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September 14th, 2014

15 Things To Know From John Calipari’s Preseason Roundtable

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In early September, John Calipari invited a select number of media members to his preseason Q&A roundtable, and because we’re good at sitting at tables, Kentucky Sports Radio pulled up a couple seats at the discussion. The interview was embargoed until October 1, hidden from all of the basketball-hungry members of Big Blue Nation. But guess what, my friends? Today is October 1, therefore we can share Calipari’s words with the world.

Below you will find KSR’s rundown of 15 important topics from the hour-long discussion at Cal’s table.

Enjoy, Cats fans.

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1.) They will platoon.

Get ready, America. College basketball is about to meet its first platoon system of basketball. A fury of elite talent, subbing in and out in groups of five, running the opposition to death for 40 minutes. It has been attempted before, but not under John Calipari’s ‘Players First’ formula. This will be a new and vigorous attack, one that will be challenging to execute but overwhelming to whoever stands in its way.

Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

“It’s never been done when the players have benefitted,” Cal explained to us, sitting inside a the second floor conference room in the Joe Craft Center. “It’s been done where the program benefitted and the coaches benefitted, but it’s never been done where players benefitted. That’s the challenge we’ll have. I think that, if you can get two groups that are balanced, yet good enough, we can do it. We have some time. We have to see. I’d like to play that way because it includes 10 guys, and really it includes all 12 because even the two that are left – you’re in the rotation if someone gets hurt or, if a guard’s not playing well, you’re in. If a big’s not playing well, you’re in. So everybody’s into the rotation.”

At the Wildcat Tipoff Luncheon in Louisville earlier this week, Calipari told fans he will run with two teams of five, plus one guard and one big man substitute to make 12 total contributors. That’s a lot of time to be shared, but he insists the players are all on board.

“The players bought into it,” he said. “They liked it. They all thought it was terrific. The biggest thing will be the clutter that will circle, which, the clutter of the ego and all the other things, but we have a couple things we’re going to do that will make it clear, you know, how they’re playing. One thing I would say is, does Michael Jordan really have to be out there 32 minutes to show you he can play? Or Lebron or Anthony? The question is, the clutter of the ego, you know, you have to sit back and say there’s two things: I want to win a championship and I want to be drafted in the highest position I can be. Can that all happen in the a platoon? Yes, it can, but it’ll be a challenge. No one’s ever done it. I’ll say it again: People have done it but not where the players benefitted.”

Cal could stick to the norm and play an eight-man rotation, but that’s only benefitting the seven or eight guys who see the floor. He doesn’t see jealousy or resentment in this group, so that’s not the issue with doing that, but why leave some guys out when everyone can sit at the table at eat?

It ain’t no fun unless all the homies get some.

2.) There will be situational platoons.

If Kentucky is going to platoon as Cal says they will, they’re going to need to be prepared for certain situations. The five-in, five-out method is fun when UK is rolling, but what about the unforeseen circumstance when the other team is playing better? Don’t worry. Cal plans to create several variations of the five-man platoon to adapt to the moment.

“Well we’ll have to practice that,” he said, when asked about possible rotations. “So you gotta have – and we talked about it as a group – I said you’ve gotta have a team that, say someone is really hurting us in a zone and we just say ‘Okay we’re putting our best shooting team in,’ so we’re mixing it up then. Then you practice that way. It’s not like you just did it in that game. What about a team, we get down and we’re just playing bad and we want a catch-up team in there? What would that catch up team be? Because you’ve gotta both defend and score. What would a team look like if you just wanted to be a great defensive team? Would it be Willie, Marcus Lee and another big and two guards who are all guarding? What would that team be? What if you needed a pressing team, who would your best pressing team be and that may be your catch-up team. So all of that stuff will be decided as we practice. I don’t even know what the groupings would be.”

I think we can all agree that Aaron Harrison needs to be in the “Down By Two With The Ball And 20 Seconds Left” group. Put him in any group that is in in the closing minutes of a game.

3.) He hired a new stats guy to record advanced statistics for players and scouts.

Joel Justus was hired as the new director of men’s basketball analytics, a position that seems fairly insignificant until you hear what Calipari is up to with the numbers. With so many players expected to share the floor, and the ball, Justus’ job will be to convert the players’ stats in 20 minutes to what it would be if they were on another team as a star player, seeing 30-plus minutes of action.

Calipari said, “I liked the fact that the numbers were really good for 20 minutes (in the Bahamas), and then we’ll do some things so people will know what their numbers relate to if they play 34 minutes. So you have a team full of guys playing 20, what would that relate to if they were playing 34 minutes? Basically it’s all about efficiency and they would have that stat sheet.”

