› › 6 - foot-7 ju n io r guard f r o m Maysville
Coach John Calipari on Miller: "I think what we found out about Darius is we're going to keep him behind the ball versus in front of the ball. So I'm going to keep him like he's a second point guard, which is what I did with (former Memphis guard) Antonio Anderson."
Question: Your father, Brian, played at Morehead State. How much did he work with you as you were growing up?
Answer: "I'd say probably 80 percent of the stuff I knew growing up I learned from my dad. He's the one that got me into basketball, watching him play, just being around him every day that he played. ... I probably wouldn't be into it if not for him."
Q: How much have you watched him play?
A: "I still have highlight tapes of him in college. When I was younger, he would always be travelling playing basketball. He'd play anywhere. That's what made me love the game."
Q: What kind of player was he?
A: "He was really athletic, actually. He could jump out of the gym. Watching his highlights was a lot of fun."
Q: Listening to your dad at games, is he as big a competitor as he sounds?
A: "He's really into it. Like you say, he's really competitive, especially when he's playing. He competes every single time. He gets into every single game, whether it's us or any team that he likes."
Q: What was it like for you to have your father so emotionally involved?
A: "I think it was really good for me. I got into it, too, somewhat. He probably shows it more than I do, but I think we're probably on the same level on how much we're into the game."
Q: Do you think you have the same fire in your belly as your father?
A: "I would say it is. He's just more outgoing than I am."
Q: Are there times you'd prefer he be more discreet?
A: "He just tells me how he feels, whether good or bad. He tells me what it is. If I ask him to stop, he'll stop right there on the dime. We'll just talk about something else. But I've always listened to my dad when it comes to basketball. ... I listen to him every single time. We never have any arguments or disputes. I think he does a great job of just being there for me when I need him."
Q: Would you say your father is your No. 1 fan?
Q: How much did you play one-on-one against your father?
A: "In the seventh or eighth grade, he used to kill me back then."
Q: He didn't let you win once in a while?
A: "No. He beat me every time. It was tough. A lot of times, I was mad at him. It made me better. Playing in an open gym with him and Chris Lofton, it made me a lot better."
B r a ndon Kn ig h t
› › 6-foot-3 freshm a n gu a rd f r om F t. L a u d erdal e , F l a.
Coach John Calipari on Knight: "He delivers the ball better than guys I've had. (In Canada getting) 25 assists and four turnovers or whatever it was (actually, five) that's ridiculous. That's not a number. It's not supposed to be."
Question: You wore your hair in braids in high school. Did someone tell you to cut off the braids?
Answer: "No. No one asked me to cut it. It was my decision."
Q: How long had you wore your hair in braids?
A: "Since fourth grade."
Q: So why did you decide to cut off the braids?
A: "Just because I'm very picky about who did it. I had a certain lady, Renee, who used to do it. One of my momma's good friends who used to do it. She was still going to be in Florida while I was up here. So it would be tough for her to do it. And I didn't want anyone else to do it."
Q: Do you like your hair short?
A: "I like it. I'm enjoying it. It's a little bit different, but I'm getting used to it."
Q: What did you think of your play in Canada, which included 25 assists and only five turnovers?
A: "There's always room for improvement, things you can work on to get better."
Q: What did you come away from Canada thinking you had to improve?
A: "Things I try to focus on are shooting higher layups and making sure I'm not taking possessions off. Make sure I'm always alert, always focused and always as the point guard thinking the game through ... like Coach Cal would think the game through."
Q: Is Coach Cal harder on point guards than other players?
A: "He might be a little bit harder, but I don't really see him as being a tough guy. As long as you're doing what he says, things fall into place. A lot of coaches are going to yell. He's going to yell. That's just part of it."
Q: Why didn't you try to make some eye-catching plays in Canada in games that gave Kentucky plenty of room for, shall we say, experimentation?
A: "I don't think that's necessary. You play the same way the whole time. You're not going to do that against Georgia or Tennessee in the SEC championship game. There's really no point doing that against a team from Canada. Those guys weren't bad players. They competed. They played very well. They played their hearts out just like we tried to play our best. There's no need to try to disrespect your opponent."
Q: So you were sensitive to your opponents' feelings?
A: "Oh, no. Not sensitive to their feelings at all. You just play the right way. You play to destroy the other team. But you have decorum about it also. You just don't try to get fancy and play to the crowd."
››6-foot-10 senior forward from St. Charles, Mo.
Coach John Calipari on Harrellson: “You’ve got to know, if I’m not as athletic as the other guy, I’ve got to beat him to balls. I have to anticipate.”
