Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-New Hampshire Press Conference Interview

Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Matthew Mitchell Pre-New Hampshire Press Conference

Opening Statement … 
“We had a good practice this morning, trying to get ready for a New Hampshire team that I’m sure is hungry to come in and win. We tried to get prepared over the last couple days to improve our team. It is an exciting day as we welcome in students from all over Fayette County for our 11 a.m. tip that we do for our school kids. So it will be a fun atmosphere in the Coliseum tomorrow and would love for everyone to come out and enjoy the game. We are going to try to play really hard tomorrow and see if we can earn the victory.” 

On what he likes about that early tip atmosphere …
“It is always fun. The kids are fired up and have a lot of fun that day. We want to try to get them on campus. It is very important to get young people on campus so you can start to show them how special the university is and it has a huge impact on them. I can remember so many years ago visiting a college campus for the first time and getting on campus, it makes such a big impression. We love having these students on our campus to see the University of Kentucky and then once they get in the building it is just great energy. They have so much fun. They are loud and we just hope to always have a good game for them to come watch and get connected not only to the University but our program too. So love this game and it has been a fun day for us in the past and we are going to try to make it a fun day tomorrow by playing really hard.” 

On when he realized that Jessica Hardin was going to be a contributor to the team …
“Yeah, so, I would say that once we got into summer workouts and she was going through the agilities with the team. The first report from John Spurlock was, ‘Wow, she really has some quick feet.’ She is not in the same kind of shape as everybody, but quickness wise is moving her feet at the same level as Taylor Murray and I thought that was really interesting at the time. I was like, ‘Wow, we will see how that translates to the court.’ And then once she got on the court, you could tell she could really shoot the ball. She was a good shooter and that was encouraging. As we started to put her through different levels of the workout, you start to see it. Then you have some opportunity to get them together there in the summer either in a one-on-one or two-on-two situation. You could just tell she could move. That is the biggest thing, is can you move and handle the speed of the game. Somewhere pretty early on in the summer, I was like, ‘This is incredible that this is an option for us that she can play and can contribute.’ All of that was happening at a time when we were really trying to figure out how we were going to try to bolster our roster for this year. When I tell you it was a Godsend, it was a Godsend. I am a man of deep faith and I just cannot explain it any other way but it is unbelievable that she is here and doing such a great job.”

On if he feels bad for taking away the leading scorer of the Tri-Dealt intramural team …
“Yeah, it is tough. And they were back-to-back intramural champs. I mean, it is going to be a tough road for them this year. But, we got bigger fish to fry. We have to try to have a good Kentucky team.” 

On him hoping to be one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country and if he still feels he has the pieces to do that …
“It is possible. We really have to work hard. The players are so busy right now trying to balance. Practices are a little longer now because you are trying (install and prepare). We had to figure out how we were going to play where in the past we have known in June and July how we are going to play and the practices are (efficient) because you have a veteran team and you are rolling through boom-boom-boom. You don’t spend a whole lot of time installing things. So it is sort of been a slow bit of a slog for us to figure out what is the best way for this team to win. So the practices are a little bit longer, they have very heavy academic schedules. That is a huge priority for us. We have created a real atmosphere and environment and culture of academic excellence. So they are busy right now. We are fighting for time to get in the gym and spend time shooting. That is one thing we were really able to do with last year’s team. We just spent a lot of time shooting. I am hopeful that as we figure out how we are going to play and the practices become a little bit more concise that we can spend more time shooting. And then we are always working hard to find individual skill development for our players in the midst of that busy schedule. So we are working hard on our shooting there. I do, I think that we can. But we will really have to put in the extra work to get that done. A player like Makayla (Epps) really cannot neglect her rhythm shots and her reps. She has to carve out that time and sometimes that is on her own. But we got some 3-point shooters that are good shooters like Makayla and Taylor (Murray), but they cannot go two or three weeks without putting in the extra time. So for us to get it down everybody is going to have to stay focused and work hard. But it helps because we have five or six people in the rotation that can make 3s. So really the only people out on the court that aren’t taking 3s right now would be Alyssa (Rice) or Evelyn (Akhator). Everybody else basically can make a 3, they just have to stay focused and we have to do a good job as a staff to make sure we do that, but I think that can be a real weapon for us.” 

On if the team will settle into who they are during winter break…“Yeah, I think we finally have a clear vision of what we need to do defensively, which is a multiple defense which we have you know that adds another layer of what you’re working on in practice until you get good at it. It’s pretty new. The zone is pretty new for everybody. So, that’s taking some time. So, I do think it’s going to take us some time to round into a finished product and final form. I think the other side for the team is just so immense that it’ll take us awhile to get there. We just have to be patient with it and we just have to understand that we are building to be our best when it counts. That’s why this past weekend was so huge, just to get that win versus Miami. We just got so fortunate with some bounces and some breaks and we made shots. That’s going to be a valuable win later in the season. We need to try to get as many of those as we can as we’re trying to come together as a team. But I would say, once we get into the holidays, the break and then coming back after Christmas, where we’re playing some SEC games but we’re not going to class until 10 or 12 days into January, that will be really valuable time for us to continue to sharpen. I think this team needs to see constant improvement all the way to the end of the season.”

On Evelyn Akhator earning SEC Player of the Week to start her senior season…
“Well, it’s great for her and great for our team. She’s going to have to have a very good senior season and I know she wants to. She’s worked hard. She has worked hard enough to have a great senior season. You want her to be rewarded with a successful senior season because of that hard work and because of what a good person she is. So, we don’t ever around here get real fired up about individual accomplishments. It’s really great for her to be recognized. She could care less about an individual award, and that’s just good for our team for her to play at that level. When you play at a high level, all the recognition comes to you. You don’t have to worry about that. You don’t have to lobby for that. You can just be who you are and help your team win, and good things like that will happen. But I’m real proud of her. I think it’s just a reminder to everyone how hard she’s worked. Any time you’re recognized, it’s a great thing but certainly the main thing we’ll focus on, I think for Evelyn, I’m proud that she is thinking about what she needs to improve on for us to have a great season. She just never stops working. She’s an awesome person to be around.”

On if there’s any concern about having an 11 a.m. start time…
“No, our team is up early all the time. We have been for years. We’re early risers. We work hard in the mornings, so we’ll be ready to go.”

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