The Next Big Game!

  • UK FB Blue-White Game:
    in 1 day, 23 hours, 54 minutes

Larry on Twitter

Kenny Payne

entucky head coach John Calipari works from the sideline against Wichita State during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

entucky head coach John Calipari works from the sideline against Wichita State during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By LARRY VAUGHT

One thing Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne constantly tells John Calipari is that NBA teams, just like teams at any level, want players who win.

“Kenny Payne says this all the time: You guys don’t understand, people want winning players. So winning matters. It does. If our team had gotten in the NCAA Tournament last year and we had advanced, it would’ve been different for some of those guys,” Calipari said last week. “Just how it is. Winning matters, and that’s why you gotta keep convincing them, ‘You gotta do this together. You gotta give up some of your game.’

“Let me tell you last night, I go to watch that Bobcat game and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) started and played nine minutes, then they played Chris Douglas and some other guys, and then in the second half he started and played his nine minutes and whatever. And I’m telling you the biggest cheerleader on the Bobcats was Michael Kidd. And I can’t tell you how proud that makes me. He is the greatest teammate, and there is a value – there is a skill to that. We all know how hard he works. We all know what a great defender he is. We know all that. There is a skill to that. So to see that means that he learned it, he understands it, and I believe he learned it here.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Remember a few games ago when Kentucky coach John Calipari said he had players playing too many minutes because they would not take themselves out of game. Apparently, the UK coach has found a way to solve that problem — and it’s not him just taking a player out.

“We even got guys arguing that —I ’m putting a couple of assistants on individual players and telling them, ‘You sub. If they don’t want to come out, just take them out.’ So we’re doing whatever we can to get guys off the floor,” Calipari said Friday.

He said assistant Kenny Payne is assigned to Julius Randle, who had cramping issues early in the season when he played too many minutes.

 

“Julius in the last three weeks has done everything we’ve asked him to do. We just want him to take more jump shots, but he’s doing everything else. He’s rebounding the ball. Because he’s not playing as many minutes, he’s not breaking down defensively as much,” Calipari said.

Julius Young leaves the court after the loss to Florida. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

Julius Young leaves the court after the loss to Florida. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne has been trying to convince freshman James Young to think more than 3-point shooting.

“But James Young is 6-7, a great jump-shot shooter. If he ball fakes and gets in the lane, he can make one-dribble pull-ups, he can get fouled and go to the free-throw line,” Payne said. “There’s so much more that he can do to help this team than just stand still and shoot jumpers.

“We need that from him. That’s his growth. That’s a part of what he has to do to help this team be great.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

As much as Kenny Payne would like to say that Kentucky is close to having everyone click in the same game, the UK assistant coach says he can’t say that.

“Until we do it once, it’s hard to say. If this team ever gets five or six of these guys playing great the same night, who knows how good we can be? And if we do it consistently, it’s scary,” Payne said.  “I thought we really played well offensively against Missouri. I think that was probably the closest (to everyone clicking).”

But Payne does believe that Kentucky can still get better.

“There’s a saying that we’re taking pictures. So the ball goes up, somebody shoots it and we’re watching the ball instead of getting back on defense,” Payne said. “I think that every day we come in, our sole philosophy is to get better each day.

“And we’re so young, and what we are can change tomorrow. We’re very talented, but we’re young. One game we can be an excellent post team, one game we can be an excellent guard-oriented team. We have very good depth, but they have to play well together. For us, it’s every day getting better.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne thinks Willie Cauley-Stein’s inconsistent play in Southeastern Conference games is mainly “mental” and something he hopes will change soon.

“Willie’s a very, very talented player, as we all know. There are games where he comes out and gets 16 (points), six blocks and six rebounds, and then the next night, for whatever reason, not mentally prepared to do that every single night. He’s figuring it out, and when he does … hopefully we get him to play consistently, because he is a big, big key to this team being a great team,” said Payne Tuesday. “I think coach Cal (John Calipari) probably pushes on him a little more than me, but I do push on him. I push on all of them. But that’s a part of it.”

Cauley-Stein, who has lost his starting job to freshman Dakari Johnson, is averaging only 6.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in SEC play. He’s also hitting only 45.8 percent from the foul line.

