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Coach Cal’s pre-Arkansas media opportunity

Kentucky head coach John Calipari met with the media Friday afternoon to preview UK’s upcoming game against Arkansas. If the video stream above does not work, please click this link. As always, video is provided by Kentucky Wildcats TV, and a complete transcript of Coach Cal’s comments is posted below.

No. 6/6 Kentucky (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) hosts Arkansas (12-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN. The Razorbacks lost their SEC opener to Florida before taking down Tennessee on the road on Tuesday. Arkansas is led by Moses Kingsley, the preseason SEC Player of the Year, who is averaging 11.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. Kentucky has won each of its past three games against Arkansas and is 5-4 against the Razorbacks under Coach Cal.

Coach Cal

On freshman guard Malik Monk having added motivation to play Arkansas …
“He and I haven’t talked about it. When he gets too hyped he’s not at his best. I thought when he gets too hyped he doesn’t shoot it as well, mind starts racing a little bit. He’s not, you know, the calm, athletic, attack player he needs to be when he’s at his best. He and I will talk about it before the game, but right now it hasn’t been discussed.”

On if Kentucky’s defense vs. Texas A&M was as good on film as what he saw during the game …
“We had some breakdowns. We’re being more consistent on how we’re teaching and we’re giving them one way to do stuff. Adjustments will be made by me. You just do what you’re supposed to do. If you can’t do it, that’s OK; someone else will try. Now they know. There’s no, ‘Well, I did it because I was afraid he wasn’t – ah.’ What we’re trying to teach is trust. Everybody on this team has got to trust their teammates are going to do their job so I can do mine. Basically that’s what we’re doing.”

On if he has a quick hook because he has so much talent …
“[Sarcastically] I take them out if they miss a shot. If they turn it over I take them out. If they don’t run right – I take them out for everything. Here’s when I take them out: If they don’t dive on the floor for a loose ball, they’re out. If they get beat on a rebound because they’re not checking out or they just get beat, you’re out. If you’re breaking down on your defensive assignments you’re going to come out. Short of that you’re in. I’m not taking you out. So, they know. They’ve got a job to do. Do your job, and if you can’t do your job, someone else will do it. That has nothing to do with missed shots. ‘He takes me out every time I don’t dive on the floor for a ball.’ Yeah. ‘Every time a guy out works me for a rebound he takes me out.’ Yeah, he does. He does. ‘If I just decide on defense to do what I want to do, can you believe that he takes me out?’ Yeah, he does. It’s not missed shots. It’s not turnovers. It is not – it’s do your job. You’re not going to make every shot. You’re going to turn it over some. There are mistakes that are going to be made, but not effort mistakes. You can do those things.”

On Monk …
“Well, the best thing that he’s done is he’s transformed himself into a defensive guard – more so than he’s ever been. The second thing is he’s becoming an efficient scorer. He took 11 shots and he had 20-some points last game. He doesn’t have to take 40 shots to get 25 points. He’s not that guy. Now, he’s gotta take it up a notch rebounding the ball. He’s gotta go after balls. He’s gotta check out. My opinion is he should be a double-double (player) – as a guard. Like, what? Yeah. He should be a double-double (player)and it should be rebounds and points. He could be that guy, but he’s gotta focus on that.”

On Monk having a reputation as being inconsistent and if he’s shaken that now that he’s at UK …
“Well, he’s efficient more than consistent. When you’re an efficient player and you don’t have to be a guy who has to take 30 shots to get points, that’s big for your team because then everybody else can still shoot. Like I said, he had 11 shots and he made eight or nine – whatever he made – and had 20-some points. The other thing is we’re shooting free throws in there and the kid’s making 10 in a row, 10 in a row, 10 in a row. I look at Isaiah (Briscoe) – ‘If you shot free throws.’ Isaiah was like, ‘Why won’t he get fouled?’ Like, go get fouled. If you miss two jump shots – go get fouled. Go make two free throws. ‘OK, now I’ve got it going.’ It’s all creating new habits for these guys. Creating new habits for Bam (Adebayo) and De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen (Gabriel). A shot goes up, I’m not going to watch the ball. I’m going to create a habit and the minute that guy releases it, I go hit somebody. It’s all habits. It’s not changing. It’s creating new habits, creating new practice habits. That’s the day-to-day stuff that we’re trying to do.”

