UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notes: Calipari pointing Briscoe in new direction

Isaiah Briscoe told reporters Coach John Calipari wants him to drive North and South, not North, South, East and West.
Isaiah Briscoe told reporters Coach John Calipari wants him to drive North and South, not North, South, East and West. Lexington Herald-Leader

When freshman Isaiah Briscoe wants to shake and bake, Kentucky Coach John Calipari uses non-verbal signals to ask him to cease and desist.

Calipari will stop practice and shimmy his shoulders to indicate Briscoe's flourishes are unnecessary.

"Probably once a practice," Briscoe said of the frequency of this non-verbal instruction. "I'll forget where I'm at and do a couple moves. And he'll stop and he'll do the little (shakes his shoulders). And I'll know what he's talking about."

Then, in case Briscoe doesn't understand, Calipari will typically add, "We're not doing this here, Isaiah," the player said Wednesday.

Calipari used directions of a compass to explain to the media what he wanted from Briscoe and all UK players.

"I'm making him play North-South and get in the lane," the UK coach said.

Briscoe explained.

"Playing in straight lines," he said. "When I came here, I was playing North-South-East-West. Playing with the ball. I had to get all the bad habits out of my game."

When asked if he believed the North-South-East-West would not work at the college level or Calipari simply did not find such moves appealing, Briscoe said, "I'm not going to say it won't work. But he feels I'm a better basketball player playing North-South."

After a pause, Briscoe added, "With his résumé, he knows exactly what he's taking about. So I better listen."

During UK's Pro Day workout Sunday, ESPNU broadcaster Seth Greenberg described Briscoe's playing style as a "city game." This was a mystery to Briscoe, who is from Union, N.J.

"I don't really know what that means, honestly," he said. "That's the first time I ever heard that."

Briscoe nodded in agreement when it was suggested this meant a more creative style based on improvisation. But he said freedom has its limits.

"He coaches me," he said of Calipari, "and that's one thing I've been missing in my game. Being coached."

Poythress 75 percent

Alex Poythress' recovery from the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in mid-December is not complete.

"He's about 75 percent," Calipari said. "We need him to be something like he's got to be a beast."

Part of the remaining 25 percent is getting over the mental hurdle of knowing the knee is sound, Calipari said.

"It's that he's confident that 'I can come down hard and I'm going to be fine,'" the UK coach said. "But he's big for us."

Poythress reminded reporters that patience is required in returning from a torn ACL.

"Taking it day by day," he said. "It's a process. ACLs don't heal overnight."

'Very frustrated'

Dominique Hawkins acknowledged the frustration that came with breaking a bone in his right hand during a practice this preseason.

"Very frustrated," he said, "because Coach (Calipari) was bragging about how good I was playing and stuff.

"I feel like in my three years, this has been my best year in practice and I've been more confident."

Hawkins, a junior from Richmond and a Kentucky Mr. Basketball, described the injury. He was defending against a fast-breaking Briscoe in transition. As he reached to swipe the ball away, his hand got caught in Briscoe's jersey "as he did a Euro step," Hawkins said. "It just happened.

"I didn't even know I broke it. I thought I just sprained a finger."

The surgical repair involved three pins. Hawkins said he was unsure when he could return. But he downplayed the significance of the time he will be sidelined.

"I'll be fine," he said. "I'm watching practice. (Calipari) put in all these plays I already ran last year."

Calipari spoke of the disappointment in seeing Hawkins and teammate Derek Willis sidelined with injuries. Both enter their third year seeking a more prominent role.

"Neither one of them really had a chance to play until now," Calipari said. "The other players were just better than them. They were good, too. The other guys were way better."

When asked if the same applied to this season's "other players," Calipari used his hands to explain why not.

"If they're better, it's not like this," he said separating his hands by about 2 feet. "It's like this (about a 6-inch separation)."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader