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April 24th, 2015

Brown Leads Kentucky in Win Over #5 Florida

Zack Brown set the tempo for another exciting series. (Photo by UK Athletics)

Zack Brown set the tempo for another exciting series. (Photo by UK Athletics)

Zack Brown dominated once again, and Kentucky opened a three-game series with a 3-0 win against #5 Florida. The shutout victory was Kentucky’s fifth straight win, giving the Cats a 24-16 (9-9) record on the season. Brown, backed by Dorian Hairston’s two RBIs, pitched seven shutout innings to earn his fourth win on the year.

Facing off against the leaders in the SEC East, Kentucky grabbed the lead early. JaVon Shelby led the second inning off with a triple, and Dorian Hairston drove him in on an RBI groundout to give UK a 1-0 lead. Kyle Barrett and Evan White hit singles with two outs in the third to put runners on for Ka’ai Tom. With an RBI single to left, Tom gave Kentucky a 2-0 lead in the third. 

As Brown finished up his start on the mound, Kentucky’s offense gave their bullpen some insurance. Hairston collected his second RBI on the day with an eighth inning single to score White. All three of Kentucky’s runs were allowed by Florida starter Logan Shore.

Brown kept the Gators’ offense at bay by firing seven shutout innings and striking out six. Following Brown’s incredible start, Kentucky turned to Zach Strecker in the eighth inning. With a 3-0 lead, Strecker sat down the Gators in the eighth and sent the Cats to ninth. 

Three outs away from a win in the Swamp, things got a bit interesting. Strecker retired the first two batters of the ninth before walking Jeremy Vasquez. Gary Henderson went back to his bullpen to bring in closer Spencer Jack. Henderson would be forced to make yet another pitching change when Jack walked the only batter he faced. Logan Salow emerged from the bullpen and struck out Taylor Lane to end the game. 

Brown has propelled himself into the category of top weekend starters in the SEC. Following 7.1 shutout innings against Tennessee last week, Brown fired seven shutout innings against Florida. The sophomore struck out six and allowed only five hits against one of the top hitting teams in the nation. The dominant start lowered Brown’s ERA on the season to 2.81 in 11 games and a team-leading 67.1 innings. Brown has a scoreless streak of 15.1 innings over his last three games. 

Combining with Brown, the Kentucky bullpen helped to shut down one of the best offensive attacks in the nation. Player of the Year candidates Harrison Bader and JJ Schwarz combined to go one-for-seven at the plate with three strikeouts. The Gators left ten men on base and struck out nine times.

The Cats and Gators will continue their series tomorrow night at 7 p.m and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Catch both games on SEC Network+ and follow our recaps here.

 

@TreyHuntsmanKSR

 

 


Friday Night News and Views

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If you don’t read these News and Views, we’ll send the Ole Ball Coach to hunt you down. Two tickets to the gun show everyone!

The KBA is the Place to be Right Now

The Nike EYBL even is taking place right now at the KBA in Lexington and of course there are plenty of coaches and Kentucky players in attendance. Kenny Payne, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress and Tyler Ulis were all on hand to see Malik Monk play tonight. Monk is one of the best scorers in the class of 2016 and everyone believes it will come down to either Kentucky or Arkansas for his decision.

Malik Newman Picked Mississippi State

Malik Newman, a top prospect in the class of 2015 picked Mississippi State over Kentucky and Kansas today. Yep, in basketball. Now, Newman is from Mississippi, so it makes sense and is a great get for new head coach Ben Howland. Best of luck to Newman except when he plays the blue and white.

John Calipari, Julius Mays

John Calipari is Next-Level Thinking

No matter what happens the rest of the time Calipari is in Lexington no one can ever say Calipari wasn’t creative or willing to try new things out. His latest adventure? Something called Ceeks, which according to their website is “the first smart audio headphone.” Calipari said he wants to use virtual reality headsets during games and practices to give fans and recruits an inside view of the Kentucky program. Of course Calipari thinks of that.

