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Orlando Antigua and Marcus Lee interview transcripts, pre-Arkansas


ORLANDO ANTIGUA

On his relationship with his high school coach:

He’s my high school coach. I spent three great years with him. Good man, good family man. He’s done a great job everywhere he’s been.

 

On if they’re still friends:

Yes. He’s a mentor and someone who I stay in contact with.

 

On how important it is for players to have fun playing, like they did celebrating after the LSU game:

It’s very important, especially towards the end of the year. You want them to have fun. They’ve been through the trials and tribulations of the season. They’ve put in a lot of hard work, and you want them to go out there and enjoy their rewards for working that hard.

 

On if having fun is important to lighten the load after a long season and perhaps prevent from hitting a wall:

I don’t know if it’s hitting a wall. These guys are playing so much basketball throughout the year that I don’t know if you can say that it’s a wall. It’s just a matter of—it clicks and they’re enjoying it. They’re competing and enjoying the fact that they’re competing together, working together and seeing results. To see that pure joy for one another, it’s what the coaching staff has been working to try to get them to.

 

On if that’s why Calipari put up a picture on the wall of the post-LSU dogpile:

Absolutely, absolutely. I think that’s part of what, as coaches, it’s what we want them to understand: That’s what it feels like. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.

 

On what UK didn’t do in the first Arkansas game that it needs to do Thursday:

Rebound. (laughs) I think we take care of the ball a little bit better. I think we had 17 turnovers that game, but we competed, played hard. Arkansas comes out and plays really hard. Coach Anderson does a great job of getting those guys to play the way they want to play, speeding up the game. I think we handled it pretty good. Just a couple of mistakes in closing out a game, and then obviously having to rebound and making a couple of free throws.

 

On Alex Poythress:

Alex has continued to work, and that’s the only way that—Willie got himself out of his little couple-of-games rut by working through it, and Alex is doing the same. We hope that he’ll continue to put that work in and that he’ll see the results of the work he previously had done and was having success with. It’s a little bit up and down, and the season is that way. You’ve just got to kind of manage those. Can’t be too high, can’t be too low. Just keep working through the process in between.

 

On if at this point in the season they are working to build players’ confidence:

I think we’re doing a lot of it, but we’re identifying what they’re putting in and what they’re doing. That’s really what we’re doing. Those guys are putting in a lot of extra time, a lot of extra work, and we’re identifying that they’re doing that and having success. So, ‘Keep doing that because as you get better the team gets better, and it allows us to be on the right side of the column at the end of the day.’

 

On players slapping the floor on defense and if that is something the coaches are asking them to do or if it’s a byproduct of other things:

No, I think it’s a byproduct of that. I think they know that they can ignite each other in that way. You see one does it, and the other one it leads to someone else doing it and clapping and getting engaged. For a staff, that’s fun. For the fans, it’s fun, because you know they’re out there competing. That’s what we’re asking them to do: to give us that kind of effort, that kind of focus. It gets them out of themselves and into each other. When you have that kind of passion and energy it sparks each other.

 

On if the postseason nearing helps fuel energy since the big payoff is coming soon or if he thinks players are oblivious to that sort of thing:

I don’t know that they’re looking that far ahead. I just think they’re really enjoying the moment and playing the game the way we’ve asked them to play for one another, and they’re seeing results of that. You know, I think they’re getting enjoyment from that. I don’t know if they’re looking that far down the stretch.

 

On where he thinks players are looking for passion and fun:

Well, you pull it from working and know that you’ve invested time in your craft, in yourself, and you know your teammates are doing the same thing. The game is a lot of up and down. The team that manages the lows better is the team that usually comes out on top. We’re playing teams that are really talented that have veteran guys on their team that have been in situations, and the way you can overcome some of that is with passion and energy and communicating, and they’re doing a much better job of that.

 

On Julius Randle taking it on himself, on the court, to take over guarding O’Bryant late against LSU:

Yeah, that’s what it’s about. Those guys are on the court. As coaches, all we try to do is put them in the best position to go out there and compete and win. And when they get to that point where they’re empowered that way and they can communicate to one another, that’s what we try to get them to. When Coach Cal is talking about this being their team, those are moments that it becomes their team and not a coach-driven team.

 

On what if the player wanting to defend the star has four fouls:

Well then that becomes a judgment call on the staff. It depends on the timing of the four fouls, too, Jerry.

