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  • Vanderbilt Commodores - February 28, 2017 - Rupp Arena - 9:00 PM EST - ESPN

Coach Cal’s pre-Georgia media opportunity

Kentucky head coach John Calipari spoke with the media Friday afternoon to preview the Wildcats’ upcoming game at Georgia. 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. 13/11 Kentucky (21-5, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) travels to Athens, Georgia, to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (15-11, 6-7 SEC) on Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 90-81 in overtime on Jan. 31 at Rupp Arena. UK guard Malik Monk scored 37 points in that game, the second most ever by a freshman in school history. Georgia, led by the inside-out duo of Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, enters the game coming off back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Mississippi State.

Coach Cal

On the planned update to the Joe Craft Center …
“The building is 10 years old. It was built at a time where everything was kind of cut up. We’re in this building 300 days a year, and it was time. It’s funny, I’m driving through campus and I go by and I see softball, soccer’s new, and football. I see what it looks like from the road – golf –  and what we’re doing. I think it’s great – baseball, track. You knew we had to be in line. There’s a line because of us. I didn’t mind being last. We just had to be in line, and they knew it. It’s good that they’re doing it. It’s the same with the lodge. I mean, the lodge was built the way it was built because the NCAA told us no a thousand times. Then Taj-Mahals were built and they said, ‘Well, those are fine, though.’ We were told no. Believe me, I was in the middle of it. Joe Craft doesn’t want to hear that the lodge isn’t this and that. We built what (the NCAA) allowed us to build. We’ll probably have to go through that again. I’ll say this: It’s different than the locker room (at Rupp Arena). The locker room, when we built it, was what it’s going to look like in 15-20 years out at Rupp. The difference is we’re down there 20 times a year. You’re in this building 300 days. This thing gets a lot of wear and tear. It’s 10 years old, and I think that it’s nice what they’re doing. It’s great for these kids. They’re here, they’re working. They deserve to feel good.”

On practicing scenarios where the team has a lead …
“We get leads and (the players) think, ‘OK, it’s my turn to go do my thing.’ Then you turn around and it’s an eight-point game. What just happened? Me thinking they would already know – they don’t know. I was tough yesterday. Yesterday was a rough practice. Hoping today’s will be really sharp, then we can get on the road and get down to Georgia, down to Athens. I said it again. It took us three weeks to get where we were. It’s going to take us time to get out of that. It’s as much of mindsets, habits and all of those kinds of things. Competitiveness. Like, the second unit went right at the first unit yesterday and won. They won two or three different times and the white (team) had to run. That’s what you want. You want them to compete in practice because that’s what they’re going to have to do in the game.”

On De’Aaron Fox’s performance improvement against Tennessee …
“We’re showing them a lot of tape of what other point guards are doing and what he needs to do more of. But the other thing is, if you watched him defensively, we’re seeing a guy at the top of the defense clapping and getting down, which makes the rest of you – it’s contagious. And then playing like this is contagious, too. Now they’re looking at that, what am I going to get in the stance and really go and go out front? So he’s really starting defensively, and then he’s making good decisions. When to go and when to pull it out. Showing them on a tape, you can’t, if it’s one on four and you’re the one, you can’t shoot that. You can’t shoot it. You’ve gotta to pull out. It’s just basketball, but he’s learning.”

On what tapes he’s been showing …
“Just different games. Like, here’s what other point guards did to this team. So look, you can do this.”

On what he can say about coaching the USA Basketball U-19 team …
“USA Basketball called to tell me they were interested in me coaching it, and I told them great, I’d be interested. Until they announce something, there’s nothing to be announced.”

On freshman forward Sacha Killeya- Jones …
“Still working. He’s trying. And guys are ahead of him right now and it’s a hard deal. Now you’ve got to fight your way through practice to get ahead because you’re not going to get in the game before a guy who’s beating you in practice. It just doesn’t work that way. So he’s a little bit behind but, you know, I’ve had some individual meetings with him and talked to him. Like he said, ‘I understood coming here that this was going to be hard so I’ve got to work through it.’ ”

On the ball movement during the Tennessee and if there was one that stood out …
“Well, there was about eight of them, and the one where Dom (Hawkins) maybe got the shot in the corner in front of their bench was a big one. But look, we’ve now got to do that man or zone. You play the same way. You’re pushing it, you’re driving it and you’re moving. But, it’s not just ball movement because if you’re moving the ball and people aren’t moving, then you’re going to play against a zone whether they’re man or zone. So the balls got to move, and if it’s zone, it’s more shallow cuts than fully through cuts. We’ve got some stuff we’re working on to just continue to get them to have that mindset. But, if we don’t teach it, if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t emphasize it, they are not going to do it. They’re 19 years old. They’re just not.”

