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5 Takeaways from John Calipari Q&A

Cal held a Q&A to talk about his players in the draft and coaching Team USA’s U19 team.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional Practice Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari recently held a Q&A to talk about the players from Kentucky headed to the NBA Draft, as well as him coaching the U19 Team USA team. Topics ranged from Monk’s ability to play the point, to Fox’s shooting range, to what he hopes to get out of coaching Team USA. Here are my five biggest takeaways from Cal’s comments.

Cal thinks Monk can play the point in the NBA

Monk didn’t play the point at Kentucky because, in Cal’s words, he played alongside a “truer” point guard. But Cal says he can play that spot, and to him, that gives the Philadelphia 76ers good reason to draft him.

Again, you look at Malik and I think the interest in Malik is because he can play both 1 and 2 and he can score the ball. So, if you play other players and playmakers, he’s done it here. With Malik, what people have talked to me about, the teams, is we didn’t realize he was as good in pick-and-roll as he is. And I laughed and I said, well, they said the same thing about Eric Bledsoe, but both of those guys played with point guards that were truer point guards than they were, even though they both could play the position. And I would guess, if I’m those Philadelphia players, I’d like to see Malik there.

Cal also said that Fox would be a great option for Philadelphia, as he would come in as “more of a true point guard.”

Cal thinks Fox will be an NBA leader

Speaking of Fox, Calipari said that Fox became Kentucky’s leader by the time they got to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. He was the guy that Cal could go to and tell him to lead.

...the biggest thing with De’Aaron was the leadership that he – early on he didn’t try to come in and say, ‘This is my program.’ But about two months in, we’re playing games and I look at him and I said,’ Hey, kid, this is your team. You’re my point guard. You’re it. Go do your thing.’ And I think he became more challenged and more challenged and more comfortable taking over.

Cal said that when Fox took over, specifically in that UCLA game, his teammates (especially the other biggest star on the team) encouraged him to take over.

At halftime, I walk in and I look at the team and I go, ‘Are you all watching this game?’ And they look at me like, ‘What?’ ‘Are you watching what he’s doing? How about we just play through him this half?’ And the first guy to speak up and laugh was Malik Monk, and said, ‘Put it in his hands! We’ll play off him. Go do your thing.’

Every time Fox’s NBA abilities are talked about, he gets compared to John Wall. This time was no different, as Cal was asked about Fox’s leadership abilities in comparison to Wall’s.

Wherever he goes, he’s going to be one piece and he will do his job and he will lead, but there isn’t anybody in this draft that’s going to go take a team and get them 15 more wins. Now, he may lead, if the team is tweaked and now you add him to some other guys, he can be a part of it, yes. But these kids, again, are 18.

But despite his leadership abilities, that three-point shot is still a concern.

Calipari said he needs to be more consistent. Fox has no trouble from mid-range and from the free throw line, so his jumper isn’t broken. He’s just inconsistent.

“He has to get in the gym and be committed to it,” Calipari said. “But when you can make free throws and you can make 15-17 footers at a high clip then you can make 3s. There’s nothing mechanically wrong.”

He gave an update on Jarred Vanderbilt

According to Calipari, Vanderbilt hasn’t started playing yet after injuring his ankle in the Jordan Brand Classic game.

“Probably two weeks before he’ll really get full going into what we’re doing here, but I think he’ll be fine,” Cal said. He seems to have no concern on Vanderbilt’s health at this point.

Coaching Team USA is all about these kids

Because what doesn’t Cal do for the kids? Cal sees this as a chance to “give back,” and help out players whether they’re going to Kentucky or not.

For me, it’s a chance to give back. I was asked to do it a while ago and for me to give back and have a chance to do some stuff, and really I’m kind of excited to workout with some players, to have a chance to work players that aren’t just my own guys, to give something to some of these kids before they go on to college or a few of them back to high school.

When it comes to coaching the team, he’ll deal with the same issue that he deals with at Kentucky: Taking young guys who have never played together before and getting them to beat teams with three-plus years of chemistry. Except this time it’s on a more extreme scale.

“Again, here’s what makes it hard for the U.S. teams. The teams from the other countries have been together for, at times three and four years. We will have been together for like five days and then you gotta start playing and figure out as you go. People will say, ‘Well, you do that every year.’ No, I do it over five months. I don’t do it over five days. And so, this will be a little bit different. Try to make it simple for them, get them to play hard.

Cal thinks implementing the baseball rule is a great idea

Calipari is an expert at utilizing college basketball’s one-and-done. But there’s potential for the rule to change, allowing players to go to the NBA straight out of high school, or play college ball or at least three years. Cal, making sure to make it clear that he’s not worried about how it would affect Kentucky basketball, said it’s a great idea. But it probably won’t happen.

Would the baseball rule work in my mind? Yeah. Heck yeah. I’d love the baseball rule. I’d love the baseball rule for the kids so they have the chance to go right out of high school and get on an NBA roster, and if they’re a lottery pick they’ll make $20 million. I love it.

But the issue is the NBA doesn’t want to do that. They don’t want to go back to drafting high school players. So, whatever you’re hearing, I can’t see that happening. Now, if it would happen I would love it. I think it would be great.

In addition to that, the best quote from the entire Q&A comes from this discussion:

“This isn’t, for me, about Kentucky, and whatever happens in this as we go forward, Kentucky eats first. I’m not saying that to be arrogant – you know it,” Calipari said.