Chris Walker is Leaving Florida for the NBA

I guess it’s news? Chris Walker has declared for the NBA Draft. In other words I’m also declaring for the NBA Draft. You heard it first, KSR readers. Bobby Reagan declares for the NBA Draft, because if Chris Walker can so can I.

Rockets and Mavericks Game 3 was a Thriller – But No Rondo

The Mavericks and head coach Rick Carlisle were true to their words as Rajon Rondo was not in a Dallas jersey for tonight’s Game 3, which was a 130-128 win for the Rockets. Former Kentucky star Terrence Jones had 12 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes for Houston while adopted son Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points in a losing effort.

We’ll be back at it starting at 10 tomorrow morning.

@uklefty22

 


Where Does Rajon Rondo Go From Here?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons

There’s been plenty of unique – yeah, let’s call them unique – players through the years at Kentucky. There’s been numerous personalities that we as fans have loved, gotten frustrated with or flat out didn’t like. However, the one person who may have made people feel all three ways is none other than Rajon Rondo.

Well, that has stuck with Rondo during his NBA career as well, even as the starting point guard on an NBA title team with the Boston Celtics. Now, Rondo is going to have to find his third team in a year as Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said Rondo will never suit up in a Mavericks jersey again.

That video was from earlier in the year, but yeah, you get the idea of Rondo and Carlisle’s relationship. They make Louisville fans and Matt Jones look like best friends. Rondo played just 34 seconds in the second half during Dallas’ loss in Game 2 against the Rockets. In those 34 seconds he picked up two personal fouls and a technical.

So, the question is, what happens now to a guy who was once regarded as ‘next’ when talking about point guards. He’s not longer regarded a top-10 point guard, let alone a top-5 point guard as he gets ready to hit free agency this summer. Well, here are three destinations to keep an eye on if you want to follow a former Wildcat in the NBA.

Los Angeles Lakers

It’s been long rumored that Rondo will end up in a Lakers jersey as Kobe has been recruiting him for quite some time. This would be fun for Kentucky fans – those that like Rondo that is – as Julius Randle would have another Wildcat finding him in the open floor.

New York Knicks

Could two more Kentucky players end up as teammates if Karl-Anthony Towns is drafted by his hometown Knicks and Rondo joins him in the Big Apple? It’s certainly possible as rumors swirled earlier in the year that Rondo would be a popular target for the Knicks in free agency. After all, they won’t have a ton of cap space thanks to the Carmelo deal, but Rondo should come at a discounted rate thanks to his recent actions.

Houston Rockets

I’m starting to notice a trend here. There’s a lot of former Kentucky players in the NBA. If Rondo goes to the Rockets, he’ll be teaming up with another big personality at Kentucky in Terrence Jones. Now, Jones is obviously more beloved by Big Blue Nation -not saying Rondo isn’t, but that 2012 title team will live in Kentucky lore – but he was known to throw a temper tantrum or two during his time in Kentucky.

Whatever happens to Rondo, we wish him the best of luck as he tries to prove to everyone that he still is the talented point guard many thought he was just a couple of years ago.


Kenny Payne, Alex, Tyler, Marcus, and Devin are all at KBA tonight

@UKBIGBLUENATION

The KBA is the place to be tonight as the Nike EYBL event rolls on. Kenny Payne, Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis, and Marcus Lee are all on hand to watch Malik Monk play tonight. Monk is one of the top prospects in the 2016 class, and John Calipari visited him on Tuesday. Looks like they’re making recruiting a team effort tonight.

Devin Booker is also in attendance, although not pictured. He’s probably in the parking lot trying to make sure no more girls lick his car.


8 Notes from a fun night in Bowling Green with Karl, Trey, and Dakari

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Over the past few weeks, the Cats going to the pros have been circling the state to meet fans and sign autographs. When Drew Franklin kept sending me pictures from Karl Towns’s signing in Pikeville last Saturday, I was green with envy and prayed for a Bowling Green appearance.