Question: How difficult was it to seldom get on the court last season?
Answer: “It was really tough. I played against three NBA players and a senior who was really good. So this year, hopefully, it’s my turn to shine.”
Q: In terms of ego, was it tough to accept not getting into games?
A: “Not really. I played against them every day in practice. I knew they were great players. When I didn’t get in, I really didn’t mind. We went 35-3, so I can’t really complain.”
Q: During the Canada trip, Coach Cal said he wanted to see the eye of the tiger in your play. What did he mean?
A: “He just wants me to be mean. He loves my personality off the court. He loves when I’m happy-go-lucky, always trying to motivate people and do the right thing. On the court, he wants me to play like DeMarcus (Cousins). Put my head down, just trying to take the guy’s throat out I’m playing against. Let him know this is my gym. This is my time. I’m going to kill you. So you can’t stop me.”
Q: You had that attitude in Canada, wouldn’t you say?
A: “Every once in a while it hits me and I play hard at that time. I need to figure out that drive that will make me play that hard the whole game.”
Q: What do you think prevents you from being a killer on the court?
A: “I guess that’s just how I am. I’m not that type. I am at times. It’ll show at times (when) I am that type of person. I get mad enough where I want to just kill somebody out there.”
Q: What can change you from Peter Parker to Spiderman, so to speak?
A: “Maybe just like if I listen to a song or if I think of something that ever happened in the past. Hopefully something like that will get me going.”
Q: What does basketball mean to you?
A: “Basketball, it’s everything I know, right now. There’s nothing else I want to do. I want to continue my playing career.”Q: Weren’t you relatively late to the game?
A: “This is my eighth year playing. So, relatively late.”
Q: Has that been a handicap?
A: “I think if I started at a younger age, it’d have been different. I’d have been more of a different type of player, more developed. There’s still a lot of rough spots I’m trying to smooth out of my game.”
››6-foot-7 sophomore guard from Madisonville
Coach John Calipari on Hood: “He’s comfortable. He still has a mind-set if he misses shots it affects him for the next five minutes. He’s got to get through that. He’s got to get either more mentally tough or more confident in his ability.”
Question: How do you feel going into this season compared with last season?
Answer: “It’s different. Because last year you’re coming in with no expectations at all, and the expectations you may have had were most likely wrong.”
Q: Were your expectations wrong?
A: “Yeah. Expectations last year were I was as good an athlete as everyone else because I thought I was. I’m not your typical athlete. I can jump and I can run. I always hung right in there with everyone in AAU ball or whatever. You have to adjust your game and be craftier and learn different ways to get around it.”
Q: When did the realization hit you that the athleticism on the Kentucky team was better than you expected?
A: “Till about the third or fourth pickup game. John (Wall) crossed me up. I got a little off-balanced and he dunked on somebody. That’s about when I realized I’m not there. Or when Eric (Bledsoe) goes between his legs off the bounce after practice one day. No, I can’t do that.”
Q: What was it like to realize those players were better than you?
A: “It was shocking. At the same time, you have to get around it. It’s kind of either feast or famine. You do it or you don’t. I had to do it.”
Q: Last season, you always took extra shots before games with assistant coach John Robic shagging rebounds. What was that about?
A: “Coach Robic, he’s great. I love Coach Robic because he’ll always work with you and he’ll always tell you the truth.”
Q: Did the UK coaches encourage you to take more shots before games?
A: “I did it in high school. I always tried to be the first one out there shooting with an assistant coach. We had an assistant coach (in high school), if you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s the best shooter on the face of this earth. Of course, he’s not. His big thing was confidence. Before Canada, I got a text message from him (that said) ‘Just play with all the confidence in the world. Play like you’re Michael Jordan.’ Because everything you do, not just in basketball, if you have more confidence than someone, you’ll more than likely be better than they are.”
Q: How is your confidence now?
A: “I’m confident I can play at this level and I’m confident I can contribute and confident with everything.”
››6-foot-8 Freshman Forward from Portland, Ore.
Coach John Calipari on Jones: “Now, he’s a momma’s boy. But he’s a little bit mentally and physically tougher than I thought. But for us to be any good, he’s going to have to contribute. He’s going to have to be one of the guys.”
Question: Former NBA star Damon Stoudamire is your cousin. How much interaction have you had with him?
Answer: “A lot. Him working out and me watching, and talking to me about just basketball, period. I always looked up to him.”
Q: He’s from Portland, too. Did you pattern yourself after him?
A: “No. Not at all.”