The Wildcats will be rated individually at 34-minute performances, though it’s unlikely anyone will actually play 34 minutes per game. They will receive adjusted stat sheets after each game to see their efficiency the way it would be anywhere else.

“The numbers that are good for us are for the players to see what they’re accomplishing, in my mind. It’s good for everyone else to see what those numbers say, but the reality of it is, we can all watch a game and, if you have any feel for the game at all, you can say he played a great game even if the numbers say he played ok. Yeah, but those numbers don’t take into account – we’ve got things we’ll do that are nonnegotiable; there is no analytic that can do it; they don’t have one invented. But if I’m going to two-platoon, the numbers will matter and the efficiency numbers.”

The hope is to keep the players happy with their stats while reminding NBA scouts what each player would look like if they weren’t on arguably the deepest roster college basketball has ever seen.

4.) This team is very close off the court.

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@tulis3

We saw firsthand in the Bahamas how close the players are off the court. Whether it was sitting by the pool, throwing a football on the beach or watching fans lose money at the roulette table, the players always seemed to be together in big groups and having a good time. The cliques changed throughout the week too, which suggests each player is cool with hanging out with any of his teammates. No one isolated themselves from the pack and it was all smiles and cutting up from what we saw, and we were around them a lot.

Will that camaraderie carry over to the court?

Calipari believes so.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said. “You know, the best NBA teams, that’s what happens is they go on the road and that’s what they do. They’ll go out to a movie, they go out to dinner, and they’ll go to mass — the best NBA teams. The bad teams, everybody breaks up and goes their own way and gets on the road and you don’t see the guy until the game starts. The good ones don’t. They know they have to be together and be about each other and this is what we’re doing. So yeah, that will help.”

#Brothers

5.) They’re on a mission.

After getting a small taste of the glory a season ago, UK is hungry to return to the big stage.

“They want to win,” he said of his veteran players. “They know they need each other because they went through it last year, where you start and you’re more into your own stuff and all of the sudden you look and it’s not going real good, and then you start worrying about everyone else and your stuff gets better.”

This year they can skip the “buying-in process” we’re accustomed to dealing with every fall. They’re already “in.” They’re on a mission and they don’t need any more motivation.

6.) They’re playing pickup games on their own.

Follow any of the players on social media and you know this group lives in the gym, often getting together for late night games and shoot-arounds when only infomercials can be found on television. Crazy thing is, no one is making them do it. They all love to abuse that all-access key card to the Craft Center.

“These guys, they play pickup five, six nights a week. That’s important,” Calipari said. “We’re not doing it; they’re doing it themselves and they all like to compete and play, which is a big deal. I’ve been on teams here that we had to call to get them to play pickup.”

Remember the Breakfast Club? From what it sounds like, this is the Breakast-Lunch-Dinner Club.

7.) The pickup games have strict rules.

The coaches may not be around for the night sessions in the Joe Craft Center, but they’re still making an impact on the pickup games. Managers are present to enforce rules Calipari put in place to create new habits and one of those rules is everyone has to cross halfcourt in five seconds or it is a turnover. That requires the players to push the tempo so they’re already playing at a fast pace when practice begins this month.

“After you get it up there, I really don’t care what you do, it’s pickup,” he explained. “I just want you to get up there, try to create that habit: on a miss or a make, the ball goes.”

Cal said he tells his guards to peg a teammate in the back of the head with the ball if they’re not looking to catch the ball when it’s being pushed up the court.

“He’ll start looking at you.”

8.) He did not teach any defense before the Bahamas.

It’s hard to believe after watching UK go 5-1 against professionals in the Bahamas, but they haven’t worked on anything defensively and won’t until fall practice. He simply told the guys to ‘pick up and play’ in the full court.

“Pick up and play your man.” he told them before the six-game preseason event. “If somebody leaves, then try to rotate a little bit and figure it out on the run. We told them to force down pick and rolls; we did not teach them how to do it. We didn’t teach it. We just said if the guy tries to pick and roll, force him down the side. So by doing none of that, we ended up 40 percent holding those teams, 28 from three, plus whatever rebounding. We were not a bad defensive team and we taught nothing.”

UK Athletics

9.) He was surprised to see everyone return.

Calipari said Willie Cauley-Stein, a player he thought would enter the draft, was the first to announce his return. Cal congratulated Willie on a great year when the team returned from Dallas, fully expecting the big man to leave after two seasons. The rest went like this:

“The next day he said, ‘I want to come back.’ And I went, ‘What? Why do you want to come back?’ He told me and I said okay, which then I thought, now Alex will come back because he and Alex are really close. I didn’t think the twins would come back. The only reason Dakari had explored, when I grabbed Dakari I said, ‘Do you want me to look into your NBA stuff’ and he said no. I said okay. I asked Marcus Lee, he said no. I said okay. But when I was getting feedback, a couple teams threw Dakari’s name in, and so I told him he may want to reevaluate. Now I think emotionally and every other way he wasn’t ready, but if someone’s going to draft you, you gotta think about it. So that is how it played out.”

