Q&A: Players talk at UK Media Day


The 2017-18 Kentucky men’s basketball team answered questions Thursday for an hour on a variety of subjects at UK’s annual Media Day. The guys talked about everything from injuries, to summer ball, UK Pro Day, their role on the team and much more.

#0, Quade Green, Guard

On the coaching staff …
“They taught me a lot here. Some things I thought I was focused on but really wasn’t up there ‘til I saw the film of what I was doing. After that I just really – my whole game just elevated to a whole other notch.”

On things he may have thought he had a handle on coming in …
“Defense. Defense is one of the biggest keys here really. You got to know all the defensive concepts, the keys of defense and how to be in the right spot in the right time. All that off the ball defense, guarding the two’s – I had to guard Hami (Diallo) sometimes. It just, it gets crazy to be at Kentucky.”

On going against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander …
“It’s fun to me. I like going through competition like that and trying to find out ways how to beat him. I like stuff like that. His wingspan’s 6-5. It’s crazy. Practice gets crazy in here.”

On learning little things helping to bump up the game …
“Definitely. I think that basketball is a game that has a lot of little things the average fan doesn’t see, and even the average player doesn’t see until you’re at a high level. Just knowing those things is going to give me an advantage.”

On discussing the FBI investigation …
“We haven’t really talked about it that much. As a team, you know when it first came out I guess just to see this and everybody really talking about it. Other than that, we are more focused on ourselves.”

#2, Jarred Vanderbilt, Forward

On his injury affecting the lineup of the team …
“I think it’ll hurt a little bit, but I think we have a lot of guys that can kind of fill the same role that I do. So, I feel like we should be good to start the year off, and they should hold the fort down until I come back”

On possible foot recovery before January …
“I don’t know to be exact. We’re just playing it by ear right now. We are going to reevaluate and go from there.” 

On chemistry issues due to his being unavailable …
“I feel like the chemistry will click because of the relationship we have off the court.

“With the style that I play, and the style that (Coach) Cal has you know established for us. So, I feel like the system that we have it shouldn’t be that bad.”

On continuing to learn …
“I’ve learned a lot. Even though I’m not practicing we still go over film, I’m still tuned in, and watching what guys do, and watching the role. It’ll be a quicker transition when I do start playing.”

#3, Hamidou Diallo, Guard

On Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury and how it affects the team …
“Jarred is a key to our team and he’s a great player. With any of these guys down it’s going to affect our rotation, affect our team. We need everybody to do what we want to do. Losing him, it really hurts, but we just can’t wait for him to get back. Just waiting on his comeback. When he comes back we’re going to adjust him into what’s going on.”

On how it will be different for him this season …
“Just knowing that basically this is my year. Last year I came in here knowing that I wasn’t going to play. Just going through practice and then not being able to play, it hurt me. But now, knowing that in practice I’m just more motivated, more confident than ever.”

On if this team has a ‘take charge’ kind of guy …
“Definitely, I would say me and Quade (Green), definitely taking charge and taking on the leadership role. Speaking to guys, picking guys up and just bringing energy to practice every day.”

On how he’s improved since last year …
“I’m just a much better player from last year. I’m a totally different player. I just understand the game more and I’m just a more complete player now.”

#4, Nick Richards, Forward

On how Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury affects the team …
“Each player has a major role on the team. Each player has one major role on the team and for him not to be here, that one thing we need to win the National Championship, is really going to hurt us.”

On what kind of a shooting team we will see from the bigs …
“I think that each position on this team can shoot the ball pretty well. Big guys such as me, Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Tai (Wynyard), we shoot the mid-range pretty decent. I’m working on it every day with my coaches in the gym at nighttime and it’s getting better, slowly, but it’s getting there.”

On if communication has been a focal point on this team …
“One thing that he (Calipari) always talks about is talking on defense and offense. We don’t really talk that much, we talk mostly on defense, but me, personally, I can get better on both ends of the floor. Guys like Quade (Green) who’s pushing me every day to talk, talk, talk, talk on defense, ball screens, do everything. Guys like that really push me to just get better.”

On how tough the bigs can be …
“Basically, the transition from high school to here, I used to get probably 20 rebounds a game. Right now, I’m struggling to probably get five with these guys in the gym. Not to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just only making me better. Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Tai (Wynyard) are really the guys that are making me better. They’re two guys that you’re going to want to be ready for. They can rebound against bigger guys, that are like 300-pound seniors. If it wasn’t for those two I probably wouldn’t be as tough as I am right now. I need to get tougher, but it’s a work-in-progress. I think I’ll be ready for the season.”