The sophomore says it has to be more than him bringing more energy/consistency to games.

“It’s got to be as a group, not one or two people can do it. It’s got to be cohesive with everybody and that’s when you’re going to start seeing us peak is when everybody’s doing it, not just one or two people at a time,” Cauley-Stein said. “And that’s the hardest battle right there is just getting everybody to play with that energy.

“I think once we start figuring that out, once we have one game where everybody does it, then it’s going to be like, you’ll watch the film on it and be like, ‘Oh, dang, this is really how we need to play.’ Right now nobody — like we haven’t done it, so we don’t have nothing to really look at for it.”

Cauley-Stein says he is “more focused” on the big picture of the getting the team right.

“Trying to get everybody, keep everybody up and when stuff happens, guys’ heads go down and you just kind of tell them, ‘Look bro, you’re straight. We’re still winning, blah, blah, blah.’ Stuff like that,” he said.  “I think that’s the most important thing I could do, especially … I can’t really say anything about people’s performances because mine hasn’t been there for weeks, so it’s not like I can do anything about that  but I can verbally just keep people up.”

Going into Wednesday night’s game at Auburn, Cauley-Stein says the Wildcats have mainly been working on transition defense, a trouble spot for UK in Saturday’s win at Mississippi State.

“Their game plan I think was just to outwork us and so that’s what it was. The only way they could really score was if they were to do it in transition or straight-line drives. That’s what we’ve really been working on,” Cauley-Stein said.

Payne said the Cats have to continue to build on their transition defense and get better.

“Continue to remind them of how important it is because every team seems to be using that as a disadvantage for us. That’s a weakness of our team that we’ve got to correct,” Payne said.

Cauley-Stein said Calipari told the players that have a lot to correct.

“It’s just defense and energy and it’s been like that since day one. And then it’s really not anything that he can teach. It’s something that we got to go and take pride in it. That’s the only way it’s going to change. That’s the only way our team’s going to raise up is if we do those things,” Cauley-Stein said.

Kentucky hosts Florida, unbeaten in SEC play, on ESPN GameDay Saturday. Cauley-Stein, though, says the players are not thinking about the Gators.

“I know for us we’re not even looking at Florida because Auburn is good, you know what I’m saying? Their coach (Tony Barbee) is probably one of the best coaches in the country at scheming it and stopping people’s offense,” Cauley-Stein said. “So that’s what we’re really worried about because we’re going down to Auburn, it’s going to be a tough place to play at, and with our up-and-down on our transition and stuff, they got a couple guards that can really hurt us. That’s our biggest challenge right now is Auburn and not even looking forward to Florida until it comes.”

Payne said UK better not overlook Auburn, which had won three straight league games before losing at LSU Saturday.

“There’s no risk in overlooking Auburn. We all know that Auburn can beat us. We know that we’re going to get their best game,” Payne said. “We know that they’re a very, very good team who has two guards who are really playing well. The last five games, one of them’s averaging … (Chris) Denson’s averaging 24, and Harrell is averaging 20.

“If we walk in there and think that we’re just going to beat them, it’s not happening. We will have to play well to beat that team, and especially at their home.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Just in case anyone was not sure, Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne pointed out today how valuable senior Jon Hood had been this season despite his limited playing time.

“I would say Jon Hood has been one of our most prominent leaders, best leaders. He’s one of the most energetic guys in practice, totally positive, comes in every day and works his tail off,” Payne said. “And when he got his opportunity (at Mississippi State to play), he took advantage of it and played really well. I thought it would be hard for us to win that game at Mississippi State without him.”

Hood’s leadership role is even more impressive considering how seldom he’s got to play this year.  Even Payne admitted it was “extremely hard” to lead when a player is not playing.

“Because you don’t know when your time is coming and you’re being vocal to young players who are seeing you not play. But he’s never deterred, he’s always being positive, he’s always talking to guys, motivating guys, and when his time came, again, he produced,” Payne said.

One plus for Hood is that he’s played with a bevvy of future NBA players during his five years at UK.

