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John Calipari recaps Canisius, talks ‘process’ and more

Trust the process. That’s something even Cal has to remind himself.

NCAA Basketball: Canisius at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari is taking a page from Sam Hinkie and ‘the process.’

Well, at least the part about building a team with young talent and watching it blossom over time. That’s what Hinkie did with the Sixers for four years, but Calipari is trying to get UK’s young talent to blossom in the span of around four months in hopes it leads to another Final Four berth.

Going from freshman-heavy team on a yearly basis isn’t quite the rebuild of an NBA franchise, but it does involve a lot of growing pains, frustration, and patience.

“I just gotta keep telling myself that this is a process because sometimes I’m coaching them like they’ve been here two years,” Cal said following UK’s sluggish win over Canisius.” But I’ve always done that and it’s worked.”

Cal added, “we’ve got a ways to go, and I would tell everybody, enjoy the process. You do every year. “

Here is a recap of everything Calipari said following Sunday’s win, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Opening Statement:

“You know, when you're playing so many young guys, sometimes you just you have to settle them down. But let me say this about Reggie and the job he did, what he did was, they scored 70 points and they were using clock. So, what they did was, let's roll this thing and then we'll score late in the clock.

“And when have you freshmen, it is an unbelievable game plan because eventually one of them will stop playing, won't talk, something will happen, they will get a back door, a lay-up, a wide-open jumper, because we're just freshmen.And I thought they played physical, they made shots, they weren't afraid.

“We're just a better shooting team. De'Aaron, I was disappointed in some of the threes he missed, but he played so well in other areas. But Isaiah was the man. What he did was, he just willed us when we were dying, and just said, look, I'm not settling, I'm going to get something at the rim.

“Made his free throws, rebounded the ball. Our guards today had 13 rebounds. We’ve still got some issues at the four. Most of the guarding and rebounding. So now, the questions is, do you play Bam at four and let one of those other kids play five?

“And let Bam guard the four and rebound. And now you either go with Isaac or Sacha and you go to a big team, and let those other guys play some three? Because you’ve got, we just cannot have one position that's not guarding, that's not rebounding the way they should.”

Q. Can you expand on Isaiah Briscoe and the amount of work he put in over the summer to make himself a better player and how he is being that?

“Well, the other thing is if you come to our practice, he's the last one to leave every day and he gets extra shots in. You build your own self-esteem, self-confidence, you build that will. You don't surrender because you've invested too much. If you don't invest anything in this game, you'll surrender.

“Then you'll make an excuse and then the people around you will enable you, tell you you're right, it was somebody else, he takes you out, but he doesn't take him out. When you work and invest, you will not surrender, you will not listen to any of that, you'll be, I'm getting this done.

“It doesn't mean you'll win every time, but most of the time you just run out of time. You would have won if the game was another two minutes, you just ran out of time. And that's how I need this entire team to play. I was so happy Bam made free throws, because he missed six one-footers.”

“And we missed every three. And we were up nine. That's what we were in the first half.Then they shot 44 percent. They shot 66 at the beginning of the second half. So, we got to get better defensively. These high-level games, Michigan State, Kansas, UCLA, later Louisville, Arizona State. These high level games, you're not winning those games unless you're guarding and rebounding.

“And we out-rebounded them - and they were much smaller - by three rebounds. Come on. So for the year now, we're down five rebounds.”

Q. With all your previous teams you stressed the importance of communicating out on the court. Seems like Isaiah was talking a lot out there…

“He's the only one. I had to take Wenyen out for not talking. Malik doesn't talk. Malik talks as the action is happening. Like, as they come together, switch. It's too late. I can't register it that quick.When you see it happening, switch, switch. We say, say it three times.

“If you can't say it three times, you're saying it too late. Switch, switch, switch. Okay. If you can't get three times, whoa, whoa, whoa whatever we're doing, you're not saying it early enough.So it's something, again, you think about it, we're playing with a bunch of freshmen who never talked to anybody on the court, who never defended for an entire possession, had their way, would miss 12 straight shots, but knew they had 12 more coming.

“Didn't matter. Never came off the floor. Played at their pace, played casual when they felt. And then they come here and every game we play is the Super Bowl.Canisius, those first 10, 12, 15 minutes, they balled. They were jacked up. They were making shots. They were out-hustling us. They were running their offense better than we were running ours.

“And let me say this, Reggie (Witherspoon) just took over, so it isn't like they were there three years playing for Reggie.So, it's what we face, and I told them in there, we're going to play high-level games, guys. I'm telling you, some of you guys, it will be a struggle for you to be on the floor unless you really start understanding how you’ve got to play. Communicating.

“I think we're an unselfish team, I don't think we're selfish in any way. We're just used to being in their own shell. I'm worried about me and my man. I'm not worried about the rest of this. If we win and I play well, great. If we play poorly and lose and I play well, I'm happy. I'll have an excuse, I’ve got a bad team.

“Well, that doesn't work anymore. Now it's truly team defense. It's running schemes together. It's playing off of one another. And we're, believe me, light years from that right now. It's going to be a process.”

Q. What can they do to get better on the boards?

“Maybe put better rebounders in. How about that one? Just say, if you're not rebounding, I'm not playing you. I'll come down to this again, I said it to them today - whoever defends better between Dom and Mychal, I'll play. Whoever defends better and rebounds, between Wenyen and Derek, I'll play.