Q: Did you follow his career?
A: “A lot. I was young. I wasn’t into watching that much. I went to a lot of Blazer games.”
Q: How about now?
A: “I talk to him quite a bit.”
Q: What advice did he give you about your college choice?
A: “Pretty much make the best decision for me and don’t go off on anything else. Just think of what you do. (He talked about) how he committed and decommitted. He committed to Louisville.”
Q: Why did he change his mind and go to Arizona?
A: “He just had a conversation with Coach (Lute) Olson for about three hours and decided that’s what he wanted to do.”
Q: You committed to Washington, then later signed with Kentucky. What was that about?
A: “Yeah, I pretty much set a date without making the decision first, which was probably my mistake. I had to really think about it after I made my decision and decide what’s best for me instead of what others wanted me to do what I was told to do.”
Q: Who told you to go to Washington?
A: “No one just said go there, but I knew that was what certain people wanted.”
Q: How tough was it to renege on your commitment to Washington?
A: “It wasn’t that tough. I didn’t sign anything and I didn’t announce anything about changing my mind. I just did it. I just told the coaches and sent the papers.”
Q: Did Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar try to change your mind?
A: “He kind of figured when I didn’t sign anything, it was a statement, I guess.”
Q: Why did you decide to play for Kentucky?
A: “Pretty much I figured I’d rather play the dribble-drive offense under Coach Cal, (who is) such a great coach, and just playing with Brandon (Knight) and Doron (Lamb).”
››6-foot-11 junior forward from moca, dominican republic
Coach John Calipari on Vargas: “Eloy is better than we thought, and he’s bigger than Enes Kanter."
Question: How do you envision your role this season?
Answer: “Everybody left last year. We don’t have any really ‘bigs’ on the team. So I think we need some size.”
Q: How much was the absence of big men a factor in your coming to Kentucky?
A: “A good one. (Assistant coach) Orlando (Antigua) tells me, ‘You can come and develop your game right away so you can get where you want to be.’”
Q: When Orlando Antigua recruited you, did you converse in English or Spanish?
A: “(Smiles) We talked both. We talked ‘Spanglish.’ ”
Q: How comfortable are you with English?
A: “Now, I’m really comfortable. I’ve been learning English for five years.”
Q: Where were you born?
A: The Dominican Republic.
Q: Coming from the Dominican Republic, aren’t you supposed to be a baseball player?
A: “I played. But I quit. But I was too quick for that.”
Q: Did you like baseball?
A: “I liked it. But after a while, I thought it was kind of boring.”
Q: You started your college career at Florida. Why didn’t that work out?
A: “I had ankle surgery and that kind of messed me over. I wasn’t at practice much. I wasn’t in good shape, so I decided to move on.”
Q: How do you describe your game?
A: “More like inside/out. I can play anybody on the outside or in the paint.”
Q: Which is more fun, taking a big guy to the perimeter or overpowering a little guy around the basket?
A: “(Smiles) More fun to go outside.”
Q: Why do you say one of your most prized possessions is a rosary?
A: “My grandma gave me a rosary. I wore it all the time. Before she passed away, I went to see her. She gave me a rosary. I have more rosaries in the room.”
Q: Do you wear the rosary when you play?
A: “I take it off before warm-ups.”
Q: What does it mean to you?
A: “It means a lot to me. It reminds me of her because I used to live with her (for) seven years in the Dominican.”
Stacey Poole Jr.
››6-foot-4 freshman guard from Jacksonville, Fla.
Coach John Calipari on Poole: “Stacey has to be a play finisher, not a play starter.”
Question: Do you hum while you play?
Answer: “I do hum. Songs. Literally songs. At the free-throw line, I’ll be humming something. I don’t know why.”
Q: What kind of songs?
A: “Drake. Lil’ Wayne. Different stuff.”
Q: Do the songs you hum in games fit the mood you’re in at the moment?
A: “Not really. I never looked at it like that. I just like doing it. I do it all the time.”
Q: Your father was an All-SEC player for Florida. How do you feel about inevitable comparisons to him as a college player?
A: “I feel good about it. He told me to go where I’m happy. He told me to do what’s best for me. Don’t do it because of him. Don’t get me wrong. Florida is a good program. I respect Florida a lot. That was my favorite school growing up because of my dad. I just felt like I had a good chance of doing bigger things here. My dad’s fine with it. He’s proud of me for that.”
Q: Who was your favorite Florida player?
A: “I really liked my dad, of course. I love my dad. He wore No. 2 (and) a head band when he played. Corey Brewer. I love Corey Brewer. Corey Brewer was the man. He’s so long with it. He plays hard. He’s just gets after it.”
