Highlights from Calipari’s Media Day press conference

Men’s basketball media day

Anthony Crawford

Before the season officially kicks off Friday at Big Blue Madness, the media got a preview of the team Thursday at UK men’s basketball Media Day. The event kicked off with John Calipari meeting with the media to answer questions about the upcoming season, and he did not disappoint. Here’s some highlights from what he said:

Malik Monk makes the hard plays look easy

Before today most comments made by Calipari on five-star combo guard Malik Monk likely included some version of “Oh boy” before going on to say how good he can be. At Media Day, Calipari got a chance to elaborate by talking about how easily the game comes to Monk.

“The hardest thing for a basketball player to do is dribble two really hard dribbles,” Calipari said. “You are flying, and then pull up and shoot a ball from 15, 17 feet. It’s the hardest thing in the game, and he can do that easy. It’s very easy for him to do. And that’s why — the best players I’ve coached make really hard things look easy.”

Monk comes to UK as a guy that is athletic enough to have participated in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest and skilled enough to have won the same event’s three-point contest. Now that he’s on campus he has continued to show more of both and word from Calipari and some of his teammates is that his pull-up midrange is going to be a real weapon for the team.

Calipari did say that Monk’s game is too fast now and that getting him to narrow it down some will be key to him undergoing a transformation of efficiency similar to what Jamal Murray did last season.

Tackling Generational Poverty is one of many things that motivates Calipari.

Somewhere among the wide array of questions asked at media day, the subject of what gets John Calipari out of bed in the mornings came up. Similarly to how football head coach Mark Stoops was asked what motivates him each season, the same was asked to John Calipari. And his first reason was one that should make fans feel confident.

“Well, first of all, I’m blessed to have this job,” Calipari said. “What this job does is every morning you wake up to put your feet in your car, you sit down in that chair and say my team has a chance to win the national title. That’s every year.”

But the second reason might make some uneasy.

Calipari went full recruiting mode in the second part of his answer quoting how many players UK has had drafted in his tenure and how many lives he has changed. He talked about how he has served as a bridge to help young players get better and grow as a people.

The term “generational poverty” came up after Calipari shared the story a phone call he had had with DeMarcus Cousins’ mother after he had been drafted. Her called was filled with tears of joy as she told him that she had just moved into her new house on a golf course, and about how she wasn’t much of a golfer.

That was just one case for a UK draftee and not all are like that, but along with the winning, Calipari shared how much helping families like that mattered to him.

“I’m happy with what’s happening on the basketball court, but I’m more happy about what’s happening for these kids,” Calipari said. “If my team won a national title and no one got drafted, I’d be disappointed. Oh, that will just rifle through our state. I would be disappointed.”

Brad Calipari is a better basketball player than his dad was, according to Larry Brown that is.

Since his announcement that he was going to be a walk-on for UK, the idea of Brad Calipari coming to play for his father has been an interesting topic of conversation, to say the least. And that didn’t change when it was brought up at media day.

At one point when talking about the team’s defense, John Calipari mentioned that he might have to play zone when some certain players are in, namely his son. And John Calipari also mentioned how his wife Ellen has attended two practices already this season after only going to three the rest of the time he’s been at UK.

Then later on he had this great quote about some of the competition that occurs during practices:

“My son was playing Mychal Mulder. Mychal went right and dunked on him. Then he went right and dunked on him,” Calipari said. “These are four straight plays. Then he crossed over, and he dunked on him, and he dunked on him. And I said, ‘Son, he just dunked on you four times.’ He said, ‘My hip is bothering me.’ ‘You better get it replaced. I don’t know what to tell you, but he can’t be doing that.”

The last time Brad came up was when a child reporter asked quite possibly the best question of the day, “Is Brad a better basketball player than you are?”. But Calipari barely had time to answer before his longtime mentor and friend, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, beat him to it by responding “Yes.”

Calipari likes what he’s seeing from freshmen bigs so far

If there is a good problem to have when coaching a young player, it’s to have a player that’s too driven. That’s how John Calipari described freshman Wenyen Gabriel and then went on to say that it’s very similar to what he has seen in former Cats Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as he works his way back from injury in the NBA.

“You’re talking about a 6-10, inside, outside, stretch four-three, good with the ball, but only touched where he’s going to be,” Calipari said of Gabriel.

Following what he said about Gabriel, Calipari then had a lot to say about another freshman in Sasha Killeya-Jones. Calipari often shifts in and out of recruiting mode in these types of press conferences and he did it once more to talk about why guys come to UK and how Killeya-Jones is one of the biggest benefactors.

Calipari said Killeya-Jones has exceeded his expectations and a big reason was because how playing with great players has pushed him to new heights. When deciding whether to attend UK or something else, if often comes down to whether the recruits want to be the guy for a team or settle for playing with other great players. Killeya-Jones improvement just shows how much UK helps guys just by having top level competition in practice every day.

“I wouldn’t have him here if I didn’t think he was good, but I didn’t know he was this good,” Calipari said.