A little light reading for your Friday night…
Q. It looked like early on Alex was a little bit tentative. When he came to the bench, you got in his face and then all of a sudden —
COACH CALIPARI: I didn’t get in face. I just said, you got to show that you’re an elite athlete. So just don’t worry about anything else, except being an elite athlete.
Run, go grab rebounds in traffic, be tough, be lower than the other guy, play him before — none of the other stuff matters.
But, again, this is a mental breakthrough. Now, you saw spurts today where you said, woo, but that’s got to be who he is, not every once in a while.
Q. Was that a potentially big hurdle for him to respond to you that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes, I told him he went in and laid one and I said dunk that. Don’t lay that ball, dunk that.
But, then he’s busting through some stuff. It was like Skal in the first half. You got to be kidding me. Like, you know what I told him at halftime, we’re throwing it to you every time, I don’t care. You can go 1-15 or can you go prove you’re the player you are. And he proved it.
He came in after, coach, I apologize for my first half, I’m sorry. I said don’t be sorry, be better, get better.
Q. You said Monday that you would like to play Derek but he’s got to prove he can take minutes?
COACH CALIPARI: He took minutes. Now he’s like the first guy you want to put in because he can play the four, the three.
You saw that if we needed to, we can put Alex and Marcus Lee at the four and the five. You can play that way.
I thought Isaac did some stuff. He fought because I didn’t play him a whole lot — it was a hard game. They didn’t have a guy for him to guard.
But the press that we’re running is against a team that doesn’t want to pick up play. This team wanted to go. So a team like that, you don’t need the press as much, because they will run anyway.
But we’re working on our conditioning. We’re working on the press and what they did is they gave me some stuff to look at to make us better.
Q. One thing about Skal, it seemed like he scored in a variety of ways in the post. What does that say, left shoulder, right shoulder?
COACH CALIPARI: He can do it. He can make free throws. What we have got to start working on with him is being double teamed. We haven’t done any of that yet.
I just told the guys, we have a big weekend, tomorrow and Sunday, we got two a day, both days.
They’re off Monday.
And then Tuesday, Wednesday are big days for us, because Thursday we got to back up because they play Friday, Saturday.
But we haven’t worked on what we’re doing and if they trap us.
We have done a lot of zone work right now, but we still got to get down to — the next three teams are going to play 2-3. They will play a 1-2-2. They will play a 1-3-1.
If teams stretch out against us, I’m going to feel good because of our guard play. We’ll get in gaps and we’ll be pretty good if you stretch a zone out.
But a packed-in zone is the one that we’re going to have to figure out what we’re doing.
Q. You’ve had a lot of guys in here for a short period of time. Is it especially rewarding to have a guy, like Derek, who has been sort of checked in and checked out at different points over the course of his time here, develop and fight for this thing?
COACH CALIPARI: Derek is a typical college player. Which is, you come in your first year or so, you’re struggling to get time, and then you bust through your junior year, and then all of a sudden it is your time and your senior year, you’re out on the floor and you’re doing the things that you need to do. I’m proud of him. I grabbed him and I had said, you need to have a great weekend this weekend. Now build on this game.
So, we went in one huddle, and I said to the guys, you know, Derek has four — right now, he has four deflections, and he said I have five. I said he has five deflections. So —
Q. Do you like him in the press?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. He’s terrific. Terrific.
There were a couple more shots I wish he would have taken, and I told him. But it didn’t hurt how we played. It’s like I’m saying to Alex, it shows you how you’re playing is not based on are you making a shot, or are you getting balls, are you shooting — it’s are you playing well, are you playing athletic, are you deflecting. Derek gives you another — he’s 6′-10″ now, with long arms.
Q. What was your overall impression with the randomness of play. You talked a lot about wanting them to be random.
COACH CALIPARI: About the what?
Q. The randomness of play.
COACH CALIPARI: No, we’re doing fine.
There’s some stuff we haven’t used a whole lot yet, some offensive stuff that we’ll do versus man.
But the more that we can play through our guards and let them make choices, the better we’ll be.
But there’s still plays, like Alex slowed down and Tyler was giving him a long pass for a lob or a dunk, and he just kind of jogged versus sprinting. We’re missing some of those.
I think it was, Jamal drove in, he had a lob to somebody and he threw a direct pass. That’s all because we haven’t been together a long time.