Lo and behold, a few days later, BBN Legends announced that Karl, Trey Lyles, and Dakari Johnson were coming to Bowling Green to meet fans and throw out the first pitch at a BG Hot Rods game. That’s an hour from my house! I cleared my plans for Thursday night and got ready for a road trip to Bowling Green. Here are my notes from a great night at the ballpark.

The Bowling Green Ballpark is really nice

I haven’t been to a lot of ballparks, but I was pleasantly surprised by how nice Bowling Green’s is. There was a decent crowd for “Thirsty Thursday,” with a huge line for Karl, Trey, and Dakari’s autograph signing. After paying $7 for a ticket, I walked in and surveyed the scene. After talking to one of the organizers, I found out the guys were upstairs in the Corvette Club for a VIP signing. They were nice enough to take me up to there, and I must admit, it was really nice, if bars in minor league baseball stadiums are your thing. There were only about twenty fans in the room when I went up, and I could tell the guys appreciated having their own space to hang out in before the festivities.

Karl had a brand new Knicks hat on

The Knicks have the second best chance at winning the draft lottery and given his choice of headwear, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Karl, a New York area native, hopes they have the #1 pick. I hope so too–can you imagine a better person to rebuild an historic franchise around than Karl?

This video is reason #4,205,299 I’ll miss these guys

The guys got to warm up a bit before taking the mound and watching them do that was more entertaining than the first pitches themselves. What goofballs.

If you thought Karl would have the best pitch, you were wrong.

Given his baseball background, I figured Karl would have the best first pitch of the three players, but I was wrong. Dakari was the only player to get the ball over the plate, while Karl and Trey’s bounced:

As he tweeted later, Dakari’s got a  arm.

If you thought that first pitch came frighteningly close to my head, you were right

Okay, it wasn’t that close, but when Karl’s ball bounced off the plate and flew towards me, I have no shame in saying I ducked. I didn’t realize how awkward it looked until I saw KSTV’s video of it:

Karl was so happy to be back on a baseball diamond

Outside of the movie “Major League,” I know very little about baseball. Karl Towns does. Karl played baseball growing up and was thrilled to be back on a diamond. While Karl was excited to throw the first pitch, he said he really wanted to hit the ball and gave me a five-minute education on the different bats he’s used. Karl told me all about the BBCOR regulations that discontinued the use of bats that would put another 40 feet on the ball and how he prefers a wooden bat (“I love the pine tar,” he said wistfully). Thanks to him, I now know more about baseball bats than I ever could have imagined.

Karl told me that his goal was to get his pitch to the plate in one try–to Willie Cauley-Stein’s three–and technically, he did that; however, Karl the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied, and before going up to sign autographs, threw a couple in the bullpen:

Now that’s a strike.

Watching the players interact with fans was awesome

I’ve seen these guys in a number of settings now–on the court, in the locker room, with the media, in the Bahamas–but it was refreshing to see them just interact with fans for a few hours. Each player was gracious and polite, smiling and signing but not hurrying anyone along. The line was LONG, but kudos to the BBN Legends staff for keeping things rolling. Of course, the best was seeing the players with the kids, and watching all three interact with the young boy pictured above was awesome.

If you haven’t yet, I really recommend coming out to the signings (here’s an updated list). If anything…

I got some closure

TylerKarl

I’ve been honest with you guys about how depressed I’ve been about the loss. I hate that the last image I had of this team was a sad one, but going to see Karl, Trey, and Dakari last night allowed me to have a proper goodbye. Instead of remembering the players’ sad faces after the game, I’ll remember the happy ones I saw in Bowling Green, players and fans alike. Instead of looking back at the loss, I can look forward to these kids’ futures, which are so incredibly bright.

The bond between player and fan is notoriously strong at Kentucky, but sometimes, it feels like the guys are in a crystal fishbowl, held at arm’s length from the fan base. At events like last night’s, that barrier is down and fans and players can finally get the up-close interaction that makes this program so special. Instead of tweeting the players or calling into radio shows, we can thank them in person for an amazing season and see the impact it has–because it does have an impact. In this day and age, we so rarely do things in person, which makes it that much more raw and powerful when we do. A team like this deserves a proper goodbye, and only with a proper goodbye can you achieve closure.


Skal Labissiere talks about next season

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Skal Labissiere was moved to the top of Rivals’ recruiting rankings this week after strong showings on the All-Star Circuit. Believe it or not, Skal will be UK’s first Rivals #1 player since John Wall in 2009. In an interview with NBADraft.net, Skal said he’s looking forward to getting to UK and working with Rock Oliver and his staff, listing “getting bigger and stronger” as his top priority moving forward.

“Once I do that it’s going to take me to another level and that’s one of the reasons why I can’t wait to get to Kentucky,” Skal said. “That’s the main thing for me right now, running the floor better, and being more aggressive.”

In fact, Skal said John Calipari’s record of developing players physically and mentally for the pros is the reason he committed to Kentucky.

“Coach Cal, he’s done a really good job with the players he gets. Some people say that the kids are pros before they get there, that might be true but I really think that he does a really good job at developing them and giving them that mindset. Coach Cal said that you don’t need to just come here, it’s your decision if you want to get better, it’s the right program for you, but if you think you’re going to get distracted by other things, this is not the right program. We could relate to each other when he came to my house to talk to me so I like his mindset, he’s going to push me every day and that’s what I want.”

Coming in as the number one recruit in his class could put a lot of pressure on a player, but Skal says he’s not feeling it.

“Not really, we are just going to use what we have as far as the recruits coming in and the guys that are there who stayed. So, I think we are still going to be pretty good next year and it’s just going to be on us. I don’t feel pressure because I know that we are all going to work to try to make a run in the tournament next year, so I don’t feel pressure at all.”

Watch Skal go one-on-one with Thon Maker at the Nike Hoop Summit:

[NBADraft.net]


The CATSPYS are Monday night

(Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics Staff)

This afternoon, UK announced that the 13th annual CATSPY Awards will take place Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The awards show–a spin-off of the ESPYs–always features funny skits from the student athletes and a chance to see our favorite Cats again, this time in formal semi-formal wear.

Want to go? The public is invited. Here’s the info from UK:

Tickets cost $5 each and may be purchased at the UK Athletics Ticket Office (Joe Craft Center) or by calling 800.928.2287. All general public will enter through the Lexington Avenue entrance of Memorial Coliseum. Public parking will be available in the E lot on the west side (Lexington Avenue) of the Joe Craft Center. Additional parking will be available in parking structure No. 5, located near Kennedy’s Book Store. Also, a free shuttle will be available between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. with pick-up at the Alumni Drive sky bridge and drop-off at the Wildcat Alumni Plaza.

Over the years, the CATSPYs have given us some great memories, most of which include Mitch Barnhart letting loose a little bit. Here are three of my favorite skits from years past:

And that last one in GIF form because you know you want it:

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What is John Calipari up to now?

No, really, what is this? Cal just posted it on Twitter with a link to something called Ceeks. From Ceeks.com, it looks like Ceeks are fancy headphones. The site calls them “the first smart audio headphone” and in this video on Bloomberg.com, Cal says it will provide fans with a virtual reality experience:

Calipari says he wants to use virtual reality headsets during games or practice to give fans a more in-depth experience, with his team in game prep and training, and even in recruiting to give prospects a closer look at the program.

“I’m always looking for what’s next,” Cal said. “In the next ten years, it’s going to change how do things, and I want to be on the front edge with my program.”

John Calipari has done a lot of crazy stuff, but this may take the cake.


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****

Good afternoon, folks. While Drew and Rick Pitino are partying in Vegas and Matt is living it up at Keeneland, I’m running the ship, so let’s said through Friday afternoon with a few notes.

