Yin-and-yang — the term in Chinese philosophy for contrary forces — describes Kentucky guards Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox.
In a media session Friday, Fox acknowledged that his mind can drift.
“What I call chill-mode,” he said.
When asked what UK Coach John Calipari thinks of chill-mode, Fox smiled and said, “Oh, he hates it. He calls it casual. I call it chill.”
It’s just a habit, Fox said, “I’m still fighting. It’s hard to break.”
Briscoe, who brings a palpable competitiveness to the court, can usually be counted on to bring heat.
UK assistant coach Joel Justus, who substituted for Calipari at a news conference, credited Briscoe with helping regain its competitive mojo after the loss to UCLA last weekend. The Wildcats played with zeal in beating Valparaiso four days later.
“Isaiah Briscoe was a big part of getting that back . . . ,” Justus said. “Against Valparaiso, he was tremendous.”
Justus saluted Briscoe’s infectious can-do enthusiasm.
“He had big smiles,” Justus said. “The big thing Cal wants our guys to do is talk and touch. And (Briscoe) was all over the place. He was engaged in huddles. He was engaged in pregame. And that’s Isaiah at his best.”
Briscoe welcomes leading by example when it comes to energetic play. He acknowledged he did not provide that energy against UCLA.
“After the game, Coach called me into his office,” Briscoe said, “and he just told me, ‘What happened today? You weren’t yourself. I didn’t see the energy or anything like that.’
“Me being the leader of the team, I had to accept it. I didn’t bring the energy. I felt that was on me.”
After what he called a “kind of weird” experience against UCLA, Briscoe brought energy to subsequent practices. It carried over into Wednesday’s victory over Valparaiso.
“The biggest thing is energy . . . ,” Justus said. “And when he comes in and has energy on both the offensive and defensive ends, that’s when he’s at his best.”
After the victory over Valpo, teammate Mychal Mulder credited Briscoe with giving him the encouragement and confidence to play well. Briscoe helped him be more comfortable on the court, Mulder said. Calipari said he had noticed and planned to pair Mulder with Briscoe as much as possible.
Briscoe was reticent to take bows.
“Ah, I don’t go for that,” he said. “But I appreciate it. Mike is my guy. Before basketball or anything like that, I like him on a personal standpoint.”
Briscoe and Mulder are roommates on road trips.
But Briscoe termed his encouragement in strategic terms, too. As a team leader, Briscoe said he must do what’s necessary to optimize each player’s performance.
“I think I make everybody more comfortable on the court . . . ,” Briscoe said. “Coach says it’s my team. I’ve got to take care of my team.”
When asked if he reminds Calipari to let Mulder play through mistakes, Briscoe said, “No. But when Mike does make mistakes, Coach looks at me. And then I put my head down because I want Mike to play, obviously.
“I want everybody to play, but you can’t make mistakes.”
Kentucky will need Mulder’s contributions this season, Briscoe said. The same applies to other players.
With that in mind, Briscoe works to bring the best out of his teammates.
“I’m just trying to give him confidence,” Briscoe said of Mulder. “Let him know, you can do this. You can play defense. We know you’re going to make open shots on offense. But Coach, he doesn’t want him to be a liability on defense.
“I’m tired of hearing Coach say Mike is a liability on defense (or) Wenyen (Gabriel) is a liability. Derek (Willis). I’m trying to help them all. . . . As a leader, I think it’s my job to try to help them out.”
Kentucky vs. Hofstra
What: Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: 3 p.m. Sunday