This past Tuesday, 11/26/2013, I was able to talk with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman for about 20 minutes to get his take on our Kentucky Wildcats, the big 3 frosh of Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, and a bit about John Calipari. The very candid result is below. Enjoy
Six games into the season, where do you think Wiggins, Randle and Parker are compared to one another?
JG: I’m the first one I think who put it out there that it was asinine to think that Andrew Wiggins was the clear cut #1 pick in the draft. I do question whether he is the alpha dog mentality. I think he’s the highest upside of any of these guys. He’s a super athlete, runs the court extremely well. I have been impressed with him. I was extremely impressed with him when he wanted the ball at the end of the game in the Champions Classic. I thought he wanted the ball in crunch time, wanted to make a play. I think he shot the ball better than I thought from the perimeter. But does he have that ferociousness of Julius Randle or that consistent ticker on the offensive of Jabari Parker? No he doesn’t, and that’s where I question more than anything with Wiggins, “will he be a dominant player this year in college” and we’ve already seen it. He really hasn’t erupted yet. He’s capable of doing more and will get better as the season goes along. But today if you’re asking me who is the best freshmen in the country so far, not based on potential but based on production, I would say Parker and Randle would be 1A and 1B and Wiggins would be 3.
I can’t disagree with that. As much as I hate to say anything positive about a Duke player, Parker is a killer.
JG: He’s terrific offensively. He’s by far the best offensive player, to me. It’s not close.
So far Jabari Parker has scored the most points and averaged the most points this season so who do you think finishes the season as the best player of the 3?
That’s a great question. Well it depends on how you evaluate the best. I’ll tell ya, they’re all on teams with a chance to win a National Title and I’ll probably bet at the end of the year they’ll all be pretty close in terms of production. They’ll all put up their numbers but Wiggins will be the best defender of the 3. You’ve got to also put that in the equation. If you’re raking them defensively you’ll have to say Wiggins 1, Randle 2 and Parker 3. I’ll stick with it’s too early to see who’s going to be the best and I think team’s success is going to play into that and is one of these teams going to fall off or under achieve. We’ve seen Duke struggle and we’ve certainly seen Kentucky struggle here against Cleveland State. Really the team that hasn’t so far, the team that’s played the best is Kansas and they do have a lot of talent around Andrew Wiggins as well but so does Kentucky and Duke for the most part. So I hate to not answer your question, but I really don’t know because we are so early in, let’s see how these 3 kids really develop.
Who do you think has the most to improve on either by number of things or the biggest deficiency in one area?
Again, Wiggins has the highest upside. He’s coming from a place where he is going to have to improve more than the other two. Randle is ready physically, we know that. Randle is ready and he plays hard every possession for the most part. So almost what you see is what you’re gonna get with Randle although he will obviously improve. You know I think he forces some things right now and he’s gonna learn how to make better decisions. I think Parker is so far along skill wise and offensively, but he’s gonna learn how to get better defensively. Wiggins I think there’s more facets to the game he can really improve on. Again his perimeter shot, his handle, playing hard all the time. And that’s the biggest key for Wiggins, if he decides he wants to play with a motor consistently, it’s over. He’ll be the best player, clearly. NBA folks are saying the same thing, is he going to be that guy who plays hard every single possession and wants to be great and wants the ball in crunch time all the time when the game is on the line.
If you could take one attribute and give it to another, what would you take from who and who would you give it to?
That’s good, that’s good. I like that question. I would take Julius Randle’s tenacity, intensity, aggressiveness and give it to Wiggins. Clearly. I would give Parker’s skill level offensively, his shooting ability to Randle. And I would give Wiggins’ defense to Parker. It’s pretty easy actually. It works out pretty easy. That’s what I would do. That’s a good question.
Which player can you take off their team and take their team out of the National Championship equation and why?
JG: They’re all pretty important. I think Jabari Parker is the most important to his team to me. I don’t want to say that it’s clear but I think if you take Jabari Parker off there, they’re in trouble. I think if you take Randle off Kentucky and you put Marcus Lee in there, they’re still ok, or you play the two bigs, you’ve got options. You take Wiggins off Kansas, it certainly hurts them but they’ve got other guys, other wings behind him that are pretty good, Andrew White. They can figure things out. Play Embiid at the 4 with Black and move Perry Ellis to the 3 if you had to. So there are more options for Kansas and Kentucky than Duke. If you take Jabari Parker off of Duke, they’re in trouble.