Q: How would you compare living in Kentucky with living in Florida?
A: “Florida is a football state. Kentucky is a basketball state. You get a lot of welcoming up here, a lot of greeting here. It’s fun. I love it. Back at home, you get love, but football is bigger than basketball.”
Q: Coach Cal has said he sees you as a play finisher rather than a playmaker. What do you think of that?
A: “In high school, I was the playmaker (and the) finisher. I did it all. But now things change. I have to do what I have to do to be on the court. What he means by finisher is finish the play, put it in the basket.”
Q: How would you define playmaker, a role he doesn’t see for you at this time?
A: “The play starter. Trying to make a big play instead of somebody else making the play. He wants me to defend, be the best perimeter defender. That’s what I’ll be doing in order to play.”
››6-foot-6 junior guard from Chicago
Coach John Calipari on Liggins: “Larry Brown called me and said, ‘How is DeAndre?’ Because that’s who he likes on my team. And I said, ‘Wow, has he gotten better.’ And he’s a kid last year everybody told me to get rid of. And I told everybody in this style of play, you’re going to see a different guy. If they all play as hard as DeAndre, we’ll have a lot of fun.”
Question: Are you tired of being asked about your role changing from future star as a freshman to role player now?
Answer: “I’m very tired. But I’ve just got to do it. You can’t tell people, no. Just say it proudly, talk proudly, like you’re interested.”
Q: Well, wouldn’t you acknowledge that the role change was dramatic?
A: “It’s a good change for me. I’m just trying to stay positive, work hard academically and basketball will take care of itself.”
Q: How do you look at the DeAndre of two years ago?
A: “DeAndre two years ago was immature. (He) didn’t want to work. Just kind of a head case. Always a good kid. Always worked hard in the classroom. Always been good to people. Always loved (Billy) Gillispie. I still love him now. It was just me, a typical freshman who made a goofy mistake.”
Q: Why do you love Gillispie?
A: “I love him because he’s a good person. If not for him, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be the person I am right now. He worked us very, very hard, got us in great shape. The way he pushed us my freshman year, nobody can ever push like that. I didn’t appreciate that at the time. Now, I really do. That’s why I say I love Gillispie as a basketball coach and a person.”
Q: How long did it take for you to accept a non-starring role?
A: “It all started for me when we lost to West Virginia. We knew the guys were leaving, and I knew I’ve got to get to the gym because I’m still here. And I know I’ll be a big part of this team next year, and I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to let nobody down.’ If I work hard and do whatever Coach Cal says, if I fail at the end of the day, then I just know I did everything possible I could do. I can look at myself in the mirror and say I did whatever was possible I could do, and I just failed. But I know that’s not going to be the case. I’ll keep working hard.”
Q: Has the idea of not letting people down been a motivation for you?
A: “It’s been a motivating thing for me and knowing what my family is going through. They’re depending on me to come through.”
Q: Do you mean in terms of making it in the NBA?
A: “Not even that. Graduating from college (and) just be good to people.”
››6-foot-11 freshman forward from Istanbul, Turkey
Coach John Calipari on Kanter: “We’ve got a guy with size who can rebound. The one thing he does is rebound with two hands. That’s something I usually have to teach. I don’t have to with him. He gets his paws on it.”
Question: How much English did you speak when you came to the United States last year?
Answer: “Zero. In eight or nine months, it’s hard to learn. I just knew ‘Hello’ and ‘My name is Enes Kanter.’ Then in L.A., my host family started to teach me English.”
Q: You speak English quite well now. Congratulations.
A: “Much, much better.”
Q: How were you able to improve so much?
A: “Texting with people. Watching TV.”
Q: What TV shows did you watch?
A: “Some movies. Avatar.”
Q: How tough is it to keep up in your classes?
A: “I have three tutors right now. They really help me. It’s like my second language. It’s hard to know what the teacher is saying.”
Q: How much of what the teacher says can you understand?
A: “About 70 percent.”
Q: What are the strengths of your game?
A: “Actually, rebounding and post moves. This year I’m getting my three-point shot and face-up (game) much better to help my basketball.”
Q: Don’t most people expect you to be a tower of strength in the low post?
A: “I told (Calipari) I don’t want to play center. I want to play forward. He’s trying to teach me how to play face-up, how to play three-point shots.”
Q: You say after basketball you’d like to be a pro wrestler. Why?
A: “Because I like wrestling. My favorite is the Undertaker. I feel like him on the court.”