“I think in yesterday’s meeting, Cal talked about the players that Jon Hood has played with. There’s probably no other college player who has played with so many NBA guys as Hood has. So that in itself is invaluable to our team and for his leadership role,” Payne said.

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne  said fans shouldn’t wonder if the players are “tired of losing” yet or not.

“None of these kids want to lose. They have never lost before. They just don’t fully understand how good mid major programs are and good the major programs are,” Payne said while filling in for coach John Calipari on his weekly radio show. “You were the best in Texas, California, Florida and wherever else but now you are in a setting where juniors and seniors you are playing against have been eating right, practicing and lifting weights for two to three years.

“At the end of the year, the adjustment will not be as big as it is now. Our job is to make up for the inexperience so by the end of the season we are a cohesive group and our talent, which is superior to most, makes up for our lack of experience.”

Payne likes the difficult December schedule, which still includes Belmont and Louisville (Dec. 28).

“At the end of the day, it is not about December. It is about March,” Payne said. “Our schedule is crazy. We are talking about teams that are really good. At the end of the month we will see where we are and where we have to address issues and work on them in January and February and in March we are rolling (for postseason play).”

Payne said improved free throw shooting, reducing turnovers whether by Randle in traffic or by players over penetrating, and defensive toughness are keys to UK making drastic strides in the months ahead.

“We have to hold up on that (defensive) end of the floor so Julius is not fighting what he is fighting (on offense). We are fighting half-court defense. Teams that succeed defend hard every possession, get the rebound, fly up the court and put the other team on its heels. Until we do that, we are going to be up and down.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne says it’s not surprising to see a young college player pout when something doesn’t go his way.

“You’ve been able to play and do that for years and now you are in a college setting and the referee is not giving you a call and you do what you have always done — you pout, throw your hands in the air, open your mouth, make gestures. That’s part of the process,” said Payne while sitting in for John Calipari on the UK coach’s weekly radio show. “We don’t care what call the referee made. We keep playing and keep fighting. Coach Cal has been preaching that from day one every year, not just this year. But with so many young kids, it’s tough.

“They have got to understand the world is watching it and every time they do do it, you can go on the internet and everybody is talking about it.”

Kentucky lost its third game of the season Saturday at North Carolina and has dropped from No. 1 in the preseason poll to 19th in this week’s Associated Press rankings. The Wildcats host Belmont Saturday at noon.

“This team has a lot of talent and raw ability,” Payne, who is off limits to the media, said on the radio show. “I can understand some frustration (fans have), but this is an entertaining team with a whole bunch of talent that is just young. As they grown, you will see them come together.

“Julius (Randle) can’t take over a game on his own. Andrew Harrison can’t. This is college basketball. One of the glaring things is that (opposing) coaches are saying, ‘Julius, you are not going to beat us.’ When he catches on the perimeter, four guys are in the lane to keep him from driving. If he catches on the block, guys are waiting to double team. Those are adjustments we’ve got to learn and be able to take advantage of other things.”

One caller to the weekly radio show asked Payne what Kentucky could do to improve how players pass to Randle.

“I think it starts with Randle doing his job to fight to get open as opposed to perimeter guys pressing,” Payne said. “Julius has to fight to get low post position and then we have to make sure we give him the ball in spots he needs to catch it in. We work on it every day and you will see it improve.”

By LINDA SINCLAIR

My friend Christy Barger and I went to the Alumni Game together.  She got to our seats before I did.  TShe asked where the seat and row was when she was at the top of Rupp.  I was talking to a man too young to be wearing a blue coat and was telling him if he could wear a blue coat so could I, he agreed.  I want my BLUE COAT!  I asked him where the seats where, he said all the way down in front.  I said how far down, he said all the way down. I said where?  He said you see that concrete and the walkway, I said yes, he said that row of seats, the first row.

I thought I was going to give birth to the next 5 Five star recruits right there on the spot!  FIRST ROW, ALMOST UNDER THE BASKET, RUPP ARENA…I GOT DOWN ON MY KNEES WHEN I GOT DOWN THERE AND THANKED THE BASKETBALL GODS, BUDDHA, EVERY SUPREME BEING I COULD THINK OF, SAINTS, ANGELS, SERAPHIM’S, ARCHANGELS, COACH RUPP, NAISMITH and even my dearly departed.

