Thursday, March 02, 2017

Transcript: UK Assistant Coach Joel Justus Pre - @Texas A&M ~ T-Shirt White-Out Press Conference Interview

UK Assistant Coach Joel Justus 

On UK having slow starts and fast finishes …

“I like the fast finishes better than the slow starts. I think we all do. It’s funny that’s what we’ve kind of been talking about. We’ve talked about it as a group. We’ve talked about it as coaches. We’ve brought that to the players, and said ‘Hey, what do you think?’ I think whenever you’re coaching, as a staff, we ask them. They’re the ones that are doing it so you say, ‘Hey why? Why? What is it? Do we need to do something better? Is it something we need to practice? Is it something that we need to fundamentally change at the games? Is it a warm up?’ I think that’s the thing we’re trying to figure out and address verses play ostrich and put your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.”

On how the team responded to those questions …
“I think it’s still an open-ended discussion that we’re going through right now, but I think everybody sees that. The players and coaches, and are aware that we need to focus in a little bit on that.”

On if the staff is pleased with how the team executed the full-court press …“I think that was something we’ve kind of had in our pocket to use, and obviously it gave us a bit of a boost similar to – oh man what was it? – when we threw the zone out there against, I guess it was Georgia. We got off to a bad start and we played some zone, here at home, and that gave us a bit of a momentum swing similar to when we pressed. So I think anytime you can throw a change up, and our guys are smart, most of them, I would say. When you can throw change ups like that, and then the guys embrace them, it always makes for an easy transition in-game.”

On why the slow starts are a concern if they tend to end well …“I think that as you get into the NCAA tournament and you get down double digits there’s a sense of, ‘Oh my gosh, this might be it.’ Whereas right now, you’re able to play and know, ‘Okay, it’s a big game if we win, but if we lose we still move on.’ And you learn from it. I think for us, it’s something to say, ‘Hey alright now this is coming up. You get down double digits, you get down, you have a bad start and you’re playing a champion from a smaller conference. You’re playing a champion from a larger conference or a team that’s been in big games that knows how to hold a lead and close a game out.’ Similar to what we’ve talked about. When we get up double digits, how do we play with a lead? How do we close teams out? By this time of year, you’re addressing both of those situations.”

On freshman forward Bam Adebayo fouling less in recent weeks …
“I think he’s playing smarter. He’s older. He’s in those situations to where he knows when to, I guess, back off, but I think a lot of it is positioning. (Associate Head Coach) Kenny (Payne) and him and Cal have talked a lot about being in the right position. Being ahead, thinking ahead, and I think as young guys are here and they learn and they mature and they grow through film, through experience in games, through experience in practice, you start to – I know this is a bit of a shocker – get better. But at this time of year, it’s that time where you start to see improvement, and I think Bam’s been a guy that we’ve talked about all year as a guy who is continuing to work. He’s continuing to ask questions. He’s continuing to get in the gym, to get in the film room and say, ‘Okay, what can I do to get better?’ And anytime you have a team of guys like that, but more importantly an individual who’s focusing in on his personal development and performance, good things are going to happen.” 

On freshman guard Malik Monk having slower first halves and stronger second halves …
“You know, that would be a question obviously for him to say. I think with what we’re talking with Malik about is being that aggressor. For us, we are really trying to focus in on him getting paint touches. Whereas he’s being on the attack, you know, and not necessarily settling because he is a shooter. He’s a guy who takes shots and you want taking shots but also he is a guy who is getting to the free-throw line. He is getting the ball in the paint. He is a gifted passer. He is a willing and able passer. So, good things happen when he gets down hill and puts that extra pressure on not only his man but on a secondary or tertiary defender.” 

On if Kentucky’s slow starts are because players aren’t listening to staff …
“I’m not sure that from our standpoint that we are looking at it as a blatant disregard for what the staff is saying or for what Coach Cal is saying. I think they’re young guys, and I think for the most part they are still trying to figure out, like young guys do – and as a new father I’m sure you’ll figure it out — they’re going to push the envelope to see, ‘Okay, what can I get away with today? Or what can work?’ Then it’s like, ‘That didn’t work so now let’s go back and try something else.’ ”

On Texas A&M freshman forward Robert Williams’ improvement .…
“Well, it’s the same thing we’re talking about just now with young players going through practice, with young players going through games and experiences. Both of their bigs are extremely gifted. They both can score. They both can pass. They require a lot of attention on the defensive end and it’s a big game for our big guys to come and be ready to compete, to be ready to battle. So, I think from how they’ve changed from January to now, I think there is a seismic shift in their development individually, but also collectively. They’re playing hard. They’re playing together, and they present major problems for us on the defensive end and it’s gonna be something that we will have to focus in on today and tomorrow to get our game plan set for those guys Saturday morning.”

On where UK stands as a team right now …
“I think we’re in a good place. I think Cal thinks we’re in a good place for March 2. I think we want to be in a better place tomorrow. I think we want to be in a good place, and then we test ourselves on March 4. I think that’s where we set our sights is for 20 minutes from now to see what we can do to improve today. Take that for what it is, and then get better tomorrow when we practice in College Station. Then you have Saturday morning, an opportunity to see where we are. To see what we’re about, and whatever situations present themselves how we handle those. Then we get ready for Nashville and go from there.”

On UK’s rebounding since the loss at Florida …
“I think it’s something that we’ve talked about. I don’t know that I would say that it is the best. I think we have done better on the defensive end. I think we’re guarding ball screens better. I think we’re guarding the paint better, and I think then we’re closing possessions out with two-handed rebounds, and clearing the ball to then fly on offense. But, I think it’s an area that we have emphasized. I’m not sure that I would say it’s the best, but I would say it’s up there with something that we have emphasized as an area that needed improvement.”

On playing a game at 11 a.m. local time …
“I mean our bodies will feel like it’s 12 (p.m.), and we’ve done that a couple of times. And it will be an electric atmosphere. Always is down there in College Station. I think when you’re playing and the ball goes up and it’s tipped – it’s 40 minutes right then. If there’s anything that’s any more important than what’s going on whatever time of day it is we’ve got issues. But I don’t see that being an issue or a problem with this group.”

On updating some of the UK players’ health …
“I think we’re continuing to go through the season, and guys get bumps and bruises here and there. I think everybody’s fighting to be their best, and their healthiest at a key time. I think everybody’s in a good place.”

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