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5 Notes from an insightful Kenny Payne press conference

By now, we all know what John Calipari thinks of this squad, which is why today’s press conference with Kenny Payne was so refreshing. Kentucky’s associate head coach shared his insights on this group, specifically the big men with whom he works.

Nick Richards is over-thinking everything

Richards’ struggles are well-documented by now. The freshman big man just can’t translate his hard work in practice to games. Payne, the big man guru, said it’s all in Nick’s head right now.

“Nick Richards is a very good basketball player who has made the pivotal mistake that all young players make and all players that struggle make: They begin to process. They begin to think too much. They begin to have self-doubt.”

Payne echoed Kevin Knox’s comments from Saturday that Richards works harder than anybody in practice and Calipari’s comments that they’re willing to keep giving him chances…to an extent.

“You have to be the guy that makes first contact and attack that basketball. Once he gets back to that and reacting and doing that in games, he’s going to be fine. We have not lost any faith in him. We believe in him. We just can’t afford to leave him out there and try to figure it out and he continues to make the same mistakes.”

Jarred Vanderbilt is guarding Kevin Knox in practice to toughen him up

After giving us yet another Jarred Vanderbilt update, Payne said they’re using Vanderbilt in practice to help toughen up Kevin Knox in anticipation of another physical showdown tomorrow night.

“[South Carolina is] going to try to make it hard for guys like Kevin Knox because Kevin has shown a tendency to shy away from contact. Well, every day in practice that’s why we’ve got Jarred Vanderbilt guarding Kevin Knox. Jarred, as much as you can, push him. Bump him. Be as physical as you can with him because when he gets that.”

If you missed Payne’s comments on Vanderbilt, click the link below:

Jarred Vanderbilt Update: “We’re leaving it up to him”

Caliapri’s motto for Sacha Killeya-Jones

We’ve already shared Payne’s comments about Wenyen Gabriel, but he also had plenty of praise for fellow sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones, who is producing valuable minutes thanks to some valuable advice from Calipari.

“Sacha’s been really, really good. He’s grown up a lot. He’s bringing us unbelievable energy. He’s becoming more secure and not just looking for the ball. Want him to be a jump shot shooter and Coach Cal has a great motto for him. ‘Every time you look for shots, you miss every shot that you look for. Every time you just play within the offense and set great screens and dive, the ball finds you and you put the ball in the basket.’ He has to embrace that more, and the more he does it the more success he’ll have.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been “unbelievable” in Quade Green’s absence

Shai finally won the SEC Freshman of the Week award for his performances last week, which give Payne confidence Kentucky can survive another game without starting point guard Quade Green.

“I think [Quade] has done a good job at the end of games of making big shots and making free throws, but to be honest with you the way Shai (Gilgeous-) Alexander is playing right now, I mean the kid has been unbelievable. He’s been great. He’s been our best player by far. He’s putting unbelievable pressure on the defense. He’s living in the lanes, he’s making free throws, he’s defending, he’s filling up the stat sheet. Can’t argue with that.”

No, you can’t.

“Don’t put me out there with these puppies”

John Calipari has a history of being thrown out of games at South Carolina, leaving Payne to run the show. Payne said he’d rather not be put in charge of “these puppies” should Cal get tossed again.

“Cal told the team after the last game that ‘Kenny coached the team, and we won by 30.’ He gave all the credit to Tyler Ulis. I yelled out to him, I said, ‘Cal, don’t put me out there with puppies. Don’t put me out there with these puppies.’“

How can you not love Kenny Payne?

Transcript after the jump…

Kenny Payne

On how significant the “little plays” are that Wenyen Gabriel is making …
“I’m happy you brought his name up first. We just had a staff meeting, and I said to Cal, ‘His energy, his effort and what he’s giving us on the floor, just the fight of it, is an example of what we need every player to do.’ This kid came here with a bunch of expectations, and it’s easy to get lost in what you are and who you are as a player. He’s finally getting back to being the player that he is: an energy guy, a tough guy, a rebounding guy. Obviously we’d like him to make better decisions handling the ball — he has some unforced turnovers at times — but his energy and his fight and his determination to play winning basketball is really good right now.”

