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July 28th, 2014

Remembering Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones

wah-wah

By now you’ve heard about the passing of Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones, the most accomplished athlete in the history of athletics at the University of Kentucky. Earlier today, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart issued a statement, saying, “The word ‘legend’ is used frequently in our society but it is truly fitting when considering Wah Wah Jones. Wah Wah holds a legendary place in the athletic history of our state.”

Barnhart is exactly right, too. Wah Wah Jones is a true legend, and tonight we’ll explore his accomplishments on the court, on the field, and in life in general. The man did it all…

*****

He was born in Harlan, Kentucky.

Born in 1926, Wallace was one of Hugh and Fay Jones’ five children, along with Dukie, Evelyn, Hugh, Jr. and Jacqueline. The Joneses owned Hugh Jones Cafe, a popular restaurant in Harlan, located on Main Street next door to where BB&T Bank is today.

He went by “Wah Wah” early, because his younger sister couldn’t pronounce his name.

His baby sister Jackie could only say ‘Wah Wah’ when trying to pronounce ‘Wallace,’ thus the nickname was born. It stuck with him since childhood.

He played for Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant.

wah-football

Kentucky football made its first bowl appearance in 1947, Jones’ junior season and Bryant’s second year as coach. Jones followed that up with the NCAA basketball championship that season, the first of Rupp’s four.

He was the last surviving member of the “Fabulous Five.”

Oscar Combs tweeted, “With Wah’s passing, the end of UK’s Fabulous Five era is now in the history books.”

The Fabulous Five, consisting of Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, Cliff Barker, Kenny Rollins and Jones, won 36 of 39 games in 1947-48, including the national championship.

He is the only Wildcat with a retired number in basketball and football.

That is a feat that will never be duplicated.

He also played baseball.

When he wasn’t playing basketball and football for Kentucky, he also pitched for the baseball team, lettering three years on the diamond.

And he was on the track team.

Why stop with basketball, football and baseball? Shot put was another of Jones’ athletic gifts.

He was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Phi Delt was kicked off campus earlier this year until Fall 2016 for behavior Wah Wah would not approve of.

He had a summer job at Keeneland.

He worked in horse sales during what little free time he had away from sports.

He almost signed with the University of Tennessee.

From an interview for Wildcat Memories:

Were it not for the man who went on to become my father-inlaw—Alva Ball of Middlesboro, Kentucky (I married his daughter, Edna)—I might have ended up playing basketball for the University of Tennessee instead of for UK. In the summer of 1945 Mr. Ball overheard that I was considering signing with Tennessee. I don’t know who he called at UK, but the next day a driver arrived in Harlan to transport me to Lexington to meet with Coach Adolph Rupp. After meeting with him I decided to sign at UK.

Thank you, Alva Ball. You’re a great American.

He won a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics.

Jones, Coach Rupp and the other members of the Fabulous Five brought home the gold from London in 1948. Another Wildcat won basketball gold in London, 64 years later…

He was selected eighth overall in the 1949 NBA Draft.

He fell to the Washington Capitols at No. 8, six spots behind Alex Groza, a fellow Wildcat and second overall pick that year. Ralph Beard came off the board four picks later.

He played three seasons for the Indianapolis Olympians.

Washington dealt him to Indianapolis after the draft where he averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest in three seasons.

He was a seventh-round choice by the Chicago Bears in the 1949 NFL Draft.

The NFL was an option, too.

He was invited to try out for the Boston Braves.

As was Major League Baseball.

He was a 5-handicap golfer.

There were very few things he couldn’t do in sports, if any.

He published a Lexington TV guide.

The “Wah Wah Jones Publication” was delivered to every house in Lexington with an antenna, back when televisions weren’t so common. Jones went on to sell the subscription to TV Guide.

He was elected sheriff of Fayette County.

He served from 1954 through 1958. “I was the first Republican sheriff in this county since the Civil War – and the last one,” he told the Courier-Journal in 2003.

He was a Republican nominee for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

He lost to John Watts, a veteran Congressman, in Jones’ only run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1956.

He started Blue Grass Tours.

Lexington’s oldest horse farm tour company (with the blue buses we’ve all seen) began in 1978 under Jones, its founder. Today, Blue Grass is the official charter of the Kentucky basketball team. The Cats use a custom-made $700,000 sleeper coach, designed specifically for John Calipari and his team. The bus’ horn plays the UK fight song.