“Whoever rebounds and defends better between Sacha and Isaac, I'll play. Because, offensively, they're about the same. So we're not going to lose anything offensively. And now we put our best defenders and rebounders on the floor, you won't believe this, we're going to defend and rebound better. And make them fight it out.

“Let's go. I wish we were, had a chance to play them all, but it's not how this stuff works.”

Q. Why did you want to start the season out with three games in five days like this?

“Again, we're so young and this thing we're doing in this, this classic stuff that we do, we want to get a couple games under your belt. And that's why we did it. And it will be hard. We’ve got to travel, we’ve got to practice and travel tomorrow, have dinner in New York City, and you play the next day.

“And how much can I do? We're going to get some stuff done. It will be very focused on Michigan State, which I have not seen them play. I saw the last 10 seconds of the game with Arizona, because I saw it in there before I walked out here after our game Friday. I have not watched any tape, I have not seen anything about them, have not looked at a scouting report, talked to my staff about it.

“So, we'll do that tonight and tomorrow morning and get ready for a practice. And then go play a team that you know is going to play hard, you know is going to rebound, you know is going to fly. If you don't get back on defense, they're going to shoot lay-ups.

“You know they get back. They rebound like crazy, that's their hallmark. They rebound, they bang. They’ve got a couple guys that can go isolation. Tom does a great job with his team and puts them in great positions like always and it will be a war. It's going to be a tough game for us.

“We may start four freshmen, that's a tough place to start four freshmen walking into Madison Square Garden in that level of a game.”

Q. Has anything surprised you, good or bad or both, through two games that you didn't expect to see that you have?

“No, I just said to the staff at halftime, I’ve just got to keep telling myself this is going to be a process. Because sometimes I'm coaching them like they've been here two years. But I've always done that and it has kind of worked. So, you got to either catch up or step aside, that's how it is.

“And throwing a lot of stuff at guys and making guys think and do stuff they have never had to do in their lives. But I tell you what, I am so blessed to be coaching this team. I had a friend of mine call me and say he's watching games and the back and forth and all this and he said, every day you walk in your gym you’ve got as talented a team as there is and they're all good kids.

“Look, you know I'm coaching these kids hard, I coach them all hard. They know that coming here. Trying to get them to be the best version of themselves. I cannot accept certain things that they do. And it's not them being disrespectful. It's on that basketball court, there's certain things you must do that I cannot accept if you don't. And I can't leave you on the floor.

“And it's not, I missed a shot, I come out. No, no, I don't coach that way. You don't dive on the floor, you don't come up with a tough rebound, you're coming out. You turn it over, I understand, you'll do that some. Bam missed five one-footers. Six. I didn't take him out. Take me out every time I make a mistake.

“No, I take you out when you don't dive on that floor, you don't come up with that tough rebound, you don't talk on defense. That doesn't take a skill, that's an effort. That's a focus. That's a laser focus on winning. And when you watch this team, who has it on this team? Isaiah.

“Anybody else? Nummh-hum. We’ve got one. Now I'm saying, you’ve got to drag some of these other dudes with you. But why? Did he have it last year? Not really. He is twice as good as he was a year ago. Twice as good. And mainly because he's so confident shooting the ball now.

“Like he passed up a couple shots today I was upset about. Like shoot the ball, quit trying to keep going. You have that 15-footer, you had that three, shoot it. But like I said, we're, we’ve got a ways to go. And I would tell everybody, enjoy the process, you do every year.

“I mean, we're not the team that we look like now, we hit December and January and then February and then we go into March, it won't be the same team. But we better be a defensive team that really guards the ball, that really talks and rebounds, that can block shots, that flies up and down the court, that's an execution team, that keeps sharing the ball, that makes shots, a good shooting team.

“You can't play a zone. That's what we should be at the end of the year. Because we have that kind of group, that kind of team.”

Q. Speaking of Isaiah, is he kind of getting comfortable with the role that Tyler had for you guys?

“Yeah, yeah, I want him to do that. As soon as this becomes their team, it's on. Then it becomes a whole different ball game. Right now it's, we still have guys casual in practice at times, lose their focus. I'm going to have to start doing things defensively to keep them in a stance for 30 straight seconds, and their legs are going to be burning.

“Why are my legs burning? Because you’ve never done this, this season. Now you’ve got to stay in a stance the whole time. And then the other thing is, in this next game, you better sprint back. I mean, you shoot it, you better sprint back and somebody better stop that ball.

“And everybody else better fill in behind, because they're flying. This is a heck of a basketball team we're playing, I'll tell you that.”

Q. What did you think about Bam's ability to stay out of foul trouble tonight and his offense?

“Better. Better. And again, he did some things, like posting up way under the goal, because he didn't want to get fouled. Well you want to get fouled. You made nine out of 13 or eight out of 13. You think about it. And you saw him that first game when I was, the technicals, making him shoot the technicals.

“Now you know why I was doing it. I want him to get comfortable shooting free throws, because you must foul him to stop him. He's a beast. Now you’ve got to go make free throws. And you know what? The kid, again, he ended up with 14 and 11, he could have had 25 points and 14 rebounds.

“But he missed all those five, six, some of them I said it's sad they didn't go. Come on, didn't you feel bad, like, oh my gosh. There were like three of them like that. Like, oh my gosh, it didn't go in?

“And that happens sometimes.”