Tony Barbee filled in for John Calipari in today’s press conference, and had some interesting things to say about Bam Adebayo, who had a season-high 25 points vs. Ole Miss last week; Barbee said that’s proof Bam is on the cusp of breaking out in the second half of the season.
“He’s on the cusp. He’s there. He’s wherever you want to put him. His best days of basketball are still in front of him. He’s learning every day. He comes to practice to learn and to work every single day. I haven’t seen him take a day off since he’s been here. So when you’ve got that kind of physical talent and you have that kind of mental approach to the game that ‘I can always learn and get better,’ it’s scary to think where he’s going to be in the years to come.”
Bam will face a formidable foe in Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis, who had a double-double vs. the Cats last year in College Station, including the game-winning putback. Barbee says he actually sees a lot of Bam in Davis’ play.
“Obviously he has size. It’s a huge factor, but he plays one or two moments ahead in the game. He’s always angling for position in the post. He’s always angling before a shot is taken to get offensive rebound position. It’s what makes him so effective down there. He’s very similar to Bam in that way. Bam thinks the game the same way. He’s always a step or two ahead of his opponent. That’s what the better players do. They see the game ahead and a little faster paced then other guys do.”
Bam’s improving, which makes the real question who will back him up and/or play alongside him. The first big man off the bench at Ole Miss was Tai Wynyard, the seldom used redshirt freshmen who’s averaging only 2.8 minutes per game. Barbee said putting Tai in so early was Calipari’s way of sending a message to his other bigs to catch up, or be left behind.
“Yeah, it’s a message. It’s no secret that we’ve got to get our big guys, our other big guys to catch up to the level of that Bam is. Obviously, not everybody is going to be Bam physically. But it’s not so much what Bam does physically as it is what he does mentally to approach the game every day. He is a wrecking ball on the basketball floor offensively and defensively. So, we’ve gotta get our other bigs, and Tai is one of those guys — he plays that same way. Now it’s up to Tai, can he catch up to what we’re trying to do scheme-wise offensively and defensively so he’s not behind on the floor and hurts us in that way. What he does give us is a physical — another physical guy like Bam who throws his body around and goes after rebounds.”
Other notes from the presser:
1. Wenyen’s struggles are due in part to his need to build strength:
“That’s a big part of it. That’s a big part of it. He’s playing against some older, strong, veteran players, so he gets moved out of the way physically from time to time. But for Wenyen, it’s not (a matter of) a want to; he’s got a motor that just won’t stop, and sometimes physically he can’t get to where he wants to be. But he’s improving every single day. I mean, he’s improved night and day from when he stepped on campus, so you project him out and he continues at this rate, he’s going to be a fantastic player.”
2. Despite big man struggles, the staff hasn’t abandoned plans for a big lineup with Bam and Isaac Humphries:
“No. We’re working on a lot of different things. That’s the scary thing I keep saying about this team is there’s so many different ways we can get better. I know Coach has talked a little bit about playing — I know you say the other night with Mychal Mulder at the four — playing a smaller lineup. Playing without a big with Wenyen and Derek at the four and five. And then we’ve also been looking at a big lineup. So this team has gotta be versatile as we get into the meat of conference play and down the stretch — that we can play different styles against different teams, and playing big is one of them.”
3. Camp Cal hasn’t changed too much since his playing days:
“I don’t know if I can remember back that far. It’s similar. It’s similar. You’re in the middle of that winter break where there’s no classes and you’ve got that almost a month of no class. It’s the same approach. You might as well throw your — we didn’t have cell phones back then — but now you might as well throw your cell phone away and throw away your TV remote because you’re going to be in this gym getting better. That approach hasn’t changed.”