He thought the twins would be encouraged to leave, and then he realized they didn’t want to go. He was on a plane when they called to tell him they’re staying.

10.) Everyone benefits by returning, but it’s harder than ever before.

“They all could use more time,” Cal said, when asked about the benefit for a returning player. “Every one of the kids could’ve stayed and benefitted. I would’ve benefitted more than they would’ve benefitted, but they would’ve benefitted. Some of them needed to stick around to learn how to work, basically be professional at your sports. The guys that stayed now, it’s greatly benefitted them. Could they have gone? Yeah. Would Willie have gotten drafted? Yeah. Would the twins have been drafted? Yes. Would Alex have been drafted? They’d all have been drafted. Dakari would’ve been drafted. Now would they have all been drafted in the lottery or down in the high teens? No. A few of them would’ve been in the second round. But they’d all been drafted. My only recommendation to guys is if you put your name in the draft, I’ll do everything I can to get you in the first round. If you stay, don’t come back thinking this is going to be easy. This will be harder than it was ever for you here.”

“Don’t come back here if you think this is the easiest thing you can do,” he added. “Don’t do it. You go in the draft and I’ll help you get in the first round.”

This year is the perfect example of it being harder in a sophomore season. There is more depth and more pressure from new guys to retain a starting role from the year before. Nothing is handed over to a veteran.

11.) This freshman class is more advanced, in better shape, and able to play looser.

When asked what this group of freshmen has that last year’s freshmen did not, Calipari told us, “I would say, on a whole, they’re probably in better condition. But I could say that because of the Bahamas trip. They’re probably a little more advanced with how we’re going to play. They’re probably going to be able to play looser because they know it’s not going to be on them.”

Yeah, that Bahamas trip and additional summer work helped. The returning veterans, too.

“Now all of the sudden, you’ve got a team of guys that played in the championship game,” he continued. “And now you’re coming back and watching and learning. If you can compete with them, you start building your own confidence. This guy, I can compete with this guy. It’s a good thing.”

No more relying on the newbies to perform right away. They have more wiggle room for mistakes and less pressure weighing them down.

12.) Sophomore Harrison twins have new bodies and better attitudes, and that’s still not enough.

Regarding his returning backcourt, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Calipari said, “They’re in better shape; they’re better equipped to deal with stuff; they’re still growing right now; you still have to coach and guide them; they still have some habits that they fall back to when it gets crazy and nutty; but they’re great kids, they’re both great kids; they’re both in the best shape they’ve been but I’m telling them it’s not good enough. They have to get to another level. And then it’s, we have guys that can really compete with them and that’s making them even better.”

And to the Harrison haters, stand down.

“Playing the way we’re playing is going to help both of them. When people see there athletic ability… You know people are saying they’re not real athletic. Compared to what? Me? What are you talking about?”

13.) Willie Cauley-Stein is becoming a star and would’ve changed last year’s results.

“Willie was so good the other day, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Cal raved over his junior big man. “And then we all forgot that we would’ve won — now think about what we would’ve done with Willie playing. I mean, it would’ve been different, even the endings of game wouldn’t have been where they were. Willie was a shot blocker, a guy that could change the game on both ends, and so now you see him and you’re like, ‘Whoa.’”

Keep in mind, Willie may be this team’s best player and he wasn’t around to win five of six games against professional teams in August.

So how will adding him to the mix affect the logjam at center?

“Willie is playing like he’s a three. Like, we throw it ahead and he’s in the open court, crossing, throwing balls out, and I’m like, ‘Holy geez.’”

Willie at the three?! Holy geez is right.

14.) If you think Tyler Ulis will be here for four years, Calipari doesn’t have time for you.

Calipari won’t accept Ulis or any of the fans settling for him being a four-year player at Kentucky. Despite Ulis’ undersized frame, he has the potential to jump to the NBA like everyone else, Cal says.

“I told him when he came here, ‘If you don’t plan on being an NBA player, don’t come here.’ I don’t want to see you. You’re not coming here. And don’t let me hear all these people say, ‘Well, he finally got a four-year point guard.’ I don’t want to hear that crap either. I think that’s when he said, ‘Well, I’m coming then.’”

15.) He’s not worried about being “the most talked about team in 20 years.”

During the Big Blue Bahamas trip, Jay Bilas told the Wildcats they will be talked about more than any team in the country, maybe any team over the last 20 years.