If you had to pick one of those 3 to hang a banner, who will it be?
JG: One of those 3 in terms of who I think will win it all this year? I pick Kentucky so I’m going to say Julius Randle. I picked Kentucky pre-season. After watching Cleveland State, I’m not quite as confident but I still think they’re going to be fine. I was really happy that Andrew Harrison played well at the end of the game. Made a couple of huge plays, he had really struggled. You could see his confidence. It was huge. There was a couple plays, the And-1 I think and maybe a floater in the lane that he had. I thought they were huge for his confidence going forward.
Who is the X-Factor for Kentucky’s team if they are going to win the National Championship?
JG: Andrew Harrison. Literally it’s Andrew Harrison. He always has the ball in his hands. He’s the only natural PG on the roster. If Andrew Harrison doesn’t come along, this is not going to be a team that has a chance to go the Final Four and win it all. He’s the x-factor.
Who is the unsung hero to get them to the next level and win a National Championship?
Dakari Johnson just because he’s skilled enough; he’s got the body, and just because he gives you a different look than WCS. You know WCS still really struggles to score the basketball. He’s great defensively and a great rim protector but I think Dakari Johnson will give them a different look. There will be games this year that he’ll bail them out, whether it’s with an offensive put back or being able to throw it into him. They haven’t had a guy like that in a cpl years. They didn’t have anybody last year with Noel and WCS this year and WCS can’t really score in the post. Certainly I think that will help, give them a little bit of a different look in some games.
The other big key that I always look for on good Kentucky teams, well on any good team, the kid that has that “I don’t give a crap attitude. They play hard. They’re not your friend. They want to win, like a Demarcus Cousins.” Does Kentucky need it and who do you think will provide it?
Certainly always good to have kind of a killer on your team, a guy that’s tough. I think Randle’s the closest thing just because of his physical play, how hard he plays, his stature, imposing stature. I think Randle’s the closest thing. I don’t see Marcus Lee being that guy. I mean mentally he has some of it but he doesn’t play enough. He’s still a year away from being a major impact guy, just being able to mature physically. I would say Randle is that guy that needs to be that imposing force for Kentucky. That tough kid and also really the leader. It certainly doesn’t look like it’s gonna be the Harrisons. James Young seems pretty quiet. Poythress can’t be a leader. I think it’s gotta be Randle. He’s gotta be the leader and Cal’s gotta lead more with this team, certainly than he has with the team two years ago, maybe as much as he did last year.
We are a little more than a year from when you made the comments to Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford on the radio re: Calipari trying to get you fired earlier in your career. What is your relationship like with Coach Cal today?
JG: It’s a business relationship. There are plenty of coaches I don’t speak a lot to over the course of the year. That’s kind of how it is with Calipari and me. I certainly have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done at Kentucky. I’ve said from the beginning he was the best hire for Kentucky, a future hall of famer, maybe the best recruiter we’ll ever see.
Do you think Cal ever leaves Kentucky for the NBA?
JG: I think you never say never, but I think the only way John Calipari leaves Kentucky is for an NBA job in which he thinks he can contend for an NBA title and that probably means coaching Lebron James. Do I think Cal would consider a job where he would coach Lebron? Absolutely. No question about it. But there’s only really 5 jobs you can say that about, that can consistently compete for NBA titles and Scott Brooks isn’t leaving OKC and KD, the Lakers… And I’ve talked to a lot of NBA guys and there aren’t a lot of teams that would hire John Calipari. So it’s got to be the perfect match at this point and again I think the perfect match, the hook is Lebron, Word Wide Wes and Calipari. And I think that’s the only way he leaves for the NBA.
I didn’t realize there were teams that wouldn’t hire him. What has been their reasoning?
JG: It’s based on his style of coaching and how he’s constantly in these kids face. Just like Pitino. He didn’t work in the NBA because he coached them for 48 minutes and you can’t do that. You’ve got to pull back. The NBA is different. If you watch coaches in the NBA, they’re not up coaching every minute. They let the players play and Cal doesn’t do that. He likes to get on ‘em and Pitino likes to get on ‘em. Pitino gets on ‘em. That’s why I don’t think those guys will get hired again in the NBA. You look at guys like Brad Stevens being hired now. Why? Because he doesn’t have an ego. He just lets the players do their thing and you know what? That’s kind of what they want these days in the NBA. Most teams, I’m not going to say everybody, but most teams.
Alright, well Jeff I really appreciate the time and I’ll talk to you again soon.