OPENING STATEMENT: Until the last four or five minutes you know that I was letting it unfold, it was player-driven today. And I said, How did you like the player-driven? They all, Yeah, yeah, you know. And I said, Okay, there’s two things that happened. Ashton shot a shot early in the shot clock with five minutes to go and then we started breaking down. And then I had to say, We’re not losing this game, because — then I said, I would like to go full games without having to be active involved in it. This team became empowered during that last game. And now I think they’re feeling that it’s about each other. How about Johnny Juzang today? I mean, terrific. He just has a nose for the ball. The kid makes the plays, he makes baskets, he did good. I thought Keion did fine. Our guards are good.
Q. Is this team becoming empowered earlier than most of your teams and if so, why or why not?
JOHN CALIPARI: I can’t remember year to year, but usually it’s February and — mid-February when I’m like, Good, we got this. But it is way easier to play and it is way easier to coach, but they got to be responsible to each other, they got to do their role, they can’t break things off and do what they choose and if they do, they got to be on each other. You’re empowered. You clean that up yourself. If someone’s not happy with playing time, I’m telling them to go to Ashton and Immanuel, talk to them. Their team. I thought Nick was good again today. I thought Ashton was good. Tyrese, was one of those games. He gets it about every third game. It was just okay. I mean, I think he’s one of the best players on the court who just played okay. And that’s why Johnny played and that’s why Keion played some out there. But I love the fact that Keion has stepped in now and been that third big. And it’s what I told them. I said, Look, if someone’s playing well, they’re staying in and you have to accept it. When you get your chance, go in there and perform.
Q. You have a lot of experience with fabulous freshmen. What’s your view of Anthony Edwards and his troubles of kind of getting it going in two halves or playing consistently throughout?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s hard for young guys, especially when you’re being, everybody’s paying special attention to him. So now all of a sudden every pick and roll they hold it hot longer, every drive they’re leaving other men to go get him, so it’s like he’s playing a box and one and he still gets baskets. It tells you how good he it. Tom’s done a great job. They’re going to win games. I just told their team as we walked off, Go win games. You’re as good as anybody we played. Go win games. Hammonds, I mean, come on. They’re close. They beat Tennessee by 20. They got us twice and at Auburn, that’s — what? Their start was ridiculous. Now, let’s see where they go. Tom’s terrific and I think they will be fine and I want them to, at this point I want them to beat everybody.
Q. Can you just see Johnny and Keion getting more confident day by day in practice now?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Last game, because of foul trouble, Keion got those extended minutes and he felt good. But he started the game, when I put him in today, like, got pushed around. You can’t be that guy. You know you’re getting your opportunity, now you got to hit first. You can’t let the guy hit you and get pushed around. You hit first and create space. But again, he’s so good with the ball around the rim, getting it in. He’s got great hands. I’m just proud of him. And I’m telling you, every one of these kids is on a different timetable and different path. You can’t compare yourself to another guy, including in the country. I mean, it took Ashton and Immanuel two years. What, that’s bad? I say it again, Ashton is as good a point guard — my opinion the best point guard in the country and the reason is how he defends. He can go shut out any of the three guys, whoever he needs to guard, pick-and-roll defense, dribble handoffs, all the stuff, being able to keep people in front, getting his hands on balls. And he, at the end of the day he was mad Johnny didn’t shoot it because he wanted another assist. That’s why I grabbed him. I know why did you that and got mad. You wanted another assist, you’re going to lead our, the school in assists in our history, so stop it. Just play basketball.
Q. A lot of other coaches ask their players to play to their strengths in order to develop confidence. You do just the opposite. You’ve asked your team, What is hardest for you, and then just go do it. How have they responded to that and are there one or two people you want to single out who have done well with that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, E.J., like, I’m on E.J. because, what do y’all think the number one thing with Nick that got him over the hump? Because I just want to ask you the question because I know none of you know basketball, so I’m going to ask you that. What do you think was the reason he got over the hump?