Calipari, your thoughts?

“It doesn’t worry me,” he said. “Is it possible? It’s Kentucky. Anything is possible here.”

Anything, huh?

17 days until it all begins at Big Blue Madness…


UK Fans of the Day Want Tuesday Night Notes

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What? It’s been a while since we’ve had some male fans of the day. Kudos to these three dads and their sons for manning the front row of the end zone for many years. I bet they’d like some notes to tide them over until KSR’s recap of Cal’s preseason roundtable hits the web at midnight. Let’s get with it…

The four freshmen are facing disorderly conduct charges for the pellet gun incident

It’s been almost two days since the pellet gun incident took place on UK’s campus, and I’m still incredibly disappointed in freshmen Boom Williams, Drew Barker, Dorian Baker, and Tymere Dubose. On Tuesday, Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts told the Herald-Leader that his office is processing misdemeanor charges of second-degree disorderly conduct against the four freshmen. Mark Stoops addressed the media after Tuesday’s practice and said he’s very disappointed in Williams, Barker, Baker, and Dubose, but understands that these are “good kids who used poor judgment that made a mistake.” He said that all four are “remorseful” and are being held accountable. Yesterday, the players met with local authorities, and the school is fully cooperating in the investigation.

So, how big of a distraction is this?

Stoops admitted that the incident has been a distraction so far this week. “I know the players felt bad because it took away from a big victory and big preparation. Because there was obviously, I think there were a lot of people disappointed yesterday,” Stoops said. “I think it did take away from the energy a little bit. Guys were bummed out, because they know we’re growing, they know we’re doing a lot of good things. And these are good kids. They made a mistake.”

Regardless, Stoops said the team is moving full speed ahead to get ready for South Carolina. “It took away a little bit, but it’s no excuse for any of our preparation or how we play or anything like that. So we’ll go play well.”

Steve Spurrier said nice things about Kentucky

STOP THE PRESSES! Steve Spurrier said some somewhat nice things about the Kentucky football program during his press conference on Tuesday. Spurrier said Kentucky is “a pretty good team” in that “they don’t look like some of their teams from 10 to 15 years ago.” Spurrier went as far to call UK’s defense “very fast and athletic,” and the team “good-looking” overall. What?? Where is smuggy Spurrier? Our friend Jennifer Palumbo points out that Stoops and Spurrier are actually friends, to the point that they even vacation together. Plus, it’s not like Spurrier has a ton to brag about these days with a 3-2 record. Especially these bathing suit trunks:

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John Calipari saw Stephen Zimmerman and Derryck Thornton

Cal fueled up the jet and headed out west on Tuesday to see 2015 big man Stephen Zimmerman and 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton in Las Vegas. This is Cal’s second visit to see Zimmerman and Thornton in a little over two weeks, and both will be at Big Blue Madness in October. UK has picked up a lot of momentum in Zimmerman’s recruitment lately, and today’s visit suggests Cal’s putting on the full court press in advance of his official visit next month. Meanwhile, Thornton is the only point guard in the 2016 class UK has offered so far.

Zimmerman’s mother posted this picture of her son and Cal on Tuesday night:

Antonio Blakeney will visit for Big Blue Madness

Former UofL commit Antonio Blakeney told CatsPause.com’s Chris Fisher that he will take an unofficial visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 17. Blakeney is looking at Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, and NC State, and told Fisher that he’ll take an official visit to Kentucky as well later this fall. UK currently leads in his Crystal Ball with 40% of the predictions, followed by LSU with 28%.

So far, the BBM guest list looks like this…

2015: Antonio Blakeney, Carlton Bragg, Jaylen Brown, Henry Ellenson, Brandon Ingram, Charles Matthews, Stephen Zimmerman

2016: Tyus Battle, Derryck Thornton

The woman in this BuzzFeed video is wearing a UK shirt

If you’re married, you’ll probably be a fan of BuzzFeed’s “Weird Things Couple.” I definitely am, especially after finding out the wife is a UK fan. Or, at least she likes wearing UK shirts. Raise your hand if you and your significant other have had the discussion about replacing the toilet paper roll. Thought so.

In 61 minutes, we can finally talk about Cal’s preseason roundtable

At midnight tonight, the local media is allowed to start releasing the basketball previews that were recorded a month ago. We have A TON of great stuff for you guys, starting with a recap of Coach Cal’s preseason roundtable from a few weeks ago. Cal’s been swagging it up lately, so you definitely want to make a cup of coffee or set an alarm to check out his comments about the upcoming season. Or, you can just spin around in your chair for the next hour:

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Add Antonio Blakeney to the Big Blue Madness guest list

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Fifteen days after decommitting from Louisville and five days after hosting John Calipari and Kenny Payne, Antonio Blakeney is ready to visit Kentucky. Blakeney told CatsPause.com that he’s planning on take an unofficial visit to UK for Big Blue Madness on October 17. He will also take an official visit to UK on a later date.

