Friday night was a fun one for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Between the 204 points scored, Malik Monk’s highlight-reel dunk, or the war between De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe, this felt like more than ‘just’ a scrimmage. It felt like a preview of a lot of fun this season, but there is still plenty of work to do in order to make that reality.
After the game, head coach John Calipari talked about the game, who stood out, who he is expecting more out of, and some positive injury updates on Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard.
Here is a recap of everything Calipari said following the game, courtesy of UK Athletics.
You talked a lot about how good a defensive team this could be. What have you still seen that makes you think that?
“We really guarded on the ball really good. It all starts right there. You have De’Aaron Fox, you have Dom (Hawkins), you have Malik (Monk), you have Isaiah (Briscoe). They can all guard the ball, which means you’re not getting broken down, having to rotate.
“Now Derek (Willis) is better, Wenyen (Gabriel) is really active and long and can block shots. We got to get Sacha (Killeya-Jones), Isaac (Humphries) and Bam (Adebayo) in that back line to play pick-and-roll better, taking away drives. I told them at halftime, “You can’t let Isaiah just get to the rim. Make him make a pass, make him throw it.” And they didn’t.
“But that’s OK. It was what it was. Turnovers-assists were about even. For this kind of game, the turnovers were based more on a racing mind than anything else. I think we’ll be all right.”
You have three guards but all three have different skill sets. How is that going to help your team?
“We got to figure it out. We haven’t played them all together. We’re going to start tomorrow. Will be the first day that I’ll play all three of those guys together. Had a great meeting with those three today.
“We got a lot to figure out. It’s going to be organic, as it always is here. We got to figure out different rotations, who plays better with whom. My guess is we would never be on the court without either Isaiah or De’Aaron.
“One of those two, and probably 20 minutes a game will be both of them. Then how do we play? You know, I love the fact that Isaiah is shooting the ball better, making free throws, shooting those better.
“But you saw the speed of De’Aaron Fox. One time he started walking. I said, “Go!” Second and a half he shot a layup. What just happened?
“Malik, getting better. He’s getting better. I love Wenyen’s energy. But we’ve got a lot to figure out right now.”
Can Dominique and Mychal (Mulder) play their way into the rotation?
“Yeah. Well, both of them? I hope they both play. But the advantage Dom has is he defends, he’s tough, he comes up with balls. He’s been in those games here.
“Mychal is way more consistent than he was a year ago. He wasn’t even bouncy last year. You get anxious. You can’t really jump. You see a more confident player this year. But we will see.”
You called timeout after the big dunk. What did you say to the other guys?
“No, I was trying to do something, again, we hadn’t done this year. I wanted to get Isaiah posting up on that 7-foot wing. I just wanted him to make plays and see if he can create shots.
“So we did it. Again, it’s hard when you had the lineup they had in there. That’s all I did.”
Fouls by the big guys, especially Sacha, sort of first game making the adjustment?
“Yeah, I mean, you had both Sacha and Bam. Bam fouled a bunch. A lot of it your hands were down. You can’t play that way. But here’s what’s great about being here. They just played in a scrimmage in front of 16,000, biggest crowd we’ve ever had in a Blue-White in the history of the school, on national television.
“Think about that. Think about the advantage of that. It’s not like the first game they go out, now they’re not used to this. We had Madness, and that’s in front of 22,000 because the stage took seats away.
“So it’s a big advantage. You’re not like a deer in the headlights. You’ve been seeing this. Bam still missed the first two free throws. Then you see him come back and make a couple jump shots, which he can do.
“It was all good. I was really pleased with Dom. I was pleased with Sacha. Defensively, again, we’ve got a long way to go. But work starts tomorrow. Believe me, I was more concerned about tomorrow’s practice when those guys were getting hurt.
“They’re going to be able to practice, so I’m very happy. We can’t give up days. We just don’t have enough time.”
How many positions can Wenyen guard, do you think?
“Whew. He was guarding Bam, who is a beast. He was guarding the four. Derek is playing like a three. He was guarding that position. It’s his energy. And then he just has to be more confident.
“Again, 13 rebounds. He led us in rebounds. He and Derek both have 13. More confident. It’s us helping define what his offense looks like, if you know what I’m saying, so that he can just go play.
“I’m trying to get Malik–there’s a couple things he did today, c’mon. But he couldn’t help himself. But the majority of how he played is how we want him to play. Legs got tired. He missed some shots that he normally makes.
“Again, he goes 12 for 23. Pretty good.”
Wasn’t Wenyen guarding Isaiah too?
“And Bam guarded him, too. Bam can actively do it. But we got to figure out some defensive teams, how we’re going to play. What about a big lineup? Is Wenyen in the three? Are he and Derek in together some? Now you’re 6-9, 6-9 and a big guy. Now you’re really big. Do you play some zone with that team? You know.”
There’s been some questions about your outside shooting coming into the season. You showed you could make some open shots tonight. Were you pleased with how they shot the ball?
“Somebody mentioned about it. I’m not concerned much about that. I mean, I think we’ll be fine. What we wanted to do is shoot 35 percent collectively first night, lights on, tired, no subs. We shot about 35 percent between the two groups.
“We took 30 3s, 11 for 30. That’s 15 a team. That’s about right for us. Maybe 17, 18, but. Brad (Calipari) missed three of them, just so we can get that squared away (smiling).”
Speaking of Brad, it seems like he’s already a fan favorite. You could tell that they were sort of rooting for him to make every shot. How much of a relief is that, that he’s a good guy?
“I’m not worried about that. I want him to be able to go in and hold his own. He missed a couple shots. Just so you understand what happened, this team knows you cannot let him shoot it with his feet set.
“So they ran him off. He had to bounce it every time. Those are hard shots. I told the guys in the Blue team, I just said, ‘You did exactly how you got to play, but that’s my son, like give him a shot.’
“They’re like, ‘Nope, he’s bouncing the ball.’ He had that one turnover. I thought he got casual. Jonny (David) did well. Dillon (Pulliam) did well. I’m happy they were all able to get in and get some minutes and play.
Do you expect Isaac (Humphries) and Tai (Wynyard) to practice tomorrow?
“They told me Tai is going to practice starting Monday. We’ll be off Monday, but next week. Isaac could have gone today, but I just wanted to keep him out for a little while. I don’t know if we’ll do anything with him this weekend.
“His swelling is gone, but I don’t want him to do something that makes it swell again. Let’s get this thing totally cleared. It’s nothing spectacular. Obviously if there’s some swelling, there’s some issues that he’s got to deal with.”