Over the last several weeks, John Calipari has noted that the key to success for several players starts and finishes with conditioning. To drive his point home, he has used Nick Richards’ growth from his freshman year to now as an example for the rest of the team.
“The thing i would say is he’s the most confident he’s ever been playing basketball,” Calipari said. “And it’s because he’s in the best shape of his life, and it’s not close. He can play minutes and not get tired. He doesn’t surrender.”
One of the players he’s calling on to follow in Richards’ footsteps? Freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who Calipari says had been “finishing in the middle” of conditioning drills this season.
According to the UK head coach, though, Maxey’s team-leading 17 points this evening is a direct correlation to his extra effort in recent practices.
“The other guy that finished first for the first time this year in the runs was Tyrese,” Calipari said. “He outran Immanuel. He told on himself. He’s finishing in the middle all year. Why would you have ever finished in the middle if you could have finished first? He told on himself. Now, he still had lapses in this game, but he still was more aggressive and he made some plays, things that he hadn’t been doing.”
Calipari said that he has been harder on Maxey because he knows how good he could be with maximum effort at all times, just like he used to do with Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I used to get on Karl Towns. And if I said to the team, “Who do I get on harder than anybody?” They would point to Karl. You ready? And Karl would go like this (Raises arms in the air celebrating). Two days ago I said, “Who am I getting on harder than anybody right now?” They said, Tyrese. And they all pointed to Tyrese. And you know what he did? (Looking down at table sadly.) Kids are all different.”
According to Calipari, if a player wants to be coached, they’ll prove it. If not, it’s obvious they “are not ready.”
“If a guy that cares about you, that loves you is doing everything he can to help you for your future and what you’re doing, you personally, and you can’t take the coaching or the aggressiveness, you probably are not ready,” he said. “The guy that loves you, that’s going to do whatever he can to help you, will put you in great position, is going to — and that one bothers you, you’re not ready. But I think today was a big step. I’m going to say it again, he finished first.”
The Kentucky head coach also added that Maxey is also going right at Ashton Hagans in practice on both ends of the floor, something he hasn’t done all season.
“So all season in practice when I put him against Ashton, Ashton will demoralize you,” Calipari said. “He will demoralize you. Like, he’ll go and play so hard that you just want to stop, “Let me go,” and “I got a hamstring [injury].” Two days ago he went right at Ashton, defensively went into his grill and scored on him and did stuff. And I’m like, “Where has this been? Why have you settled for less than this if this is who you can be?” I’m going to tell you why. It’s really hard. It’s really hard. It’s much easier to finish in the middle of the pack, let a guy dominate you and think it’s okay. He’s learning. He’s young. He’s a young kid. And the biggest thing, like I said, I love him to death.”
As good as he was this evening in his 17-point, four-rebound, two-assist, one-steal performance, Calipari believes Maxey is just scratching the surface.
“I think he’s, he’s good right now, but I think he’s not even touched where he’s going to be in another month,” Calipari said. “If he stays on this path and accepts where he is, that it’s because of him, no one else. And I think he does.”