Q. He got in shape. Conditioning.
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s in shape. He put himself in great shape, so now he doesn’t surrender. It makes you a coward. You just surrender. He is in great shape. You know who is now doing extra conditioning? E.J. Is it showing? Yes. It’s not going to happen overnight, though. Took Nick three years. Who is the other guy in supreme condition? Immanuel. So look at him. So now — but why don’t you do that? Well, that’s really hard. Can I just get more shots? Can you just not say anything and leave me in the game? How about you do the hardest thing, which is get in great condition, and then see where it takes you. Then all of a sudden you do stuff that you didn’t even know you can do, which builds your confidence and yourself esteem. It’s not what I say. Now, I like the fact for most of this game I really didn’t say a whole lot. Like, I didn’t, you know, DeWayne says, We’re going to cut your pay if you don’t start doing more. But the last four, five minutes I got — and I said, do you like that guy? No. Great. Then finish games. It’s the same thing. We get up 15 and all of a sudden they got a chance. Why? Tough shots, breakdowns on defense, trying to make a hero’s play. All you got to do is pull the ball out. Why would you try to make that throw over the top that they steal when they come back and score? Why would you do that? Because I’m a freshman and I don’t realize. That’s where we got to get through. But I say it again, this is a heck of a win. Hard game, because you beat them down there. They, these guys don’t realize, with three minutes to go it was anybody’s ball game down there, and we stretched this out. I had to call timeouts now. I had to call two timeouts, which you know I normally don’t do, to stop the game and say, Guys, first half they’re up one, second half the way we started, come on.
Q. You had Immanuel guard Edwards 90 feet, limited him to one field goal, I believe, in the first half and just what are your thoughts on his ability to defend and also be that two-way scorer tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, the reason I did it is down there he scored on Tyrese a couple times and Tyrese laughed with him like they were in an AAU game. Don’t even go near him. Immanuel, you got him. And if you don’t have him, then Ashton has him. And that was why, because this ain’t for funsies. He’s trying to kill you, you’re trying to kill him. And Immanuel did the same — Immanuel’s become that other defender for us. If you remember a year ago it was hard to keep him in games because he was getting beat on the dribble so much. Now I’m putting him on the best player. One of the best three-point shooters in the country. Did anybody talk about we went 1-9 from the three and scored 89? Who was that guy that was saying, They need to shoot more threes and come into modern era and shoot 30 threes? We could have been 1-27 shooting three, I don’t know, but that’s why I don’t, I don’t listen. I just don’t.
Q. The zone, how do you feel like your team played?
JOHN CALIPARI: Better. What we did the first half with Nick down low, it just jammed it up, so we just brought him up high and it gave us lanes for layups. Second thing is we need to post the ball to Nick and we did and he didn’t make them and he’s got to. And we got to do it more. Practice it more. We went zone. I had Nate in instead of Keion. I wish I would have done it different, but I left, we gave them — and then my man got a three and you know me, Guys, that’s it, no more zone, so don’t even tell me about the zone. I mean, the guy was open, their best shooter, you’re in a zone, one guy’s not shooting, him. We gave him the shot. Well, I would rather be man-to-man and have Immanuel hanging on him or Ashton.
Q. You said Tyrese has just an okay game every three games or so. How do you sort of push him to do better other than just time?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s just got to understand that this is, we only have so many games. We got — how many games do we got left? 13? So we got 13 games left. You can’t let a game pass. All day you’re preparing to play great. And you’re not just playing, you’re trying to play great. I’m not just exchanging baskets. I’m competing. I’m coming up with balls. First half our guards didn’t rebound. They outrebounded us in the first half. Second half we outrebound them by eight or nine but our guards rebounded. But it’s something that we shouldn’t have to talk about. But he’s fine. I mean, look, he’s one of the best players in the country. All I’m saying is play that way. That’s who you are, you play that way. No one holding you back, we’re putting you in position to score baskets, we’re putting you in a position to guard people, block shots, rebound, go do it.