Watch his introduction at Big Blue Madness in 2012.


Rodrick Rhodes and Cordia basketball in a lot of trouble

rhodes

The basketball program at Cordia High School is in a world of trouble with the KHSAA and has been suspended from play in the 2014-15 season, on top of having to forfeit every game from last year’s 23-win season. Coached by former Wildcat Rodrick Rhodes, the Cordia boys basketball team committed several violations, resulting in the harshest penalites the KHSAA has ever handed down.

“This series of events may well represent the most wanton and blatant disregard for Association rules in its 97 year history,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said in the release.

The infractions also earned Cordia’s interscholastic athletic program probation through the 2018-19 season, plus a $25,980 fine.

Violations include:

– Falsifying records for transfer student-athletes

– Providing housing to the families of student-athletes

– Providing plane tickets for a student-athlete to travel out of state

– Providing money and clothes for a student-athlete

– Allowing ineligible players to practice and compete

– Conducting tryouts for non-enrolled students

– Requiring players to practice before the official start date of preseason practice

– Much, much more

Read the entire release with all penalties and violations here. This likely marks the end of Rhodes’ run at Cordia, two months after he told KSR he loves his job and living in Eastern Kentucky.


If you could host a college hoops dinner, who would you invite?

Dana O’Neil over at ESPN.com tossed out a fun scenario for college basketball fans this morning: If you could host a hoops-centric dinner, which five people, living or dead, would you invite?

ESPN personalities will take turns answering all week, leading off with O’Neil today. She went with John Chaney, Al McGuire, Bill Walton, and Richard “The Fixer” Perry (only four, for some reason) at St. Elmo’s in Indianpolis. The menu will include steak, crab and veggies.

Now it’s my turn…


hoops-dinner

Location:

STK in Las Vegas, my favorite place to eat in America. (Sorry, Taco Bell.)

World Wide Wes 

I’ve sat at a dinner table with World Wide Wes, and that night at Nick & Sam’s is exactly why he is No. 1 on the guest list at my imaginary hoops dinner. That night, not only did he order enough shots of Patron for everyone in the room, but he had the manager plug his iPod into the restaurant’s sound system so guests could listen to his favorite songs over dinner, replacing the traditional classical music usually played in that setting. The neighboring tables weren’t amused, but that didn’t stop Wes from blaring Jay Z’s “Magna Carter Holy Grail” album on repeat. The night ended with Wes testing my Jay Z trivia (which won KSR backstage access in Vegas) before he donated his iPod to the restaurant so the music could continue after he left.

Adolph Rupp

It is unlikely he will like Wes’ music, or Wes, but Adolph Rupp would be the second college hoops personality to receive an invite to my dinner. It’s the obvious selection, so it needs little explanation. I want to hear Rupp’s stories from his reign in Lexington and, above all else, a selfie with Adolph Rupp would get all of the Instagram likes.

Andy Enfield’s Wife, Amanda

USC head coach Andy Enfield (that guy with the gap in his teeth who led Florida Gulf Coast to the 2013 Sweet Sixteen) is married to a former supermodel and no one on Earth knows how he did it. It’s arguably the biggest out-kicking of coverage in sports history. I mean, she’s a total smoke show and he looks like this. So with her poor taste in men in mind, Amanda Enfield gets a seat at my table and the server better make damn sure her wine glass stays full. (I call dibs, Adolph.)

Charles Barkley

Just in case Wes isn’t in the mood for tequila, Charles Barkley will be around to keep the party going. Chuck’s generosity at the bar is well-documented and I saw it firsthand at the SEC Tournament this year..

He gets an invite and we’re going out afterward, with or without the others.

Bill Keightley

Like Rupp, Keightley’s seat at the table doesn’t need an explanation. I want him around for his best behind the scenes UK basketball stories, because he’s seen it all.

On The Menu

We’ll start with oysters on the half shell, king crab, and lobster cocktail before tackling the bone-in filet with sweet corn pudding, lobster mac and cheese, parmesan truffle fries, and creamed spinach. We’ll top that off with a box of moon pies, Bill Keightley’s favorite.

And now I’m starving.

Give us your location, guest list and menu in the comments section.


Kentucky is 50-1 to go 40-0

undefeated-ticket

@BlairTMiller

Let the anger in the comments section commence…


Picking The Two Bahamas Teams

The 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats began the first of ten practices today in order to get ready for their trip to the Bahamas. According to our own Matt Jones “The plan in the Bahamas, at least for the first couple of games, is likely to be to play two separate five man teams an equal amount of the game. That may change for the latter games, but this will give all ten of the main players a chance to get full work and showcase themselves.”

