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TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari previews Utah Valley


On the last few days of tough practices …

“This is as hard as I’ve been on a team since I’ve been here, I would say. Both stretching them out and then being direct and specific on what we’re looking for and what I’ve accepted. But they’re behind most of those other teams. They’re not behind size, it’s just trying to get them when they’re fatigued to just continue to fight. When they’re fatigued, get them to think. Things that they’ve never really had to do. But, I’m going to say this, a great group of kids. As we start this off, I have to accept more than anyone else, more than any fan or media, that we are where we are and it’s going to be a process and we could get dinged along the way. This team that Mark’s (Pope) put together, I’ve watched tape, they’re pretty good now. They’re one of the oldest teams in the country and guess what they’re playing? Probably the youngest team in the country. I don’t care where they’re from, where we’re from, this is not going to be easy for these guys. I’m happy on the trajectory of the team. It’s just that we are where we are.”

On if the team is aware that it won’t be easy …

“They’re going to have to get hit in the mouth a few times, then you start realizing. Or, the other side of it is, what happens when you’re us, the other teams play as well as they can play and they play with more energy, they’re more focused and they execute better because they’re playing against Kentucky, in Rupp Arena or anywhere. That means it puts even more pressure on you to do and play the way you have to play.”

On if the team embraces the practice schedule …

“Yeah, my staff’s kind of reminding me we’re practicing with 10 players. Brad’s (Calipari) being the 10th. Brad’s the 10th. No one gets off the court. No one stops. Only the last couple days have I started going four minute segments. Where we scrimmage four minutes, take a minute and 30 seconds, scrimmage four minutes. Because that’s what the games like. Prior to that we would just go until I decided we stop. Let me tell you, when you’re doing all the other things that these kids do and you’re coming to this practice and you’re not being told you’re the greatest. Eric (Lindsey), who most the time has his feet up on my desk throwing popcorn in his mouth, he’ll be down watching us practice and said ‘I’ve not heard you this loud. I’ve not heard you this way.’ I’m not cussing but I’m loud. I’m holding them accountable. That’s then. Now, we got three games in five days. It’s hard when you’re my age, you don’t remember back to other teams and how they were early. You don’t remember 2009 being down 19 to Miami of Florida, no, Miami of Ohio. It looked like you were going to win and it took a buzzer beater by John Wall to win the game. You forget all those. You just think you won all these games. This is going to be a process. Whether it’s this team, Vermont is a top 50, 60, 70 team with everybody back. An NCAA tournament team. We’re ready to play them. Especially when you’re talking 36 hours later. I want to have fun with this. I personally want to have fun with this. But it’s hard because you get used to how things are and this is going to be different. I’m going to have to be somewhat different. As you get older, some of you in this room, you’ve been mean and nasty you’re whole life and now you try to change. You can’t. You’re mean and nasty.”

On if the team’s in shape …

“Yeah, it’s not shape. I was probably using the wrong term, fatigued. Fatigue is not just physical fatigue. You think about these kids. It’s a high school team plus six months. Now all of a sudden they’re in front of 25,000 people. The anxiety prior to the game. The anxiety before the game you do a shoot-around. The fatigue, they’re just used to when I feel this way, let go. That’s what we’re trying to tell them they’ve got to fight through.”

On if the AAU mentality helps during a close stretch of game …

“The only issue is they’re three teams, these are not going to be teams that play bad and win. You’re going to have to play fair. You don’t have to play perfect games because we’re not going to for a while. We may never this season. You’re going to play and be right 30 percent of the time. Now you just have to fight through it and cover for each other and scramble and dive and attack and play off your instincts. That’s what the game is going to be for a while. But we’re going to play teams with veteran guards. We’re going to play teams with veteran players that aren’t going to get rattled. You’re not going to press them into submission or get them to turnover four straight times. You’re not going to do it. You’re going to have to play basketball. But, I think the kids are ready to let’s start playing somebody else. Yesterday I probably went a half hour shorter than we had been going. Today we’ll probably go an hour shorter, maybe an hour and a half shorter, than we’ve been going. Because we’ve got these games, they’re bang, bang, bang, and you’ve got to travel.”

