By LARRY VAUGHT
How important does Kentucky coach John Calipari think rebounding will be in today’s game against North Carolina in Las Vegas?
“We’ve been practicing putting six guys out there seeing if we can slide a sixth guy out there,” Calipari joked Thursday.
“I don’t know. Some of it’s fight. Some of it’s just put your best rebounders on the floor. Now you’re me. If a guy can’t keep a guy off the glass, can he play this game? You can put him in and then he gives up two rebounds and you hug him, you love him. I put Brad (Calipari) in. ‘Brad, I love you. You know this. I’m gonna have to deal with your mom, but you ain’t playing. Sit down.’
“It’s just how it is. They know. We’re trying to work with them, but you either have the confidence. Have defensive confidence. Have the confidence that you can keep somebody away from the ball and outwork him, or you don’t have that confidence. If you don’t, you have to build it. The only way you build it is in practice. If you can rebound against these guys, you can probably rebound against anybody.”
Rebounding has been a surprising issue much of the season for Kentucky, something that Calipari has contemplated making changes to correct.
“We’re gonna try everything. I may play four guards. Mychal Mulder was like a four at (junior college). So I could put he, Isaiah Briscoe, two guards and a big guy. Maybe we’d be better that way. Maybe they have to change,” Calipari said.
“I mean, we’ll try stuff, and that’s the greatest thing about not having to go game to game. ‘We gotta win.’ This isn’t like the football season where if you lose this one, that one you’ve got no chance for a national title.
“That’s not what it is, but we have different things we have to try. I do want to give everybody a chance to prove either they should be playing or not. Coaches don’t make those decisions. Players make those decisions.”
Freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones said Calipari has emphasized being more aggressive going to the boards.
“I think the whole team, really, that’s something we’ve struggled with this year and something we keep focusing on and trying to get better at,” Killeya-Jones said. “I think a lot of times when you play with a lot of big guys on the court you kind of expect someone else to get it, so we all just have to kind of be that guy to go get it, and I think we’ve done a good job of that in practice this week and can definitely get a lot better.”
Adebayo says he takes every game as a personal challenge to outrebound his opponent and Saturday will be no different.
“We just gotta block out and rebound. That’s pretty much it,” Adebayo said.