#5, Kevin Knox, Forward

On UK Pro Day …
“I thought it went really well. That was my first ever pro day. Of course I’ve practiced in front of scouts at the McDonalds’s games and other all-star games, but the pro day went really well here. We did a lot of agility stuff, then we played some 5-on-5, stuff like that. It went really well. I got some good feedback, so trying to keep it with the season.”

On the unknown of the new players and if he’s still learning their tendencies …
“That’s something that Cal’s really big on is just knowing where your teammates like the ball, where they’re at in certain spots, how they like their plays. We’re getting really used to that. That comes with playing a lot of 5-on-5, up and downs, so we get to know our teammates, stuff like that. I’m not going to lie, our practices are getting really good, getting more intense, competitive because we’re starting to know each other and that’s really well for each of us.”

On if there is a spot he’s settling into or if he’s fitting into a positionless role …
“I mean, where me, PJ (Washington) Hami (Diallo), Wenyen (Gabriel), those type of guys that go to get rebounds and dribble the basketball to start the offense, Cal just really tells us to rebound the ball at a high level and be able to push the ball and start the fastbreak. He says our best offense is the fastbreak, so that’s what we like to do. Cal doesn’t really like the leader on offense like that. We can get a basket on a fast break, that’s what he really loves. So me, PJ, Wenyen, Hami get the rebounds, we’re flying. Gone. We’re getting really used to that and that’s how we’re going to play, up tempo.”

#10, Jonny David, Guard

On his role for the team ….
“Just go out there hustle, defend. Do all the little things. I know I wouldn’t be out there to drive the basket or score, but I’ll be someone to go out there on defense and to get someone a break.

On wearing the Kentucky jersey …
“I think the new people will realize what it means after Madness, because they will be able to see. They’ve been in Rupp a few times now, but they haven’t seen Rupp in that kind of environment. I think when they see that, and they see how all the fans treat them during campout and stuff. But I think when they see that, they’ll see what it means to wear Kentucky across their chest.”

On his role off the court to mentor others …
“Anything they need help with they can always ask me. I’ve been around here, whether they just want to go get some food somewhere. Need a good place to eat, they can ask me.”

#12, Brad Calipari, Guard

On practice …
“It’s great. We’re a young team, but it’s all coming along smoothly.”

On his feelings about his game over the last year …
“Being able to practice more and a couple of guys being out has given me more of an opportunity to get in and play more so I think I’ve been doing well. My confidence is still getting there, but it’s a lot better than it was last year and I think that’s really helping me this year.”

On telling Coach Cal to calm down …
“He tells us to tell him to calm down, but no one says it though.”

On young players handling Coach Cal …
“A lot of them are doing well with it. It’s more about what he says instead of how he says it and I think that’s how they’re handling it – which is good because some of their coaches before are almost the same as Coach Cal. They yell, scream, stomp so they’re kind of used to it. But still, this is a different level and he’s a different level of crazy, but I think they handle it well.”

#13, Jemarl Baker, Guard

On Shai Gilgeous-Alexander …
“He can do it all. He can pass. He’s super long, steals, disruptive on defense, and athletic too. I honestly didn’t know much about him or anybody too much before I got here, but I saw him play, and they were really good.”

On his health …
“Well, I’m getting healthy. I’m day-to-day right now, but I’ll be healthy very soon. I just have knee soreness and I’ve just been talking to the doctors and they just been saying that I need to rest and continue icing it. So, I’ve just been doing upper body in the weight room. Being off of the court is never fun. I’ve never had an injury really before, but I’ll be good soon.”

On being the self-proclaimed best shooter on the team …
“I’m never going to stop saying that I’m the best shooter on the team. I feel like I’m going to always be the best shooter on the team and in the country.”

On Coach Cal’s tone of voice …
“It’s nothing to me. I’ve dealt with my dad. My dad is probably the craziest person in the world, so dealing with him with basketball and hearing Coach Cal yell isn’t that bad. My dad is probably crazier than Cal. If you just met him, you wouldn’t think so, but he’s passionate.”

On Quade Green on the court …
“He doesn’t come across as bossy to any of us. He’s just a leader and he wants to win. That’s someone who you want to play with. He’s not shy about expressing his opinions, but none of us are, so being on the court with him is actually great. In comparison, Shai is a little bit more quiet, but they both learn and they both speak up when they have something to say.”