On playing tough basketball …

“Playing winning basketball is you are trying to play to your strengths, trying on offense, every time down we get a great look at the basket and we try to rebound a miss. And then on defense you are never out of position. You give them one tough shot. You rebound with five guys like crazy. You be a great team going from offense to defense. They don’t get lay ups. You be a great team going from defense to offense. You try to get some easy baskets. That’s the basic thing of how we play and then how you do that, whether you’re pressing and zoning, but what I just said, teaching them that winning basketball. Now, I will give you an example. So, you just take a shot because you feel like shooting, a shot that we can’t rebound. No. That is not winning basketball. A guy has a better shot than you but you shoot it anyways. No. You force it, to drive it. It is absolutely not there. One more pass, we have something. No. It is not winning basketball. You jog back on defense because you missed a shot. You don’t talk on defense to help each other to cover. You give them open baskets because you are trying to deny and play all over the court, which is not how we play. You don’t worry about rebounding. You are hoping your teammate rebounds. You cannot win playing that way. So, you are trying to get it down to, we are going to get a great look every time down. Do what you do best. If you are a driver, drive. If you are a shooter, shoot. Do what you do best. We are going to be great going from that offense to defense. We are going to attempt to rebound on it and then when we get back on defense, we are going to give them one tough shot and then we are going to rebound like crazy. We are not spacing. We’re not denying. It is not how we play. So, it takes time for them to get ingrained in that when they have played different. Now, I have had them for three months, four months now, 28 practices. Twenty-seven practices, I’ve had them. So, those habits, which are how you become successful, you create good habits. We will see how ingrained they are right now.”

On foul trouble …

“Same deal. You negate any hustle by fouling. We are not trying to stop them from scoring. You are trying to make it a tough shot. Again, winning basketball. You are going to shoot balls. We are just going to make them tough. It is going to be hard for you to get a basket. You are going to get some anyways. When was the last shut out in college basketball? Has there been one? Probably not. So, you are not going to shut them out. But, you don’t want to get in foul trouble because that is how you lose games. Again, winning basketball. You are making this tough. I am not leaving my feet. I am not trying to steal because then I will foul. Then, I get two of those or three, I’m out and we lose. Why did you do that? Because I thought I could get it. Well, we don’t play that way. We play that winning basketball. ”

On Jarred Vanderbilt …

“Probably start practicing at the end of the month.”

On having numerous guards on the floor …

“I like it because we’ve played with three point guards in the last few years and what has been amazing to this point, this team has, we are not playing with a whole lot of point guards out there. We haven’t been a big turnover team. We are not turning it over 25 times and it doesn’t matter who you play. If you are a turnover team, you are going to turn it over. So, we have been pretty good with that and let’s hope going forward. Again, you are a low turnover team when you are trying to make easy plays and ready? Do what you do best as a player. You don’t turn it over as much. Well, I am going to try this. Wait until you see this. I saw it. Unfortunately, we all saw it. So, those are again, things that they are learning and going to. I am going to tell you, great group of guys. These kids are great kids. They want to win. They know they need each other and I think they kind of know where they are right now.”

On Utah Valley playing Kentucky and then traveling to Duke …

“Well, I think DeWayne (Peevy) set that up if they wanted to do both. It was their option. Talked to Duke and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a team coming in if you want to play them.’ Again, I think Duke was trying to give themselves more time for that third game, which is why they went Friday-Saturday. We are playing Friday and Sunday afternoon. But, the team we are paying is not playing. So, when we play Sunday afternoon, that is their first game, which will make it even tougher.”

On advisement to players if they decided they did not want to play postseason, similar to NCAA football player foregoing their bowl games …

“I would talk to them and ask them about it. But, I think the difference between that and what we do in basketball is, if you’re not in the playoffs, you don’t have a chance to win the national championship. I think with us and the NCAA Tournament, you have a chance to win the national title. So, I’m not sure that that would happen. But, if they weren’t in that championship game, I doubt their is anyone in that championship game that would step away. I don’t think so. ”

On whether or not a player would do that if their team is in the NIT …

“Would I want to coach in it you mean?”

On how he would advise a player like Karl Towns playing in the NIT …

“If I had Karl-Towns and we were in the NIT…”

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.