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Davion Mintz talks UK basketball, his role, Coach Cal, and more

Mintz will be one of the most experienced players to ever play at Kentucky under John Calipari.

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For the first time in the John Calipari era, Kentucky basketball could have a senior starting point guard.

This offseason, Kentucky landed a key grad transfer in former Creighton star Davion Mintz, who played in 97 games with 79 starts during his career with the Bluejays, making him one of the most experienced players to ever play in Lexington under Coach Cal.

Even if Mintz doesn’t start, that kind of leadership will prove to be very valuable for a Kentucky roster with no scholarship players with postseason experience (Mintz has played in two NCAA Tournament games and three NIT games).

On Monday, Mintz had a Zoom call with local media to discuss his new team and the upcoming season. Here is a recap of everything he had to say via UK Athletics.

On bringing experience to this team and how that can make a difference for Kentucky …

“I’m doing well. Thanks for asking. Yeah, absolutely, I’ve been a guy that’s been in a similar environment. I know that BBN is a little different. It’s huge out here. It’s a religion, as they say. It was very similar to how people cared and supported at Creighton, a team with no professional sport in the state. For me, I’ve been a guy that’s played in big games, played against top-ranked teams. I’ve been through hundreds of college practices, hundreds of games, so I’m looking to bring this team everything that I’ve been through.”

On his impressions of this roster around him after having experience with another high-end roster at Creighton …

“It’s definitely. Being a guy that has been around multiple NBA players that I played college with, a lot of guys play high level overseas, this is a team that—that took me a few years to see being in college, but I’m seeing that talent immediately here as freshmen. Guys that are playing similar to guys that went to the NBA after me playing a few years with them. So, it’s definitely a special group. Guys are definitely backing up what their résumés said. It’s just very exciting.”

On if he sees himself as a leader in the same way as Reid Travis and Nate Sestina were as graduate transfers because he’s one of the old guys now …

“I still look at myself as young in the world, but yeah, definitely old being as experienced. But I think my job is going to be so much easier because this group we have here is so receptive to everything. They’re always looking forward to advice. They don’t look at it as if I’m trying to tell them what to do. They’re like, ‘Let me listen to this guy, he’s seen it.’ Although I do bring a lot of experience, it means nothing if guys aren’t willing to hear it. That’s what’s special about this group. Everyone is willing to listen. Everyone is just trying to learn and be their best self. Like I said earlier, it’s going to be a lot of fun and definitely exciting.”

On Joel Justus saying he’s really good at getting the ball up the court and what else he believes he does best …

“Joel, I guess he saw something similar to how we played at Creighton. We advanced it up the court really fast. We found the open guy. And for me, I think I can be a guy that does it on both ends. I can pass it up ahead or be the guy that’s catching it or receiving up ahead and making a play. I think with me it’s just versatility. I can do whatever is asked of me on the court. I’ve really adopted a mature state to my game, especially sitting out this past year. I feel like I’ve added a different pace into my game to where we can play fast and really slow things down. I think I’ll let my game speak for itself when it’s time to play.”

On how his game preparation changes playing in the Southeastern Conference …

“There’s been a lot of talent in the Big East. In that conference, that’s like a three-, four-year–you rarely every have one-and-dones, so you’re seeing the same guys who have gotten better every year. So, for me, being challenged by the same group of guys and teams who know your game, know what you’re bringing every night, I feel like that’s sort of a huge challenge. So, being somewhere where I’m kind of new, guys still have film on me, but being somewhere new, that will be fun for me. It has prepared me a lot just being at this level and playing high-level basketball for four years.”

On what it was about Kentucky and making the move from Creighton to finish his career at UK …

“Just somewhere that fit my playing style and somewhere with a different environment. It’s just kind of like a job. You’ve been there for a few years and just feel in your heart that it’s time and there’s something else out there for you. There’s still love and respect to them. I hope that they have a great season. It did prepare me well being there and playing with those guys and playing in that system. But, there just comes time always for change that fits your new self. That’s what it was.”

On his career assist-to-turnover ratio being high …

“I just try to make the right play, whatever that it is. If that’s an opportunity for someone else to score or someone else open, then that’s what it’ll be. If it’s an opportunity for me to finish it, that’s what I do. But, in all situations I just try to make the best play just to convert. No wasted possessions. So, that’s my philosophy.”

On solving a Rubik’s cube and when he first solved it …

“YouTube is the secret and it was actually a few months ago honestly, right at the beginning of quarantine. I was super bored and then it just happens that way. It was a story that I told a while ago. I was on a bus; I remember being on a bus in middle school and all of the other kids were solving it and I could never do it. I was always the kid who pealed stickers, moved pieces. I was just tired of it and now we’re here.”

On if there has been a moment that he knew he made the right decision in choosing Kentucky …

“Yeah, absolutely. I was just talking to my family the other day. When you’ve been through what I’ve been through, there’s no type of gimmicks and there’s nothing really anybody can say to kind of reel you in to why you chose a school. I think that the quarantine actually did me a huge favor because there wasn’t any type of emotional attachment that I could gravitate towards school or do anything. It was all just spoken words, trust, eye-to-eye Zoom calls, phone calls. Just building actual genuine relationships. There was no opportunity for me to see campus and fall in love with it that way. For Kentucky, lots of phone calls with Coach Cal. Lots of phone calls with the staff, meeting the guys, knowing and finding comfort there. To answer your question, yeah, I immediately thought after a few weeks that this is one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made in my life. Even so far, just coming in challenging myself and getting better every day, no matter how it turns out there’s no way that I can lose. I’ve gotten so much better just by being here for a few months, and that’s all I asked for. Everything else is a bonus. Me coming in, being better every day and becoming a better basketball player, that’s what I wanted and that’s what I’m getting so far. And I don’t think it’ll stop now.”

On if he’s gotten used to Coach John Calipari yet and what has surprised him about Coach Cal …

“I don’t know about used to yet. He’s super energetic and things change like really quick. He’s always thinking and he loves the game. There may be a different version of him tomorrow, and I mean that in a great way or not in a bad way at all. He’s always thinking on his toes. There’s always new elements he’s adding in every day. I think there’s a lot more that I have to experience before I can say ‘used to.’ He’s definitely fun to play for. I mean, I look forward to going to practice every day. Practice is at 3 today and I’m excited. I can’t stop thinking about it. And that’s serious. I mean, it is very challenging, it’s hard, but it’s a fun culture. It’s a fun place to be every day. Honestly, being a college player already, being a high school player, Cal’s the type of guy–I mean, he’s a legend. His name speaks for itself. It’s strong. It holds weight. So, you really look up to him in a way like, ‘Wow. This is one of the gurus of basketball.’ Just now having a personal relationship with him, he’s one of the most like humble guys. You just wouldn’t know almost how significant he is to the game of basketball if you were to see how humble he was and how he treats himself and the respect to others around him. I wouldn’t say it like surprised me, but it kind of did at the same time with how he acts and how much he cares for us and how genuine it actually is.”