In an attempt to prevent what golfers call paralysis by analysis, John Calipari said he suggests books for his Kentucky players to read.
“You’ve got to stay away from it,” he said of the attention the Big Blue Nation seemingly gives every dribble. “You can’t listen to that. You stay in the moment. Try to get better every day. Do something away from the court.”
The latest book recommended by Calipari is entitled “Life Word: Discover Your One Word to Leave a Legacy.” He asked each UK player to pick a word that can serve as a label for 2019.
“A word that describes what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said told the players. “What your strengths are and something you need to work on.”
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These words, which Calipari said showed the players put thought into their selections, also gives the UK coach a tool. For instance, he can remind a player of the word chosen and ask him to try harder to live up to his word.
Immanuel Quickley said he chose the word “feel.” Why? It came after talking with Calipari, he said.
“Just feel my way on the court, having an idea of where everybody is,” Quickley said. “Really a point guard-type word.”
Tyler Herro said he chose “win” as his word.
“Just attacking every single day,” he said. “Getting the best of my abilities. Just continue to work hard and win at whatever I’m doing.”
Yes, Calipari said, he also had picked a word.
“‘Build,’” he said. Build on each player’s skills and on the UK program. “Keep me focused on what I want to be.”
Calipari said he explained to the players Monday why during a timeout with 3:44 left he called a play for Reid Travis to shoot a three-pointer. UK trailed Alabama 70-61. Travis had missed six of his most recent three-point shots, and made only five of 14 shots from beyond the arc at that point.
“I know how much he is in the gym, and I have a lot of faith in him,” Calipari said. “Probably the chances of him making it were not great-great. But it was wide open, and I knew it would be. I wanted him to know I got faith in you. Go make it. I was trying to get him going.”
After Travis scored 10 points in the game’s first 10-plus minutes, Alabama began double-teaming him in the low post. He scored only two points thereafter.
Travis wasn’t the only player to be contained after a hot start. In the first half, Alabama’s Tevin Mack made seven of nine shots, including going 6-for-6 from three-point range. He scored 20 points in the first half, but only two points in the second.
Tyler Herro guarded Mack in the second half.
“He wasn’t the main guy in our scouting report,” Herro said of Mack. Herro echoed Calipari’s postgame comments by saying UK mistakenly went behind screens and on handoffs involving Mack.
Besides containing Mack in the second half, Herro defended the defense teammate and roommate Keldon Johnson played on Mack in the first half.
“Keldon did a good job,” Herro said. “Most of his threes were in transition.”
Herro, who doesn’t like being considered a mere shooter, seemed to answer a familiar Calipari question about how a player can contribute when not making a lot of shots (four of 12 at Alabama). When asked if he was UK’s defensive stopper in the game, Herro smiled and said, “I guess you can say that.”
Calipari noted how point guards Ashton Hagans and Quickley complement each other. For example, Hagans is the better on-ball defender while Quickley is the better off-ball defender.
Hagans’ three steals at Alabama gave him 14 in the last three games.
“I go against him in practice every day,” Quickley said of Hagans. “So I know how hard it is for the opponents when they’re going against him.”
Quickley’s eight points at Alabama marked an offensive uptick. Hagans suggested UK needed more of the same after Quade Green transferred away.
“Quade was a big part of our team,” Quickley said. “We just try to fill that gap. ... His toughness. His leadership. ... We’re all trying to pick up on that.”
Tuesday will mark UK’s first home game since Dec. 15, and only its second since Dec. 1. Will players remember how to get to Rupp Arena? “I think we should be all right,” Quickley said with a smile. ... Tom Hart and Jon Sundvold will call the game for the SEC Network.