— Even though Jamal Murray didn’t make the trip, the Nike EYBL event in Lexington is packed. In fact, word on Twitter is the second session of the event (today’s afternoon/evening games) is SOLD OUT. Hopefully this means Lexington will host more events in the future.

If you’re going, there are still plenty of Kentucky targets to see, including Harry Giles (Team CP3), Malik Monk (Wings Elite), Jayson Tatum (St. Louis Eagles) and Tyus Battle (Team Final). For a complete schedule, check out the Nike EYBL site.

— One more thing on Chris Walker, then I’ll move on. Earlier today, Walker announced he is declaring for the NBA Draft, which seems like a bad idea considering how far his stock has fallen in two years, but it may have been one of his few remaining options. Jeff Goodman is reporting that Walker wasn’t going back to Florida, and that wasn’t his choice. Walker had a tumultuous two seasons in Gainesville, and it appears Billy Donovan was ready to move on. Regardless, as UK fans, let’s thank our lucky stars that Calipari backed off Walker when his stock was soaring.

— I’m sad it came at the expense of Anthony Davis, but can we sit back and appreciate Steph Curry for a moment? Curry was ridiculous last night, leading Golden State back from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win the game. How insane was his performance? He made this shot:

Video evidence:

I love Anthony and once he has a good team around him, it’ll be his time, but I am one very proud Davidson alum today.

— Speaking of the game last night, you may have heard Matt mention the guy with the unibrow on his chest. Been trying to imagine that in your head? This is what it looks like:

On that note, here is today’s podcast, which features more recruiting talk, GREY’S ANATOMY SPOILERS, and an interesting call from Lisa, who wonders if a former UK basketball player is hitting on her.

Hour 1:

Hour 2:


Florida’s Chris Walker is going pro

A few days after Evan Daniels reported that Florida sophomore forward Chris Walker wasn’t expected back next season, we now know why: this afternoon, Walker declared for the NBA Draft.

A few years ago, this would be huge, huge news for Walker, a former McDonalds All-American, five-star recruit, and projected lottery pick. After two disappointing years at Florida, Walker will have to rely on his size and upside to attract an NBA team. Even then, he has a lot of work to do in the D-League.

Before you call me harsh, this was Walker’s former teammate Patric Young’s reaction to the news:


The Pros And Cons Of Adaline

TheAgeOfAdaline

There are finally movies coming out that can dethrone Furious 7. The movie that is most tempting is The Age of Adaline. (I’m the demographic for the film.) In the movie, Adaline Bowman cannot physically age past 29. The situation seems ideal, until a love interest complicates things. The trailer looks like a cross between the heartache of The Notebook plus all of the somewhat plausible science of Mel Gibson’s Forever Young.

The Age of Adaline looks like a home run.

The Age of Adaline looks like a gamble.

I’ve waffled back and forth on the subject for about a week. Abby Newcomb recommended the movie in her April Movie Preview, located here. I totally trust her recommendation. It just looks too good. I worry that they are trying to cover up a crap movie with an exceptional preview. I’m not sure if I’m willing to risk getting caught putting the amount of butter I truly want on my popcorn to get to watch this movie. Before I put all of my eggs in The Age of Adaline basket, I’d look to weigh the pros and cons presented in the trailer.

CONS:

👎Looks too good to be true

👎Ellis Jones, the love interest in the film, is described as a “Charismatic Philanthropist.” An anagram for charismatic philanthropist is “Pretentious Goober.” (Don’t check the math on that one.)

👎 Potential Benjamin Button without the Brad Pitt

👎  Harrison Ford calls it a “high-concept film.” I believe the concept to be totally fathomable.

 

PROS:

👍Harrison Ford removed his earring for this role

👍Blake Lively’s braid game is strong

👍Watching fashion evolve decade by decade is like binge-reading subsequent American Girl books

👍Game of Thrones’ Daario Naharis (Michael Huisman) is thrown into the modern era with a lower possibility of being eaten by a dragon

👍There is hope for a unique and surprising ending.

