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March 24, 2010

Eric Bledsoe

John Calipari

DeMarcus Cousins

Darius Miller

John Wall


THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. John, you guys are obviously maybe the most athletic team in the country. You're going up against an Ivy League team. They shoot very well. But what's your feeling about the difference in athleticism between your team and Cornell?
JOHN WALL: That's not going to play a big part in the game. Basically go out there and play defense like we did the first two games. We know they're a great three-point shooting team. A great team. They run their sets and they get in a rhythm, it's going to be tough to stop them. Basically guard the three-point line and try not to let them get to the free-throw line. We have to go out there and play basketball.

Q. John, Louis Dale was just in here talking about how he didn't have any scholarship offers coming out of high school and how he had to mail a videotape in to Cornell so they knew who he was. Obviously that's different from your recruiting process where you had a lot of offers. Can you imagine what that's even like for a guy not to have any offers like that and have to mail a videotape in? And can you just talk about a little bit about your process and how you whittled it down with your schools?
JOHN WALL: I know that's pretty tough. He's a basketball player. He want to have a chance to play in college. He picked the school. They gave him a scholarship. Now he's doing good. He's running his team and they're winning games. My process was different. Like you said, I had a lot of schools recruiting me. Basically just getting out to the school I feel safe with, my relationship with the coach. I made my decision on what coach I feel safe with.

Q. For Darius: Can you talk a little about Ryan Wittman and how he gets open from what you've seen, and the challenges he'll present to you and your teammates defensively tomorrow night?
DARIUS MILLER: We can't let him have open shots. He's a great shooter. I've seen a highlight of him. So I haven't seen too many games of him. I've seen a few highlights. He shoots -- has a quick release. We just got to have a hand up every time he touches the ball. We can't give him any easy or open looks or he's really going to kill us.

Q. As a team does his offensive stuff remind you of anyone you guys have played this year?
DARIUS MILLER: Not really. They did a great job of executing. They don't seem like they make any mistakes. We're just going to have to be ready to go the whole 40 minutes and be ready to pressure and not give them any open looks.

Q. For DeMarcus: You know you're going to be going against a true seven-footer, a guy who has got some strength down there, and you don't always get that. What's your impression of him? And what do you think about that match-up?
DeMARCUS COUSINS: He's a big body. I mean, I really haven't had a chance to go against a lot of seven-footers this year. This should be a good match-up in the game.

Q. John, do you guys get anything, learn anything out of watching teams like Kansas, Villanova, Georgetown, teams that are expected to win a few games, lose to teams that no one expected to? And does that affect your mental preparation maybe for games like this one?
JOHN WALL: I think ever since the Tournament started, we started taking practice more serious. It's one game and you go home. Coach told us anybody can lose. Everybody is coming to play. Most of these teams don't want to go home. You have to try to get a team concept. The teams that lost, the other teams that beat them did a great job of running their offense. They played the pace they wanted to play in. We have to try to speed Cornell up and play to a fast pace, and not let them set up because they're a great team at executing.

Q. This is for John or Eric: When you listen to a lot of the people, the pundits talk about this game, the things they say about Cornell is they are hard working, they execute well, they don't make mental mistakes. Maybe the implication is that Kentucky can do those things or Kentucky only gets by on athleticism. Has the coach tried to motivate you with that? Or have you thought that maybe the national media is slighting Kentucky in terms of the compliments they're paying to Cornell?
JOHN WALL: Like you say, they do a great job of executing. He just told us to go out there and play basketball. He said defense is going to help us win this game. Defense and rebounding. That's where everything starts with our teammates. Defense and rebounding and we get our offense going. We guard the three-point line and don't get them easy baskets or easy looks and let them get to the free-throw line. Just got to play the game out. You have to see what happens from there.
ERIC BLEDSOE: Like he said. This is a team that ain't going to beat themselves. We have to come out and play defense and play the whole 40 minutes. Coach has been saying that to us the whole season.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else? We'll let you guys go. Thank you for coming in. Good luck tomorrow.
Coach, thank you for coming in. Congratulations on being here. Can we ask you to make an opening statement.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Sure. It's an exciting time of the year. We have 16 teams left playing. All of them are good basketball teams. All of them well coached. All of them good teams that play together. And the challenge up here in this region is tremendous for all four of us. And we're excited about it and excited about getting started.
THE MODERATOR: Let's take our first question.

