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Everything Coach Cal and Co. had to say after UK’s Win over Vanderbilt


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Coach Cal

On how difficult it is to play with seven scholarship players available …
“I go back to my team I had at Massachusetts when I played five and six guys. One of the great mentors I’ve had in this game, his name was Jack Leaman, coached Julius (Erving) at UMass. He told me I play too many guys. So, in 2010 when Coach (John) Wooden was still alive I called him and I said, ‘Have you watched my team? We’re not an execution team. Do you have any ideas?’ Coach Wooden: ‘You play too many people.’ And he said, ‘I know why you do, because kids will transfer. We played five guys and you earned your space. I played a sixth guy if I needed to. You earn it in practice.’

“So, these guys should be happy. They got tired. PJ (Washington) didn’t play well. I mean, he got tired. Hami (Diallo) and Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), when they get tired, their decision-making is not the same. But I played two guards 39 minutes a game when I was there at UMass that year. It was the best team I coached – I didn’t say the most talented, even though Marcus Camby may be one of the most talented guys I’ve ever coached. The rest of the guys were really good – I hate to tell you, they were juniors and seniors. They were veterans. But, I played five.

“If you asked these guys, would you rather play half-a-game, or just play every minute, what do you think they’re going to say? ‘I’ll be good. I’ll play every minute.’

On how well Kevin Knox took it to the rim and didn’t settle …
“Yeah, and I told the guys on the bench the first one when he took (it in), I’m going to keep going at him. Whether we lose or not, he’s got to figure this out. The only way they’re going to figure it out is if they do it in a game.

“They have a desire to win and I thought Shai, at the end of the day – PJ struggled, so it was Shai and Kevin Knox. Then Hami makes that big 3 in the corner. But then Wenyen (Gabriel’s) effort, just – you gotta keep him in the game. I thought Sacha (Killeya-Jones) played well, I just went to a smaller lineup and when we went to it we played good, so I just stuck with it. But I thought Sacha did well.”

On saying Washington was the only one fighting after Texas A&M and if Gabriel is there too …
“Wenyen was the other one. Wenyen was the other one. He’s always done that.

“PJ didn’t have the spirit today that he had (before). And I told him, ‘You can’t lead when you feel like it. It can’t be a sometimes thing. It has to be an every time thing, because no one wants to really listen unless you’re the guy taking it at people’s throats.’ That is both defensively (and) rebounding. And he’s playing good. He’s shooting the ball much better.

“Look, folks, I’m asking for the impossible. I’m playing a bunch of freshmen and I’m asking them to go on the road, in a hostile environment, black out night, shirt night, and let’s win the game. And it’s going to be close, but you gotta tough it out. But that’s what my job is: to ask for the impossible. Then when they leave, they look and say, ‘I did more than I thought I could do.’ But it’s not fair for Kevin Knox, the youngest freshman in the country, to be put in that environment and those plays, and have to make plays and free throws. It’s not fair to him. But, that’s how we do this.”

On if it was a matchup he liked with Knox, or is Knox the guy he wants with the ball late …
“Well, he got it at the basket, he made that and-one, but he also got it near the rim. You’re talking about a 6-(foot)-9 guy that should be attacking around that goal. He’s a good free-throw shooter.

“Again, let me give Vandy credit. I mean, they had a great game play coming in, what they were going to do. We could not guard them. They may have shot 20-something percent in the first half, but they shot the ball in the second half. And they put us in pick-and-rolls. Guys didn’t quite listen to what we were saying. We did not want to switch our big guy onto the guard because we knew he couldn’t guard him and they were not settling for jumpers. Coach (Bryce Drew) had them running downhill and they made tough layups and hats off to them.”

On if he knows how long he will be without Quade Green …
“I don’t. I haven’t even asked him. I didn’t know if Jarred (Vanderbilt) was going to play. I was doing the board and I’m just acting like he’s not here and if he is—if they are, they are. The problem with being injured when you’re on my teams: I really spend no time with you. And sometimes – I don’t want to say this out loud – I forget names. Like, I even forget who he is. Who are you? What? What? Because I gotta focus on the guys that I’m coaching right now. They gotta get healthy and be ready to come back and be ready to go. Jarred, the same.”

On what Jarred Vanderbilt said to him before the game …
“I hope he’d give me more than what I would have gotten today, because I didn’t see him all day. I hope. But I don’t push kids. They know their pain. They also know their bodies and I’m going to tell you what happens when you’re injured: It’s not physically. It’s as much mentally and then conditioning. Those are the things that get you. It’s not the, you know—so when he’s ready, he’ll be there with us.”

