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John Calipari and Wildcats preview Georgia

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The Cats look to get back on track against a Georgia squad projected to finish near the bottom of the SEC.

John Calipari Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats will look to stay unbeaten at home this season when the Georgia Bulldogs invade Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Ahead of the game, head coach John Calipari, along with junior forwards Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe, met with the media to preview Cats - Dawgs. Here is a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

On what he saw after reviewing the film from the LSU game …

“Three offensive rebounds that they got basically gave them the gap that they needed, and the hustle play that Oscar (Tshiebwe) made to get that last ball, wow. We struggled both on offense. We turned it over with nine minutes to go or more because TyTy (Washington Jr.) was out. So, we had 50 points. We end up with 60. With nine minutes to go (we had 50). We went five, six—but you don’t have a point guard in. You don’t have a point guard. So, that kind of stuff stood out, but we’ve got some stuff we’ve got to clean up, and I started with it yesterday. Make it a little clearer for these guys so there is no confusion. ‘This is how we’re doing this. Last four minutes, this is what we’re doing in these kinds of games.’ Because, to be honest, three games, we’ve got a chance to win with four minutes to go, and the three games we lost we kind of did the same thing. So, that comes back to me. Alright, you better do a better job. So, the last four minutes, I can’t make a shot for them. I can’t rebound. I can’t fight for them. But I can put them in a position where they have the play they needed to make, and they just didn’t make it. And then you walk away and you say, ‘Hey, it wasn’t our day.’ But that’s not what’s happening right now.”

On Sahvir Wheeler’s status …

“He’s still day-to-day. He’s day-to-day. I don’t think he’ll practice today, but the neck is still bothering him, so it will be day-to-day. I know he wants to play against Georgia. And he’s not doing it out of spite. He just wants to play games. But, you know, it’ll be day-to-day.”

On what the screen looked like that Wheeler ran into at LSU after Jay Bilas said it looked legal …

“It kind of happened fast, so he may be right, but when a football player does that kind of crackback, what is it? [Reporter: I’m not sure what you mean.] I know because you don’t know football. Does anybody on here know football? [Reporter: Blindside block.] And is that a penalty? [Reporter: Yes.] And what if you hurt the guy? [Reporter: If it’s targeting, you get ejected.] OK, so, why not in basketball don’t we have something like that? That you can’t just go up and blindside a guy that’s running? You want to tell me why we wouldn’t have that? ‘Well, because.’ What? ‘Because. Because. Because.’ What? It’s a blindside screen. Even if a guy went up and he knew he was coming and he wanted to do it with his hands showing, that would be OK with me. I don’t think the guy did anything dirty; I think it’s a rule that needs to be changed. Now, they changed rules when there’s a shot-clock violation late in the Final Four that’s not called, when there’s a goaltending call that’s not called and we lose those. How about we look at this one? Here’s another one. Here’s another Kentucky rule that needs to be changed.”

On how prevalent backside picks are when a guy doesn’t know they are coming …

“You have to give them a step, OK, and they’re in the half court. I’m talking full court, this guy is running and it’s a blindside screen. So, you’re saying the same thing. You’re saying—well, what if a lineman goes and blocks a guy and he’s two steps from him and he blocks him and he’s running outside and they do the flip, and so he gets him. That’s totally different than you’re running and all of a sudden you just get whacked. I mean, they call it in the NFL. They’re all fouls. I’m not saying that anything illegal was done. I’m just saying that if that kid came up and he knew the kid didn’t (know he was there) and he was allowed to put his hands out so not to hurt the kid, I would be OK with that. But to go and give that [motions of using his shoulder], even if it was only an inch or this [motions a nudge] and the kid, whack! And it’s not just my kid; it’s every kid. And we screen full court. I wish my guys could use their hands; not outside their bodies. But they could use their hands to stop the guy so he wouldn’t hurt himself. You may not agree.”

On how he talks to the rest of the team about Shaedon Sharpe coming in during the middle of the season and what he has said to Sharpe to ingratiate himself with team …

“He just has to blend in and be a teammate, which means you’ve got to be around the guys. You’ve got to be there. You’ve got to talk. Shaedon is not a guy that says a lot. You can do that, but the only way you create relationships is that you speak, you listen, you talk. So, he’ll have to do that. But he’s a ways away from playing games, and it may be a year from now. And they all know. I talked to them. We don’t have a plan for him to play this year. Maybe he does, but that is not the plan, and it never has been. Now, I never said it because I wanted everybody to go crazy, all the other places. ‘Well, they may have him.’ But, the reality of it is we never had a plan. If you ask me right now, my guess is he won’t play, but you don’t know what happens. I mean, we’ve had injury after injury, this happen and that happen. We’re down to six, seven guys, I may tell him, ‘Look, man, you’ve got to go in seven minutes a game. You’ve got to play some.’ But, my hope is we’re never there.”

On working with an assistant like Chin Coleman who likes to talk on the sidelines as much as he does …

“No, he’s good. He’s got great enthusiasm. As a head coach, that’s what you want to see: enthusiasm. If you walk in our practice, enthusiasm. What I’ve had him and all the staff do, when we’re teaching it’s key words. Can’t have long dissertations. We’re not stopping that long. Whatever you want to say, you better say it in three words. And that, for all the guys, that’s different. But, he’s got unbelievable enthusiasm, but so does O (Orlando Antigua), so does Jai (Lucas). They all do. If you walk in our gym, I’ve had people walk in and just say, ‘Wow, you see an enthusiasm.’ And it’s what I want. It’s what a head coach wants. I want those guys to be engaged. Now, when we practice, if I’m talking, you won’t believe this, everybody else better stop. But, short of that, come on, let’s go, let’s get these guys going.”

