John Calipari met with the local media for about twenty minutes tonight to discuss where his team’s at after a loss to Ohio State and Saturday’s matchup with Louisville. Since you were probably making Christmas cookies or watching “Elf” for the third time this week, I watched his presser and took some notes for you. Merry Christmas!
What’s the early feedback on Tai Wynyard?
Tai Wynyard stayed in Lexington over Christmas break and worked out with big man guru Kenny Payne. What did Kenny report back to Cal?
“He’s just got to get into shape. It’s just hard playing the way that we play at the level that we play. We’ll have to see. I haven’t seen him really practice. These few days will be the first time that he’s with us practicing.”
Meanwhile, Marcus Lee is already a huge fan.
“I like Tai. He’s become one of my favorites already. I was able to hang out with him on a couple days off and he’s a real cool guy,” Lee said. What does he like about Tai specifically? “Have you heard his accent? That’s all you need to know. His accent is pretty awesome. He’s just easy to talk to. He was able to blend with our team immediately, especially when we went on our trip, and that’s what we really liked.”
Kentucky kids get the rivalry. The others?
The Louisville game is the biggest of the year for fans, but to most of the players, it’s just another game. Calipari acknowledged as much tonight.
“I mean we have guys who probably don’t know that part of it. The Kentucky kids do. The other kids know that, hey they’re a ranked opponent, they’re playing really good and we’re going to have to play well to win. If we don’t play well it’s going to be a really, really hard game for us.”
What is this team’s identity?
Jared Lorenzen asked this question on the radio show yesterday and it’s a valid one. Calipari said the team has an identity, but it’s still a work in progress.
“We’re a team that applies pressure. We pressure the ball. We play fast. We have that identity,” Cal said. “We’re a fast, guard-oriented and a great driving team. We put pressure on the ball as well as any other team in the country. We’re a good pressing team.”
“I saw some good stuff in the second half of that game,” Cal said of the Ohio State game. “But, we’re a ways away.”
He used the word “tweak” a lot
Calipari said the team is still tweaking what they’re doing offensively. Having flashbacks to 2014? Me too. Calipari used the word “tweak” four times tonight.
“It’s just, ‘Ok. What do we need to do offensively?’ Are people sagging? Are people playing zone? How are we doing this? That’s the kind of tweaking I’m talking about more than anything else.”
He doesn’t think Tyler’s elbow is 100%
Tyler Ulis has not been the same player since he injured his elbow against South Florida. Even though Tyler claims he’s back to 100%, Calipari admitted he’s not sure if the sophomore guard really is.
“I don’t believe so. I think he’s not one that’s going to worry about that. It’s like anything else: You have to adjust a little bit to how you’re playing and what you’re doing,” Cal said, adding that he thinks the guards are playing way too many minutes, along with Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress. “The two or three plays that we had to make, they didn’t have the energy to make the plays. I’m probably playing them too many minutes right now. That’s the kind of stuff that we have to figure out.”
Derek Willis injured his ankle the day before the Ohio State game
A lot of you have been asking why Derek Willis didn’t play against Ohio State. Calipari said on postgame radio that Derek was hurt, but didn’t give specifics. Tonight, he clarified that Derek suffered an ankle injury last Friday.
“Derek was hurt. Did not practice the day before. Limped around the shoot around. That’s why I didn’t put him in the game. And that hurts us. He gives you another guy that stretches the floor. ”
Here’s hoping he’s good to go on Saturday.
On Damion Lee
The fifth-year transfer is Louisville’s best player and could cause fits for Kentucky on Saturday. Calipari had a lot of praise for Lee, one of several guards Louisville has that’s “really playing well.”
“He is a catch-and-shoot guy, but he’s doing more than that right now. He has some size and they can throw him in the post when they need to. He’s done some good stuff.”
Remember how Isaiah Briscoe shut down Duke’s Grayson Allen? He needs to do the same thing to Lee on Saturday.
“I just want them to have a ball playing. They’re not right now.”
The best basketball teams look like they’re having fun on the court, which is why last year was such a blast. Calipari said this year’s team is not, and it’s because they’re overthinking what they’re doing.
“I just want them to have a ball playing. They’re not right now. They’re not and it’s based on being a little bit tentative here and there.”