Cal and one-and-done originator hug, exchange quips

In the late 1960s, Spencer Haywood challenged the existing NBA rule that required players entering the league to be out of high school at least four years.
The courts ruled in Haywood’s favor, which led to players moving directly from high school to the NBA. That has since been amended to become the so-called one-and-done rule, which requires players to be out of high school one year before being eligible for a NBA Draft.
Of course, Kentucky Coach John Calipari has built a dynasty with so-called one-and-done players.
That’s the backdrop to an exchange Monday between Haywood and Calipari, both of whom were announced as members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 inductees.
“What do you think of four-year players?” a smiling Haywood called out to Calipari.
To which the smiling UK coach replied, “You screwed it up for us. Helped players, (but) screwed up coaches.”
Then Haywood and Calipari came together for a hug.

Cal: Blame me, don’t blame players

UK Coach John Calipari accepted the blame and invited the blame for Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin.
“They can say whatever they want,” he said of those who questioned UK’s late-game strategy. “Were they saying that when we were winning all those close games.”
“All I can tell you is we were trying to do exactly what we did versus Notre Dame.”
Rather than milk the shot clock, UK wanted to run its offense with the emphasis on getting the ball to Towns in the post, Calipari said Monday.
“I wish I had a few more answers on how to post the ball,” he said. “. . . If they want to blame me for theloss, I agree. Don’t blame the kids.”
Even Wisconsin players said the basket by Nigel Hayes that tied the score at 60-60 came after the shot clock expired. But because a rule prohibits referees from checking a sideline monitor on such a call outside the final two minutes, the basket counted.
“It’s not the officials,” Calipari said. “They missed it. They kicked it. But they weren’t able to correct it. And that was the problem. . . . So you change the rules. Don’t ever let it happen again.”

Cal: ‘Great kids do dumb things’

Kentucky did not exit the Final Four gracefully. A microphone caught Andrew Harrison muttered an expletive and racial slur during the post-game news conference. Then UK players, including the Harrison twins and Cauley-Stein, did not follow college basketball custom and shake hands with Wisconsin players.
“Great kids do dumb things,” Calipari said. “My own children do things that I look and say, ‘Where did you come from? You did not come from me?’”
Calipari said any punishment would stay “in-house” and not be made public.
“They know I was disappointed, and we talked about it,” Calipari said. “And the only thing I can tell you is they apologized.”
The UK coach said he put great stock in acknowledging mistakes.
“You step to the plate,” he said. “When I do somethingn or say something to a player I shouldn’t say, I apologize. I hug them. . . .
“I want them to know it’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to be stupid and do stupid t4hings. Step up to the plate, And I think they did.”

Cal: From 5 to 7 players will leave for NBA Draft

If John Calipari is correct, this year’s NBA Draft will resemble this college basketball season. There will be a distinct Kentucky presence.
The UK coach spoke of several of his players entering this June’s NBA Draft.
“We could lose seven guys,” he said Monday. “I would guess five at the minimum. But I would say seven is a distinct possibility.”
Among the players who’ve worn the Kentucky uniform for the last time is probably All-American Willie Cauley-Stein.
“I would say he and Karl, the twins Trey,” Calipari said. “There’s no reason to hold off if you know what you’re doing.”
Calipari was referring to Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Trey Lyles.
Then there’s Alex Poythress, whose season ended in mid-December when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament.
“I’m going to explore for Alex,” Calipari said. “My guess is the injury probably will influence him to come back. But if someone says they’ll take him 15, 16 in the draft, then that may change.”
Devin Booker and Dakari Johnson will also consider entering this year’s NBA Draft.
“What if Dakari is the 25th pick in the draft,” the UK coach said. “I’m not going to say you should stay.”
Calipari spoke of Andrew and Aaron Harrison as first-round picks.
The morning after Wisconsin beat Kentucky in the Final Four semifinals Saturday night, Calipari had five-minute individual meetings with players who may weigh the turn pro/return to college decision.
“I did tell a couple kids that it is a man’s league,” Calipari said of the NBA. “It’s not a child’s league. If you’re not ready for a man’s league, you better come back.”
But Calipari said he did not want to have undue influence in the decision. He said he and the UK staff would try to gather information from 20 or more NBA teams to better inform the players.
And he mentioned one other role he can play.
“Now, I’m their PR machine,” he said.

