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May 19th, 2019

Five-star Justin Rogers to announce commitment Monday

@AllAmerican52JR

Five-Star offensive lineman Justin Rogers will announce his commitment tomorrow afternoon a 4pm at his high school. The Oak Park, Michigan native has long thought to be a Kentucky lean, but over the past two weeks, Alabama has entered the fold to possibly throw a wrench in the recruitment of the prospect.

A member of the class of 2020, Rogers is the No. 1 player in the state of Michigan and the No. 1 offensive guard in the entire country. Currently, 24/7 Crystal Ball has him as 59% Kentucky with Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia filling out the remaining percentages.

It is hard to know the impact Alabama coming at him late will have on the prospect. He is coming off of official visits at Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee over the past month, but hasn’t made a trip to Tuscaloosa.

For each prospect that 24/7 Sports rates, they give a specific rating/prediction on what their career will turn out to be. For example, they call recent Kentucky commit John Young a “Power Five Starter.” Rogers’ prediction is even better. The site says he is already a projected second round NFL pick. That fact alone should excite Kentucky fans.

It’s no secret what a player of Rogers’ caliber could do to the Kentucky program. When I heard a five-star guard is possibly committing to Kentucky, I never would have thought it would be on the gridiron. That, though, is starting to change. Stoops and company have changed the game in Lexington and if he can get one five-star, who says he can’t get another?

We’ll have an update on Rogers’ commitment once he makes his official announcement Monday afternoon. Stay tuned.


Watch UK commit John Young go to work at “The Opening”

John Young is doing plenty of work for Mark Stoops on the online recruiting trail, but he’s also keeping up his end of the bargain on the football field. The four-star Kentucky commit spent the day in Nashville, participating in “The Opening,” a national football camp that makes regional stops across the country.

The offensive tackle is listed as the No. 4 prospect from the Commonwealth and the No. 30 OT in the nation for the class of 2020, according to 24/7 Sports’ final rankings. Based on these videos, it’s easy to see why.

Young is currently listed at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds. He currently attends the Christian Academy of Louisville, but soon enough, he’ll be a Wildcat.


Rhyne Howard named to USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team

UK Athletics

Rhyne Howard continues her domination. After spending a weekend of tryouts in Colorado, the Kentucky freshman has qualified for the 2019 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team. She’s one of just 12 players from across the nation selected to participate, and she’ll be traveling around the globe to prepare and compete.

After leaving the trials, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she’ll have some time at home before heading to Tokyo, Japan in early July for a scrimmage against the Japanese team. Then, she’ll spend several days in Bangkok, Thailand in mid-July to compete for the country’s eighth gold medal.

There were 30 women competing for a spot on the team, and the final 12-player roster includes some of the top talent in the nation, including 10 returning gold medals (including Howard) and two NCAA Champions. Selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee, chaired by George Washington University head coach Jennifer Rizzotti.

via USAB

This summer won’t be the first Howard spends competing on the international stage. She spent last summer in Mexico, helping the U18 team to a 5-0 gold-medal run, earning MVP honors along the way.

This year, she’s the only current SEC player to make the cut. Here’s the rest of the roster:

Francesca Belibi (Regis H.S./Centennial, Colo.); Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy, Mass./St. Thomas, USVI); Cameron Brink (Southridge H.S./Beaverton, Ore.); Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.); Caitlin Clark (Dowling Catholic H.S./West Des Moines, Iowa); Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas); Naz Hillmon-Baker(Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); Jordan Nixon (Notre Dame/New York, N.Y.); NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas); Celeste Taylor (Long Island Lutheran/Valley Stream, N.Y.); and Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere H.S./Wenatchee, Wash.).

Howard is the real deal, and she’s representing Matthew Mitchell and the UK women’s basketball team on the international stage (again). It’s going to be fun watching her skills continue to develop over the next three seasons.


Wesley Woodyard hosts free football camp (and talks some smack)

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Wesley Woodyard may still be a Wildcat at heart, but that doesn’t stop him from talking smack about some fellow former Kentucky boys. Or, at least about Benny Snell.

