Coach Donovan Q&A

Head men's basketball coach Billy Donovan addressed the media Monday, Feb. 3 at his weekly media luncheon.

On the Kentucky game…

"This game tomorrow night will be a very exciting game. It is on national TV, with two teams that are undefeated in the SEC right now and are ranked very high. Kentucky is playing as well as anyone in the country. These are the types of games that Kentucky has built their tradition and program on. These are the types of games Kentucky has built their program and tradition on. I think the more times we can play in a game like that, that's what you try to build towards. We realize we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us, going into Kentucky with the way they've been playing. I think a lot has been made of Kentucky's defense, which I think is outstanding, but Kentucky would not be where they are right now if they didn't have a great balance on offense. I think they have all the ingredients to be a basketball team that could be exceptional because they've got a dominant low-post player in [Marquis] Estill, and they have great rebounding across the front line in [Jules] Camara, Chuck Hayes and [Eric] Daniels. They have two explosive scorers on the perimeter with [Gerald] Fitch and [Keith] Bogans, and a guy like Cliff Hawkins who runs so I figure they've got great balance. They're an outstanding team and we do realize going in there that we'll have to play well in every possible area to put ourselves in a position to win."

On playing at Rupp Arena…

"I think the atmosphere there will be incredible, it will be a great college basketball atmosphere. I think the fans at Kentucky thrive on games like this. You've got two teams undefeated, both ranked pretty high. I think the place will be very intense and very loud. I think the mindset of both teams who are undefeated in the league probably overshadows or outweighs where everybody is when you cross the rankings. And I think because of that Kentucky is probably in the driver's seat right now because we've won three road games, they've won four. Four of their first six they've won on the road, so they certainly have an upper hand with regards to their wins on the road."

On Kentucky's last loss (to Louisville):

"I think the big thing with the Louisville game is that certainly there was a lot of emotion in that game. I would say that our statistics and our style are very similar to Louisville. Our personnel is a little bit different with regards to our team compared to theirs. I think they're a little bit more physical than we are, we may have a little bit better shooting. But I think this will be a different game because it's being played at Rupp. Louisville/Kentucky is such a heated rivalry. I watched the game on TV, and you could see this tremendous emotion and passion. Louisville really went out there and executed their style and their system very well as far as taking Kentucky out of what they wanted to do."

On Marquis Estill:

"I think he (Estill) causes problems because he posts up to a lot of different areas. He posts up off the block and he posts up in the paint. He's also a terrific passer with very good size. So you have to be very smart with the way you play him. I think we've got to play him collectively as a team. I don't think anyone on our front court one-on-one is going to shut him down. But I would say that they're not taking very many perfect jump shots, but on the flip side of that, I think defending the three-point line in that place is critical, because they have the ability to knock down shots."

On Keith Bogans:

"There was a lot made of him (Bogans) going to the NBA, but he seems to have bought into what they're (Kentucky coaches) doing. He seems like a tremendous teammate right now. I'm not saying he wasn't last year, but he's really doing a lot of different things. He's scoring on the perimeter, he's driving the ball to the basket, he's defending, and he is rebounding. I think he's displaying his whole game. A lot of people thought he would be this type of player coming out of high school, because he did it in high school and certainly I think he's had an exceptional year and he's playing very well. I think he will be a guy you really have to consider to be one of the candidates for player of the year in this conference for what he's done for Kentucky."

On Tubby Smith:

"I think sometimes we look at whether or not a guy does a good job or a bad job. My thing is Tubby is Tubby. He's a great guy, a guy of character and integrity and I have a lot of respect for him as a person. I think Tubby may look at last year and probably didn't like the way last year went for him, and certainly there were adjustments and changes that he made. I think what would be more impressive to me is that he's got all those guys on the right page today. He got tough and kept going. I think that is where he did a great job. A lot of times, coaching-wise, a lot of it isn't done during games or practice. A lot of coaching is dealing with those guys and getting them in the right mindset to buy into what you're doing. And certainly it appears that he's got those guys doing that. I've always felt like Kentucky has done a great job coaching each year. He's obviously one of the best out there."

On the rankings…

"I think one thing about being number one right now, if it did happen, would be more of, the Kentucky game overshadows being number one. If it does happen, if we are number one, I would be very proud of that, I'd be happy for our players and I'd be happy for the school because it's never happened here. I look at where we ended the season last year and where we are today, and I'm proud of our team for what they've done to this point. I'm not satisfied or content, we still have a lot of room to grow, nor do I think we're the best team in the country if that happens. Let's be honest, we moved to number one because people in front of us lost. Now we have won games, but for me to sit here and say we're the best team in the country, I don't know if the polls reflect that or mean that, because we're certainly a long way away from being that. Now we aspire to be the number one team in the country at the end of the year and we aspire to be the number one team in the SEC this year, so that's what we're going for right now, that's what we're competing for. But to have that label on us right now, I don't feel like we're the best team in the country. Certainly I think it's great because it would be the first time in school history, it would be great for our program, and I would be proud of it, but at the same time that's not something we would embrace or believe."

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