Cauley-Stein expresses regret for letting down fans

Willie Cauley-Stein lamented how Kentucky’s loss Saturday night let down the program’s rabid fan base.
“I feel bad for our community, let alone us,” he said. “Our fans and our support has been one of a kind.”
Of UK’s 38-1 record, Cauley-Stein said, “Our fans have so much to be proud of. I was proud of our fans. That’s what kind of weighing in on me. I wanted to hold the trophy off the bus (and) off the plane and just hear everybody go crazy.
“Lord knows there will be 10,000 people at the airport. (The fans) are still going to be there, but it’s going to be a different feeling.”
Cauley-Stein likened the loss to a plot twist in a movie.
“It’s like a movie where the main character dies,” he said. “And you’re, like, ‘What?! Why did the main character die?’
“And he ends up dying. And that’s the end of the movie. No cliff hanger. No nothing. And just, boom! You’re done. That’s the way it feels. That’s the way it ended. You’re like super hurt over the good guy.”

Cauley-Stein salutes Kaminsky’s ‘old-man game’

After Kentucky lost 71-64 to Wisconsin Saturday night, Willie Cauley-Stein saluted his 7-foot counterpart and fellow All-American, Frank Kaminsky.
Kaminsky led the Badgers with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s so (pause) goofy,” said Cauley-Stein, who struggled (two points, five rebounds). “So that it’s just so unorthodox. He’s got great touch. He plays an old-man’s game. Angles. Slow. You just can’t stop him.”

Dekker on big 3-pointer: read defender, take shot

Wisconsin’s hottest shoot in the NCAA Tournament took and made arguably the biggest shot of the game Saturday night.
His three-pointer from the top of the key over Karl-Anthony Towns with 1:41 left broke a 60-60 tie and propelled Wisconsin to a 71-64 victory over Kentucky in the national semifinals.
“Karl-Anthony got on his heels a little bit,” said Dekker, who made two of three shots from beyond the arc, which made him 15 for 30 in the NCAA Tournament.
“(Towns) thought I was going to drive. Able to free up some space on a setback.”
Dekker believed the shot was going in.
“Off my hand, I knew it was down,” he said. “I was waiting for a good look like that all night. They did a great job blocking off in the driving lanes. . . . When I had that look, I knew I had to put it up. I knew it was good off the hand.”

WCS: So-called pressure of staying undefeated no factor

Willie Cauley-Stein dismissed the notion that the chance for an unbeaten record played a part in Kentucky’s 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals Saturday night.
“I don’t think it weighed in on us, the 40-0 hype,” he said. “If that was the case, we would have lost a long time ago.”

Cal: ‘We didn’t slow it down’

It didn’t take long for the second-guessing to begin after Kentucky’s 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals Saturday night.
The questioning zeroed in on Kentucky seemingly trying to milk the clock down the stretch.
Playing uphill much of the game, UK took a 60-56 lead with 6:36 left. Thereafter, UK scored only one basket, got caught with three shot clock violations and had another possession end with an air ball that Wisconsin rebounded.
“We didn’t slow it down,” UK Coach John Calipari said. “We were trying to post the ball, run the pick-and-rolls, the stuff we were running.
“They crowded a little bit. The guys got a little bit tentative. We were trying to still play.”
Devin Booker credited Wisconsin. “I just think their defense is pretty good,” he said.
Andrew Harrison also said UK did not seek to slow the pace. “We just didn’t execute,” he said.
After taking a 60-56 lead, Kentucky was scoreless for more than five minutes. Its next three trips down-court, UK air balls resulted in 35-second shot clock violations.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin got points on its final seven trips down-court. The Badgers outscored Kentucky 15-4 in the final 4:26.
“The thing that was tough is we are a finishing team,” Calipari said. “. . . That’s what we’ve been, and we didn’t. They did, and we didn’t.”

Rebounding looms large in UK loss to Wisconsin

Rebounding played a big part in Kentucky’s season of historic achievement. And it was big part of that season’s disappointing ending.
Kentucky grabbed only six offensive rebounds and scored only six points off second-chance opportunities in the 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals Saturday.
When asked how UK could grab only one offensive rebound in the first half, Derek Willis said, “I don’t know, honestly.
“I just felt like that was really what the game was dictated by,” he said.
In only three games this season had Kentucky scored fewer second-chance points: all victories, of course, at South Carolina and Missouri and at home against Georgia.
UK grabbed fewer than six offensive rebounds in only three games.
Assistant Coach John Robic noted one factor: Kentucky shot with 60-percent accuracy in the first half, which reduced the number of available offensive rebounds.
But, he added of the Badgers, “They came up with loose balls. (And) they did a god job of keeping us off the glass.”
The one exception was Karl-Anthony Towns, who grabbed all five of his offensive rebounds in the second half.