Woodyard, now a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, spent some time back at his old stomping grounds this weekend. 

On Saturday, he hosted a golf scramble to raise money for his foundation – the 16Ways Foundation, which is focused on helping kids reach their full potential through education, physical activity and mentorship. Then, he spent his Sunday downtown at the Charles Young Center, where he put on a free youth football camp. Fellow Cat Keenan Burton and current Titans teammate Jurrell Casey also volunteered their time and talents at the camp.

The UK Hall of Famer also used the opportunity to catch up with reporters about the current state of Kentucky football. After one of the most successful seasons (and NFL Draft nights) in UK football history, Woodyard is excited to face-off against some fellow Cats in the league.

“I’ll see a couple of those guys. You know, Lonnie Johnson [and the Texans], I’ll see those guys twice a year,” Woodyard told WTVQ’s Austin Miller. “I’m pretty excited about that.”

Woodyard also hopes he’ll suit up against Benny Snell and the Steelers eventually – he’ll have a special message waiting for him.

“Of course, man, one day maybe I’ll get a chance to see Benny in the A gap or the B gap. And I’m going to say ‘Snell Yeah’ on top of him,” Woodyard laughed. 

To learn more about Woodyard’s foundation or to donate to his cause, click here


@MaggieDavisKSR


Head-to-head recruiting: Coach Cal vs. Coach K

USA Today Sports

When the college basketball season ends (and sometimes before), the recruiting season begins, and it’s no secret that John Calipari is a master recruiter (despite how much he may downplay it). Since 2011, Kentucky has been the only school with a consensus top-5 recruiting class among 247SportsScout, and ESPN. Furthermore, the Wildcats have had a consensus top-2 class every year except for 2019 (though they could rise in the rankings if Jaden McDaniels goes against predictions and chooses the Cats).

While Coach Cal’s recruiting prowess has paid dividends, it’s placed a target on his back, and other schools have elevated their game in the recruiting arena. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway has put together the No. 1 recruiting class so far this cycle, but the most consistent competition comes from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

From 2014 to 2018, the Wildcats and the Blue Devils have shared the top-2 spots in recruiting, and the latter has owned the consensus No. 1 class the past two years. Last year, Duke boasted the first class in the modern era with the No. 1, 2 and 3 ranked players on their roster.

A variety of factors go into the players a coach chooses to recruit and the schools a player is interested in joining. Coach Cal and Coach K have different play styles which call for different skill sets and, as such, they often recruit different players. However, players inevitably come along who are so talented that both coaches compete for them. These head-to-head battles are where things get extra competitive – and interesting.

These decisions, the ones made by the most sought after players in a class, often come down to Kentucky, Duke and a handful of other schools. It may be worthwhile then to examine those cases and see how Cal and K stack up as “closers” when they’re vying for the same prospect. These are the athletes (and their ESPN rankings) since 2014 who were considering both UK and Duke at the time they made their final decision:

2019

Matthew Hurt (No. 11)—Duke

2018

R.J. Barrett (No. 1)—Duke

Zion Williamson (No. 2)—Duke

Cam Reddish (No. 3)—Duke

E.J. Montgomery (No. 14)—Kentucky

2017

Kevin Knox (No. 10)—Kentucky

2016

Harry Giles (No. 1)—Duke

Jayson Tatum (No. 3)—Duke

Wenyen Gabriel (No. 14)—Kentucky

Marques Bolden (No. 16)—Duke

2015

Brandon Ingram (No. 3)—Duke

Luke Kennard (No. 24)—Duke

2014

Karl Anthony-Towns (No. 9)—Kentucky


So, since 2014, the score is 9-4 in favor of Krzyzewski. Of course, there were players considering both schools who eventually dropped one and went to the other (i.e. Trey Lyles), but when it comes down to arguably the two most prestigious programs in college basketball history, Duke seems to be winning out on the recruiting trail, at least right now.

This is not to say Calipari & Co. has not done extremely well on said trail. Like previously mentioned, the Wildcats have had a consensus top-2 class every year until 2019, and things could still change in that department. Regardless, it hurts just a little bit more when the Cats miss out on top talent to none other than Coach K and his Blue Devils, right?


