Kentucky Blog - College

John Calipari talked at length about Nerlens Noel's season-ending injury and how this UK team moves forward without him in Wednesday's radio show appearance.

Some highlights, via Calipari's website:

On what Noel does now:

"One, adversity hits all of us. That’s just how it is. You don’t go through life unscathed. This is another great life lesson for all of us on this staff and for Nerlens. Things don’t just go the next step up. He now has to use this time to, one, he’s really got to rehab. Two, it’s a great time to work on his upper body because he can’t do anything on his wheels. And three, maybe skills, shooting free throws, shooting from a chair, you can do different things now. Get academically absolutely in order."

On his NBA Draft prospects:

"He will in all likelihood still have an opportunity if he wants to put his name in the draft. He will, and it’s not going to move much. But I told him, don’t feel pressed, because after going through six or seven month of rehab, you may say, ‘I’m not ready now to walk into a training camp that’s all new and I’m not (ready).’ Well, then you come back and you be the best big man in the country again. That’s his option. He’s got some work to do. ...

"And the decision for Nerlens to come back I think will be based on the progress of his rehab and surgery in a couple weeks. It’s a six-month rehab. When he’s two or three months in, seeing that progress and then figuring out is he ready to go on to that next step. Like I told him, if you’re not ready you come back and you become the best big guy in the country. You were one of them this year; you’ll be even better next year. But that’s something that he and his family will have to go through.”

On the rest of the team stepping up to make up for his lost production:

"And then one guy’s misery becomes another man’s opportunity. Look, I still have a good team. Here’s the thing about our team: Guys got to start performing. You can’t have any cop out. Guys have got to start performing now. We can’t have two and three guys playing poorly. They can’t anymore. We are having two or three guys a game not playing to the best version of themselves. Well, most of that means play harder. Play with more energy. That is not about making mistakes. Play more physical. Think about what I’m saying. Play harder, play with more energy, play with more physical, sub yourself when you’re tired. Every player in the world can do that. That’s what we’re asking. Now it becomes, alright, we’ve each got to do a little bit more. ...

"But my thing to our team right now, each guy’s got to look to do three, four percent more. You don’t have to do 100 percent more. And the other thing becomes you now need each other badly. You need each other badly. And so I’m hoping now we’ve got some guys in the room that know they need each other and that we’ll just absolutely say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to have to do to win.’ I look at this right now as it’s another challenge. And for me, I looked around the room and we talked to the team and I just said, ‘Do you want to quit? Go ahead and quit the season or just stop playing. This is like life. You’ve got to go.’ So now we’ve got to figure out how we survive. How do we survive? And then when you start surviving, you start thinking about how we thrive in this environment. How many businesses went through downsizing and thought they were going under and all they thought about for months and months and maybe years, ‘Let’s survive. We must survive.’ And after they survived they what? They thrived. And you know, that’s what you do now."

On missing Noel's blocks and rebounds:

“From this point on we will not lead the nation in blocked shots. Last year when Anthony Davis wasn’t in the game, people were shooting layups on us. At least we have Willie in there now so it won’t be as bad. But we probably will block half as many shots as we’ve been blocking, but that’s OK. Then you have to defend a little bit differently. You’ve got to do things a little bit different. The biggest thing we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to rebound it, those tight rebounds, because that means they’re going to grab us more."

On the different outlook of the team:

“This is like are third or fourth different team this year, and you know what, we’re heading it on. I’m interested to see because Willie has shown signs of brilliance. I think this gives Kyle a chance to where we run a lot of stuff through him. And I also think it now puts it back on Alex to be the player you should be. He should be dominating plays. You know that game, he should have dominated that game. That was the fear they had. How are they going to guard him? And then he goes 1 for 9. Come on, you know you’re better than that. Be the best version of yourself. We talked about it today in individual meetings. I believe in the team. I believe in these guys. I believe in our talent. We’re still young, I know, but we’re talented enough to win. We’ve got enough pieces. I’ve done this with five players before, folks, where I’ve played five. I’ll play five guys."

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