Q. John, Patrick Patterson, what has it been like this year working with him and maybe his secondary role? While his numbers maybe aren't improved, how much of an improved player is he this season?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: First of all, here's a young man that had an opportunity to put his name in the draft and would have been picked in the 20s somewhere. But I believe he would have been in the first round. Decides to come back to college, and doesn't come back with an attitude, this is my team, I'm shooting all the balls, I came back because it's my turn. Never had that attitude. Not once. He has scored less points, he has rebounded less balls, but his stock has gone through the roof. Because now he's proven he can guard a two, a three, a four and in a pinch a five. He's taken his game from being standing under the basket to being one of our best three-point shooters. His ability to pass and all the other things that he's doing, and he's just been a good leader for our team. He's going to graduate in three years. And guys in the league love him, because he can play multiple positions and he can guard multiple positions.
So I'm proud of him.

Q. Stepping away from preparing for this game and whatnot, can you appreciate the contrasts in you guys and Cornell and the appeal of this match-up?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, but I've coached against Princeton teams and Princeton and Coach Carril. Cornell is a veteran team. You're talking about seniors that have been through wars. They've won three Ivys and NCAA Tournaments. They're going to play how they play. We're going to try to play how we play. So I can see people looking at this and saying, wow, let's see how this plays out. Is it fast? Is it slow? I think they play fast. I think they throw it ahead, they like to shoot quick threes. I think they'll score and look to score off the first or second pass if you let them. And if not they'll wind it down. And if they have to shoot a late three over the top of hands from beyond the NBA line and swish it, they will. I mean, they're good.
Wittman is really good. Dale is really good. The big guy is -- I mean, and it's a great story. Out of nowhere. Where he walks on and transfers and now all of a sudden he's a player that has a huge impact. And may be the most important player to them.

Q. Coach, I heard you talk this week in the national press talking about if Cornell shoots the ball well, it's been a nice season for Kentucky. From what you've seen of them, how much can you disrupt some of that? And how much is it that Cornell is going to get good looks no matter what you guys do?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I have had people say, you have to play them zone. I said, they're the best three-point shooting team in the country and maybe the best ever and you're going to give them threes? I would rather them work for it anyway. We've prepared a zone.
But there are times you are playing a team like this. If they go nuts and we're doing a great job of guarding them and a we're making them take tough threes and they're shooting them through rafters, and they're going in, it's been a heck of a season. The issue becomes we are so inexperienced that can we sustain possessions? In other words, if you stop with 30 on the shot clock, if you stop, they're scoring. You have to play the entire shot clock.
Listen to this one: When they shoot it, if you watch the ball, it will be a deep shot instead of block out and be prepared to grab it. When they rebound that miss, they're throwing that out for a three. And they make that one, too. So there's a lot of things this young team has not had to deal with, which is playing an entire shot clock, which is rebounding every miss. Even if they make three, you have to think the next one is missing because if you don't and they miss it and rebound it, they're throwing out and making another three and it demoralizes you. There's a lot of things to worry about.

Q. You recruit a different level of athlete than is going to Cornell. Could you ever conceive recruiting any of those guys back when before they were as developed as they are now? And how do you think they compare to your athleticism?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I have had many coaches that look at my team and said, if you just recruited two guys that can make shots, just two guys that can make shots, the way you guys would play would be off the charts. And so I think they do a good thing of zeroing in on when we recruit, we're going recruit players that absolutely can shoot. I want every player on the floor to be able to make threes. All of a sudden you see what they end up with.
Let me say this: They defend better than you think. They defend to their strengths. They'll shove you inside where they have a seven-footer. They don't give you a whole lot of gaps. They'll make you take contested shots.
But, again, in the recruiting process, I'm looking more than anything for competitiveness. I'm looking more than anything for a young man that's a great teammate. So if any of those guys were and I was recruiting them, I would have gone after them.
I remember getting beat by Penn on a kid I love - Jerome Allen. I said, We're not going to get beat by Penn. They don't have scholarships. He beat us. He went there and now he's coaching there. If I went after any of these guys, I probably would have got beat by Cornell.