The Warriors could see Demarcus Cousins back on the court before Kevin Durant

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

While the guarantee that a former Wildcat is gonna go home with an NBA Finals ring is a fun selling point for the BBN, it’d be even more exciting if said former Cat could contribute heavily to their team’s victory. The best candidate for that this season? Definitely Demarcus Cousins.

Cousins’ injury at the start of the Playoffs was a major downer for the Warriors, but thanks to some tenacious rehab, it seems the 6’11” bruiser may be poised for a Game 1 return in the Finals, possibly even beating KD back to the hardwood:

“He’s working really hard and he’s been in the training room religiously over the last month,” Kerr said. “And now he’s getting out on the court. So he is ahead of Kevin, in terms of the ability to get out on the court and run and really get a good basketball workout.”

While Durant has not returned to the practice court, Cousins has been cleared for contact. It’s conceivable, if not likely, he could return should the Western Conference finals against Portland be extended deep into next week.

[Yahoo Sports]

Golden State’s victory last night all but locked up their spot in the Finals, meaning Steve Kerr will be in no rush to get Boogie back on the floor. He’ll now have until May 30th, Game 1 of the NBA Finals, to reclaim his starting 5 spot.

Now the question becomes, will he meet Eric Bledsoe or Jodie Meeks there? Bucks vs. Raptors Game 3 tips at 7PM tonight.

@JayWinkKSR


Is John Calipari subtweeting Reid Travis’ father?

John Calipari is back from his European vacation, just in time to make a trip to… Wisconsin? Coach Cal tweeted he was headed to one of Kentucky’s least favorite states (no offense, Tyler Herro), but he also mentioned some interesting conversations he’s recently had with a few Kentucky parents. In fact, he specifically referenced conversations with Herro’s dad as well as comments made by PJ Washington’s dad.

This could be totally harmless… Or, could it be Calipari’s sneaky rebuttal to Reid Travis’ father’s comments that went public last week? Let us remind you:

In a feature by the Herald Leader published last Tuesday, Nate Reid expressed some “uncertainties” regarding Kentucky and his son’s potential draft stock, saying he thought his family would have “a little more of an understanding of when he’d fall in the draft” after his son’s decision to spend his final season in Lexington.

“He probably had more of a leadership role as far as helping younger players develop. Maybe his abilities got somehow shifted a little bit for the sake of helping younger players develop and understand the process,” Nate told Jerry Tipton. “He kind of took that role and kind of got away from what he wanted to do when he came there.”

Now, Calipari has taken to Twitter to post about his positive interactions with two other fathers. Coincidence?

In a series of tweets, Calipari said:

“Tyler Herro’s father, Chris, heard I was going to be in Wisconsin and gave me a call today. We had a great conversation about [what] our program meant to them. After that call and what I read from Paul Washington Sr., I’m reminded of how proud I am of this program and this university.

We want everyone to leave Kentucky with the feeling that it was more than what they thought it would be. The words from those two parents make me happier than I can explain. I’m so proud of what we do here.”

As for the aforementioned comments from Paul Washington Sr., Calipari is referencing Kyle Tucker’s latest work for The Athletic, where Washington Sr. gives UK and Calipari a glowing review. Here are a few of his comments:

“[PJ] is more well-rounded from being at Kentucky. Experiencing all that at the college level will definitely help him in the NBA — he’ll be balanced and able to contribute right away… I think he learned all that at Kentucky.”

“They have so many All-Americans, I didn’t expect them to be able to get to each one and figure out how they tick and motivate them and get the most out of them, but Cal and [assistant Kenny Payne] did.”

“From a parent’s standpoint, the quicker you learn how to be there for your kid and help develop them mentally while leaving the other stuff alone, the better off you’re going to be when they get to the NBA… If LaVar Ball couldn’t do it, what makes you think you can?”

Could Calipari be “subtweeting” Nate Travis? Is this simply some sort of recruiting pitch? Or, could it be actually genuine and Coach Cal just wanted to share a piece of his inner monologue with the BBN? 