The Louisville fans already trolling our site must be pissed


Best-Case, Worst-Case For South Carolina

Kentucky has momentum and they’re still in contention for the SEC east. South Carolina just dropped their second home game of the season and haven’t looked like the team we thought they’d be coming into the season. As such ESPN named this Saturday’s game the most intriguing in the SEC:

Intriguing matchup: South Carolina at Kentucky
While the West division deserves all the attention it’s going to get on Saturday, the East is quietly trying to sort itself out. Upstart Kentucky finally removed a very large monkey off its back by beating Vanderbilt and snapping a 17-game conference losing streak. In order to earn respect, the Wildcats’ next task is to score an upset. Kentucky and its fans will be fired up for this home game, and the Gamecocks are ripe for the picking after blowing a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter against division-leading Missouri. [ESPN: At A Glance SEC Week 6]

The game certainly will tell us much about the outlook for the rest of the season. Win and maybe the Cats find a way to claw for the SEC east crown. Get blown out and attention begins to turn to the hardwood until next spring. Here are my picks for the best and worst ways this Saturday could play out:

Best Case Scenario: Steve Spurrier With This Look On His Face

Via SaurdayDownSouth

Kentucky has been looking for a signature win under coach Stoops and they finally deliver one with an upset of the ol’ ball coach. Last year Kentucky fought back from being down 21-0 to nearly pull off the W before falling 35-28. This year they take an early lead on a Towles to Timmons pass and never look back as the Gamecock’s shaky defense can’t keep them in the game.

Kentucky’s defense is impressive once again as they continue to disrupt opposing QBs and get to Dylan Thompson several times in the second half. The Cats move to a tie atop of the SEC east the next week following a Missouri loss to Ole Miss. The team is just two wins away from being bowl eligible.

Worst-Case Scenario: Mike Davis Runs Wild

Kentucky takes the field with high hopes but they are quickly dashed as Mike Davis manages to rip off run after run. Like Florida’s Matt Jones did earlier this season, Davis is able to average over 5 yards per carry as the Gamecocks keep their defense off the field with a grind it out game.

Kentucky is unfocused following this weeks events and the loss of Boom and Baker is evident. The bevy of recruits on campus leave the stadium unfulfilled after a week of major anticipation. With big blue madness looming the football team begins to lose attention and the stadium is just over half full for the UL-M game. The Cats will need to win two of their toughest six to end the season in a bowl.

 

So those are my wild scenarios for the best and worst cases we could see this Saturday. How about yours?Do you think things will be more good than bad or are we in for a long Saturday under the lights of Commonwealth?


Rex Chapman enters rehab

Rex

According to WDRB, Rex Chapman began a 28-day substance-abuse treatment program at The Brook Hospital in Louisville on Monday. A source close to the situation told WDRB that Chapman “is determined break a reliance on suboxone, a medication prescribed to help patients stop using opioid-based pain medication.”

On September 19, Rex was arrested for shoplifting $14,000 worth of merchandise from the Apple Store in Scottsdale, Arizona and selling the items at a pawn shop. He faces nine felony counts of organized retail theft and five felony counts of trafficking in stolen property.

Here’s hoping he gets the help that he needs.

[WDRB]


Calipari had “another great visit” with Stephen Zimmerman today

@VegasBballMom

@VegasBballMom

John Calipari was in Vegas today to see Stephen Zimmerman and Derryck Thornton. Zimmerman’s mother posted this picture of the two with the caption “Another great visit with @UKCoachCalipari and Coach Slice today. #Blessed.” Zimmerman is down to UNLV, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. UNLV and Arizona currently lead his Crystal Ball.

Calipari visited Zimmerman a little over two weeks ago, and the 2015 big man is expected at Big Blue Madness on October 17. Calipari’s made a big push for Zimmerman lately. Will “another great visit” help pry him away from the West Coast?


10-year-old UK fan with mitochondrial disease writes Calipari to make sure his mother enjoys the Women’s Clinic

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At the Women’s Clinic on Sunday, I was given a stack of letters addressed to John Calipari from 10-year-old Toby Foster, who is fighting mitochondrial disease, a progressive, incurable metabolic disorder which causes a deficit in life sustaining energy. Toby and his mother, Amy, are huge UK fans, and Toby wrote Coach Cal to tell him to make sure his mom had a good time at the Women’s Clinic. Here’s the letter, which will tug at your heartstrings:

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Dear Mr. Coach Calipari,

My name is Toby, and I LOVE UK Basketball. I get that from my mom! I am so excited for my mom to get to be there today. My mom doesn’t ever do anything for herself. I have mitochondrial disease, so she is always at the hospital with me, taking care of me, and putting me first. But, if you ask her, she will act like it’s no big deal.