Q. Now that the Memphis-NCAA decision is final, what are your thoughts? How does it affect you personally to have two Final Fours stricken from the records?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I've made a statement and it's on the Web site and I'm not going to deal with this during this Tournament. I'll leave it at that.

Q. When you hear about the things people are saying about Cornell, they use adjectives like "smart" and "cohesive" and "disciplined". So is the implication out there that Kentucky somehow isn't those things? And have you maybe tried to use that as motivation?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: No, I think when people watch my team play, they say they really are an intelligent team, also, but they're so inexperienced and they're so young, they'll make mistakes that a veteran team won't make. But my team, you know, we grind it when we need to. We'll play however we have to play. If it's a fast game, we're happy; if it's not a fast game, we'll play that way. I don't believe that. I believe when people get around my players and see who they are and what they're about, I think they look at us and say, wow, they're pretty good team, too.
We're one of the best defensive terms in the country. That takes discipline. Field goal percentage, we're in the top whatever. Blocked shots we're in the top. Three-point field goal percentage, defense, we're -- steals, whatever it is, we're one of the best. Rebound margin we were the best in the country for a while. When do you that, that takes discipline. We've been one of those teams.

Q. Just wondering if you can talk what does Orlando (Antigua) bring to your staff and why you've plucked him to be a part of your staff?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Orlando, I've known for a long time. Obviously my ties to Pitt, I coached there and grew up in Pittsburgh. And watched him as a player. And then watched when he went on and started coaching. And always liked him. He's just got a great way about him. Everybody likes him, which is important when you have him on your campus and recruiting situations and all that. I really think he's going to be a terrific head coach. If not this year, within the next two years he's going to have his own program. And in my opinion he'll do a great, great job.

Q. When you were recruiting Jerome Harmon, you were at U-MASS. You took over a program that had gone 1-27. What's the difference in terms of gratification and the way it feels to take over a program like that and try to rebuild it as opposed to Kentucky, where you are supposed to be here at least?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, U-MASS, that's the first time. That's the first kiss. Guys believed in us before. They believed in the vision and our dream. There was no results. So I appreciate those guys. I was just on the phone with Tony Barbee, one of the first players that committed to us when we weren't anything. And then to take that program and get some break-through recruits is a special thing.
At Kentucky, there's an expectation level that you win every game by 20. But when you get into it and you're in the middle of it, you cannot believe how connected the fans are, and connected the state is. I'm not sure there is any state more connected to their team than this one. It's incredible, John. It doesn't matter what city I go to. They're there. There's Blue Misters everywhere. I talked about, we did a thing on Twitter with Papa John's - you buy a pizza, give a code, and a dollar goes to a children's hospital in Kentucky. 45,000 pizzas later in six weeks -- and then we checked, only 25% were from Kentucky. The rest of them were from the rest of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. Every state used it. Which means there are fans and alums everywhere. So this thing is different. It's truly one of those programs. And to coach here, I feel privileged. I feel honored.
But what goes along with it is an expectation that's very high. It's not a place for the faint of heart. Whether you're a coach or a player. If you're afraid, if you're not sure, it's not a good place to go. If you want to do something and be at the highest level and be challenged at the highest level on every road game, it's a heck of a place to go.

Q. John, considering the fashion you guys won Saturday and you see Cornell, what was your, I guess, read in terms of your team's respect level for its next opponent Sunday into Monday and then your read this week as they've learned more about them?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: They know how good this team is. You know what's funny, the information age is where kids wouldn't know about other kids. Eric Bledsoe played against Dale. They played against each other. I didn't even know that. And they were talking about it. "He's really good. I played against him." He knows how good he is. The information age and being able to have 150 TV channels and every game on TV, they see everything. They watched the Kansas-Cornell game. They watched it. Not because we thought we were playing Cornell. They were like, "Oh, my God. This team is going to beat them. How good is this team? Where are they from?" So they know. This is a team if we don't play, you get beat. If they play harder than you play, you get beat. You go home.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for coach? All right, Coach, thank you very much for coming in. Good luck tomorrow.

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