Associate head coach Kenny Payne filled in for John Calipari in today’s media opp and, as always, it was interesting to hear his take on what’s going on with the team, especially after Cal gave him and Tony Barbee more responsibility last week. I already shared his thoughts on Dominique Hawkins with you earlier, but here’s the rest of what he had to say this afternoon.
1. About those new responsibilities…
“I wouldn’t say that Cal is taking a step back,” Payne said of Cal’s decision to put him in charge of the offense and Tony Barbee in charge of the defense. “I would say he’s allowing me to talk more about the offensive things that he wants them to do — and basically that’s play together. Share the ball. Move the ball and get penetration off movement. That’s pretty much it.”
2. Wenyen knows he’s been playing poorly
After a 23-point performance vs. LSU a few weeks back, Wenyen Gabriel has fallen back into the shadows, scoring only five points over the last three games. Payne said Wenyen knows he’s been sliding, and after the Georgia game, he asked him what time he’d be running on Sunday, his “punishment” for not playing with confidence.
“The last game, as soon as the game was over, Wenyen Gabriel said, ‘What time do I have to run tomorrow?’ If you’re not on that floor playing with confidence, I’m running you.’ It’s that simple. They know. They know.”
3. Same thing with Isaiah Briscoe
“Lately, I think Wenyen (Gabriel) has a lacked a little bit confidence wise and hasn’t given us what he’s capable of. So has Isaiah. But we need them,” Payne said. “When you shoot the ball, for example if Isaiah shoots the ball and none of his family members believes that shot is going in, and he shoots it like he doesn’t believe it’s going in, he’s running. So he better believe 100 percent that he’s making that shot. That’s a layup, that’s a jumpshot, that’s a free throw, that’s defensive confidence. Whatever it is, he better do it with confidence.”
Or, you run.
4. Bam is struggling to find the balance between being physical and not fouling
Bam Adebayo’s only gotten double-digit rebounds in four games this season, a baffling stat when you look at him. Payne, the Cats’ big man guru, said Bam is shying away from physical play because he doesn’t want to get in foul trouble.
“The best way I can describe it to you is — right, wrong or indifferent — when you’re in foul trouble a lot and you’re afraid to be aggressive, and you become tentative, and you’re worried about what a referee’s going to call or not call, and that takes away from your aggression, that’s going to affect you. He has to get by that. He has to play with aggression whether he has two fouls or three fouls. He just has to be smart not to foul.”
5. How does Bam recognize that line?
“I think it goes back to Bam not getting dumb fouls to be honest with you. It’s just that simple. Sometimes he’s fouling in positions where he’s not getting the offensive rebound and the guy has the ball. Get back. Sometimes he’s being overly aggressive playing post defense against a guy that can’t score on him. He just has to find his way, and once he does that I think he gets more comfortable. And a part of basketball is reading how the game is being refereed. That’s intelligence. If you know they’re calling more fouls than normal then stay away from certain situations. Just be smart about it.”
6. “The kid from Georgia tore us apart”
How do you beat Kentucky? If you watched the Georgia game, J.J. Frazier showed that you just play the pick and roll. Frazier had 36 points vs. the Cats on Saturday, and for Kentucky to avoid being exploited like that again, they must learn to defend the pick-and-roll, which starts with the guards.
“First of all, it starts with the guard. The guard cannot just be standing in front a yard away from the ball handler. So if he’s doing that and he gets hit, he’s done. So now you’re putting the pressure on a guard coming at a big full speed. So we need the guard to connect first. He has to connect to the offensive player, and the big has to keep him in front of him until the guard gets back and fronts him off. Once we do that, we’re really good. If we allow guards to get penetration off the ball screen, it hurts us. To be honest with you, the kid from Georgia (J.J. Frazier) tore us apart.”
Listening, Fox, Monk, and Briscoe?
7. “You can’t ask for anything better” than how De’Aaron Fox finished the Georgia game
De’Aaron Fox had 16 points vs. the Bulldogs, 14 in the final 4:36 of the game — eight of them free throws. Payne said you can’t put a price on Fox’s poise down the stretch.
“De’Aaron Fox has proven that he can finish a game for us,” Payne said when asked about Fox’s gritty late game heroics in Athens. “He’s done it numerous times. He’s a tough guard. Talking to the Georgia coaches, they talked about how well he gets in the lane. It’s just about impossible to keep him out of the lane. He finished the game well. We’re really happy with how we shot free throws to finish that game. That was really good. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
8. Is that “K” on his pullover for Kenny or Kentucky?
Because if that’s an item of UK merchandise currently for sale, I’m buying it. Not enough Power K in this world.