We watch all the games together. We have to watch online from the hospital though. Can you believe not all of the UK games are on TV in Cincinnati? Lots of nurses have become UK fans because of me! Go Big Blue!

I really wanted to come to your camp last summer. Going to summer camp to meet you and the players was a no-go because of my mito. But, if I could have, I would have been there!

I’m your biggest fan. UK can ball, but what makes me proud to be a UK fan is how the team acts. I see the things you do to help others that make God proud. That makes me look up to you, and the team. Someday, I would love to meet you and the guys. For now, please make sure my mom has a great day, because she doesn’t get out much!

Your Most Gigantic, Enormous, Huge Fan,

Toby

I contacted Toby’s mother Amy, and she told me a little about mitochondrial disease. She said Toby struggles with multiple symptoms because his body does not have the energy for appropriate organ function. There is no cure, and it will continue to worsen over time, and it is often fatal for children. Amy said she won’t give up until she finds a cure. “Toby is the most amazing kid. With all his struggles, he remains brave, and filled with hope and faith,” Amy wrote. “Toby is incredibly generous as well. Much of the little energy he has is spent doing for others.” Toby is so devoted to helping others that he won the local Kohls Cares for Kids award for his philanthropic work.

Part of what keeps Toby going is his love for the Cats. Toby made Cal and the players another card with pictures of him representing the Cats at a game in Rupp in 2012 and in the hospital:

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As for Amy, she said she had an amazing time at the Clinic on Sunday. “I’m a huge UK fan, so being in the presence of UK greatness was epic! I loved hearing about Cal’s players’ first approach, and the new platoon system, right from him.” And as Toby predicted, some time with her girlfriends and UK basketball was just what she needed. “It was fun to be amongst so many other women fans. And the time with my girlfriends was therapeutic! Toby’s right, I don’t get out much.” Like most of the women at the Clinic, Amy got a basketball signed by all the coaches and players, and she said bringing it home to Toby was a highlight. “It was wonderful to get to take Toby home a basketball signed by the team and coaches,” Amy said. “He was freaking out when I gave it to him.”

A small token for an incredible kid. To learn more about Toby and his fight, visit @TeamTobyRocks or Amy’s Facebook page.

Getting Past the Distractions in Today’s Practice Notes

-  South Carolina’s defense isn’t as bad as we think.  With all eyes on South Carolina to start the season, their defense allowed Texas A&M to score 52 points against them on their home turf.  They’ve slowly recovered since, but their young secondary has had a tough time against some of the best offenses in the country.  “They’re getting better.  They’re young, very similar to what we are at wideout.  They’re playing some true freshman back there and I think they has some growing pains early, but I thought they played solid against some really good players.”

T.J. Surratt will create some chaos in the interior line and their superstar true sophomore linebacker, Skai Moore, will make plays all over the field.

-  The suspensions will NOT affect the offensive game plan.  The timing of a suspension is never good, but at least Neal Brown knew they would be without Baker and Boom before solidifying his game plan.  They had planned some extra packages to get Boom the ball this week, but they’ll have to be set aside for now.

-  Figuring out the running backs.  Brown was pleased with how involved the running backs were in the passing game last week, using pre-snap motions to get them in space.  The toughest part is figuring out who gets the most snaps.  So far Braylon Heard has been the most consistent, but Brown isn’t ready to limit the other backs’ roles, “For the most part, our guys are pretty versatile at running back,” Brown said.  “We’ve got a pretty good feel for what each guy’s talents are and what they’re best at, at this point.  From a game-planning perspective, we kind of devise things we think they’ll do well and get them in for those things.”

-  Jojo is carrying his 4th quarter momentum into this week.  After letting his mouth get him into trouble before Florida, Jojo had to earn his playing time in practice.  Last week things weren’t clicking until the 4th quarter.  The coaches asked him to bring that energy and intensity to practice and it has paid off,  “He had a good practice today.  I was pleased with him.  His confidence level is going to be higher too because of the way he performed at the end of the game too.  I was really proud of him.  This speaks to him maturing.  He was great on the sidelines the whole game.  He kind of waited his turn, we got caught up with him and he produced.”

-  Neal Brown’s quote of the day:

“We did some good things against Vandy.  I think much (fuss) has been about Patrick.  If he plays bad and completes 23 of 30 every game, we’ll be alright.

