To help freshman Isaiah Briscoe improve as a player, Kentucky Coach John Calipari has resorted to a form of sign language.
Calipari said he had asked Briscoe to tape a card on a mirror in his Wildcat Coal Lodge room. That way the first thing Briscoe saw when he awoke each morning would be the message on the card.
The message: “Make the ridiculously hard play look easy,” Calipari said. “See, he flips that the other way. Makes a really easy play look ridiculously hard.”
Calipari attributed this making-the-easy-harder-than-it-should-be to basketball on the high school and AAU level, where style points count. “It’s just how they play,” Calipari said.
Briscoe’s acrobatics against South Florida Friday led Calipari to liken the maneuvers to a game of H-O-R-S-E. The UK coach also made a reference to Skee-Ball.
On the plus side, extended minutes created by Tyler Ulis’ injury gave Calipari a chance to appraise Briscoe and fellow freshman Jamal Murray.
Illinois State has an all-time record of 8-1 against SEC teams.
“It gave me a clearer picture of where I have to go to help Isaiah with his game,” Calipari said. “He could have almost had a triple-double, but he was flipping balls.”
Saying Briscoe tried to avoid contact, Calipari said, “He played a little bit, like, casual. He has to understand you can’t play like that and be a lead guard for us.”
Dominique Hawkins, who missed several weeks in the preseason because of a broken bone in his hand, said he’s been pain-free for a week or two.
“I felt I was getting left behind because he was putting in the Dribble-Drive,” Hawkins said of being sidelined. “We didn’t have the Dribble-Drive last year, so I didn’t really know the plays really well.”
Maryland and UK?
Last Tuesday, Illinois State led No. 2 Maryland by five points with less than eight minutes left before losing 77-66. Now, the Redbirds play No. 1 Kentucky.
“Some of it is happenstance,” Coach Dan Muller said of playing teams ranked 1 and 2 in the nation.
The trip to Cancun was scheduled two years ago, Muller said.
Illinois State, which has three starters back from a team that won 22 games last season, has a 3-4 record. “We’re going to be really good this year,” Muller said. “It’s just a matter of when.”
Have a plan
“In teaching responsibility, Calipari said he asks players to chart a path for how to reach personal goals.
You don’t just keep marching. You have a plan of attack of what you’re going to do.
My question to all these kids is what is your plan to help yourself?” he said. “And they don’t think that way. Michael Kidd (Gilchrist) and Brandon Knight had a plan on how they were going to attack this, and how they were going to make it. …
“You don’t just keep marching. You have a plan of attack of what you’re going to do.”
Illinois State is finishing a grinding start to the season. UK will be its eighth opponent in an 18-day period. In that time, the Redbirds will have traveled some 7,300 miles.
Illinois State opened the season at San Diego State. Then after three home games in six days, the team traveled to Cancun, Mexico, for two games.
The Redbirds were riding a bus five and one-half hours Sunday to play at Kentucky.
“Our guys are certainly a little fatigued,” Muller said.
Illinois State has an all-time record of 8-1 against SEC teams. That includes 1-0 records against Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, 3-0 against Ole Miss and 2-0 against Texas A&M. The loss was to Vanderbilt. … Illinois State has been out-rebounded 34.0-38.4 so far this season. … Mark Jones and Kara Lawson will call the game for ESPN2.