There’s no way of knowing for sure – if only we could get inside Calipari’s head! – but nothing Cal does ever strikes me as random.


Maximum Security’s owner wants a rematch, puts $5 million on the line

The drama from the 145th Kentucky Derby just keeps on coming.

After having his KHRC appeal denied, Maximum Security’s co-owner Gary West is now taking matters into his own hands, offering up $5 million if any of his horse’s rivals can take down the would-be Derby winner.

West is extending the offer to Long Range Toddy, War of Will, Bodexpress and Derby winner Country House, bringing the total to $20 million. The horses don’t even need to win to collect the money — they just need to beat Maximum Security before the end of the year.

“Most experts agree that Maximum Security was the best horse in the Kentucky Derby,” West said in a statement. “I don’t care to discuss the controversy surrounding the events of the race and the disqualification of my horse at this time, but I firmly believe I have the best 3-year-old in the country and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.”

[CBS News]

West’s offer isn’t one sided; he expects the other owners to match his wager, with his potential winnings to be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. With War of Will taking the Preakness yesterday, a bonus competition could make for quite the spectacle at the Belmont.

So what’ll it be, owners? Time to “pony” up?

…sorry.

@JayWinkKSR


Where UK Stands With the Remaining Frontcourt Options for 2019

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

UK’s 2019 roster is already formidable, but Coach Cal is still searching for that final cog that would have the machine running at full strength. Even if we assume EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards both return to Lexington for another season, there is still potentially room for one more big body to fill out the front-court rotation. Who that player will be, or if the Cats wind up with just three big men for next year, remains to be seen, but there are several options still technically on the table.

The likelihood that any of them end up in blue and white is a mixed bag.

Jaden McDaniels

The premier recruit still left undecided in the 2019 class, McDaniels seems to be having trouble making his final decision. We all know UK is his “dream school,” but with plenty of hometown Washington advocates certainly in his ear, the pressure of making a final commitment has to be weighing on the guy.

As recently as last week, it seemed UK was firmly in the driver’s seat as the clear leader to land McDaniels, but when his suspected decision day came and went without any official announcement, the waters got much murkier. 247Sports’ Evan Daniels flipped his prediction yesterday, now saying he believes Washington will snag the 5-star forward. With minimal whispers and no firm date set for his decision, expect the McDaniels saga to drag on just a bit longer.

Kerry Blackshear, Jr.

The former Virginia Tech standout is also ruminating on a decision of his own: to risk the uncertainty of the NBA Draft or spend one more year in college boosting his stock.

The most recent rumblings on Blackshear point to him leaning towards staying in the draft. That being said, our own Jack Pilgrim did note that should Blackshear not get the feedback he’s looking for from the League, Kentucky may be the favorite destination for arguably the top grad transfer in 2019. We’ll know soon enough: only 10 days remain until the draft withdrawal deadline.

Jordan Brown

UK reached out to the former Nevada big man and McDonald’s All-American almost immediately after his name popped up in the transfer portal, but updates on Brown have been few and far between since then. Arizona is pushing hard to woo the 6’10” power forward, but other than that, there haven’t really been any indicators on Brown’s status.

Maybe he’s waiting to see where other chips fall? Or could he be holding out for a different school to show interest? As soon as we know, so will you.


For now, I wouldn’t call the situation with any of these guys critical. But on the off chance EJ or Nick explore their options elsewhere, Coach Cal might have to put on his big boy recruiting cap and get to work once again.

@JayWinkKSR


Former Kentucky head coach, Basil Hayden, born on this date in 1899

Big Blue History

If you’re like me and love a good piece of Kentucky trivia then the name Basil Hayden may ring a bell for you. The Paris, Kentucky native was born on this date in 1899 and has some facts about him that live in Kentucky history.

For one, the 5’11 Hayden was the first All-American in the history of the Kentucky basketball program. During the 1920-21 season, he scored 136 points over 14 games to help put himself into the history books forever.

Hayden did not stop there as he was named the head coach of the Cats in 1926, but lasted only one season after posting an abysmal 3-13 record. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the 1988-89 season that there would be a team in Lexington with another losing record.

