felt extremely comfortable at this juncture of the game. I felt the defense would clamp down, like they did against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU, and Notre Dame in previous games. But Sam Dekker hit some big shots and, of course, there was the basket that wasn't as the play clock expired.
- What Cal did not address here, and I wish he would have, was the total lack of offense down the stretch. Three straight shot clock violations are what eventually sunk the Cats. Old reliable in the middle, Karl-Anthony Towns, couldn't get free and the guards stumbled. It was extremely confusing and disheartening to watch. I'm not sure a loss along the way would have changed anything, but maybe a timeout would have helped the execution.
On looking forward to coaching without platooning ...
"That was hard last year. No. 1, I had never done it. And so there were all kinds of things we were dealing with, and not just on the basketball court. You're basically having to sell how we're doing this and how it's going to benefit each player.
- Ah, the Platoon. RIP.
- But in all seriousness, John Calipari will be more in his comfort zone this season with this roster. I envision a six-to-seven man rotation comprised primarily of Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Skal Labisierre, and Mychal Mulder.
- Other guys, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and Charles Matthews, will have the opportunity to earn playing time, but for now, I feel that they are not looking at big minutes. But more on some of those guys in a bit.
On Alex Poythress' rehab ...
"He sent me some videos. He was doing some box jumping, he's probably running at slow pace right now, but he's running, jumping, doing stuff. But obviously it takes time."
- Music to my ears. This team is going to need his hustle, athleticism, and his leadership.
- Calipari also talked about Poythress playing the three or the four. He said it's nice to have a guy that can play both. He also reminded everyone of the Bahamas where he played the three and played it very well. "Ridiculous" was the word he used.
On comparing the buildup to next season with his previous years at UK ...
"The other years we brought in some pretty good freshmen. We had some pretty good veterans and those were the teams that did well. When you talk about Tyler Ulis, everyone that talks to me about him says that they love him as a player. I was just with Steve Alford and he said, ‘I absolutely loved Ulis.' Alex is going to be back. Before he got injured, you had people telling us that he was going to have a monster year. You watch him. I've had more people come up to me and say that now is Marcus Lee's time to shine. He's ready for it. You also look at Dominique (Hawkins) and what he's been able to do. You have some veterans. Derek Wills, who now should not feel anxiety, but be able to come back and lead a group of young players who are pretty good."
- There is definitely a different feeling about this season compared to the previous two. This is a good recruiting class with a good base of returning players, but they aren't the meg-class or the blockbuster team that we are used to.
- Tyler Ulis is the key. He is the floor general that will dictate who does what on offense, he's going to set up Briscoe, who can score the ball as good as any guard in the country, and there will be lob opportunities for the athletic bigs. Ulis was also a bear on defense. Ask Chris Jones.
- Cal specifically called out Lee, Willis, and Hawkins. Will definitely need all three of them to bring their games to another level.
What does Mychal Mulder bring to the team ...
"The good news is he's played in a terrific program where there were other really good players he played with, yet he was still a First Team All-American. He can really shoot. Terrific athletically. We may press more.
- I think the addition of Mulder is going to have more an impact than people think. He has the JUCO stigma, which historically is understandable, but to hear Calipari talk about his athleticism makes me more confident that he can contribute even more than we may have previously thought.
- Cal also goes on to say in this quote that Charles Matthews is more of a slasher than Mulder. Mulder is more athletic, but Matthews may be tougher. I think both of these guys are going to be really good.
On his expectations and outlook for Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins ...
"It doesn't matter what I envision it's what they envision for themselves. And they've got to come in and do it. Which is why (I made) my comment don't come here not expecting to play this time. You expect to play. Then you make that happen. You fight for your spot. You improve your skills. ‘Well, if I just had more time.' No, then you'd be bad for more time. No, it isn't about more time. It's you earn your minutes.
- This year it's all on Hawkins and Willis. No more excuses. No more, "There are two NBA players ahead of me". Both of these guys are extremely talented and Kentucky will need both of them to contribute. I think Willis is key, especially if the Cats do not land a certain Canadian player that everyone wants.
Calipari also went on to say that this team can be crazy good if things come together like he wants. I concur. I think this team is going to as quick and athletic as any team in the country. It's going to be such a contrast from last season when Kentucky relied so heavily on big men. This time around, Calipari has a guard heavy squad and his big men aren't your traditional back-to-the-basket guys. They're big, they're very athletic, but they do need to add some bulk.
Unfortunately, we don't have a foreign trip this season to look forward to. Most of the freshmen will be on campus at the end of June except for Isaiah Briscoe. He may try out for the USA U19 team. Cal didn't sound thrilled about him going, citing that Julius Randle had the opportunity a few years ago and passed, but he said it was up to the individual player.
Now I'm going to put my toes up and eat some Cheetos.