So if that’s the case just how will Coach Cal go about splitting up the ten available players? Only those inside practice can know for sure. If I was calling the shots though this is how I’d divide the teams:

Lineup 1:

PG- Andrew Harrison

SG- Dominique Hawkins

SF- Devin Booker

PF- Alex Poythress

C- Karl-Anthony Towns

In this lineup you’ve got your starting point guard, a defensive stopper, an outside threat, some inside/outside muscle on the block, and perhaps the team’s best weapon in KAT. The line-up is a bit undersized in comparison to lineup 2 as they’ll give up several inches at the 2 & 3 spots and some guys will have to play out of the position they may occupy this season. With three potential starters in the lineup they have more than enough firepower to make up for any perceived disadvantages.

Lineup 2:

PG- Tyler Ulis

SG- Aaron Harrison

SF- Derek Willis

PF- Marcus Lee

C- Dakari Johnson

Want to see a lineup that can put up points in a hurry? Seek no further. Opposing teams would have to contend with Tyler Ulis’ ability to drive and pass all while Mr. Big Shot, Aaron Harrison, waits on the wing. Willis has the opportunity to turn this trip into major playing time during the season if he showcases what he can do and in this lineup he’ll have no shortage of looks. Same for Lee who will be poised to throw home alley-oops from young Mr. Ulis. Dakari? He’s a scoring machine down low. This lineup looks fun on paper but may not have the acumen to dethrone Lineup 1. Still a solid group from top to bottom.

 

Those are the players I’d pick for my two lineups, so how about you? Divide the 10 players into two teams in the comment section below or just pick the better team of my choices.


Jon Rothstein attended UK basketball practice and his Twitter report is exciting

CBS college basketball analyst and former KSR guest host Jon Rothstein attended a Kentucky basketball practice today and he has a series of tweets reporting what he saw from the Cats. If we’re to believe Rothstein’s account, the guys have put in a lot of work and they’re already looking good heading into the Bahamas trip next month.

The most interesting note from Rothstein’s report is his projected starting five for Kentucky. He admits it’s not easy to project, but his early prediction is Andrew and Aaron Harrison in the backcourt with Alex Poythress at small forward, Willie Cauley-Stein at center and at power forward, Marcus LeeNot many people have Marcus Lee in their projected starting lineup for the Cats, but only a few people have seen Lee since last season. (Of course, Trey Lyles is still sidelined with that mysterious leg injury.)

Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis also drew praise from Rothstein; he said both Hawkins and Willis would play major minutes at any other program. He called them “two guys who can play that NO ONE talks about.”

Devin Booker will also push for major minutes as a true freshman, and Karl Towns, he is Channing Frye: “Accurate from deep and extends defenses from the five spot. Major, major talent.”

Rothstein wraps it up by saying Arizona still has the best starting five in college basketball, but “no program has a better 12 than Kentucky. And it’s not even close.”

Check out Rothstein’s timeline for all of the tweets here. Lots of good stuff.


James Young can’t decide on a hairstyle

@Tom_Grace7

He’s bald now.

Today’s James Young hair update is brought to you by Boone’s Butcher Shop, top quality meats for less!


71 percent of Kentucky wants LeBron to win a title in Cleveland

lebron-cavs

According to the 3,274 Kentuckians who voted in SportsNation’s poll, 71 percent of the state is rooting for LeBron James to win at least one NBA championship in Cleveland. That 71 percent is likely all UK fans hoping LeBron wins next season so the Cavs keep David Blatt. The 29 percent is likely Louisville fans hoping LeBron calls John Calipari next summer to take over the team.

So I’ll ask you, KSR readers. Are you rooting for LeBron to get a ring back home?

I’d like to see him win a couple, beginning with one next season.


Kentucky Football Is Rediscovering Its Swagger

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Hal Mumme Commands His Raid: It just doesn’t get much cooler than this. 

Not much time has passed since November 3, 2012 but the Kentucky football program we knew then, isn’t the team we know now.  On the day that will live in infamy, Drew Franklin, Matt Jones and I recruited a couple hundred fans (so close to half the stadium) to join Patrick in Section 206 where I led cheers to distract as many people possible from what was happening on the field.  Soaked in water and embarrassed, there wasn’t a soul that left the stadium feeling good.