But like I said, we had probably 15 one-handed rebounds and if you’ve been to my practice, you know that’s my No. 1 thing. Marcus Lee had about six or seven. Did not get one of them. And he ends up with 11 rebounds. He would have had 20 rebounds today.
Alex did the same thing. And Alex ended up with eight rebounds, but he probably had four or five one handed attempts. You don’t get them. You reach with one, you’re not getting that ball.
Skal, the same. So we got stuff we have got to work on. It’s a combination. We’re not ready to focus on other teams right now. We got to stay focused on us, especially this weekend. It’s a big, big weekend for us. A day off, we come back Tuesday, Wednesday, and then basically it’s on. We become — adding small things to who we are as a team.
Q. I want to thank you for the game today as a graduate of Kentucky State University. One of the questions earlier to some of the Kentucky State players was, were they nervous playing against players who will potentially go to the NBA. How do you keep the college focus and kind of stray away from looking — the focus being the NBA instead of the college?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there’s two parts to that:
One, I’ll tell them all the time, unpack your bags, let’s worry about being good college players right now versus NBA players.
But I’m also not afraid to tell them what people would be looking for. Right now, I’ll give you an example with Alex. They’re evaluating him as an elite athlete. Just be that, and you’re going to be drafted.
If you’re not that, the other stuff doesn’t matter, you’re not going to be drafted.
So he got — that injury slowed him down. Now he’s got to bust through and you saw signs of it today. You saw some dunks, you saw blocks, you saw — that’s got to be who he is for the minutes he plays.
Guys like Marcus Lee, my thing to him, again, you got to really define who you are as a player. He did it today. Great free throw shooting. He made — did some good stuff. He’s talking more, he’s being bubbly out there.
But I think, again, worry about being good college players. You better be that first.
But the other side of it is, I’m not afraid to talk to them in terms of, this is who you have to be. Isaiah Briscoe, there’s no east and west, man, it’s north/south. You get to that rim. Got to make free throws. One game he’s 3-4, next game he’s 1-7. How can I have him in at the end of a game? I don’t know right now. If he’s not in, who do I have in?
So we got stuff we’re doing to get these kids to play in a way — Charles Matthews. One dribble pull ups, you you’re not a play starter. You are a play finisher. So, I’ll talk to them in terms of our team. But it’s also them being the best version of themselves, which in turn helps them.
Q. How hard is it to drive home some of these points when you come off a 53 point victory? How do you manage to get through to them when they say, yeah, but we won by this many?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, but they know. The stuff that we have been working on, if they execute it, I really don’t care what the score is.
And if they don’t execute it, I really don’t care what the score is. What this team did to us today is, one, they weren’t afraid and two, they kept trying it make plays, which I love because it’s showing me against our press, if we’re being attacked, maybe that’s not the press we use.
If it’s a team that wants to hold the ball a little bit, I know it’s a good press to use.
But they kind of put us in bad spots and our guys, we didn’t scheme right. But in this game we learned about our press. We also learned about Skal maybe different ways of trying to get him to the post. If they worry about Skal, we’re going to get layups. So they got to stop our guards. But when they do, we got to be willing to throw that ball to the post and he’s got to make plays. So, even all that happening, we’ll learn from this game.
Q. You won the first one with a lot of threes and today you didn’t even take many. Does that say something about how versatile you guys can be in handling different styles?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the way they played, we wanted to just get to the rim and get to the foul line. I mean, if these officials are going to call the plays the way they’re going to play it, we’re going to drive people into zone defense. Which is what we have that kind of team.
Now, Jamal, who went 11-4, which is unusual, and Tyler only took one, 0-1. That’s unusual for us. But the other guy would be Derek Willis took one, he had probably two more that he could have taken. But you know, again, we only had six offensive rebounds at half. We didn’t, we barely scored in the post against a small team. So we came out in the second half, you know, if you saw it, all right, this is what we’re doing. And it was good. But I’m thankful for Kentucky State to be here. I know those guys enjoyed it and coach enjoyed it. It’s, for us to be able to play a school with the history of Kentucky State, and what they have been able to do over the years is big. Big for our program.
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So now do three of them deserve to take Tyler’s minutes, of Jamal’s minutes, of Isaiah’s minutes.
If they don’t, you’re only spelling them. If you deserve some of those minutes, that’s fine. We have got to work that out. And some of it is being worked out in practice. Some of it is being worked out in games. Some of it will be worked out as we go. I’ll be honest with you, some of it will be game to game. Some games it may be Charles, some games it may be Derek. Just game to game.