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Joel Justus speaks to media before Hofstra game

Assistant coach Joel Justus talks about the team’s growth, UCLA, winter break and Isaiah Briscoe.

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

Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus spoke to the media before the upcoming Hofstra game, and covered a range of topics, from UCLA, to the growth of the team, the benefit of winter break and more.

He started with an address of how the team looks right now.

“I think we’re improving, I think any season you go through your ups, your downs, but I think our guys are doing a good job of taking care of their bodies,” Justus said.

He then touched on the UCLA loss last week.

“I think anytime that you go out and compete, especially against a team as good as UCLA, they’re going to make you be as close to your best as you need to be,” he said.

Justus said that after the UCLA game, the team looked through film, and found places to improve. He also the focus is on themselves to improve themselves.

Justus also touched on the significance of winter break, and getting a lot of extra time with the players now that they’re not in class. He said that it gives the team a chance to slow down and address themselves and improve.

“It is a time when there really is no other thing going on other than basketball,” Justus said.

Justus also talked about players finding their roles on the team at this point in the year, and how the players have adjusted to those roles.

“I think that’s something that, individually, I think that there’s a piece that has been communicated but I think it still takes time for it to really sink in,” Justus said.

He went on to say that because of different lineups, foul trouble in games and guys continuing to develop yet, the roles aren’t quite set in stone right now.

Justus said that this team has a great work ethic and is always willing to work hard.

“This group loves to be in the gym,” Justus said. “They love to be around each other.”

Justus later praised Bam Adebayo for his work ethic specifically, and his desire to get better every day.

“Bam is one of the first guys to practice every day. I think that he’s another guy that is just wanting to get better every day,” Justus said.

Justus accredited that enjoyment of the gym and the weight room to Isaiah Briscoe’s leadership, which is something we’ve been hearing all year. Justus also raved about Briscoe’s contribution in the win over Valpo to get the team back into the win column.

Justus went on to praise Dominique Hawkins, saying that he’s put a lot of time in and made the team better behind the scenes just as much as he has on the floor. He said he’s gaining confidence in practice to play well during games.

One thing that was clear throughout the presser: Joel Justus sees Briscoe as an on-court coach, and that’s been apparent from the entire program all season. Here is a replay of the presser:

Kentucky will play Hofstra on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.