With the flip of a coin from Joker to Stoops, Kentucky football has found its long-lost swagger.  A team with a chip on their shoulder has a fan-base hungrier than ever.  Before they earn it on the field, the Cats are bringing sexy back, off the field.

1.  Three words: Super Bowl Commercial.

2.  The Kickoff Playoff; a genius concoction.  At a time when we know too much about our basketball team, people that don’t get to interact with them everyday after practice, like myself, don’t get to experience the personalities of our football players.  The Kickoff Playoff is opening a door to fan and player interaction in a positive way like never before.  It’s not just knowing what Bud Dupree’s favorite song is, it’s watching the players interact with each other and fans on Twitter as they lobby for their own choice.  When the final song is selected, it will not only be the players’ choice, but the fans’ choice, uniting Commonwealth Stadium for an electric atmosphere.

3.  Blue on the Front, Boom on the Back.   Last year’s best all-purpose back will be bring the Big Blue Boom in 2014.  It’s a very literal Boom; UK made it official with ‘B. Williams’ on the #18 jersey Randall Cobb made famous.

@boom_that_guy

@boom_that_guy

4.  People outside of Kentucky like what they see.  To make a little extra dough during the summer, I often find myself working behind the bar of a high end bourbon establishment.  Bourbon Trailers often stop in to take a gander at our selection to make sure they’ve tasted and seen as much bourbon as possible on their trip.  Last week, a couple from Arkansas came in searching for a bottle of Pappy, but that wasn’t the one that REALLY caught their eye.  In the company of beautiful Special Edition Maker’s Mark bottles of Rupp’s Runts, John Calipari, The Unforgettables, and Secretariat, the couple wanted a closer look of the Mark Stoops Maker’s Mark bottle.  Stoops’ name is a revered one that is turning into a feared one on the recruiting trail that college football fans cannot ignore.    

Head coach Mark Stoops will be on 2014 Keeneland/Maker's Mark bottle.

5.  Recruiting losses used to look like this. 

Ball_State_3 warblogle com

Now they look like this: 

brown commits

 6.  Live Gun Shows from Josh Clemons every Saturday. 

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7.  The final piece of the puzzle: New CWS.  

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Changing off the field culture is one thing, but changing on-field performance is where the real fun is.

#33Days


Where UK Stands w/ 2015 Basketball Targets

 

Much has been made of the 2015 recruiting class.  Most “experts” say that there is no real star outside of LSU commit Ben Simmons.  Also, Coach Calipari has offered many more scholarships this year than in the past for a couple of reasons; first off we will need to bring in a pretty big class after presumably losing around 5 guys, and secondly with no clear cut stars left in the class it is harder to distinguish a list of top targets.  There have been rumblings of even more negative recruiting going on against Kentucky than normal and some have wondered if getting top players like the Harrison twins to return, on top of a good 2014 recruiting class, has scared away some of the top 2015 recruits.  However, despite the skepticism that surrounds the ‘Cats developing 2015 recruiting class, I think Coach Cal has a better handle on the class than he is getting credit for.  

Top 2015 target Malik Newman

Top 2015 target Malik Newman

I generally try to take the 247Sports Crystal Ball ratings with a grain of salt because the predictions being made are just an educated guess at best.  Some of the scouts and recruiting analysts have good sources and may have a good feel for what a prospect will do, but others are simply either guessing or piggy-backing off what others do.  If we look at the Crystal Ball Predictions, as of this morning, Kentucky would land the #3, #4, and #16 prospects in the 247Sports Composite Rankings.  Also, the ‘Cats are tied for the top spot with three other recruits, so just landing one of those would round out another excellent recruiting class.

UK 2015 commit Charles Matthews

UK 2015 commit Charles Matthews

As the Malik Newman/Diamond Stone package deal rumors start to die down I continue to feel more and more confident we will land the standout guard from Mississippi.  Kentucky also appears to be in a very good position for dynamic perimeter player Jaylen Brown and we are locked in a battle with Louisville for electric scorer Antonio Blakeney.  If Coach Calipari can land those three prospects, along with commit Charles Matthews, UK will once again have a top recruiting class and the backcourt will be set for the next couple of years.  

