Yesterday, John Calipari, Aaron and Andrew Harrison met with the media to discuss the winter break and Mississippi State. Here is the full transcript of their comments, courtesy of the UKAA.
On if Willie Cauley-Stein is the team’s most irreplaceable player …
“Well, the one thing that I forgot is that we played with Alex (Poythress) and Julius (Randle) and we were really good, too. That makes you 6’9”, 6’8”, 6’7”, 6’6”, 6’6”, so as I said that, what I was doing is I was trying to challenge Dakari (Johnson) and Marcus (Lee) that ‘Hey, if we need you for 20
minutes can you do it?’ I know the other guys can. They’ve been better in practice. It’s been a good two weeks for them.”
On the team coming together without school and just basketball …
“Everybody has their own schedule. They all do. They get up for breakfast and they really don’t want to look at each other and go to class at eight. They come here after taking a nap, they get to the training room, maybe they talk, maybe they don’t, they practice, they go back to eat, but it’s a
different setting. Every team I’ve coached has come together. Now, I don’t know what that means on the basketball court, but I do know they know each other better; they have a better feeling for each other. It starts there in my mind.”
On where he will see the team growth …
“Hopefully defensively. We just ratcheted it up a little bit. Hopefully we hold the ball less and if you have it, you’re a passer, and if you don’t, you’re a scorer, which means when you do catch the pass, you’re in attack mode or shooting mode and you’re not holding it. Hopefully they’ve learned
that and they see the benefit from that. I think the other thing is the pace. There is a sequence to the game. We go, it’s not there, you don’t take a bad shot. You don’t just throw it to somebody to throw it. There is a sequence to how we play. I think we’re getting better at it. I think we’re getting
better at pick-and-roll both defensively and offensively. We’re going to play a team that is a lot like Boise State. In other words, they’re playing at the 3-point line. That’s what they’re doing. You take it out on the side, and they’re going to play a 1-3-1 that will be spread out all over the court. They’re going to fly up and down, run a high-low offense or run some back screens to down screens. They do some really good stuff and they play good as a team. It’s a challenge for us. For us, it’s let’s see what steps we’ve taken and not playing, we may be rusty. We’ve played two games in 19 days.
Think about that. And, two tough games. Now we have three games in seven days. We’ll see. Two of them are on the road, and two of them are in tough venues to win.”
What he wants to see besides a win …
“I just want to see that there is carryover. There are certain guys that are playing so well right now. Just go do it in the game. You have no reason now. We’re talking to some guys now that if you’re capable of doing this and you don’t do it, that’s mental. It has nothing to do with anything else.”
On who needs to translate their practice play into games …
“Alex (Poythress). We’re asking for a couple more baskets and a couple more rebounds from him. He is absolutely like ‘wow’. I’ve never seen him play like this. Ever. Now go do it in the games. Andrew (Harrison) is really in an attack mode. He’s down and ready before he catches the ball. Now go play that way. Dominique (Hawkins) does what he does and brings it on every possession until he can’t go anymore. Like I said, Marcus Lee and Derek (Willis), I want to try and make sure we keep them engaged. It’s hard to play 10 guys. It is. But those two deserve to be on the floor some.”
On the difficulty of changing the rotation in January …
“Here’s the thing that’s happened. If I had a team of juniors and seniors, there is no question that they would be in the game. You know the juniors and seniors. I’m still figuring out this group. We’ve changed how we run transition. So everything we’ve practiced for two months, we’re not doing that
anymore. I didn’t like it. It didn’t fit this team, so we changed. If you have a veteran team, you can play nine or 10 guys. And then when you get to the real games, you’re down to eight. But, those other games, you’re playing nine, 10, 11 guys. But, you’re not playing them to see what they’re all
about. You already know that. That’s the difference in coaching young teams. I’m going to say it again, this is the youngest team I’ve ever coached and I coach all young teams. They’re good kids.
People say ‘Hey, how is it coaching so and so?’ I say this is the greatest group of kids I’ve ever coached. Their basketball habits are bad. Their responses to situations are bad. But, they’re great kids. We have not had an issue of anything. I mean, anything. But, their basketball habits stink. I
mean, they’re just the worst. I’m telling you. But, they’re changing. I’m seeing it right before my eyes. If we can get them to where we need to have it, then it’s on. Right now, it’s still ‘let’s see it in games.’”