LEXINGTON, Ky. — Basketball season is upon us. Kentucky will hold its annual media day Thursday, beginning with John Calipari at 1 p.m. ET, followed by player interviews. You can watch a live stream of Calipari’s Q&A with the media at SEC Country’s UK Facebook page.
This is not a drill. Basketball begins again in earnest on Friday night with Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena. And it’ll be March again before we know it. Stick with SEC Country today, tomorrow and all through the season for wall-to-wall coverage of your Cats.
We’ll hit the highlights of what Calipari and Co. say at media day right here as the quotes come rolling in. Stay tuned.
- Are Quade Green’s low pro day measurements/testing a concern for Calipari? Not really, but “I’m trying to get him to play faster.” Adds that “he can shoot and he’s got a heckuva runner and with his size, he’s got a way of getting the ball in.”
- Calipari on his approach to recruiting now that rivals are loading up on one-and-dones too: “The issue that my staff is all over me about: we don’t offer many scholarships. Usually six, seven, maybe eight scholarships. I don’t like offering young, young kids scholarships, because the reality is you don’t know.” Says other programs are saying, “If they really wanted you, why haven’t they offered you?” Dealing with that, talking to parents about why they wait, like on Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. “We waited and waited and waited. I had to see more.” Sometimes wants to get the kid on campus and look into his eyes. “The way we do this is different.” Cal says UK has moved up some (a Joel Justus influence) and offered some juniors already this year. “But those juniors, I feel confident” they’re good enough, Cal says.
- Best question Cal’s every gotten form a family or recruit during a visit: “There have been families that want their child to shoot 25 times a game … and I wish them well. Our visits are really consistent … so it’s presented in the same way. There’s a path you’re going to go on, and you can’t muddy that path up, because there are people coming behind that want to climb that same path to success.” Says you have to follow his plan and “if you’re into all this other stuff, why would you come here? You’re here to set yourself right the rest of your life.” Calipari says he’s rather “undersell and over deliver” in recruiting a family/prospect.
- Is this the most interchangeable team Calipari has ever had? “If we had Jarred playing, you could play without a point guard, because he could be the point guard. So we were really interchangeable.”
- Freshman sharpshooter Jemarl Baker’s knee is bothering him and Calipari has been talking to doctors about it. Unclear the issue. “We do need him back. We’re shorthanded.” And what kind of shooting team will these Cats be? “Our forte is not going to be, ‘Well, that’s a shooting team.’ But how many of my teams have been that?”
- Calipari said Kevin Knox was “unbelievable” in yesterday’s practice, “had a little bit of a breakthrough.” Calipari “took my foot off the panic button a little bit” after seeing that. Breakthrough was in rebounding, playing tougher, driving in the lane and taking hits.
- Calipari on where these Cats stack up, just athletically speaking, to his past UK teams: “2010 was ridiculous. It was not normal. 2012 athletically was ridiculous. Just not normal. Those two teams probably stand out in my mind. But again, there’s a length to this team.”
- What will UK miss however long Vanderbilt is out? “The shot-blocking team we were going to be changes with him, because he may have been our best shot-blocker.” Says he’s great at help-defense blocking. “He was unbelievable at that. But this gives guys an opportunity for more minutes.” Says maybe more minutes for Gabriel because of it, or Knox gets to play more positions or “maybe Sacha gets his opportunity now. So one guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity.”
- “We’ve got a great group. My wife says this is the best group. She says, ‘I’m telling you, I just have a feel about this group, how together they are.’ ” But Calipari said he’s already wrestling with areas of growth needed in each of their individual games. Tells them: “We can fight long or we can fight short.”
- On saying Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has an old man’s game: “He is so long and lanky. He’s gained 10 pounds, so now he’ll try to bully you a little bit, which he never did before. He has step-throughs, he has flip shots, he has an ability to get to the basket.” Calipari working on him to see the bigger picture, has narrow vision right now.
- “Instead of trying to say it, you have them do it,” Calipari says of servant leadership. Tries to teach players who are soon to be rich and famous how to give back. Talking a lot about his standard question in recruiting: “What is your why?” So many of them, it’s to take care of mothers and families who’ve struggled their whole lives.
- Calipari says sophomore forwards Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are “way better,” which is big for the freshman-heavy Cats. Fellow sophomore Tai Wynyard hurt himself and has been out since Sunday night’s pro day for NBA scouts.
- Asked about Pitino, Calipari says, “Jesus. Look, it’s unfortunate all the stuff that’s come down, but let’s talk about my team — please.” A contentious exchange with Herald-Leader reporter Jerry Tipton followed when he wanted to ask a follow-up on the FBI investigation. Question was about Nike and UK’s deal with them. “I haven’t been contacted. We haven’t been contacted.”
- Calipari’s reaction to FBI investigation in college hoops: “Obviously what’s out there right now is a black eye. But here is the thing for everybody here: I don’t want to come across as uneducated or dumb — none of us really know where this thing is going.” He’s not comfortable commenting “without knowing all the facts.”
- Should players get paid? “Again, there is so much stuff — treating kids fairly — I have some ideas but I just don’t think it’s the time for me to talk about this stuff.”
- Calipari on one-and-done: “I don’t think you blow up a system for 10 or 12 players.” Says players of different abilities shouldn’t all be treated the same, but
- Calipari on Vanderbilt’s foot injury: “We don’t know [how bad it is]. They’re going to reevaluate here in another week or so. It would be an unbelievable blessing for him and for us if he were able to start coming back to play.” Says doctors want to look at it more before deciding to perform surgery.
More 2017-18 Kentucky previews
- P.J. Washington has ‘ridiculous’ length, ‘relentless’ style
- How football got 5-star Kevin Knox to Kentucky
- Freshman PG Quade Green already leading young Cats
- Teammates: Hamidou Diallo can dominate … if he wants to
- Wenyen Gabriel is a fighter, and UK needs him to be
- What the Wildcats will miss while Jarred Vanderbilt is out
- John Calipari sees 2014 Cats, good and bad, in this team
- Full 6,500-word Calipari preseason Q&A
- Players vote on Cats’ best dunker and best shooter
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