On setting up drills in practice to build on leads and how that’s been going …
“Good. Good. The situational work has been good for them. And I’ve stopped them. Like, ‘Why would you take that shot? Tell me why would you take that shot with 21 seconds in the clock. Why did you do that?’ Defensively, you know, if they don’t get back we’re on the line running. Just holding them accountable. I mean, this is where we’re down to five games and then we get into our league tournament and then you get into the NCAA Tournament and you’ve got to be in ‘This is who we are.’ And we’re still not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”

On the chemistry between Fox and Malik Monk and if he saw them complementing each other as well as he hoped …
“Yeah, I did. And I thought, with Isaiah (Briscoe) here, they both could play off – all three of them – could play off each other. I knew that Dom and Mychal (Mulder) would add something to how they play and what they add to those two. Again, why this works here is because they all recruit each other to come here. That’s why this works. So now that means they liked each other before they got here. That’s the beginning. Plus, none of them were promised any minutes, shots, starting positions. None of that was promised to any of them. So now they know they’re on equal footing. Let’s go, let’s work, let’s see where we are. And they all know each other. This isn’t 20 years ago where you knew your people from your area. You know, the AAU stuff and the national games and how they do this, they all know each other from when their 12-year-olds until they go to college – 8-year-olds until they go to college, I should say.”

On Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel going up against each other in practice more …
“Well, first of all, that’s what they’re doing, and if they’re not performing I’ll go with Mychal at a four. The big guys are deciding who’s playing, so if you’re playing less you may be playing less in practice. Instead of trying to put a big team out there that we’re not playing with, let Derek and Wenyen get their time at four. If we want to slip them to three at times I will. And I’m also really working on that first unit of guys. I’m really focused on that unit playing well, especially if that unit’s going to play 25 minutes together in a game. I’ve got to spend 75 percent of my time then working on that unit because they’re going to be out there the most.”

On who Willis is at this point …
“A guy that you put in and if he’s really on, you leave him in there. And if he’s really not, you’ll know right away and you’re out. Like yesterday he did some stuff and I’m like, ‘You can’t do this to your team. They have to know that they can count on you. You cannot do what you’re doing right here.’ And so, sometimes he goes in and out. You know, I’d like him to be more consistent but at some point you gotta say, ‘Here’s who he is.’  Now, how do we do this? How do we get the best out of him being this is who he is?”

On Bam Adebayo’s first double-digit rebounding game since December …
“Well, we’ve made it one of the things that we’re saying – we’ve made it an emphasis for him. You double-digit rebound. There’s no reason. And I don’t need you to go get 10 offensive. Get 10 defensive. They’re going to miss 30 shots; go get 10 of them. And, so we’ve kind of shifted with him. There’s stuff that we’ve done – when we rebooted we did a lot of stuff with different guys to focus on different things.”

On if Georgia looks any different than the first time they played …
“Um, no. The Tennessee game their guard (J.J. Frazier) went nuts. I mean, he, you know. (Yante) Maten he is what he is – 20 points a game. The other kid (Frazier), 20 points a game. And the other guys are fighting like heck. Their big kids our rebounding. Their wings are rebounding slashers. It’s going to be a hard game. It’s been sold out for three months, four months. I saw the tape of them and Mississippi. It wasn’t a packed stadium. Well, it’s going to be for this game. And so, it doesn’t matter how they play. We know who they are, how they like to play. I imagine whatever that is, they’ll be at their best. And we’ll see.”

On if there’s anything UK can do to slow down Maten …
“Yeah, but you know, again you gotta keep a special eye on him. But, anytime that we just left and trapped and it even happened against Tennessee, and I saw it against Mississippi – he’s passing to the other big kid for dunks. So, you gotta be aware. You just can’t leave people to go trap him, because he’s throwing it and the guy’s dunking it. It’s not like it’s – it’s 100 percent that. But, we’ll see.”