The Kentucky Wildcats opened the exhibition season Sunday night with a 108-51 win over Clarion.
John Calipari’s alma mater was no match for his newest UK squad, which is already looking like a juggernaut in the making. The Cats still have plenty of work ahead to reach that level, but we’re already seeing glimpses of what it will look like once it comes.
Here is everything Calipari had to say following the game, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Q. On Malik Monk not starting:
“I wanted to — look, if I played those three together (Monk. De’Aaron Fox, and Isaiah Briscoe), the front line rotation was going to be screwed up. So I did what I did.”
Q. They played well together:
“Yeah, Isaac (Humphries) was out there — come on, Coach. Greg White called the first play of the game. It didn’t work. He called the lob.”
Q. Your friend, Coach Williams at Clarion, said the sky’s the limit, we’ll see these guys at the Final Four. Talking about you guys.
“It’s really early. I told them after, the one thing that I was happy about with Clarion, athletically, they could hang with us. They had speed enough to hang with us, they had quickness enough to hang with us, and they were physical.
“They weren’t as big, so we got a bunch of easy baskets. But I told my team, if we give up nine threes in a league game, we will lose. And you know we’re pretty — that’s our thing, we’re not giving up threes. They made nine threes. They had three out of bounds plays where they threw right by people for layups.
“So, and they weren’t afraid now. They played, they were talking, they, they’re — I was really looking at them saying, they were a little more athletic than when I played there, Coach D. We played a 1-3-1 and I played on the back line and I said, why am I back here? He said, because you don’t have to guard anybody. Just go guard the guy in the corner.”
Q. First time out, how well did they defend and get out in transition the way you guys wanted to play?
“We had 29 assists to 15 turns. So for the first time out of the gate — but you got Derek as a veteran, Dom is a veteran, Isaiah Briscoe — and Isaiah was outstanding. He was five assists, one turn at half, and I looked at it, I called him, I said, “Come here. Score the ball, man. You’re going to score the ball for us.
“If they go under pick and roll shoot it. If there’s an inside out three and you don’t take it.” He says, “I got you.” So he comes out in the second half and — I don’t see his numbers here, but he what did he have at half? One?
“Yeah, so he has 10 points in the second half and he, and in 22 minutes scores 11. I mean, he is the key to the team. And the greatest thing is it’s kind of like having John and Eric Bledsoe, you got 2-point guards with he and De’Aaron Fox.
“But it was — again, we got to defend better, we got to defend the three better. But I like, we were, we didn’t play — we ran our stuff. Now we didn’t run it all, we just, we really narrowed what we were going to do and limited, there were a couple things that we had been working on that I said we weren’t doing. We didn’t do anything on the out of bounds, really, so.”
Q. How quick do you want your team to get the ball down the court. You said at the coach’s clinic yesterday that within five seconds you would be fine if a shot went up?
“Well here’s what happened today and this is old school. We bypassed the point guard and threw it over his head up the court and that guy shot a layup or a dunk. So as I watched it I said, you know what, maybe we focus on that. If I can get it ahead, I’m throwing it to half court.
“If I can’t throw it to half court, I’ll get the point guard looping. Like he can loop. But if Isaiah or Malik are ahead, throw it right over the top to them. If that team runs wide and we loop, De’Aaron Fox has the middle of the court.
“I like the fact that they trapped us, I like the fact that they showed heart and trapped on some pick and rolls. It’s a hard matchup, we, what bothered me in the first four minutes, we didn’t post the ball.
“Come on. You can’t start a game shooting all jump shots. Post the ball. And as the game went on I thought we did a good job.”
Q. Clarion’s coach said his favorite was probably Wenyen Gabriel and he might be the best of them all. Why do you think he says that?
“Motor. Every coach likes a guy with a motor and the kid’s motor — I tell you who else is really good, Sacha. He’s really good. Wenyen, Derek, Isaac, you got those guys with size who can play fours and fives and threes.
“And you got those guards and they — Dom, I thought Dom was outstanding. Dom on the ball guarding and he went after one steal, gave up a basket or fronted or did something. But I thought that Dom was good today.”
Q. And then what was it like to sit there and hear the crowd roar, not once but twice, for your son?
“Well, I had my back to the first one and I kind of just turned and saw him shoot it and it went in and I was happy for him. And then the second one, which was kind of a lucky one, but he had the courage to try to shoot it. And I may even get a kiss from my wife tonight.”
Q. You talked a lot about your players. What Clarion player opened your eyes?
“Well, number 0 was making shots and threes, the little point guard is quick and fast and not afraid. And again, I don’t know all their names. Who is the kid making the layups? The White kid who was making the layups on us. Driving. Grumley. Not afraid to play.
“These are all seniors and juniors, they got a veteran kind of team. He was good. And then they fought. They weren’t afraid. I hope this was a great experience for them, that — it’s funny, I walk in this building and we’re playing an exhibition game, and I look in the upper deck and I’m like, these people are crazy.
“And only behind us, where there was some students, which we should sell the tickets, forget it, students you got to get here. But that was it. That was the only part of the building that had any emptiness.
“And for those kids to walk in and see it, I would hope they would say, this is what I live for, doing this in front of this many people. And sometimes we take it for granted here that — and let me say this to the Rupp Arena people and the group that — the scoreboard, the ribbon board, I mean, it’s like a new arena. Sounds different.
“Looks different. The videos. It’s like we’re, it just presents the game even better. It really does.”
Q. Can you talk about the balanced scoring attack. Six almost seven players in double figures.
“Well, I like the fact that we had 29 assists and everybody had some opportunities. But again, it starts with Isaiah Briscoe, and he’s coaching De’Aaron Fox, he’s coaching these guys, he’s talking, if you listen, you hear his voice more than you even hear mine, which is perfect, which is what I want. But it starts with him.
“But again, he made the three, makes the free throw. Come on. And that, when you think of his game, if that’s who he is, make some 15-footers, he’s as good as anybody in the country now. He’s a physical, he’s a beast. And he defends and rebounds.”