Top takeaways from Kentucky men’s basketball media day


Kentucky head coach John Calipari speaks to media during Kentucky’s open practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Kentucky will play Davidson in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 15. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

With Big Blue Madness a day away, John Calipari spent more than 45 minutes talking with media at Kentucky basketball’s annual Media Day.

After opening with “Is this media day or coach’s day?’, poking fun at last year’s media day, Calipari responded to a variety of topics, such as the Bahamas trip, the Kentucky football team and the FBI investigation.

Here are the top takeaways from Calipari’s press conference:

This year’s team won’t have as big of a learning curve as last year’s.

This year’s Wildcats got a head start to the season by playing in four exhibition games in the Bahamas and spending weeks practicing for those exhibitions.

Turns out, that extra time in the gym has advanced this year’s team farther along than last year, possibly farther than Calipari would like.

“It did put us ahead, more than I’d want to be,” Calipari said. “I don’t want us to look like it’s January in November, because you can’t get better, the team can’t keep improving.”

Calipari has always said he wants his team playing the best in March, and is wondering how much more this team can improve if they’re playing the way they are now.

However, even if this year’s team is further along than last year’s, he’s not worried about what his team will do come tournament time.

“If this team becomes empowered and it becomes their team, then this becomes scary,” Calipari said. 

Reid Travis is leaner.

Anyone who thought Reid Travis was impressive in the Bahamas will be even more impressed the next time they see him on the court.

According to Calipari, Reid was 262 pounds after the Bahamas trip, but since then has cut down to 245, and the results are showing. 

“He did jumping drills and he was jumping above the squares, you know, that thing over the rim, that square, he was above the square, standing flat footed, and everybody is like ‘What? Who is this?’” Calipari said.

Calipari said Travis’ body fat percentage is at 5.4 percent. The main thing Travis did to slim down a bit was incorporate more vegetables and chicken breasts in his diet and spend some time on the treadmill. 

“I feel a lot lighter on my feet, jumping a lot higher, feeling more athletic, so it was a good change for me,” Travis said.

Kentucky football is catching John Calipari’s eye.

The Kentucky football team is off to a hot start this season, and a lot of people around campus are taking notice, including the one who might have the busiest schedule in the Joe Craft Center. 

Calipari said he has been following the football team closely this year and is impressed with the way the culture has changed surrounding the team. 

“Do you remember when two years ago we’d be sad and disappointed? It wasn’t sad now, everybody– their staff was mad, their players were mad, our fans were mad,” Calipari said. “The culture has just changed in football.” 

Calipari then gave some praise to Benny Snell and the way he handles himself in front of media.

Snell infamously wasn’t given the ball on 3rd and 2 against Texas A&M in overtime, and a lot of players might’ve complained about not getting the ball, but when Snell was interviewed after the game, he backed up the coach’s decision and supported his teammates instead of complaining.

“When you’re a Heisman candidate and you don’t get the touches and the team loses, because the kid wants to win and he knew ‘if I had the ball, give me the ball twice in that situation, I don’t care, let the lineman fall down,’ but he never said a word, and I told Mark [Stoops] that, I said ‘You guys are in a great place,’” Calipari said. 

Calipari is not paying much attention to FBI investigation.

The FBI investigation into college basketball is back in the news again; however, John Calipari has not paid much attention to the hearings.

Calipari said he returned from a trip at 3:30 a.m. last night and was not as prepared to talk about the investigation as he should be. No matter what changes come out of the investigation, Calipari hopes the changes impact college basketball for the better. 

“I hope the decisions we’re making out of this are all based on what’s best for the kids, not to change just for change’s sake,” Calipari said.

E.J. Montgomery is struggling in normal practices.

This past weekend, NBA scouts were in town for Kentucky’s pro day, on which E.J. Montgomery performed well, according to his head coach.

As for the practices beforehand, the same kind of intensity and production wasn’t there from Montgomery.

“E.J. has been okay until the NBA scouts came,” Calipari said. “He played out of his mind, like shooting hooks, blocking, like who is this guy, and they were all intrigued by him. Obviously, oh, so when the scouts are here you decided to play a little bit.” 

As for players that have impressed, Calipari said Ashton Hagans and Travis are the ones who have improved the most since the beginning. He also has been impressed with Tyler Herro’s defensive abilities, which are better than what Calipari originally expected. 

“I thought Keldon [Johnson] would be better than Tyler defensively; I’m not sure of that,” Calipari said.