I’ve already shared some notes from John Calipari’s press conference today, but here are nine more, starting with his thoughts on tomorrow’s matchup with UCLA:
1. “This is going to be a shot-maker’s game”
UCLA and Kentucky rank third and fourth in the country in points scored per game at 97 and 95.6 respectively, so there are going to be A LOT of points scored tomorrow. Right, Cal?
“This is a shot maker’s game,” Cal said. “If either team is not making shots, you’ll be in trouble. I doubt both teams won’t be making shots so you better hope it’s not you.”
2. Calipari’s rule of 62
“I always say, to advance in the NCAA Tournament, you can’t be a team that scores 62 points a game. You want to win a national title, go to Final Fours, scoring 62 points a game makes it really hard. Here’s why. You’re going to play a team that can score 75 and if you can’t score 75, you just lost that game. That’s why I think you’d like to have your team scoring 75-80 points is where you want.”
As previously mentioned, Kentucky’s scoring 95.6 points per game, an average that will dip as they enter the tough part of their non-conference schedule. But still, gotta feel good about where they’re at.
3. Comparing Lonzo Ball to Jason Kidd
A reporter asked Cal if Jason Kidd was a fair comparison for UCLA super frosh Lonzo Ball. Cal said yes, but Ball’s a better shooter right now.
“Somewhat, but he shoots it probably better than when Jason was in college,” Cal said. “He’s really good. Like, he’s big. He sees the court. He’s OK to take no shots. He doesn’t care. Or if he needs to score 25 he will. He’s good. He’s good. He’s smart. You can see on the court, he’s like our guys — he’s got a nimble mind. He’ll see something happening before it happens. He’s good.”
4. Also good? TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton
UCLA is not the University of Lonzo Ball. Calipari named a few other Bruins that he’s paying special attention to in scouting, such as TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford, and “that wing player,” Isaac Hamilton.
“Leaf has been good. Big guys have been good. Steve’s (Alford) son (Bryce Alford) has been good. They have a full team of guys. The guys come off the bench have played well. I’m forgetting the wing’s player’s name. [Reporter says Isaac Hamilton.] Yeah, he may be — because he can score in so many different ways, he’s got a little beastly to him. He’s good. He’s good. This will be one of those games, let’s throw it up and see what happens. I mean, it’s going to be hard for both teams.”
…But Lonzo Ball is still their best player.
5. “I mean, they’re good.”
Calipari stressed that UCLA, ranked 11th in the country, is good. Like actually good. Like, probably the best team UK’s faced so far.
“Steve has done a great job with his team. He’s really playing to their strengths. You watch them play, they play to their team’s strengths. They’re not trying to do stuff that they can’t do. Their big men can really shoot 15-footers. Their big men can shoot some 3s, so they play that way. Now, they’ll post it and jam it, but if I don’t have anything, I’m screening on the perimeter and shooting the 3. They do a lot of good stuff, and that’s why I said this is a game where you must talk because they bring people together. They do a lot of guard-to-guard screens. They try to throw lobs to Ball. I mean, they’re good.”
6. A rare Tai Wynyard update!
The quote most of you all have been waiting for!
“Tai is not even the same kid. The problem is that he’s behind Bam (Adebayo), Isaac (Humphries), and Sacha (Killeya-Jones) who are a little bit in front of him. But, that kid goes in and he’s tough, he’s good around the basket. He shoots the ball better. He’s getting in shape. He’s getting closer to where he needs to be. It’s a little harder because he’s behind these guys, but there’s no question that he’s a better player.”
7. Shoutout to Dominique Hawkins and his 22 assists and two turnovers
While rattling through his usual opening talking points, Cal made sure to praise Dominique Hawkins, who has 22 assists this year and only two turnovers.
“Dom has 22 assists and two turnovers for the year. Can I say that again? Twenty-two assists and two turnovers for the year,” Cal said, adding later, “He’s making easy plays. He’s a better basketball player. He’s got a better feel for the game. He’s more confident. He feels better about himself. There’s no anxiousness, so he just plays.”
8. Calipari says UCLA “could bash us”
“This is a great game in early December for us. Hard. They could bash us. They beat us last year and they beat us bigger than the score. Score said nine or 10, whatever. It was 20. It was not even a game. We never had a chance. Never had a chance in the game. We got down. Tried to mess around. Never had a chance. And they got the same team back with Ball. We lost everybody and have a brand new team so it’ll be interesting.”
“Could they go in here and lose their minds? Yeah, they’re all freshmen. They’re all sophomores. The sophomores might as well have been freshmen. So yeah, they can go in here and this be overwhelming for them.”
“I’m glad I’ve got the team I have. Win or lose I’m glad I’ve got the team I have, and this is all building toward March.”