Shoutout to the person spotted wearing a KSR hat at today’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. After a long day on the national mall, I bet you’d like to know what else John Calipari said in his press conference today, wouldn’t you? I’ve already shared Cal’s quotes about Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, and the uptick in fouls called this season, but Cal being Cal, there was plenty more to share. Here are five more notes for you:
1. South Carolina’s defense does everything well
By now, you’ve heard that South Carolina’s defense is first in the nation in efficiency in KenPom’s rankings. When asked about that defense, Calipari raved, telling reporters that Frank Martin’s team pretty much does everything right.
“They lost good players and they came back to be able to do what they’re doing — being undefeated in our league and win games on the road like at Georgia, which is just am impossible place to try to win a game. They led from start to finish. Rebounding? They do it. Giving you a tough shot? They do it. They have full rotations as well. They’ll bring four guys to the ball. If you drive, they’re bringing three to four guys at you. I have to give them credit.”
2. Sindarius Thornwell makes them even better
The Gamecocks are undefeated with the Harry Potter villain, who served a six game suspension earlier this year and is averaging 18.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assist per game. Calipari said what makes Thornwell so dangerous is that he can play so many different positions. (One might say he’s almost positionless!)
“He’s like one of those guys that can score baskets. He can rebound. They play him at the four at times when they go small. Now they have four guards and he’s a pick-and-pop guy or they just run their action. They’ll give him the ball and just say drive it. When he’s going against fours, he’s like a two or three with size. He’s really good and he’s tough. He’s physical.”
3. They’re trying to teach Bam how to play without fouling
Calipari went on a lengthy diatribe about the increase in fouls being called this season (which I shared with you earlier), and he said the staff is doing their best to teach the players — Bam, specifically — how to operate under the new rules.
“We are trying to tell Bam (Adebayo), if you put your hand out away from your body, you are giving them a chance to call an offensive foul. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Keep your hands tight. When he goes like that, they have a right to call that, even if you looked at it and said, well, there was not a whole lot of contact. Well, yeah, but you gave him a chance to call it.”
4. He’s given up on getting Derek to be a defensive stopper
Calipari has tried for years to get Derek to be a lockdown defender to the point that earlier this season, it distracted Derek from doing what Derek does best: making buckets. Cal’s given up on that quest in order to let Derek focus more on scoring.
“I keep telling Derek, ‘I know you are working on defense, I know you are trying, but you hang your hat on making shots. Not dribbling, spinning, throwing passes. Not cross-court passes for baskets for them. You can’t. Just shoot it, make an easy play. That is who you are. That is the strength of your game. Offensive rebounds. Fly in transition. Dunk balls. Work on your defense.’ But is he ever going to be a defensive stopper? He is a senior. He is what he is. Be the best version of that. How do we get you even better knowing what you are as a player?”
5. Several NBA Cats are planning to come back for the Kansas game
When asked, Calipari claimed he didn’t know Karl Towns called into ESPN’s broadcast of the UK/Vandy game, but he did say that several former players are planning to come to the Kansas game in a week.
“I mean, we’ve got a bunch of them trying to get to the Kansas game. We want to come. This guy, this guy, that guy. Five or six of them. They’re connected to the place. They understand that they have people here who care about them and love them and were a part of what they had to do and look after them.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that next weekend is also when five-star target Kevin Knox will be on campus. A big game just got even bigger.