#14, Tai Wynyard, Forward

On his health …
“I feel pretty good. I’m getting checked out all today so I should be able to see if I can go tomorrow. I got hurt during one of the sprinting drills during pro day so I had to sit out of that, which sucked. But I’m just hoping to get back tomorrow. I’m currently feeling a lot better.”

On what camp has been like …
“Both times that I’ve done camp, I got hurt so I haven’t been able to do camp yet. It kind of sucks but, being able to come around and show the new guys everything that’s happening and all of that kind of stuff is pretty cool.”

On how he feels about himself now …
“Definitely 100 percent better. I’ve been working a lot throughout the summer on my game, so I’m feeling a lot better.”

On how to stand out to Coach Cal …
“I rebound. I rebound the ball and just be strong and show my physical dominance. By banging around the paint and moving people around just shows him a lot. Grabbing every rebound in practices is another thing that I’ve been focusing on.”

On a dance for Big Blue Madness …
“I have a little bit of a secret planned. I have a video that’s been planned by my uncle, so it should be pretty cool. It has something to do with my family and culture definitely. It’s more of a war dance, so it’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of weapon use in the video so it should be pretty cool. I’ll let you all wait and see what it is.”

#22, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Guard

On his first memory of UK basketball …
“Probably John Wall on stage dancing at Big Blue Madness.”

On how it feels to be a part of this program …
“It’s an honor.  When I was younger I didn’t really think I could be at this level, but knowing that I am now, it’s a good feeling.”

On the biggest adjustment so far …
“Probably the length and height of our team. We basically have an NBA sized team. It’s tough to get to where you want to go, but you just have to figure it out.”

On parts of his game he is concerned about …
“I am trying to get my jump shot off faster and get it more consistent. Continue to build strength and athleticism.”

#25, PJ Washington, Forward

On the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry and if it’s a big deal to play in the game …
“I started following when John Wall first came here and I feel like it’s a big rivalry. It’s one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball and I can’t wait to get a little bit of action and get started playing.”

On how competitive practices have been thus far …
“Crazy competitive. Everybody is good at everything. This is not like a regular team, I mean there is no weak link on this team and everybody is good. Everybody can do everything like I said. It’s just hard to basically play your game because everyone knows you.”

On adjusting to the competitiveness …
“It’s different. It’s like playing all the top players in the country on a daily basis. It’s great, it gets you better and you get to adjust to different players.”

#30, Dillon Pulliam, Guard

On his role for the team …
“I’ve been around the program as long as anyone, except for Jonny we’ve been here around the same. As a leader whenever I come in I do whatever is asked. Knock down shots, play defense, just help other people out because it’s a little bit different than it has been in years past. I know Cal’s coaching style, just as a leader and do whatever is asked.

On wearing Kentucky across his chest …
“I try to instill to the younger players how important it is. It’s an honor to play for this program. With all the history and success we’ve had in the past, most of them have grown up watching Kentucky basketball, especially in recent years with the success. Yeah, it’s an honor for me. I think pretty much everyone here gets that.”

On academics …
“If they ever have a math question they always know they can come to me. Or sometimes when we’re traveling I may have to pull out my laptop and do homework on the plane. So I guess I try to set a good example.”

#32, Wenyen Gabriel, Forward

On where he is going to establish himself this year on the team …
“I think it might be different with Kentucky since it’s a brand new team so my role might be completely different from what it was last year. It’s about how this team fits together. I am a versatile player. I can play different types of positions. It’s about seeing where I fit best for this team and how we can win. I am going to do that to the best of my ability.”

On if it feels to be a sophomore and if it is weird to be looked at as a leader …
“I don’t see it as weird. When the season ended last year, it was what was expected. A lot of the team is gone. As the season is going on, you’re going to lose most of your team. If I come back, I’m going to come back as a leader. I definitely embraced that role when the season ended.”

On how his game is different or improved from last year …
“It’s a lot more different now since I have my legs under me a little more. That makes all the difference in the world to me. It helps me slow the game down. Obviously since I can actually control my body better it’s easier to bang in there, get rebounds, run the floor. All your moves become more efficient. It’s a lot. Just putting it together now so it’s going to be real fun. It’s a challenge every day. I just come with a renewed focus and that’s what I’m going off of.”