On how important qualities like Gabriel’s will be against a team like South Carolina …

“One of the things that we’re trying to do, we’re trying to be a great road team — a team that can go on the road and fight and get a win. And that starts with guys like Wenyen — that kind of fight. That kind of determination to fight for a rebound. That kind of determination to block a shot at a pivotal time in the game. Take a charge. Dive on the loose ball. When you’re playing road games, every little situation on the court, every possession matters. We need that from more than Wenyen, but he’s an example of why we show film and show the players, the younger guys especially, ‘Look at what he’s done. Look at how he fought to get this offensive rebound and he was outside of the 3-point line.’ ”

On what Nick Richards needs to do to get back on track …
“Nick Richards is a very good basketball player who has made the pivotal mistake that all young players make and all players that struggle make: They begin to process. They begin to think too much. They begin to have self-doubt. In this game — this is an instinctive game — you have to play off your instincts. He is prepared. He is well-trained — more than I can ever tell you. He’s in unbelievable shape. He just has to go out and react, know who he is, know what he is. The common denominator, the basic and the foundation of what Nick Richards is he has to be a shot-blocker. He has to be a guy that can set a ball screen and dive to the rim and catch lobs above the rim — above the square even. He has to able to guard multiple positions. He has to be able to rebound the ball above the rim. And in order to do that, you have to be the aggressor. You have to be the guy that makes first contact and attack that basketball. Once he gets back to that and reacting and doing that in games, he’s going to be fine. We have not lost any faith in him. We believe in him. We just can’t afford to leave him out there and try to figure it out and he continues to make the same mistakes.”

On Kevin Knox’s post-game comments about Richards during the Vanderbilt game …
“Kevin Knox, great point you brought up. Yesterday, I spent most of the day watching film with the guys while Coach (Calipari) and Coach Barbee were on the road. And I happened to read some of Kevin’s remarks about Nick and what he said is so true. He is the hardest working player on this team and he just has to make it translate to games. Once he does that, we are going to be a much better team.”

On what he has seen from Jarred Vanderbilt in team practices …
“It’s hard because you see him a lot in high school and you don’t know what is going to translate and what is not, but since he has been practicing his speed is unbelievable. At 6’9” and whatever he weighs, he can really move. His ball handling is exceptional, like an exceptional ball handler. And his ability to make plays for other people is really, really good. He is literally like a point forward. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s quick. He’s good defensively. He rebounds the ball. He’s going to add a dimension to this team that is going to enhance what we do when he is ready to play.”

On when Vanderbilt will be ready to play …
“We are leaving it up to him.”

On what it means to leave the decision up to Vanderbilt …
“First of all, I think when you talk about a kid that’s coming off an injury and getting healthy there is a mental thing there that he has to get over. It’s been a long time since he has played basketball, and he’s going to have some aches and pains. He has to be able to practice and get through those aches and pains and feel comfortable. He’s getting to that point. I don’t know if he is there yet. Coach Cal doesn’t know if he is there yet, but I do know that he is getting to the point where he is feeling more comfortable. Hopefully it is soon. It’s wrong for adults to force a kid to do anything when they don’t feel like they are ready yet. I mean Coach Cal is never going to do that to a kid. That’s not what we do here.”

On having Vanderbilt’s first game be at home versus on the road …
“I think that depends on Jarred and where he is mentally. I think that depends on how he feels. As he says, ‘I’m a goon’ which means I’m a tough dude. I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. Then it doesn’t matter where I start at. That’s out of his mouth.”

On reports that he should take over the Louisville basketball program …

“You won’t believe this. The players — our players — didn’t even know that I went to Louisville, and when they did find out, they thought I was a football player. But seriously — you know, Louisville changed my life. As a young kid coming from Mississippi, to be able to be on a national championship team and learn basketball from a Hall-of-Fame coach (Denny Crum), I have love for Louisville. But, I have an obligation and love for the University of Kentucky and the guys sitting in this locker room. It’s unfair for Coach Padgett, who’s doing an unbelievable job at that university in a tough situation, really tough. There’s veteran coaches who can’t do what he’s doing right now. To put together and get that group to believe, and there’s going to be some adversity. There are some ups and downs in every season. He’s done a great job. It’s unfair to have any coach mentioned or any situation mentioned other than do the best job for that school right now. They should stay in the moment and try to win as many games as they can. That’s the best answer I can give you.”

On if he ever wants to become a head coach …

“Of course. Definitely. But I have a great job. I’m not in a rush. I’m not taking a bad job. I love what I do. I’ve been blessed to be working with a coach like Coach Cal, who’s a good man. I’ve been blessed to be working with young men that are exceptional young men, that are similar to me: dream chasers. That are out trying to do something special and I don’t take that lightly. So when the right time comes, hopefully it does. If it doesn’t, I can live with it.”