When it comes to post players in the 2015 class, that is where UK is locked in some big time recruiting battles.  Power Forward Carlton Bragg, the #9 prospect in the class, has his Crystal Ball split three ways between Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State.  Another Power Forward, Cheick Diallo, is split evenly between Kentucky and Kansas as well.  Top ranked Center Diamond Stone has Kentucky, UCONN, and Wisconsin all within a few percentage points and Doral Moore’s Crystal Ball shows UK trailing Illinois by just a slight margin.  If Coach Calipari can simply get a commitment from one of those four post players it will round out one of the top two recruiting classes in the country.  

While Kentucky only has one commitment right now, the “experts”, based on Crystal Ball ratings, have UK in a pretty good spot for a number of top prospects.  With all of the good post players that Coach Cal has right now, and assuming that a few return next season, it isn’t as important to land all of the top post targets as it is to get guys like Malik Newman, Antonio Blakeney, and Jaylen Brown.  

I can absolutely admit to being spoiled when it comes to recruiting success as a Kentucky fan.  I count on Coach Calipari to bring in the very best players every year and have simply come to expect a #1 class.  While this 2015 class may not have the marquee players and is developing a little more slowly, the ‘Cats are still in a good position to land a handful of the top prospects.  

Brandon Ramsey

@Coach_BRamsey


Listen to Neal Brown’s interview with KSR

UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown called in to Kentucky Sports Radio radio this morning to discuss the upcoming season. Listen in as we hear from the Danville native during the Danville tour stop, exactly one week before he and the Wildcats began fall camp.

Or listen to today’s entire podcast below. Now in one piece!


Mitch Barnhart on “Wah Wah” Jones

The most accomplished athlete in the history of the University of Kentucky passed away yesterday when Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones died at the age of 88 in Lexington. Today, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart released a statement about the beloved Wildcat:

“The word ‘legend’ is used frequently in our society but it is truly fitting when considering Wah Wah Jones. Wah Wah holds a legendary place in the athletic history of our state as a three-sport star at Harlan High School and the University of Kentucky. Wah Wah was a central figure during a golden era of Wildcat athletics, noted for his outstanding performances and his versatility. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family and he will be remembered fondly by the Big Blue Nation.”

I’ll have more on Wah Wah’s legacy later tonight. Feel free to share your favorite Wah Wah stories below.


Vote in the semifinals of UK’s Kickoff Playoff today

knuck

Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” can advance to the final round of the Kickoff Playoff with a win over Braylon Heard and Three 6 Mafia’s “Who Run It” today. Bud Dupree’s song is in the semifinals after defeating Steven Borden and “Scatta” in Round 1.

Head over to the BBN First website to place your vote. And remember, any time you begin to feel buck, it should immediately be followed with a knuck. Don’t be that person who gets buck without knucking. It’s not a good look.

Vote here.


Antonio Blakeney trims list, Kentucky still in the mix

One of Coach Cal’s favorite targets in the 2015 basketball recruiting class narrowed his list to seven schools today and UK made the cut. Antonio Blakeney, the third-ranked shooting guard in the 247Composite rankings, says he is down to Florida State, Louisville, Missouri, Kentucky, Oregon, LSU and South Carolina.

With all due respect to those schools, that’s an ideal bunch for Kentucky to go up against.

Go Cats.


Neal Brown expects his offense to be much better this season

Neal Brown was a guest on Kentucky Sports Radio radio in his hometown of Danville this morning to catch us up to speed on the last free Monday before fall camp. Of course, the quarterback situation is the question weighing on fans’ minds, and though he couldn’t hint at a starter, he did say redshirting Drew Barker will be an option IF he isn’t in contention for that starting spot. (That’s a big IF, folks.) Brown did not say whether or not Barker is showing signs of a guy who can compete, but he answered Matt’s hypothetical of will they consider a redshirt IF Barker isn’t QB1. Yes, it’s an option.

Brown also told KSR to expect to see more of what his offenses did at Texas Tech and Troy. After an abysmal first season, Brown believes his team will be much improved on his side of the ball. He said last year’s receiving corps was the worst he’s ever had to work with in football as they began the year without a single player who had caught a touchdown pass at UK. Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons will lead that group, Brown believes.

When UK isn’t firing the pigskin in the Air Raid, the running game has the potential to shine. Brown called his running backs the deepest and strongest position on the team, and the backfield will have a better offensive line to run behind. The line lost one guy from last year, Kevin Mitchell, and the returners are bigger and stronger across the board. He’s also excited to add his redshirt freshmen to the mix.

We’ll have the entire interview on the site a little later today.