Q: Do you watch wrestling?
A: “Every Monday. I never miss a show.”
Q: Have you wrestled?
A: “After my basketball career. I don’t want to get hurt right now.”
Q: How would you compare Turkey and the United States?
A: “The people are real different.”
Q: How so?
A: “In America, people are too nice.”
Q: Are you a Muslim?
Q: Given the suspicion some people in this country have about Muslims, how have you been treated?
A: “They always respect me. It’s not a problem.”
Q: Ramadan this year was Aug. 11 to Sept. 10. Did you fast during daylight hours?
A: “We had practice. So I couldn’t.”
››6-foot-4 freshman guard from Queens, N.Y.
Coach John Calipari on Lamb: “Doron is like a multi-position player. He could play point guard. He could be a three. The positions we have are all interchangeable, anyway.”
Question: Former UK player Ramel Bradley said you were a New York City guard with a Brooklyn game. What do you think of that?
Answer: “It’s an honor for him to say that about me because Brooklyn players are good. They work hard and they’re tough.”
Q: Are you from Brooklyn?
A: “I live in Queens and Manhattan.”
Q: What do New York City guards have in common?
A: “They’re just tough. You’ve got to work hard in New York because there are a lot of guards in New York. There are not a lot of big men. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every game and just do what you’ve got to do to win a game. It was hard. Everybody is going to come at you every game and try to expose you.”
Q: Did playing in this environment help you improve as a player?
A: “It helped me a lot, staying tough. I was always tough, but you can always get tougher.”
Q: Have you played against Ramel?
A: “I’ve played against him in Rucker Park. We didn’t guard each other.”
Q: Coach Cal suggested “Buckets” would be a good nickname because you have a knack for putting the ball in the basket. What do you think of that?
A: “It’s an honor for him to say that about me because I do score. That’s my nickname around town now. I’m cool with that.”
Q: After the first game in Canada, Coach Cal was critical of you. What did you think of that?
A: “Coach just told me I didn’t play hard in the first game. He said I came out soft in the layup line. He said I wasn’t running hard enough.”
Q: He said you were soft in the layup line?
A: “He said I was soft. I was going through the motions. He wants you to go hard in the layup line. If you go hard in the layup line, you’ll go hard in the game. I thought it was a good thing he told me. I learned from it and I’m doing better now.”
Q: Could you be a one-and-done player for Kentucky?
A: “I’m not really worried about that one-and-done thing. I’m just worried about the season, trying to win games, just trying to win a championship and see what happens after that.”
››6-foot-2 freshman guard from Nicholasville
Coach John Calipari on Polson: “I feel comfortable putting him in the game. There’ll be games he’ll be overmatched physically, but he’s bigger. (He’s) as good a walk-on as I’ve coached.”
Question: What was the process of becoming a UK walk-on like?
Answer: “They just called me one day (and asked), ‘Would you like to come and play pickup with the guys?’ I did that for about a month. Then Martin Newton said one day, ‘There’s a spot for you on the team.’ I was real excited about that.”
Q: Why do you suppose Kentucky called you?
A: “I don’t really know. I guess people were talking and told the coaches about me.”
Q: So what was your reaction to making the team?
A: “Oh, man. I was just so excited. Growing up as a little kid in Kentucky, that’s what you want to be: a Kentucky basketball player. I’ve loved Kentucky all my life. I loved basketball all my life. It’s like a dream come true for me.”
Q: Who were your favorite UK players?
A: “Oh, man. I remember Ron Mercer, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Anthony Epps, Cameron Mills. That era.”
Q: When did you learn you would receive a scholarship?
A: “The start of August, a few days after practice began (for the Canada trip). After practice one day, Coach (John) Robic took me aside and told me.”
Q: How did you decide between playing for Liberty University and, perhaps, mostly sitting and watching at UK?
A: “It really just came down to living in Kentucky all my life. That was kind of my dream. I really liked Liberty a lot. If UK had not offered, I would have been extremely happy to go there. Just the fact it was Kentucky and living the little dream.”
Q: How well do you play the piano?
A: “I like to mess around on it. I took lessons when I was, like, 4 years old for one year. We have a piano in the house. I like to mess around on it. I don’t really play, though.”
Q: In Canada, you certainly showed you aren’t afraid to stick your nose in there and get it bloodied.
A: “I think that’s what’s going to help me get the most minutes, trying to work hard on defense, getting loose balls and being a little hustle player.”
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: “Personally, just try to get better every day. Work as hard as I can. Get better on defense. Get stronger.”