-  Ryan Timmons’ hand is in a cast…but you shouldn’t be worried about it.  After spraining his wrist in the Swamp, the cast has been a precautionary measure that has come a part of his routine, removing his hardware prior to the game.  The greatest injury worry is at left guard.  Zach West and Cole Mosier were both forced out last week, but West practiced today and Mosier will likely practice tomorrow.  Blake Bone has also been ‘banged up’ this week, but shouldn’t miss a beat on Saturday.


UK wants you and 62,902 others to sing Saturday’s national anthem

Following Marlana VanHoose is no easy task, but if all 62,000-plus seats in Commonwealth Stadium are full, and we work together, I think we can hold our own.

That is the plan for Saturday as UK is putting the pregame singing duties in the vocal cords of Big Blue Nation. Dr. Everett McCorvey will lead the crowd in the national anthem before Kentucky hosts South Carolina, just as we did last basketball season in Rupp Arena before the Louisville game.

If you haven’t already purchased your tickets, do so now at UKFootballTix.com. Use promo code BEATSC to score some upper-level reserved seats for $25.

See you there and Go Cats.


Noel excited to get back on court after 20 months

 

Photo by Chris Reynolds, CoachCal.com

Photo by Chris Reynolds, CoachCal.com

Nerlens Noel is ready to get back on the court and start his NBA journey after 20 months away from basketball, according to the 76ers. Yesterday at media day Noel shows his excitement and joy to be able to finally start playing compeitive basketball after being injuried against Florida. While the injury might have kept him off the court competiviely, Noel used his recovery time to step back and work on other things to help his game get better, such as basketball education/knowledge, his outside game and specifically his jump shot, which we didn’t see at all during his time at Kentucky.

“I bring the most on the defensive end of the floor. I’m able to affect passes as well as shots. I can also start fast breaks, getting the rebound and then quickly getting the ball to [Michael Carter-Williams] or Tony [Wroten]. At Kentucky, I didn’t shoot one jump shot, so it was important for me to get in the gym and start shooting jumpers and shooting them with confidence. This confidence will definitely translate into the season. When I get in a groove and start hitting two or three in a row I think it’s really going to take me some places.” 

While Noel expects to have a big role for the 76ers alongside center Henry Sims, he also has a big job off the court as well by helping new teammate Joel Embiid as he goes through a similar track Noel did in his rehabilitation after a foot surgery.

You can read his quotes about his struggles sitting on the bench for a year and how he plans to help Embiid learn lessons Noel wishes he would have learned sooner here.

@Sealey_KSR


Stoops: “We have good kids who used poor judgment”

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Mark Stoops is currently meeting with the media to discuss the shooting incident on Sunday and the one-game suspensions for Dorian Baker, Tymere Dubose, Drew Barker, and Boom Williams. Stoops said “we have good kids who used poor judgment,” and the players realize they made a mistake. “They’re remorseful, they realize they’re wrong.” He added that when you’re dealing with 115 college kids, you have to expect some immature moments. Stoops said he and the team are cooperating with the authorities and he’s unsure if the players will face further punishment.

How has this affected the team heading into a huge game against South Carolina? “The players felt bad because it took away from a big victory and big preparation,” Stoops said. He added that Baker, Barker, Williams, and Dubose will practice this week, but have been removed from the game plan and will only play on the scout team. How is the rest of the team? Stoops said they had an okay practice and were bummed out by the news, but aren’t using it as an excuse to not be ready for South Carolina.

Stoops wasn’t scheduled to meet with the media today, so kudos to him for coming out to address the situation and getting as far ahead of it as possible. Nick will be by in a little bit with more practice notes.


The four suspended freshmen face disorderly conduct charges

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According to multiple media reports out of Lexington, the four UK freshmen involved in Sunday night’s air-gun incident on campus face disorderly conduct charges. Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts told the Herald-Leader his office filed misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct on Tuesday. Roberts recommended second-degree disorderly conduct as an appropriate punishment in his discussions with UK.

The misdemeanor, plus the embarrassment and the one-game suspension, seems fair enough.


Who are you and what have you done with Steve Spurrier?

spurrier

Hold up. Something’s wrong here. Steve Spurrier met with the media during Kentucky week and he was very complimentary of the Wildcats, not the Spurrier we’ve known for the last two decades. This is the time of the year we get a good, degrading comment from the Ol’ Ball Coach. Instead we got a guy who sees a good football team ahead. Who are you? Where am I? Is time a flat circle?

“Kentucky Wildcats, uh, Kentucky Wildcats are a pretty good team,” said Spurrier to lead off his press conference. “They don’t look like some of their teams 10, 15 years ago. They are very fast and athletic. I think their defense is actually nationally ranked in most all categories. They’re a good looking team.”