On Nick Richards struggling …
“He’s going to have to go and rebound the ball and bend his legs and do what we’re asking him to do. You can’t stand stiff-legged and think you’re going to guard somebody. Now, are you doing that because you’re tired? I don’t know. But you’re doing it, and every time they drive right around you. Why are they doing that? Just bend your legs. We do it every day. Second thing is, if you go in and you don’t rebound and a guy grabs the ball from you—I told him after the game, I said, ‘Guys, if I stick you in and I’m saying you gotta rebound and the first play—walk to the bench. You don’t have to look to see if I’m taking you out. You know I’m taking you out. You know what you have to do. You have to rebound.’ ‘He pushed me in the back.’ ‘Push him back harder. I don’t know what to tell you, but you gotta get the ball.’ So, you know—I even woke up this morning thinking we should start the game going right at Nick. That was my thought when I woke up this morning. So, I haven’t lost any confidence in him, but he’s gotta perform. This is about winning. You leave him in the game and lose? No, not doing it. Nope. Not happening.”

On how much more these kinds of games should be expected …
“I would say a bunch of them and I would say our strength of schedule I believe is in the top 10. I think our RPI is six. I know we’re rated 29th, but our RPI is six. Is it seven now, Jerry (Tipton)? Thanks for correcting me. And strength of schedule—I mean, these kids, you know—and they go on the road and they’re not intimidated. And it’s, again, a bunch of young kids.”

Kevin Knox

On going inside in the clutch …
“Later on he called name and he wanted me to attack, so I got the ball whenever and I just got to the basket, knocked my free throws down and he’s been challenging me this whole season to be aggressive and get to the basket. I’m starting to get it now.”

On whether he expects all games to come down to the wire …
“Oh yeah, we’re getting into the middle of SEC play now, so every team is going to come at us with pretty much everything. So we gotta be able to show that we’re mature and be able to make winning plays down the stretch, get stops on defense and show people that we can actually win games in the SEC.”

On what it will take for Nick Richards to get going …
“Nick’s one of the hardest workers on the team. If you come to our practices, you see he’s always first one to the gym and the last one to leave. He’s just putting in the work. We just gotta get him to translate it to the game. I think all Cal really wants him to do is just rebound and defend and block shots and just run to the basket. He’s got one of the easiest jobs on the team. We just gotta get him to do it. I think one of his problems is he’s not really getting as many rebounds as Cal wants him to, so if he can just get 10 to 12 rebounds a game, he’d be fine. That’s all Cal really wants him to do, but he’s not getting it done. He’s going to keep working and he’ll get there soon.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

On UK’s play down the stretch in the last two games …
“I think it’s a testament to our age. It shows how young we are. With that being said, we won both the last games with the bad ending. It also gives us room to improve and we’ll watch film and we’ll fix it for the next games.”

On the lift Wenyen Gabriel gave them …
“Wenyen was big for us at the end and that’s what we all expect from him all game long. His energy he brings and he plays a hundred percent all the time. It’s what we really need to win and he did a good job tonight.”

On playing 39 minutes again …
“Yes, sir. It’s starting to take a toll. I’m going off adrenaline tonight. I think I’m OK tonight.”

On being able to drive at will and whether he’s surprised Vandy didn’t play zone …
“I actually believed they tried some zone a little bit in the second half. But yeah, I’m surprised they didn’t go earlier. I think they should have to stop me from getting in the lane a little bit, but they didn’t.”

On whether it feels like Jarred Vanderbilt is close to returning …
“Personally I feel like, yeah, he’s getting there. He’s making steps every day, but I think we’re all just ready for him to come back and we can’t wait. We know it’s going to be exciting playing with him. He’s going to bring a whole ‘nother element to the team and we just can’t wait.”

On his confidence …
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence, but it’s the work I’m putting in. And once you work hard, it’ll pay off and it’s showing.”

On being battle-tested …
“I think we’re really tested, especially in the last two games with them being so close down the stretch. I think that’s how it’s going to be all season. We’re going to continue to grow and we’re going to make strides and we’re going to be really good late in the season.”

On the moments when they lock down defensively …
“I think we all know that when we really channel and focus in on defense that we’re probably the best defensive team in the country, but I think it’s just us being engaged the whole 40 minutes. I think a lot of us are young and coming from high school you don’t have to be engaged the whole time because we’re so talented. We just get by. But at this level, you gotta stay the whole 40 and we’ll get there by the end of the season and we’ll be really special defensively.”

On seeing that opponents can make them pay when they have lapses …
“Uh, yeah. But like I said, we just gotta focus, stay together and really narrow in on defense and we’ll be good.”

Article written by Nick Roush

“Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.” @RoushKSR

2 responses to “Everything Coach Cal and Co. had to say after UK’s Win over Vanderbilt”

  1. Rembrandt

    Youngest college basketball team in the country, learning as they go from a great coaching staff. All along, I figured it would be February before we see what this team is capable of.

  2. kydrummer

    I think it’s safe to say Alexander is our best player right now.

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