Before this season started, knowing that Skal Labissiere would have 11 points, three rebounds, three blocks and one steal in a game would not have been a big shock. But based on how the 7-foot freshman has been playing the last six weeks, those numbers in Thursday night’s win were a significant improvement and a big reason UK won.
“I’m trying to figure out this team and I’m trying to figure out individuals. So, in my genius ways I’m trying to post him up and make him – maybe he’s a jump-shooting big man. So let him shoot jump shots. Well, that’s not on him,” Calipari said. “Now, he’s got to get in better shape, he can’t stay out there long. You do have to fight and play tougher, but he had confidence because he made a couple shots. So that’s not on him, that’s on me.
“We did some stuff today we haven’t done: middle pick-and-roll. If you’ve watched us play, I’m trying everything to try to figure out what is this team. Derek Willis makes us a better team, got to put people on the bench and get him his minutes. Jamal (Murray) and Isaiah (Briscoe) still gotta learn to win. They made plays that gave you a chance to lose – they still did.”
Calipari said Labissiere has to build his own confidence. The coach said all the players clapped after the game when he asked them how Labissiere played.
“I said, ‘Guys, let me tell you, a lot of this is on me. Maybe he is a jump-shooting big guy. What do you think?’ And Tyler looked around and he must have said that to Kenny (Payne) weeks ago. ‘You dudes are trying to make this guy something he’s not.’ He’s not Shaq(uille O’Neal), he’s a jump shooting big man,” Calipari said.
“If he rebounds and blocks shots, I’ll let him shoot jump shots. How about the first one he took? You all looked at me like, ‘What is Cal going to do?’ The first one he took. It was like a 3. And you all looked at me and I was like, ‘If he …’ and it went in. I said, alright, good play.”