UK forwards preview Cats-Razorbacks

Kentucky forwards Wenyen Gabriel and Isaac Humphries spoke with the media Friday afternoon about the Wildcats’ upcoming game against Arkansas on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Gabriel is scoring 5.7 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 5.6 boards per game, including 2.4 offensive rebounds per game. Humphries, a sophomore from Sydney, Australia, is coming off an eight-point, six-rebound game against Texas A&M. Video of the interviews is courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV.

Wenyen Gabriel

On if there’s a key factor to Kentucky starting faster recently …
“I know during Camp Cal we’ve been emphasizing our defense a lot, a lot of scrimmaging, too, on offense. We’ve been picking it up and emphasizing that we’re a defensive team so we’re trying to pick up the speed of other teams.”

On how he’s improving defensively …
“I think I’ve been making a lot of good strides. I think Camp Cal has been really good for me. I’ve been able to trust my teammates more. I know Cal has talked a lot about that. I think I’ve been getting a lot better and by the end of the year I’m going to show a big improvement.”

On changing his mentality toward defense …
“It showed in the game I was worried too much, thinking too much, but a lot of that is settling down, getting the freshman nerves out of the way and just playing basketball. Playing a little bit more free. That’s what I’ve seen the big change in.”

On how this change came about …
“I think it comes from playing more games, becoming more comfortable, playing against big teams. Everything kind of slowed down in my mind, so it’s getting a little easier for me.”

On if anything has surprised him about SEC play …
“I didn’t know what to expect in conference play. I know the teams are going to be competitive. I know we have a target on our backs since we’re Kentucky. I know everybody wants to beat us. Every team is going to give us their best, so just being ready for that is something that’s been big for me.”

On practice not going well Thursday and Coach Cal making them condition instead …
“By the end of practice we started breaking down a little bit. Camp Cal has been getting at us. I think it was just some freshman things and we lost focus a little bit, so Cal had to bring our focus back with conditioning.”

On if UK’s depth allows him to crash the offensive boards …
“Yeah, I can play differently than I did back in high school and focus on different things. When I don’t have the ball, move without the ball, crash offensively and things like that.”

On if foul trouble ever enters his mind …
“I’ve been taking a lot of risks that has been getting me in foul trouble. I’m trying to stay away from foul trouble now.”

On if foul trouble is a byproduct of his motor …
“Yeah, I found that it’s a byproduct of my motor, but I have to learn how to play smarter still if I want to stay in the game.”

On seeing a 3-pointer go in against Texas A&M …
“It was good. It rattled in. I probably should have taken a couple more, but it depends on if I get anymore good looks.”

On Arkansas liking to spread the court and get up and down …
“I think that plays to our advantage. We’re a fast team. If they want to play fast with us, then let ‘em.”

On if he always has to be aware of a pass with three guards on the floor …
“You just gotta be ready. There’s a lot of playmakers on the floor so you always have to be ready to make a play, and you gotta be ready to finish the play. Cal always calls us finishers so it’s a process learning to get in that mindset.”

On how well Malik Monk is playing …
“Malik’s great. I think he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with in my life. Definitely is. He just does a lot of amazing things every time he’s on the floor. He’s a great player. People get on him about the Louisville game, but we don’t even mention that around here because he’s such a great shooter.”

On if Monk has talked to them about Arkansas and his recruitment …
“We don’t talk too much about Arkansas, specifically. We kind of keep it focused about game to game.”

On if he thinks Monk is “juiced up” for this game …
“I think we’re just treating it all as another normal game. He’s ready to attack them just like he’s ready to attack any other team.”

On Camp Cal …
“We’re with each other all day, all three meals a day, practice in the morning, shooting free throws, practice at dinner, movie at night, it’s all good. Camp Cal has been really good for us as a team. I feel like it makes this young team really mature more.”

Isaac Humphries

On practice going well the last few days …
“Yeah, I had a good week and a good couple of practices the last couple of days. So, very positive. (I’m) in a good mindset right now.”

On what he has been doing differently …
“Just competing a little more and trying to work on my game. The time that we’ve had in Camp Cal has been very beneficial for all of us. We’ve had a lot of time to work on ourselves and our team, stuff like that. So, we’re just trying to implement everything that we’ve talked about.”

On if he is rushing offensively in games …
“Yeah, that’s always been an issue for me. Ever since I was a young player as well, I’ve just always tried to rush. But, I’ve got a lot better at that. But, I still do find myself a little bit rushing. That’s obviously something we’re working on.”

On if this season has gone a little differently than he anticipated, personally …
“Yeah, it’s not at all how I planned it. We all have to face adversity at some point in our lives. This just happened to be my time, and I’ve been dealing with that. I’m almost certain that I’m out of it – that little slump and on the rise. It’s a more positive time of the season.”

On who he leaned on during his slump …
“My teammates obviously helped me a lot. They identified that I was struggling a little bit and they tried to lift me and the coaching staff too – just always having my back, keep telling me that they believed in me and stuff like that. (It was) pretty much just the team and the coaches who are around me”

On if he was surprised that the team and coaches helped him that much …
“Not at all. I was not surprised at all because we’re very close. We’re a very tight-knit group again and it’s just a place where when someone is struggling you just pick him up and help him.”

On UK associate head coach Kenny Payne …
“He’s just been trying to really like make me mentally tough. I’m trying to take on everything that he’s given me because obviously the games are very intense. They get crazy sometimes. He tries to emulate that kind of environment. (We’ve) been working on just little things skills-wise – aggression, rebounding and stuff like that, just to try to get me more comfortable.”

On if the pace of play by this team makes it more difficult for his game …
“I feel like we are (playing at 100 miles per hours). Like we like to run the floor a lot quicker this year. I don’t know if it’s a struggle, I think it might be – I don’t know. It’s hard to say, because that’s just them. They like to run really fast and I can throw that outlet pass and they can run and score layups. I don’t know. That’s a hard thing to think about. I don’t think that it’s that bad. Once we get into the half court, we’re fine.”

On Cal talking about trust …
“Yeah, we do get that a lot about the trust. We all trust each other off of the court, but sometimes we get a little lost on the court. We’re all very young. We’re all just trying to figure that out. I mean it’s still, what is it January 6th? We’re just trying to figure all of that out. But, yeah he does preach the trust. We’ve gotta try and work on that on the court. We are all fine off the court.”

On what he looks like at his best …
“I think rebounding, scoring in the post and outside shots sometimes. Just trying to play hard and fight. That’s what I would bring to the team at my best.”