On how the team is responding to the coaching staff’s efforts to create habits …
“Yesterday they weren’t as focused. We worked out in the morning. Had a great workout and then they came back in the evening. We started slow and got going, then they kind of lost focus a little bit. So instead of just getting mad, I just had them condition. We just did conditioning for 15, 20 minutes because like I told them, ‘You guys I’m enjoying coaching you and I don’t want to get mad so we’re just going to condition instead of, you know.’ Told them today, ‘You’ve got to come in here every day focused on what we’re trying to do as a team. Then if you want to mess around and play pickup after we leave, come back at night and play pickup with each other. Then you can go shoot hooks and do what you want to do.’ Doubt it they’d come back, but that’s their choice if they choose to.”

On Briscoe shooting the ball higher …
“He’s changing because we’re doing it in practice. He is shooting it higher now because he has a big old thing out in front of him and it’s blocking him if he doesn’t shoot it higher. See, last year he made those. He didn’t get shots blocked. Now, tell me why, Jerry (Tipton)? You’re a Basketball Benny. Why didn’t he get shots blocked last year? Why did he avoid and make shots? Because he didn’t want to go to the foul line. Now he’s like, ‘OK I’m going to go in here and throw my body at this guy. Get him to foul me and not worry how high I’m shooting the ball because I’m making free throws. Well, I’m saying to him, ‘Dude, you’re getting blocks that we should be getting baskets, and in a close game we can’t afford it.’ You play a team – again, if a big guy is coming at him to block a shot and it doesn’t get blocked and he misses, our big guy is going to rebound the ball. Like, this is simple stuff. This isn’t brain surgery that I do. So if I shoot it higher, I don’t know if I can make it. It’s OK. Don’t make it. Just don’t get it blocked because the only one we can’t get is the one you get blocked. Watch this one: ‘Shoot it higher. It might go in. It might not, and if you miss it we will rebound it and score.’ ‘Yeah, but I missed it. I’d rather try to get it blocked.’ OK. Not just with him, now. We’re doing it with all the guys. We’re working on getting the ball higher. If he shoots it low off the backboard in practice I’m stopping it now because I’m really focused on seeing it. Watch. ‘Shoot it that much higher off the glass. That much higher.’ ‘Well, that’s a change from what I do.’ Come on, stop. Just shoot it higher. He’s doing fine.”

On if the team is as good as he thought they would be at the start of the year …
“We’re figuring out what we have to do. Individuals are figuring out what they have to do to get better and where they are right now. And then as a coach I’m figuring out the biggest thing was discipline. That’s the biggest thing I had to zero in on. We have to get a couple other guys playing better. We’ve focused on that. Then we’re looking at every player, whether it’s Isaiah: shoot it higher. Whether it’s Malik: get fouled. Whether it’s De’Aaron Fox: play faster. Don’t jog the ball up. Each individual, Wenyen (Gabriel), you and Derek (Willis), you’ve got to stay in front of people. How we’re playing pick and rolls now. With our team that we have right now. All the things. Being simpler on offense. Giving them a little more room because they react better. Learning to post the ball. Early on we weren’t doing it. Now you’re seeing us learning. If we don’t teach them they’re not going to just do it on their own and figure it out. That’s what we have to do. But their competitive spirit, their togetherness – I mean, people are sending me pictures of our bench (celebrating). When the starters are in – the bench. When the starters are out – the bench. When the last guys are on the court are in – the bench. We’ve got a group that’s sharing, but we’re playing Arkansas. It’s going to be a hard game. They’re good. They trap. They scramble up the game. They play reckless, which means they can come in here and make a bunch of 3s and beat you because that’s how they play. They went to Tennessee. Not many people went to Tennessee, and they won the game. And they won pretty handily. So we’ve got a ways to go, but I’m happy that we’re on the path we’re on.”