He continued, “They play tough, smart, well-coached, and they’ll certainly be a big challenge as we go into Commonwealth Stadium to play Kentucky this year.”

“It should be a heck of a game.”

Is this a mind trick? I’m lost. I don’t trust him. Why is Spurrier being nice? Spurrier’s never nice. He loves to throw barbs at UK. Is this real life?

Watch his full comments here.


DraftKings is giving away $1,000,000 to one lucky winner this weekend

That’s right, football fans.

ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

KSR and DraftKings are back together with another Fantasy Football contest this weekend with a $2,200,000 prize pool, the biggest of its kind. First place will cash out with a cool one million dollars while the top 15,500 contestants will be paid out in some form.

To sign up, visit the contest page here and begin drafting your team. The format is the same as it has been: $50,000 to select eight offensive players (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex) and one team defense. It is $27 to enter and all first time depositors will receive a 100 percent bonus up to $600.

If I were you, I wouldn’t draft Charlie Whitehurst of my beloved Tennessee Titans. I wouldn’t draft any Titan, for that matter.

Good luck.

[KSR and DraftKings: ONE MILLION DOLLAR CONTEST]


This weekend’s guest list is loaded with talent

This weekend’s night game against South Carolina provides another huge opportunity for Kentucky on the recruiting trail. Stoops and his staff plan to host several four- and five-star prospects, among others, for the 7:30 pm game in Commonwealth Stadium. Below you will find a list of some of those names with several others expected to join in on the fun in Lexington.

Fans must pack CWS to show these kids that Big Blue Nation is in full support of the program.

*****

damien-d1harris-in-silver-helmet

Damien Harris

Harris took in Kentucky’s SEC win over Vanderbilt over the weekend and he plans to be back this coming Saturday to check out the Commonwealth Stadium atmosphere under the lights. It will be Harris’ tenth visit to UK and he still plans to take his official trip to Lexington for the October 25 game against Mississippi State.

The nation’s No. 1 running back tweeted, “Great win, great visit #BBN #ChangeTheGame” after visiting this past Saturday.

David and Andrew Dowell

The Dowell twins, a four-star safety and four-star running back, have received heavy interest from Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow in September. The two Kentucky coaches traveled to Ohio to watch the twins play during Kentucky’s bye week and now they’ll get them on campus for a visit, according to Rivals.com’s Justin Rowland. Rowland’s sources believe the Dowells will be in Lexington for the blackout.

David and Andrew play high school ball with current UK commit Alex Stump.

George Brown

Once believed to be a UK lean, three-star offensive lineman George Brown chose the Florida Gators over Kentucky in a ceremony from his Cincinnati high school back in June. However, Brown will take another look at UK this weekend for the South Carolina game.

The day he committed to Florida, a source very close to Brown’s recruitment told me, “This is far from over.”

Kengera Daniel 

A three-star defensive end out of North Carolina, Kengera Daniel will take his official visit to Kentucky this weekend. He sent out a tweet earlier today to confirm the trip to Lexington.

UK currently leads with 83 percent of his Crystal Ball predictions, ahead of Florida State, Wake Forest and Alabama.

Ahmad Wagner

Six-foot-seven Iowa basketball commit Ahmad Wagner picked up a scholarship offer from UK last Friday to play wide receiver, and the staff is trying to get him on campus this weekend. When asked about his interest in switching to football, Wagner recently said, “That remains to be seen.”

He was a high school teammate of Dorian Hendrix.

Rahshaun Smith

Fresh off a visit to Penn State, five-star defensive end Rahshaun Smith will be in Commonwealth Stadium this weekend, per 247Sports.com’s Chris Fisher. Smith told him, “I think this weekend I’ll be at Kentucky for the South Carolina game.”

Smith is the No. 51 overall player and third-ranked weakside defensive end in the 2015 class in the Top247 Composite rankings.

Zerrick Cooper and Jordan Griffin

According to 247Sports.com’s Josh Edwards, Zerrick Cooper, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class, will visit UK on Saturday. He will be joined by his high school teammate, four-star cornerback Jordan Griffin. The duo from Georgia also visited over the summer.

George Asafo-Adjei

Current UK commit George Asafo-Adjei will visit Lexington on Saturday. The offensive lineman from Ohio picked the Cats over Florida, Louisville and West Virginia, among others, on June 23.

Jordan Jones

Like Asafo-Adjei, three-star outside linebacker Jones is already committed to Kentucky but will make the trip to see his future squad take on the Gamecocks.

Zy’Aire Hughes

A third UK commit, 2016 quarterback Zy’Aire Hughes of Paducah, also plans to visit.

 

Beat South Carolina.