While on campus, Hayden also was a member of the Kentucky Track and Field team where he specialized in the javelin throw and played for the Tennis team.

The former multi-sport athlete passed away in 2003 at the age of 103. In his obituary published by the Herald-Leader, it quotes a newspaper article from the 1921 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship that said, “Hayden, the blond Apollo, the Kentucky thoroughbred, if ever one stepped on the turf, has been a thorn in the side of Kentucky’s antagonists all during the tournament.”

Hayden will live in Kentucky legacy as his name currently does hang in the rafters at Rupp Arena. Since he didn’t play with a number, he is one of only a handful of names that stand alone.

For more from Hayden’s obituary, which is extremely well written and contains multiple stories, and more statistics from him, you can click here to visit our friends at Big Blue History who has his player page up.

In fact, if the picture at the top of the linked page looks familiar, Hayden serves as Big Blue History’s profile picture on Twitter.


UK Softball Championship Sunday begins in Lexington at noon

UKathletics

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Lexington, and the UK softball team is looking to use that good fortune to their advantage. The Wildcats are set to play their Regional final beginning today at noon inside their own John Cropp Stadium. They’ll play Virginia Tech.

Kentucky knows exactly what they’re up against – UK also played against the Hokies Saturday afternoon. In that matchup, the Cats came away with a dominating 8-1 victory, largely thanks to a stellar pitching performance from sophomore Grace Baalman. She allowed just one run on eight hits, walked no one and struck out a trio of Hokies.

Here are the highlights from that matchup:

Now, the Cats are ready to do it again. If you can’t make it out to John Cropp in Lexington, you can catch all of the action streamed live on ESPN3 or the ESPN app. We’ll also have a recap posted after the game.

If UK wins, they’ll be named Regional Champions and advance to the Super Regional round. If they lose, they’ll have to play in an elimination game, set to begin 45 minutes after the original matchup.

Go Cats!


Ten Years Ago Today… The Wall was built in Kentucky

Photo by Quinn Foster | UK Athletics

John Calipari has had a multitude of massive recruits commit to play basketball in Lexington. Guys like: Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, the list goes on and on.

The most important commitment of all happened on this date 10 years ago today, when a lanky point guard from North Carolina left the blue bloods in his backyard to play for first year head coach John Calipari. Five-Star point guard John Wall announced his intentions to play basketball at Kentucky on this date ten years ago. Wall would be joined by players like DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.

The Wall commitment was the spark that the new Kentucky head coach needed to help sell the vision that he had in Lexington. While his actual announcement was anticlimactic, once he reached Lexington it was anything but that.

Just about five months after this moment, Wall delivered one of the most underrated moments in Kentucky Basketball history. While it was as simple as him dancing while being introduced, it means so much more than that now.

For one, it was the first time a Kentucky fan got goosebumps during a moment in quite some time. Why? It just had a feeling that this was the start of something special and was no longer “just a dream.” The dancing by Wall also made the program fun again. When the camera zooms in through the smoke and Wall is shown, it is almost a metaphor for the dark cloud of the Gillispie era being lifted and a new era being born.

After Wall made his pick, Matt Jones wrote on this site the following paragraph with his thoughts on the commitment:

“I like to play devil’s advocate and attempt to look at things rationally and against the normal view held by others. Not this time. We are about to head on a historic run in which Kentucky WILL dominate basketball once again. Read that last sentence…process it and get it down into your pores. The era of Kentucky going to the NIT and making our head hurt is over….the Cats are back and for the next ten years, we will be Top 5 every year for the decade. Period.”

Other than the odd 2013 year, this has proven to come true. The Wall commitment changed not only just Kentucky Basketball, but also college basketball as a whole, because the Cats were back.

Today, we celebrate a big moment in the rebirth of Kentucky Basketball. If it wasn’t for John Wall pledging his commitment for the Cats on this date ten years ago, it is hard to say that the rebuild would have gone as quick as it did.

For more from May 19, 2009, you can click here to see what Matt, TJ Beisner and more had to say about one of the most important days in the John Calipari era.

@GormleyKSR