BOZICH | They Said It: Calipari, Gilgeous-Alexander, Weber on Kentucky-Kansas State keys
They Said It from the South Regional in Atlanta: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's journey from the Derby Classic to Mr. Indispensable; John Calipari on Jarrod Vanderbilt's availability and more.
ATLANTA (WDRB) — An early edition of They Said It, on the eve of Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen game against Kansas State. The Wildcats play the Wildcats at 9:40 p.m. Thursday at Philips Arena.
Here is a sampling of what players and coaches discussed on practice day at the NBA facility Wednesday.
Kentucky Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Asked about his unlikely journey from the only Kentucky recruit who played in the Derby Classic last season to developing into UK’s most indispensable player over the last month.
“I knew that if I worked as hard as I am right now that anything could happen. I just wanted to take advantage of any opportunity that I got and I have so far.
“Just working hard, like I just said, and doing what coach has asked of me. I’m really just focused on those two things and not really thinking about anything else.”
Kentucky Coach John Calipari
Asked about the improvement by Gilgeous-Alexander, who was not invited to play in the McDonald’s all-American game.
“What you can’t do for a young man like that is put in the time and put in the work, 7 a.m. workouts, shooting, best in the weight room that we had.
“Watched film with the coaches, like dragged you in to please watch this with me. Never missed a class. Never late for a tutor. And worked as hard as anybody I’ve had in practice.
“Bring it to the level that you can bring it every day. Tried to tell the rest of the team, to see what’s happened to him.”
Kansas State Forward Dean Wade
Asked about the health of his injured left foot, which has kept the all-Big 12 forward on the bench for K-State’s last three games. Wade has averaged more than 16 points per game this season, while making 44 percent of his shots from distance.
“I want to play really bad. But I understand that if I cant’ play as well as I usually play, I won’t be helping the team at all. I’ll sit out and cheer them on from the sidelines.
“But I would love to be able to play and I think that I can contribute a little bit. We’ll find out tomorrow.
“I wasn’t feeling very good last week. As we continue to move on, my foot is feeling better. I’m feeling more confident in it every day. Today I got to go in and do a little more than I usually do. It felt great. Hopefully I can get in a few minutes tomorrow and if I can contribute a little bit.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari
Asked about the availability of injured forward Jarrod Vanderbilt, who said he would not decide if he would play until Thursday evening. At best, Vanderbilt sounded questionable about his availability.
“My guess is no. But it would be nice to have him there. Like last game, we had foul trouble. You have that guy there that you could put in. Wold be nice.”
Kentucky guard Quade Green
Asked about increased scrutiny of playing in the Sweet Sixteen.
“Everything’s under a bigger microscope. If you mess up, it could lose the game. Everything has to be on point. Everything has to be right.
“We just look to each other. There aren’t any upperclassmen, other than Wenyen (Gabriel), Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Hami (Diallo) and they’re only sophomores. They’re the same age as us. So we’re not looking to anybody. We’re looking to us.”
Kansas State forward Dean Wade
Asked about the key to Kansas State staying in the game.
“Limit transition. That’s big for us because they’re great team in transition. Take smart shots on offense. We’ve just really got to play at our kind of pace and hopefully we can get that started on defense and get a few turnovers here or there and see where we can go from there.”
Kansas State guard Bruce Brown
Also asked about the keys to the game for K-State.
“Knowing what they do. Stopping their transition. They’re a long team. We’ve got to rebound. Their smallest guy is maybe their point guard and he is 6-5 or 6-6. We’ve all got to rebound. We’ve got to get back on defense and shut them down on defense.
“Experience is always an advantage, having gone through the tournament last year for a few games. Just that experience alone has prepared us for what we’re about to face right now.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber
Asked if his team saw the story that projected if the Sweet Sixteen was re-seeded, Kansas State would be Number 16.
“I don’t know if they saw it, but we made sure they saw it and we put it up on the board … You can also look at the defensive numbers. We’re last in the ratings, but we’re Number One in the defensive ratings. Defensive efficiency, points per game, I believe. So that always gives you a chance. And they’ve bought into that.”
Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Asked about the Kansas State’s preference to start four guards.
“I see it as an advantage for us. We have so many guys that can guard multiple positions. I feel like most of our fours can guard some guards. I think it will be a height advantage for us on the other end of the floor that we can contest a lot of shots because of our height and our length.”
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