Derek Willis’ visit to the “downside” of Kentucky basketball will not cost him any playing time, UK Coach John Calipari said Thursday.
Willis, whose emergence as a reliable perimeter shooter solidified Kentucky’s team last season, was arrested in the early-morning hours of June 11 and charged with public intoxication. He was released after paying a $50 bond.
When asked if Willis will be suspended for any games as a result of the arrest, Calipari said, “No.”
Calipari, who said the public nature of Willis’ arrest showed the “downside” of playing for a high-profile program like Kentucky, declined to say how or if he punished Willis.
“You guys know I don’t throw people under the bus . . . ,” Calipari told reporters at a news conference. “We deal with every situation in its own right. We’ve gotten the information. And Derek knows that he’s under a different eye now than he was.
“But I’m not going to tell you specifically what we did or didn’t do. I’m not going to write your stories and do all that stuff. But, obviously, he and I have talked a few different times.”
According to a police report, Willis was arrested at 4:57 a.m. in Union, Ky. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department said that police found Willis lying in a street. Video of the arrest showed Willis laying outside the open driver’s side door of a car. After being awakened, Willis said he had “a lot” to drink.
The public nature of Willis’ arrest can be a teaching tool for UK coaches, Calipari said.
“These kids know they’re under a microscope,” Calipari said, “but I tell them that’s the downside of being here. . . . The good thing about being here is you’re at Kentucky, and everybody wants to be here.”
The unblinking spotlight that shines on Kentucky players is unforgiving, Calipari said.
“That’s being at Kentucky,” he said. “And you can’t talk your way out of it. And that includes our staff. Like I can’t go anywhere where they’re not taking pictures of me (and) sending them somewhere.”
Humphries ‘way better’
Calipari spoke glowingly of the improvement sophomore Isaac Humphries has made since last season.
“Way better,” the UK coach said. “Like when you see Isaac now, you’re going to say, ‘My goodness.’ Like he’s not even the same guy.”
Calipari linked the improvement to maturation. Humphries did not turn 18 until Jan. 5.
In explaining the improvement Humphries has made, Calipari said, “Much more confidence. Much more physical. Much more skilled in what he’s doing, and able to sustain it. Now, he’s got a ways to go . . . , but it’s what you want to see.”
‘Be better than you were’
There’s no mystery to how sophomore Isaiah Briscoe must improve this coming season, Calipari said.
“I kind of put it on him, like I do all these guys,” the UK coach said. “and I was very specific. That he’s got to improve his shooting. It doesn’t matter how I play him. Where I play him. How much he plays. It all comes back to improve that.
“You don’t have to be Steph Curry. You just have to be better than you were.”
As a freshman last season, Briscoe made 46 percent of his free throws (57 of 124) and 13.5 percent of his three-point attempts (five of 37).
“People forget how big he was for our team a year ago,” Calipari said. “He kind of got overshadowed. And the only reason he got overshadowed is whatever he shot from the three-point line and the free throw line was abysmal.
“But short of that, (Briscoe contributed by) defending, rebounding, playing basketball, getting to the basket, making plays, not being afraid.”
Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray “overshadowed” Briscoe because of their point guard and shooting skills, respectively, Calipari said.
“But as a basketball player, as a tough, hard-nosed warrior, c’mon now,” Calipari added. “There were games we would have lost if he wasn’t playing.”
‘Beast with skills’
Calipari likened freshman Edrice “Bam” Adebayo to two of his earlier “bigs” at Kentucky: Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis.
Like those two stars, Adebayo can get better and better throughout the season and become dominant.
“Other players were more highly thought of,” Calipari said of the recruiting ratings. “When you start hitting late January and early February, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ Because he’s a beast will skills. . . . He’s a beast who can play basketball. And he wants to win.”
Because the Atlantic Coast Conference is expanding the number of league games, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams has talked about the series with Kentucky ending.
“It’d be disappointing . . . ,” Calipari said. “But, obviously, we’re Kentucky. We’ll get our games. I’m not worried about it.
“I’ve always liked the North Carolina game. But as our fans have found out, it’s us that they watch. It’s not the other teams.”