On if Arkansas’ style of play encourages other teams to just play basketball and not pay attention to schemes …
“Well, you’ve gotta – any game you’re playing you’ve gotta do some schemes to play together. But I would say if they’re trapping us, if they’re spreading the court out, it doesn’t matter who does that to us, we’re going to play. We’re not pulling it out. So I’m not giving away trade secrets. Anybody that’s watched me coach for over 30 years knows if you press and trap, we’re coming. That’s how we play. They play some zone. They trap out of zone. They do some stuff. They do some different out-of-bounds stuff to try to disrupt you. It’s how they play. So it should be another good ballgame for us – another hard game for us.”

On how the guys behind Adebayo have done …
“Better. Isaac (Humphries) looked really good yesterday. Like, really good. I had some individually meetings. You’ve got to remind these guys that we do this different here. It’s faster. You have to stay up with the treadmill or you’re going to get flipped under. You ever hear of Fred Flintstone? Do you know who he is? What was the wife’s name?”

Reporter: Wilma
“Wilma! And then he went under. He’s running on the treadmill and then he flips under. If you don’t stay up with the treadmill, you get flipped under. But I also, as I do that, I’ve gotta remind them that we do this and make it about them. And I’ve got to call them in every once in a while and say, ‘You know I love you now. You know I’m about you.’ If you can’t take a coach who’s for you personally, I don’t know how to help you. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you what you want to hear. And some of the guys I’ve got to tell them I believe in them more than they believe in themselves at times. And it shouldn’t be that. Like, ‘I see in you this. Why aren’t you seeing it?’ And most of the guys, it’s a competitive spirit. If you’re doing the drill, or we’re playing five-on-five and you get scored on and it’s just OK, it doesn’t bother you, you don’t have a competitive spirit. If you get scored on, you’re mad. If you miss an easy layup that you should have beat the guy on, you’re not happy. I mean, you’re not like, ‘Ah, I missed it. So what? Let me get back on defense.’ That guy – in this environment, Kentucky, in practice every day, every game is someone’s Super Bowl, you’re not going to face somebody that’s playing their best – it’s just hard to be that guy to compete here.”

On his appreciation for Nick Saban’s consistency at Alabama …
“It’s incredible. Look, I look at what Alabama’s done – and he’s done it with different staffs. The advantage they have over us is they have returning guys. Some leave and then they have a mass group returning that can really teach the new guys. You have redshirting and different things that make the kids older and you get more of a chance to teach them. But, with that being said, so does every other football team, so why in the heck are they doing what they’re doing? He’s incredible. I mean, he’s incredible. And then I go to Geno Auriemma in women’s basketball. They may win 100 straight games. You cannot make a movie about it. Why? It’s just not believable. You don’t believe that – that someone won 100 straight games. So when they write the movie, ‘Ah, no one’s going. Can’t win 100.’ You can’t win it in a video game, 100 straight games. When you talk about that consistency year in and year out – and I coach, so I know how hard it is – there’s a culture they’ve created that there’s an expectation within their team, yet their kids stay in the moment. How in the world do you do that? There’s an expectation that we’re going to win all these games, yet you stay in the moment. Let’s just do what we do today. And then, I’m going to tell you, on all those teams I just said, they have trust. Everybody trusts, ‘I can be reckless. Do my job, but be reckless and aggressive because someone will have my back. I trust someone’s got my back.’ And then they can go play. For those coaches, they’re unique. There would be other coaches doing what they’re doing if there weren’t just one or two of those guys and ladies. What those two guys are doing with those programs, wow. And Clemson is doing it in another way. And they’re really good now. People are acting like Alabama is just winning. I’m sorry. I mean, that other team is showing up and they have an expectation that they’re going to win. But yeah, I’ve got great respect for all those guys.”