👍The Age of Adaline! Alliteration! Always!

 

Who am I kidding, I’m going to go see it.  I’m a sucker for a good trailer.


The SEC now has three of the top four projected picks in the 2016 Draft

…the NBA Draft, that is. That’s right, even though Malik Newman committed to Mississippi State over Kentucky today, it’s still a major talent boost for the league, who looks like it might actually be on its way up after several years of flatlining (outside of Kentucky and Florida, of course).

As Adam Zagoria pointed out on Twitter, three of Draft Express’ top four projected 2016 NBA Draft picks will play for SEC schools next season: 1) Skal Labissiere, Kentucky; 3) Ben Simmons, LSU; and 4) Malik Newman, Mississippi State. The #2 projected pick, Jaylen Brown, has both Kentucky and Georgia on his list of eight schools, so there’s a chance it could be the top four. (Although that chance isn’t great, Brown is trending towards Kansas.)

In the past few years, the league has gained Bruce Pearl, Rick Barnes, Avery Johnson, and Ben Howland as coaches and schools besides Kentucky have landed top players like Simmons, Newman, and Antonio Blakeney. Is SEC Basketball finally on the rise?


Today in entitled sports media…

Gary-Parrish-3

…we have Gary Parrish, who reported a few days ago that Malik Newman was going to Mississippi State. What, you didn’t read that he wrote Malik was going to Mississippi State?! Because he totally wrote that Malik was going to Mississippi State:

This takes petty to a whole new level. Anyone with two eyes knew Malik was going to Mississippi State, so why not let the kid have his moment? Why stomp on it like a kid throwing a temper tantrum? Believe it or not, today was about Malik, not about sportswriters. Maybe we should all remember that.


Malik Newman picks Mississippi State

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Malik Newman just committed to Mississippi State over Kentucky and Kansas. Newman said he wants to “write his own story” and “I think it will be a good story by the end of the day.” Okay.

Newman said he thinks Mississippi State can win a championship based on what they did last year. I want to know what Mississippi State team Newman watched last year. He also said he was excited to be on a team with Chicken. There is nothing more Mississippi State than that. (Yes, I know Craig Sword’s nickname is Chicken.)

Seriously, good luck to the kid, who is now the only cool thing in Starkville.


LIVE DIARY: Malik Newman’s announcement

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We’ve been following five-star combo guard Malik Newman for a few years now. Today, Newman will announce his college decision and it’s down to Kentucky, Ole Miss, Kansas, LSU, Mississippi State and N.C. State. Mississippi State, his father’s alma mater, is the HEAVY favorite, but for the sake of “you never know,” we’re still going to watch.

Follow along as I bring you the latest buzz from Twitter, and watch the actual announcement at 1 p.m. ET on the Live Stream below:

LIVE STREAM:


1:13 p.m.: Malik Newman picks Mississippi State:

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And he had a cowbell with him. That’s nice.

1:11 p.m.: I made the rookie mistake of refreshing the stream, which meant I had to listen to the Lowes commercial again. Currently buffering, but the inside of Malik’s jacket is orange:

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1:08 p.m.: Oh boy, apparently this is going to be an entire show. The lady on the choppy screen just said Malik will come up “eventually.” The stream is so bad we may have to start captioning the best frozen moments, like this one:

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12:59 p.m.: Clearly the live stream can’t handle KSR’s traffic. Buffering issues got me like:

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No really. My feed has been stuck on that image for two minutes.

12:57 p.m.: Aaaand I just lost sound on the feed. Anyone else?

12:53 p.m.: I think this is Malik. If so, he’s having some real problems buttoning that jacket:

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12:48 p.m.: The live stream is rolling and here’s the table. No hats…yet:

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12:45 p.m.: Here’s the latest Crystal Ball predictions from 247 Spots, which pretty much confirm that Newman will pick Mississippi State here in about 15 minutes:

Regardless, we will see what happens.