Kenny Payne, Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins met with their favorite media friends this afternoon at the Joe Craft Center, and although I was a little distracted by the Lamar Thomas news, there are some quality news items worth sharing.
Dominique playing on Saturday was a game time decision
High-ankle sprains are notoriously tricky, so when Dominique Hawkins went into the game on Saturday, plenty of us in the Big Blue Nation were surprised…including Dominique:
“I really didn’t know if I was going to get in. I was just ready for the moment. If Coach put me in, I was ready to play,” Dom told reporters.
Kenny Payne said the staff made the call pretty much when the ball was tipped.
“Game time. We didn’t know up until when the game started. The way the game was going, we thought he could help us. He tried and did a good job. He missed a couple open shots, but we’re not worried about that. We need defensive pressure.”
Dom says he’s close to 100%
After the game, Calipari said he regretted playing Dominique because he didn’t want to rush him back from injury; however, Dom said he’s feeling close to 100%.
“It’s getting close. I really don’t know. I gotta talk to the doctor about it, but it feels really good right now to be honest.”
A healthy Dom means being able to relieve Tyler Ulis without sacrificing defensive intensity, a crucial component for this team heading forward.
Alex needs to attack the middle first
On this morning’s SEC Coach Teleconference, John Calipari talked about how the staff wants Alex Poythress to drive down the middle instead of attacking the basket from the baseline:
“Just trying to get him to be more confident and aggressive. He’s making free throws. We couldn’t get him to go to the middle of the court at Kansas. ‘Just go, man, and jump over people.’ He just didn’t want to do it and wouldn’t pull the trigger,” Cal said.
Big man guru Kenny Payne echoed those remarks.
“We work on it every day. The key for an offensive player is to establish the middle of the court. Alex has a tendency of wanting to go baseline and spin it to the middle, and now it’s become predictable. We want him to take the middle first, and then if he has to spin back baseline, that’s fine. But then take the middle of the court first.”
The Auburn game was the turning point
Losing at Auburn a few weeks back is still the low point of the season, in my opinion, and Payne said it’s also the point in which the team realized they had to make some serious changes for things to get better.
“No question about it,” Payne said when asked if the Auburn loss was the wakeup call this group needed. “Definitely has been a difference. There has been more focus on defending. There has been desperateness about us. We need to continue to do that. I think we have 10 more regular-season games — somewhere around there. It’s coming to an end, and it’s time for us to establish who we are.”
(Holy crap, there are only 10 more regular season games left.)
Derek says the assistant coaches have been teasing him about his girlfriend
Derek Willis attributes his turnaround this year to inspiration from his dad and girlfriend, and judging by the number of times he mentions his bae, he’s a frontrunner for boyfriend of the year. Even though Calipari jokingly said Derek’s girl was the reason he’s gotten better, Derek said he hasn’t gotten a lot of grief from his head coach over his lady love. The assistant coaches? That’s a different story…
“Honestly, I haven’t heard a lot about it. I know like the assistant coaches have been kind of messing with me a little bit about it. But that is kind of the truth though. My dad and my girlfriend, they’re being positive and supportive and I guess it’s just kind of helping me in the mindset and everything like that.”
“Alex could have a game where he could go for 30”
Tennessee is small — none of their starters are over 6’5″ — so, Derek could see this being a big game for Alex Poythress. Like 30-points big.
“I think so,” Derek said when asked about taking advantage of Tennessee’s lack of height. “You just pound it inside and I think Alex could have a game where he could go for 30 and does a lot of good things. Skal I think could be pretty good in this game. I think what we need to do is just keep the tempo up and running. So it’ll be interesting though.”
Alex’s current career-high is 25 points vs. Alabama. If he eclipses that tomorrow night, I will be very, very impressed.