clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari previews Vanderbilt, talks growth of his team

Cal likes the progress his team is making, especially in the face of adversity.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are in Nashville getting set to face the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Prior to Saturday’s SEC matchup, John Calipari held a teleconference on Friday. There, Calipari gave injury updates, previewed the Dores, and even gave a weather update.

Here is a recap of everything he had to say, courtesy of UK Athletics:

On the weather in Nashville

“The weather’s just turning bad. I was out this morning and it’s gotten colder. Last night I didn’t even have a coat on, but we just made a decision to leave last night because the airline called us at 5 o’clock and said there’s some rain and ice and we may not be able to take off. And then it was, well, we could ride a bus tomorrow. Yeah, and it would be seven hours to try to get up here. So, we just decided at 7 o’clock we’re leaving at 8:30. So we gathered up the guys and we just got in the bus and got up here around 11:30. We’re here and we’re going to practice on their court. They’ve been nice enough, Vanderbilt. They’re going to practice before us because they’re going to close down the school. They want everybody off their campus by 3 because it’s supposed to be really icy and snowy and hopefully it clears up by tomorrow so that we won’t have any issues with the game.”

On the challenge posed by Vandy

“It’s always a hard game for us. It’s always a tough game. They space the court, they play different. They play a wide-open court. They’ll shoot 3s. They’re driving the ball. The big kid (Djery Baptiste) is playing well for them, so they have someone next to the goal. It’s a different team because they don’t have a five man shooting 3s like they have in the past, which really made things hard. But they’re still a team and in this building they play well.”

On whether he will do anything different with timeouts with this team

“Well, if we’re down in numbers I’ll be calling timeouts to give guys a rest. Not just strategically: We need one to change the flow of the game. We may need one just to rest. So, I’ve done that before. And the other side of this for this team is I may call a timeout that in the past I haven’t. In other words, play through it. Figure it out yourself. Well, that may not work for this group right now where we are. And so we’re doing things here that I’ve not done before. I’m experimenting. Even yesterday in practice, we tried some new stuff. Probably not the smartest to do. Just get good at these four or five things, but the problem is we have a bigger picture here. It’s not just to try to play the next game; it’s to try to grow. It’s trying to get better. It’s trying to be one of those teams at the end of the year. And we know we’re not right now. I mean, the players know we’re not right now. But it’s not right now that we’re dealing with. It’s, when we get to the end, where are we now.”

On whether he has updates on injured players

“I don’t. I really don’t. I haven’t seen any of the them today. We’re not leaving (for practice) until 12:45.”

On whether Quade Green (back injury) has practiced this week

“Well, we were off Wednesday and he didn’t – he had to do some treatment or something yesterday, so he did not practice yesterday.”

On Jemarl Baker’s status

“He’s started rehab, so I don’t know what that means. I don’t have an answer for you.”

On the Vanderbilt Commodores having trouble in the post this season

“They trap the post and they do a really good job. I watched South Carolina, at South Carolina, and they trapped as that ball was in the air and really gave South Carolina trouble. So, they have some different things they do, and they also go zone, so it’s not like you just throw it in and you beat them. That’s not what’s happened. And I want to tell you, you watch the Tennessee game, they did not trap (Grant) Williams in the first half. Not once. And they were up 10. Now, they chose to trap him in the second half. Now, he didn’t score all his points in the first half. He had a ton of points in the second half. So, you’re just going to play the game. They’ll play us zone. One year we came up here, they played zone from the tip. They played almost all zone. Then they came to our building and they didn’t play any zone. There are times they’ve trapped us, and there are other times that they haven’t. We’ll just have to see.”

On Sacha Killeya-Jones’ progress

“I told all of the kids yesterday, you have to hit adversity. You have to have great doubts in your mind. You have to be wired in a way that, that is fuel. That moves you to another point. Last year, what Sacha went through has prepared him to have success this year. The adversity, fighting it. If you’re trying to do something and it’s not working and you continue to try to do something, it’s not going to work. I don’t know if they still call that insanity. So, you have to have some adversity hit you. You have to deal with it, and then you see growth. And when you deal with it, and you see growth, you build confidence. It’s not someone cheering you on, and it’s not someone that gets on you that should break anything about you. Your confidence is your confidence. So, you gotta feel it, you gotta live it, you gotta go through the ups and downs of this and all these kids have done that. I mean, PJ (Washington) early in the year, people are starting to say this and that about PJ, and he had to go through that. He had to lose weight, he had to work on his free throws, he had to do certain things, and he had to have adversity for that to happen or he may have stayed the same.”

On if players who have been through adversity have talked to other players about dealing with adversity

“Yeah, but they talk. I’m trying to tell PJ I want him to lead, but I’m also having to teach him how he’s got to be on that basketball court all the time to really be the leader he needs to be. In other words, when you come with that spirit, that competitive spirit, you’re in that frame of mind, I need you to lead. When you’re in there to jerk around, or joke, or grab, that brings practice down. Then I don’t need you to lead. So, they’re still learning. Again, all this stuff of ‘Leaders are born,’ that’s crap. That’s a bunch of crap. How would you figure out how to lead if you don’t understand servant leadership, if you don’t understand the consistency of it? You can’t lead when you feel like leading, you can’t lead on your terms. You have to lead for the team, and what you’re saying is, ‘Why wouldn’t those guys talk to Kevin Knox?’ Believe me, they’re cheering those guys on and they want him to play well.”

On if he’s worried about some players playing too many minutes with all of these injuries

“I am, but they’re happy as heck. When I was at UMass, my last year there, the best team I coached I played five guys and the sixth guy was playing 15 minutes. My two guards played 39 minutes. My other three guys were playing anywhere from 36, to 37, 38 minutes a game. All five guys. It was the happiest team I’ve ever coached. It was a happy team. So, they’re fine with it. My deal is, I just don’t think you’re at your best – that’s more my worry.”