LEXINGTON, Ky. – It’s here. Kentucky’s 2016-17 basketball season officially launches over the next two days, starting with the Wildcats’ media day today and Big Blue Madness tomorrow night. Coach John Calipari will kick things off with a news conference at 1 p.m.
Starting then, refresh this page often for real-time updates. If it’s notable or quotable, we’ll have it here. You can also watch Calipari live at 1 on our UK Facebook page.
* Great, humorous moment: Kid in the room asks Cal if Brad is a better player than him. Calipari friend and former NBA coach Larry Brown, who snuck in at some point, from the corner: “Yes!”
* Calipari on coaching son Brad: “My wife has been to three practices since I’ve been the coach here, and she’s been to two this year.” Gets a big laugh, but “she understands.” Says Brad knows it’s a tall order, is embracing the challenge, working hard and trying to learn the coaching profession. For your own children, Calipari said, “You want them to learn to grind; nothing is given to you. That’s our country. If my son is learning that here … I’m going to be a proud father.” Adds a touching note: “If I had a son, I would want him to be Brad. That’s the truth.” Then a joke: “He’s done some stupid stuff.”
* Last guy Cal had that he didn’t know was so good until he got here and started practicing, like Killeya-Jones? “I knew Patrick (Patterson) was good, but then I started coaching him and was like, ‘Wow, he’s really good.’ Brandon (Knight) was good in practice, but in games he was off the chain. I never thought Josh (Harrellson) would play; he played great, got drafted.” Throws in James Young after thinking for a bit. But clearly, he’s fired up about SKJ after seeing him.
* It’s clear Calipari is excited about this group. But might start four freshmen, he says minimum three, so “this team is not going to be what it can be until February.” Reiterates freshman big Bam Adebayo is going to progress on the same path as Towns and Davis. Said he “flies down the court.”
* Calipari on Briscoe: “Isaiah’s shot has really improved. It’s really improved.” That’s been the word since summer, and it’s huge for Kentucky. He’s such an excellent defender, rebounder, energy guy, if the shot falls at even a decent clip, he’s a star.
* Any UK players talked to Calipari about interest in social protest? “We have some guys that just sat down and said, ‘Coach, talk me through some of this stuff.’ ” He’s gone from recruiting right into practice and wants to have a larger conversation, really dig into issues and upside/downside.
* Calipari on the guard battles in practice: “I’m going to tell you, Isaiah and De’Aaron have gone (at it). It’s been great. Malik and Dom. Now the issue Dom was figuring out is, ‘He can jump over me.’ Dom has figured out how to keep him in front.”
* Boy, Calipari is high on the freshman big man Killeya-Jones, who he criticized last month for not being tough and fighting through injuries. Said he’s fighting now and teammates are noticing. “Look, I knew Sacha was good. I wouldn’t have him here if I didn’t think he was good. But I didn’t know he was this good.”
* Calipari clarifies, upon request from a reporter, his national-title-no-draft-picks quote: “I would enjoy the fact that I had a team that won a national title, but I would be disappointed that none of the kids got drafted, because that’s not how it’s supposed to work.”
* Calipari indirectly addressing Duke, asked about other programs trying to do what Kentucky has under him: “Well that’s the ultimate compliment when other people are trying to do the things that you do.” Admits that everything all coaches do “is stolen from somebody.”
* Calipari on his 5-star freshman shooting guard: “Right now, Malik Monk is doing stuff that is, ‘Oh, boy.’ Do I let him do stuff that I didn’t let other guys do? Maybe.”
* Calipari pounding the table: “If my team won a national title and no one got drafted, I would be disappointed! Oh, that’ll just rifle through our state.”
* Calipari says DeMarcus Cousins’ mom called him in tears after he was drafted and she was standing in her new home on a golf course. He asked her why a golf course if she didn’t play: “Because I can!” Calipari: “Generational poverty, we don’t know what that means … and I don’t take it lightly.”
* What keeps Calipari excited? That he believes Kentucky has a shot at the national title every year. Also: “At no other time in the history of our sport has a program done what we’ve done for players. … If we can keep this going, it keeps me young, because nothing excites me more than seeing young people get better.” Said he say Humphries yesterday and told him he’s not even the same kid. “And he said, ‘I know, Coach. I don’t feel like the same guy.’ ”
* On seniors Willis and Hakwins: “First of all, they’re good kids. Can you imagine who they’ve played against in practice for four years. When you put them in the game, you don’t have any anxiety. They’re Kentucky kids, so they have their own following. And I’m proud of both of them.” Calipari reiterates Willis now first in, last out and “knows this is his time.” Says Hawkins gaining confidence, “even getting where he talks a little bit.”
* How will this team play? Calipari: “At 10,000 feet … I would say we will be a mauling, helping, rotating, shot-blocking team, probably pick up at half court, because we can. On offense a team that tries to score in three seconds, and if not, a team that tries to attack the paint. … In February, I’m going to be disappointed if we’re not the best defensive team.”
* Talking lineups: “The interesting thing is what are the combinations going to be? My guess would be three guards. But at times we may go big with 6-10, 6-10, 6-10. There are some players if we put in we’ll play some zone. My son.”
* Calipari attacking the notion that kids all come to him as pros and he doesn’t get them ready. “I probably never told you this: Anthony Davis took the fifth-most shots …” Big laugh. Says he teaches talented guys to not worry about their shots, points, stats, and to worry about winning and it helps everyone’s draft stock. Notes Lyles, Booker, budding young NBA stars (and lotto picks) who weren’t stars at Kentucky.
* Cal on Joel Justus and John Robic swapping roles on staff: Justus lets UK attack younger and younger recruits on the trail and Calipari needs “John close to me more anyway.” Initial, temporary move was to let Robic spend some time with family after his father passed away this spring. But Calipari realized he likes having Robic as his right-hand man and Justus out on the road chasing 2018 and 2019 recruits.
* Calipari says in practice sophomore 7-footer Isaac Humphries has “really been good.” Freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones’ body has transformed already in two and a half months. “They’re so young, it’s like putting water on a flower and they start to blossom.”
While you wait, get to know some of the Cats with our ongoing series of preview profiles:
MEET THE 2016-17 WILDCATS
- Faster than Wall? Freshman Fox just might be.
- Calipari asked Briscoe to lead and ‘that inspires me.’
- UK freshman sent early message: Don’t jump with Monk.
- 7-footer Humphries has slimmed down, stepped up.
- Willis aims to put summer arrest, last year’s D behind him.
- Homegrown Hawkins hoping for fairytale ending to dream UK career.
- Keeping Cal: A freshman walk-on might be the Cats’ most important player.