Can you imagine?  It was only the Alumni Game, but holy moly, I, Linda Sinclair, little old lady from Lexington West was sitting in the first row at Rupp Arena.  OK, it was not center court, but boy oh boy.  It can’t get much better than this.  I have met my idols, Mickey Mantle and Ali.  I met Pete Rose, got kissed by the Lettermen, made Bill Medley blush, left Robic and Kenny Payne speechless.  I made Matt Jones night a couple years ago. I also made Mickey Mantle smile. BUT to have front row seats in Rupp Arena, to see AD, Josh ‘Never Keeps His Promises’ Harrellson, PPat, MKG, TJ, Ramon, Jared, John ‘The 23 Yr Old $80 Million Man’ Wall, etc up close and almost personal…someone pinch me please.

I think I have died and gone to heaven, my Blue Heaven!  Christy and I both looked at each other when I finally sat down and said the same thing at the same time, “Can you believe this?”  She was so nervous she could not hold her hand still to take a picture.  I was so elated I could not sit still in my seat…oh wait, that is me all the time!

I talked to MKG’s mother and thanked her for her son and for the fine young man he is.  She said she didn’t do it for anyone other than for him.  Well, I still thanked her any way, we need more like her, Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Bledsoe and all the wonderful mothers who raise wonderful children.

I wish I could calculate how much money was on that floor tonight but I do not think it was anything close to the amount of pride if you could have measured the pride in Cal’s face.  I know how proud I am of all my boys and I can only imagine what he must feel.  I doubt if there are any words at all to describe it.  Some of the pictures I got of him I think reflect what he was feeling.

This game and evening may be a great recruiting tool, but to me, it is a great memory to carry with me when I’m rockin’ in the rocking chair at the nursing home and can’t remember much else.

I didn’t have to worry about losing, no matter the outcome, it was a win/win situation. Yes, in my heart I know it was not a ‘real’ game but you will not be able to tell me that tomorrow, next week or the week after or the week after. It was John Wall, it was AD, it was TJ, it was MKG, it was Brandon Knight, it was Patrick Patterson, it was so much more than those names. It was my boys wearing blue and white, running up and down the court at Rupp Arena again, enjoying themselves, feeling the love amongst themselves, feeling the love of the BBN, seeing the pride on Cal’s face and knowing that they had once played in the Cathedral of College Basketball, knowing they were still welcomed, still loved and still brothers. Most were only there for one spectacular year, a few for more than that. Some were there before Cal and Cal has embraced them and made them feel a part of this program again. He has invited them back home on more than one occasion. Doesn’t that just bring tears to your eye, it does to mine and I hope I will not bore you with another story about last night again too soon. I sure hope some of y’all start posting again. I think I am all used up right now! LOL Isn’t there some kind of game coming up this weekend?

I don’t want to forget, I don’t want the ‘glow’ to wear off for a long time.  They mean so much to all of us. There were so many of them in one place at one time, so many in the Cathedral of Basketball entertaining the Emperor and his subjects. We think we will never have another group like we have in the present year and Cal brings in a new group and what do you know, we have more special young men. Some of these young men Cal never got to coach but can you imagine if he had?

I think Jay is having a bro affair with Cal now. I know he is having a love affair with Kentucky and the BBN. Cal is a genius, he invites Jay to his home and Jay is mesmerized by him and his personality. Cal works his magic gives him some good old Kentucky cooking and bourbon and Jay is a fan for life. He got to see the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Cal has the biggest heart of anyone. He truly cares; sometimes I wonder how he finds time to do all he does and still have time to breathe.

BTW, Got to meet and talk with Tod Lanter.  Very nice young man and he had a smile on his face from ear to ear and he was very pleasant and kind to this old woman.

Thank you Coach Cal and thank you Coach Rupp.

Photos by Clay Jackson, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

catalist

For IPhones/IPads, and new for Android devices, the Catalist app by Larry Vaught is the best way to keep up with UK basketball. It's free!

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.