 

On Calipari coaching hard these days, being out on the floor at times, and whether there’s an assistant assigned to reel him in:

I don’t think that’s something that’s conversed or talked about. You just kind of – you know, Cal is very passionate and he’s coaching like he is 35, which is great. At the same time, as a staff, we have to help him at times if that’s the case, making sure he’s staying in the coach’s box – which is hard (laughing).

 

On if he has to keep one eye on Cal:

No, we’re watching the game so we know what’s transpiring.

 

On whether they’ll watch the film of the last play at Arkansas or just put that out of mind:

We look at all the film. We view how we played them first, things they did against us, things that we did well, things we need to correct. So we have seen that – a couple times.

 

On what he saw on that last play:

You see a phenomenal athlete who made a great play. I also see that we’re a much different team than we were in January. We’ve grown. We’ve matured, we’ve grown, we’re focused on every possession a lot better than we were early on – even though that was one of the better games that we’ve played, there were still things that we could improve on and we have.

 

On whether that play was a block-out failure or just human nature at the end of the game:

No, it was a block-out play (laughing). Shot goes up and the tendency is to watch the ball instead of finding a body. If you find a body then he doesn’t have the opportunity to go up and go get that ball.

 

On how much better Arkansas is (won 5 of 6) than the first meeting:

They’re better. They’re right in the middle of the pack with the rest of the teams in the conference and we know they’re going to go out and compete and play hard, and we’re excited about the challenge.

 

MARCUS LEE

On the last game and the winning play against Arkansas:

Oh yeah, that was a real rough play that I think we all play in the back of our minds when we think of Arkansas.

 

On how it’ll be different Thursday:

This time, we’ll box out. No, this time we’ll play with a little more fire because last time, they came out with more intensity. They were more ready for the game, and we were just kind of nonchalant.

 

On if Kentucky has done a better job of getting ready for big games:

Yeah, I think we’re definitely preparing for the game and the start of the game than we have in the beginning of the year.

 

On what Kentucky has been working on:

We worked on a lot of running. I guess not running running, but just running up the court and starting early offense quicker.

 

On if that’s important to initiate quickly against a fast-paced team like Arkansas:

Just going throughout the end of the season, it’s just something we needed to learn and get down as one of our strong points.

 

On why Kentucky hasn’t tried to exploit that to date this season:

We just haven’t really thought about it, I guess. We’re just trying to figure out how to get all of our players together, and once we got that together, we could finally start figuring out our strong points.

 

On how much the team needed a fun bonding moment like the dogpile after beating LSU: 

I think it was severely needed. We really needed that moment where we all just came together. We needed that moment of passion, and that’s the only thing I talk about when I’m here with you guys: passion and energy. That was a real big main point of the hump we needed to get over.

 

On why he thinks passion was previously lacking:

It was just the fact—knowing where to grab it from. We didn’t really know where to grab all this passion and how to use it as a team, so we’re slowly figuring that out.

 

On how much a fun moment like that helps during the grind of the season:

Oh yeah. Having fun helps everything out, no matter what you’re doing. Finally seeing that, that fun sight in everybody’s face, really helps.

 

On what Kentucky is doing in practice or games to manufacture fun, or if it has to happen organically:

It has to come out of people. It’s starting to come out a lot more in practice, starting to have a lot more fun. Just seeing it in practice is really good.

 

On if it’s hard to have during the season:

No, it’s just trying to figure out where to pull it, where to bring it in, where to have fun and where to be serious—(those are) the things we lack at and we’re learning real fast.

 

On how scrutiny affects the ability to have fun:

I guess at first it’s kind of hard. But once you’re used to it and you forget about it, you kind of just start having fun and don’t realize.

 

On how much attention he pays to the scrutiny on Twitter or other forms of feedback:

For me, not so much at all anymore. I’m not really on Twitter anymore, because you don’t really have time to look at all that stuff.

 

On if Arkansas was the game he had the hard foul against another player boxing out during a free throw:

That was a total accident. It’s just the way I box out.

 

On if he ever saw that replay:

I watched it while they were reviewing it at that time. It was up on the big screen, so we were all watching it. I was just as surprised as everybody else when they called it on me. It was just whatever. It didn’t really matter.

 

On how surprising it was to get playing time against LSU on Saturday:

I’m never really surprised. I’m just ready whenever they need me. I’ll do my best and get things done for them.


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