UK Men's Basketball

Chemistry, transition defense top Kentucky basketball's to-do list

Kentucky guards Devin Booker and Andrew Harrison cheered near the end of the game against Pikeville.
Kentucky guards Devin Booker and Andrew Harrison cheered near the end of the game against Pikeville. Herald-Leader

Kentucky's basic aim this season, especially in the early going, will be the objective going into Sunday's second and final exhibition game.

"Just chemistry and combinations," assistant coach Barry Rohrssen said at a news conference Friday.

Rohrssen, who substituted for UK Coach John Calipari as Kenny Payne did before the first exhibition (a platoon of coaches at news conferences?) added a light-hearted comment. "For some people, even like myself, chemistry was the hardest subject," he said. "So you want to continue to work on that."

Rohrssen was coy about whether UK will use the same five-player platoons against Georgetown College as were used last weekend against Pikeville. Maybe. Maybe not. He echoed Calipari's comments about Kentucky not adhering strictly to platoons.

"Those who will produce are going to get more time," he said, "or find themselves with the opportunity (for more playing time)."

Rohrssen made the exhibition against Georgetown sound like what it is: another dress rehearsal.

UK's aim? "Just continued improvement ... ," he said. "Just to get in a rhythm (and) get comfortable, especially the new guys."

Kentucky won its first exhibition 116-68. Of course, coaches by nature cannot be completely satisfied. Rohrssen suggested room for improvement.

"My radar screen kind of goes to the defensive side," he said. "Transition defense is something that's always going to stick out with me, first and foremost."

Rohrssen then made his point stick.

"You'll find bad transition defense teams jog back," he said. "Good teams run back. And great teams sprint back. And we've got to make an effort every time, especially in transition, not to let the ball get behind us."

'Improving rapidly'

When asked what freshman has noticeably improved, Rohrssen said Devin Booker.

"Really improving rapidly on a day-to-day basis," Rohrssen said. "He's really made some very good strides."

The UK assistant noted improvement in how quickly Booker releases his shot and gaining comfort on the college level.

Rohrssen also added, "Really nice to add Trey Lyles to the mix, as well."

Future platoons?

Rohrssen recoiled from a question about how prospects like the idea of limited minutes in a Kentucky platoon system. The question implied Kentucky will use platoons in future seasons.

"Well, you don't exactly know it's going to be limited," he said. "That's to unfold next season."

As if it had to be asked and answered, Rohrssen said UK coaches are well received in recruiting.

"It's nice when you're ranked No. 1 in the polls," he said. "It's a nice way to have a conversation when you go into somebody's home. ... Kentucky is very well received no matter where you go or who you speak with. It's nice to have that royal blue — UK — on your chest when you walk into a high school or a home."