On how he can prepare the freshmen to play against a physical South Carolina defense …

“First of all, I think you hit on something there. They’re really physical. They’re going to try to rough us up. They’re going to try to make it hard for guys like Kevin Knox because Kevin has shown a tendency to shy away from contact. Well, every day in practice that’s why we’ve got Jarred Vanderbilt guarding Kevin Knox. Jarred, as much as you can, push him. Bump him. Be as physical as you can with him because when he gets that. And the greatest thing for Kevin Knox is the way he finished that game against Vandy, that’s the way he should start every game. That’s the way he should play every minute he’s on the floor and then we’ll see how good he is. For me personally with Kevin, I like the fact that he missed every 3-point shot that he taken. I like that because he had 17 points from the free-throw line and from tough 2’s. If you can do that and then you figure out later I’m gonna make a couple of 3’s, you’re going to see 20-point games from him.”

On telling every player to take it to the goal …

“It’s funny you bring that up. Winning basketball for Kentucky. At another school, it may be shoot 3’s. Shoot as many 3’s and when they go in, great. When they don’t go in we lose. Here at Kentucky, we believe in putting pressure on the defense. Cal has done an unbelievable job of teaching, in our opinion, winning basketball. Winning basketball is putting unbelievable pressure on that defense — making them foul, getting tough 2’s, posting up, they trap us and we make decisions and put the defense in rotations. That’s winning basketball for us. So it may not be pretty. It may not be 30 3’s in a game, but I’ll tell you what, at the end of the day, we win a whole lot of games by being attacking, tough players in a tough offensive team. When I look at the NBA, I look at players — you say you want to be any NBA player? The best players are not just living on 3’s. They’re attacking.”

On Sacha Killeya-Jones’ recent play …
“Sacha’s been really, really good. He’s grown up a lot. He’s bringing us unbelievable energy. He’s becoming more secure and not just looking for the ball. Want him to be a jump shot shooter and Coach Cal has a great motto for him. ‘Every time you look for shots, you miss every shot that you look for. Every time you just play within the offense and set great screens and dive, the ball finds you and you put the ball in the basket.’ He has to embrace that more, and the more he does it the more success he’ll have.”

On Quade Green’s recovery …
“He has not practiced yet. I think he’s any day now. I don’t even know if he’s going to practice today, but I know he’s getting close. He’s been watching and observing. Hopefully he’s seen a different side of the game that he didn’t see from playing that he can watch and see exactly what we’re trying to get our guards to do. Just how intense it is, and how tough you have to be defensively. Last game we had 12 straight-line drives and turndowns on ball screens. So that was 12 situations where you’re standing in front of an offensive player and he straight-line drives you for a basket. It’s tough to win that way. We have to be a tough defensive team that’s fighting you for space. That’s playing between you and the offensive player and the basket. And make you make tough 2’s. He’s learning that.”

On playing a physical team on the road …
“First of all on rebounding, who’s hitting who first? Are they hitting you? Are they attacking you? Are they pushing you under the basket? Well, if that’s happening then they’re going to get offensive rebounds. Second thing is defensively, they’re going to try to take you out of offense. They’re going to try to rough you up off screens. They’re going to try to get up inside of you when you’re handling the ball. They’re going to deny passes. They’re going to play physical. You have to meet every pass. You have to step over the defender. You have to come to the pass. Catch it, be strong with the ball and make good decisions. They’re going to collapse on drives and we better be ready to find their players on the perimeter and make them pass it.”

On having Green late in games …
“I think he’s done a good job at the end of games of making big shots and making free throws, but to be honest with you the way Shai (Gilgeous-) Alexander is playing right now, I mean the kid has been unbelievable. He’s been great. He’s been our best player by far. He’s putting unbelievable pressure on the defense. He’s living in the lanes, he’s making free throws, he’s defending, he’s filling up the stat sheet. Can’t argue with that.”

On Calipari being thrown out of some past games at South Carolina …
“Cal told the team after the last game that ‘Kenny coached the team, and we won by 30.’ He gave all the credit to Tyler Ulis. I yelled out to him, I said, ‘Cal, don’t put me out there with puppies. Don’t put me out there with these puppies.’“

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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.

2 Comments for 5 Notes from an insightful Kenny Payne press conference



  1. ukwildcat2323
    3:43 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    The ultimate insult to Knox LMAO. Vanderbilt is guarding him to toughen him up. OMG that oughta light a fire under his ass lol.



  2. jrdh13
    7:47 pm January 15, 2018 Permalink

    Yea so vando is the bruiser? If he can guard our best pure scorer and rough him up why in the world is he not playing in a game??