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John Calipari talks Clarion, prepping for season, NBA Cats and more

Stony Brook v Kentucky Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sunday will mark the first time we see the 2016-17 Kentucky Wildcats in action vs a real opponent.

Clarion comes to Rupp Arena for the first of two exhibition games UK will play in over the next two weeks. The Golden Eagles are on deck first before UK hosts Asbury the following Sunday, then enter regular-season play on Nov. 11 vs Stephen F. Austin.

With so little time between now and the start of the new season, head coach John Calipari is pleased with what he’s seen of his team thus far, but knows there is still a lot of work to be done for this team to even begin to reach its full potential.

On Thursday, Calipari met with the media to discuss Clarion, prepping his team for the new season, and the performances of NBA Wildcats among other topics. Here is a recap of what he said, courtesy of UK Athletics.

On the statuses of Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard

“Isaac and Tai both practiced yesterday. Isaac just told me, ‘I’m 100 percent.’ My guess is they will both play”

On the setup of exhibitions

“I like the fact I can help Clarion, Asbury and Transylvania. We’ve done different schools within our state, and I’m happy we can do that. Sometimes I wish we had an exhibition season where we play whoever we want to play.

“Two teams get together and say, ‘Let’s go home-and-home, you play us here and we’ll play you there.’ You play two games and they’re exhibitions. We’ll play it that way. I don’t understand–if you want, they’ve got to be on a weekend and you can’t miss class. We can do all that.

“Again, I just think it would bring more excitement. But like I said, the ways the rules are right now, my concern is getting my team right and then who can we help and how do we help another program.”

On what the team needs to improve right now

“Playing harder and playing each possession the whole way through. We aren’t doing it right now. Playing within how you’re going to play to make yourself really look good and help our team.

“In other words, you’re trying to invent stuff right now. Don’t do that. Do these things that you know you do well. You worry about this type of game. I remember (playing) Christian Brothers at Memphis and we thought we’re going to go in and work on our stuff and we’re down 10 at half and win by five.

“These teams come in here, playing in front of a big crowd, and they get excited and they’re going to come after us.”

On playing Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk together

“It’s going OK. It’s going to be a work in progress but it’s going good.

On separating those three guards until now

We wanted them to go nose-to-nose against each other. We still break things down in practice where they have to go against each other because it elevates each of them. It brings out their competitive spirit, but eventually, like I said, we’re going to have to get to where they’re all out there together.”

On the battle between the guards

“It was good. They’re different, but it’s been really good. Their strengths don’t conflict so it’s good stuff.”

On letting Malik Monk go on the floor

“He’s probably going to attempt some shots, you know. If it’s off of one or two bounces I’m never going to say don’t take it. It may be in the shot clock or a time and score that I may say stop.

“I’m trying to get him to go to the basket more right now. Part of his deal is he can just jump over you and get a shot. Matter of fact, we’ve been looking at posting him and Isaiah Briscoe and they’ve both done well in the post.”

On how De’Aaron Fox has changed since he’s been here

“He’s getting better. He’s still got a ways to go. I want him to be aggressive. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. I told him, ‘I can always tell you when not to do something, but you’ve got to be more aggressive.

“Get in that lane, play faster, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be out of control. We’re also going to try some different combinations. People ask me who’s going to start and I don’t know. I really don’t know. We’ll figure it out today.

“They’re off tomorrow, which means I’ll have some time to think about how we’ll do it and what kind of rotation. I’ll tell you who’s been playing really well: Mychal Mulder has been shooting the (heck) out of the ball. Really shooting. Dom (Hawkins) has played.

“Dom goes against these guys and is getting mauled right now by Isaiah Briscoe, and if he’s not mauling him, then De’Aaron Fox is mauling him and he’s doing his thing. (Mulder) is making every shot right now.

“If you leave him open, it drives me crazy because we don’t like to give up 3s, but he’s making them.”

On Mychal Mulder looking for confident, bouncier and more active

“It’s usually what happens. That year is big. Part of it is playing here. The lights and all the stuff that goes with here kind of gets you on your heels. Then you’re everybody’s Super Bowl, which puts you on your heels.

“Then you start questioning them. It usually takes those kids a year. He’s doing well.”

On Coach Cal’s Clarion days and what he will tell his team about them

“I had a ball. My college coach (Joe DeGregorio) will be here. My high school coach (Bill Sacco), who went to Clarion, will be here. They’re going to bring down some alums and different things.

“A couple of the players too. I’ve been so busy but I called the other day and said, ‘Why don’t you invite all the guys that I played with and get them down here?’ That was only two days ago so I’m not sure if they were able to do it.”

On throwing the football at the SEC Nation pregame show

“It was really good, wasn’t it? Say that again, I didn’t hear it. Say it again.”

On if he practiced through the football beforehand

“No, I’m just naturally gifted. The 40-yard dart that I threw over the top which the kid caught, I don’t know who he was. But there was no way a lineman was going to beat me throwing the football.

“I mean, come on. I was mad that Tim Tebow didn’t throw. Come on. I asked him, ‘Why aren’t you throwing?’ He didn’t want any of this.”

On attending the MLB World Series

“It was cold. You don’t know who I am a fan of, but they saw me in a (Cleveland Indians) sweatshirt. Why did I have that sweatshirt on? Because I was freezing and I walked in and bought a sweatshirt and put it on.

“You won’t believe this, in Cleveland they sold no Cubs stuff. I couldn’t understand it [sarcasm]. Terry Francona was a heck of a basketball player. He was about 6-3 and a lefty shooting guard at New Brighton High School.

“(He) really could play. So, when I saw him in Boston – I didn’t get to see him on this trip – but when I saw him in Boston, I had a couple of my friends and I said, ‘I’m going to tell you how good of a basketball player he was.’ He said, ‘Stop right there.’ He got all of his assistants, all of the coaches to come in a room and, ‘Alright, say it now.’ I told how good he was.

“They’re all like, ‘Ah, you’re killing us. He’s been telling us how good he was at basketball. We don’t want to hear it.’ But, he really was a good basketball player. How about this? He does this in Boston and now Cleveland. I mean, come on now. It shows.

“And the greatest guy. I mean, literally if you met him you’d say, ‘What a neat guy this is.’ I’m happy for him. (I) like the Cubs (to win). I mean they were good last night now.”

On Anthony Davis scoring 50 points in the season opener of the NBA last night

“How about Michael Kidd-(Gilchrist) went for 22 (points) and 14 (rebounds)? How about Andrew Harrison started? I was so happy that I texted those guys. I didn’t text Anthony.

“He scored 50 and I’m like, ‘Yeah, you should.’ I hit Tyler (Ulis) who had a blocked shot. Are you kidding me? He said it was a steal that it wasn’t a block. I hit him back and he said, ‘I’m waiting for my chance.’ I said, ‘It’ll come.’

“I tried to hit Jamal (Murray) this morning because I know he went 1 for 8. I know him well enough and I was just trying to hit him but he didn’t have a voicemail so I’ll probably get him after.”

On the DeMarcus Cousins and Devin Booker scuffle

“Let me say this: It would be a scrap. Devin will not budge, and I imagine the little kid (Ulis) went out and bit his knee cap when it happened. Because those two are absolutely – that’s two boys right there.

“Those two are like two peas in a pod, those two. Look, we have so many guys that when I get in in the morning, you know what happens. I have a list of all of my guys and how they played, if they won.

“You know, I’ll hit a bunch of them. Some of them I just like knowing (how they did). I get them (those lists) every morning. Today the list was like this (shows with his hands the length of about 12 inches) with all of those games. It was like a long list.”