Keldon Johnson is clearly a gifted athlete, but Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne couldn’t help but give the freshman a little grief during interviews with reporters in the Bahamas today. While praising fifth-year senior Reid Travis’ maturity, Payne noticed Johnson standing behind reporters and worked in a few light-hearted jabs.
“Reid Travis does things that juniors and seniors in college don’t do; he looks you in your eye and he’s listening to everything that you’re saying. A Keldon Johnson is floating mentally. He’s all over the place. You could be talking to him and he’s dribbling a basketball. He’s never making eye contact, whereas Reid is totally focused on everything that you’re saying and he’s going to do it directly. Now, if we can teach Keldon that, then we’ll be alright.”
“Can I get my room key?” Johnson finally asked.
“He’s more concerned with his room key than anything,” Payne quipped.
“Because what you’re saying right now is not accurate,” Johnson insisted. “That was Keldon at the beginning of the summer. It’s not Keldon right now.”
Keldon had a few missed dunks last night that could have taken the house down; the most ridiculous of the two earned him an earful from John Calipari after the game.
“Coach gave him a hard time about the missed dunk that he had no chance of making,” Payne confirmed.
How long before Johnson connects on one of those dunks?
“Probably tonight,” Payne predicted. “He’s a gifted player. He wants to be great. He pours 100 percent in. He’s so emotional. He loves the game of basketball. He’s vocal. For him, this is fun. What most people consider stress, he considers fun.”
Coaches have to pull effort out of some players, but Johnson is the perfect example of someone who gives so much he has to be reined in, which is what Payne and the Kentucky coaching staff prefer.
“I would always rather for a kid to be aggressive — overly aggressive — because you can tone that down. A kid that is passive, you’re trying to get him to rev that up. Keldon is beyond overly aggressive. You can always tone that down. He’s learning.”
When asked, Payne agreed that Johnson’s effort is reminiscent of another Calipari great: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“His motor is unbelievable, and you’re right, he does have some MKG in him and with kids like that, you tell them, trust your heart and play and have fun.”
Enjoy the video below, especially Calipari slyly grinning in the background.
While praising Reid Travis’ maturity today, Kenny Payne also teased Keldon Johnson. Fun moment pic.twitter.com/2kc0jRnFPR
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) August 9, 2018