On playing Sharpe this season in late game situations when the game has been decided and whether that experience could help prepare him for next season …

“Not if he’s not ready. If I don’t think he’s ready to be put in a game, I’m not going to do that to him. I’m trying to protect all of these kids. I kind of explained that to him in my vision for how you need to play. In most cases it’s I want you to be aggressive, I want you to do what you do best, but I also want to protect you. So, with him, you’ve got to get in unbelievable shape, he’s not even close to that. You’ve got to be able to play fast, yet still be skilled. This isn’t, you know ,my pace; I’m still working on freshmen that have been here the summer, the fall and months, and they’re still not playing at the (level)–I’m still working on a couple of guys that have been here three years that you’ve got to play with more intensity, more fight. You have to fly. You can’t run at your speed. Run faster than you think you can run. It takes time and to create a new habit is hard. And so, I’m not going to put him in a situation where he’s not ready to go in. Yesterday, I had him jump and touch the rim with his head. Which he did. Then we watched him shoot, and he jumped that high [motioned with fingers]. Wait a minute? You put your head on the rim and you jump this high for jump shots? What are you talking about? And so, all of the stuff that I’m trying to do is bring out a point. We ran, and he didn’t make any shots. I said, ‘Listen, kid, you don’t have to make them all.’ [Reporter: Can’t miss them all.] Can’t miss them all. And just because you’re running, that’s (not a reason to miss). So, this was his first day. This stuff is all new. When we start going and he’s going live, he’s not even gone live yet, that’s when we’ll figure some more stuff out. Right now, I want him to get acclimated, I want him to get to know his teammates, he’s got a suit mate, but I want him–who’s taking him under their wing and helping him? I would say it could be Sahvir, but you know right now he’s just trying to get healthy.”

On TyTy Washington Jr. …

“Well, he’s done fine. I mean, he’s quietly done the numbers that he’s done as a freshman. But now he’s going to have the opportunity that Tyrese Maxey had, Jamal Murray had and some of the other guys that were playing off the ball, now you’re going to play on the ball. Now you look at those guys now professionally where they’re playing. So, I’m anxious to see him. I told him, ‘What a great thing for you. You get this chance.’ Now everybody on this call knows that the guy that stirs the drink for us is Sahvir. But you’ve got two guys that can play that position that run our club. I told him, ‘You’ve got to sub yourself before TV timeouts. You can’t try and play every minute.’ Yesterday he was really good, and we’ll see what happens for us. If he’s that guy if Sahvir cannot play, the ball will be in his hands more.”

On Tyler Herro being involved in a fight last night following a backside block …

“Did he really? I mean, Dick (Gabriel), think about it. In football they don’t let you do that. Are you ready for this? They’ve got pads, shoulder pads and helmets. And they don’t let you do that. Now, we can say, ‘Well what about the offensive line when the guy goes around, and he hits him?’ You can say all you want. But in football, if you do that and you’re nasty about it, you’re thrown out of the game. Like, if you move to hit a guy, you’re out. Go. All I’m saying is, if you’re going to let that thing happen that way, have a guy have his hands up because all he’s trying to do is stop the guy, well, stop him. Get your hands up so he doesn’t get whacked. But I don’t know the answer, but if you said to me, ‘He got absolutely whacked, what do you think he did?’ I’d probably say, ‘Tyler Herro, He gets up swinging.’ Gabriel: He did.] I would figure that.”

On if Georgia is missing Wheeler …

“Well, I think they lost a couple of guys, but here’s what I would say: They had Texas A&M beat. They had the lead with six seconds to go and a kid makes a pull-up 3, not a screen, not a screen down and screen away play, the kid just came down and jacked a 3 and it was guarded, and he makes the 3 at the buzzer and that’s how they lose. And Texas A&M is 12-2. So, they’re capable. I’m going to tell you, all of the tape I’ve watched, they play hard. All right. They compete. They run good stuff. Tom (Crean) always does run good stuff. They have good defensive schemes. They do a zone, 2-3. They do a matchup zone. They’ll do a little bit of press. He’ll throw different things. They play pick-and-rolls a little different. One, there’s a hard show, and then sometimes they’ll drop. So, it’s a good challenge. And for TyTy, there are different things he’s going to have to face, and he hasn’t faced them this year.”

On Oscar Tshiebwe’s approach with rebounding and how it’s different than other players …

“Well, the kid has really strong hands. So, the thing that we focused on with him is grab it with two. You just make sure you grab it with two. The second piece of it is, he’s 255. So, when he leans on you, he can then jump. You cannot jump. He’s not pushing you. You’re just having 255 lean on you, he’ll jump to get it and you’re just–and the coach, ‘Go get it!’ ‘Go get it? I’ve got weight on my shoulders almost 300 pounds. You go get it.’ And so that happens. Now, what happened last game twice he didn’t bum-rush the 3-point shooter late because when the kid shot it what was he trying to do? Go rebound. No, no, no, no. No. Your job was to take away that 3 not rebound when that’s the position. We’ve got other guys. Let it go and then go get it. So, we talked to him about it. We’ve got to get him to talk more on pick-and-rolls and on all of the other stuff, but we’ll see.”