Coming off a puzzling loss at South Carolina and heading into another dangerous game at Arkansas, John Calipari is making his players face some hard truths. While watching the game tape on the ride home from Columbia, he noticed how poorly his guys defended in the second half vs. the Gamecocks and was so upset he called them to the front of the plane.
“I didn’t say much to them after the game,” Calipari told reporters this afternoon. “I walked in and said, ‘Hey, that’s a tough loss right there. Put your clothes on, let’s get out of here.’ After I watched the tape on the plane, then I called them to the front of the plane and had a few things to say. Because it was one team clearing space and the other team buckling under. One team clears space on both ends. Shot goes up, three guys run. On the other end, get hit and kind of crumble. It’s good for them to see it.”
Yesterday, Calipari met with each player individually to try and figure out why the things they’re working on in practice don’t seem to be carrying over to games.
“I asked each guy, ‘Am I asking you to do something you can’t do? Can you do this or can’t you do it, meaning you’re not capable of putting your body on somebody else? Just tell me.’ We went through some of that with each guy individually.”
“No,” Cal said when asked if he was trying to challenge his players with those questions. “I’m just asking. You’re making a choice. Your choice is, I choose not to do it, or I choose to do it. It’s a choice you make. And that choice leads to us winning or losing but it also leads to you not playing as much but it’s your choice.”
He used Keion Brooks as an example of a player who was tasked with a specific job — shoot open shots — and didn’t follow through.
“I had to take Keion out because he had a wide open shot and he chose to walk or try to – why didn’t you shoot it if you know you’re a finisher and I’m telling to shoot and I don’t care if you make it? You made a choice. ‘I’m not shooting this open shot.’ Why would you pass up the open shot? ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it because I missed four.’ That’s not on your team. Get in that gym and practice more. Your job is to shoot that shot. ‘Well, if I go 0-6, I’m really embarrassed.’ Your job is to shoot that shot. That’s what you do for us. These other guys drive it and create shots for you and you and you. And then, if you can’t make them, I’m not – okay. Just get in the gym. You’ve got to master your craft. You can’t run around. I come back to, what’s the hardest thing for you to do? Then work on that and focus on that and do it over and over and over. That’s how you build your confidence.”
Keion better not pass up any open shots tomorrow.