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April 19th, 2014

Adam Silver is Becoming the Change We All Wish to See in the World

AdamSilver

The face of hope.

While Mark Emmert is mostly content to be verbally abused on Twitter, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is now stepping up to say that changing the league’s age limit from 19 to 20 is now a “top priority.”

Silver’s zeal in getting this done will likely be one of the dominating stories of this basketball offseason, because while it won’t take effect for this year’s recruiting class (Karl Towns, Jr. will still be safe to go to the NBA after next year), it could be around as early as 2016.  For college hoops fans, this has the potential to change the face of the sport.  So how are folks handling the news that this is a serious topic of discussion?  About like you’d expect: mostly okay, but with lots of drama from the people that stir up that sort of thing.

Skip Bayless was vehemently opposed to the proposition on ESPN’s “First Take,” saying “This is America,” and that the rule is “unconstitutional.”  I’m not quite sure he knows that “The right to hoop” isn’t exactly in our first ten amendments.  Yes, he was probably talking about Title VII, but does that provision say that employers can’t require “two years’ experience” for positions when seeking candidates?  Does that mean it’s unconstitutional for a job opening to require a college degree?  Mandating a postponement in your chosen professional career is IN NO WAY unconstitutional if the professionals who regulate that career believe it’s necessary for the good of all involved.  Then again, Skip might just be playing the troll.  Buuuut I doubt it.

Former coach Avery Johnson is in support of the rule, and would even implement a higher limit of 3 years in college, like the NFL does.  He also supported Calipari in saying that “[A]nytime a player can spend three years under Tom Izzo, Coach Cal, Larry Brown, you’re gonna get a player that’s much more NBA-ready. … They know what it takes to get a guy NBA-ready.”

What does your average viewer want?  SportsNation answered that question pretty easily:

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Regardless of what the talking heads and basketball fans think, this really is in the hands of Silver and the National Basketball Players Association.  The NCAA wants it, the NBA owners’ majority wants it, and Adam Silver wants it.  The power to negotiate is now within the NBPA, and we’ll see if the NBA and others can offer up enough incentives to get the rule changed.


Twins Return is Key For Long-Term Success

 

image via UKAthletics.com

image via UKAthletics.com

 

When Kentucky brought in a class that featured the likes of the Harrison twins, Julius Randle, James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee to complement returners Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, one thing seemed certain: this was a make-or-break year for the Cats. It seemed that at least four freshman were destined to leave after one year, and that the departures of Cauley-Stein and Poythress were eminent. Coming off of an NIT season that put a huge dent in the monumental momentum of Kentucky basketball, and with a more “normal” recruiting class coming in next year, it looked as if it was a “championship or bust” type of season for Kentucky (as stupid as that sounds).

Then the Wildcats struggled. Questions about Calipari’s system arose. The Harrison twins were out of whack, Julius Randle couldn’t finish a basket, and Willie was more inconsistent than Kanye West’s behavior. After UK’s embarrassing loss in Gainesville, Calipari told the world about a mysterious “tweak” that supposedly changed everything. Predictably it was met with an abundance of skepticism, and yet with a tiny bit of optimism. The Cats then crushed LSU and Georgia in the SEC tournament before taking the best team in the country to the wire before falling (literally) by one. All of a sudden, Kentucky fans were back in good spirits and were again excited for UK basketball. Even after UK was hit with a surprising number-8 seed in the bracket’s toughest region, UK fans remained optimistic and, well, the rest is history. And even though the Cats lost a heartbreaker in the championship game, the momentum of Kentucky basketball may be as high as it has ever been.

And now, after the rollercoaster ride of a season that UK just went through, things are only looking up for the Cats. The return of Marcus Lee was expected, but when the world received word that Willie Cauley-Stein was coming back, it was a game changer. All season long it looked as if Willie was gone, but after the big fella’s injury in the Sweet 16, he felt like he had some unfinished business and decided to give it another go. James Young and (presumably) Julius Randle are gone. Now we wait on the decisions of four players that could shape Kentucky basketball not just for next year, but for years to come.

With all due respect to Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress, though, the decision of the Harrison twins is by far the most important. Here’s why:

 

By all accounts incoming freshmen Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are both fantastic players, but many experts and pundits project them to be more of program players than immediate game changers. Neither player is listed in Draft Express’ 2015 Mock Draft, whereas Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to go 4th and Trey Lyles is considered by many to be our top prospect. Even so, both big men will be joining an already stacked front court of WCS and Lee, and perhaps Poythress and Johnson. That leaves UK with just Ulis, Booker and Hawkins in the backcourt and, like I said, these freshmen may take more of a “normal” progression.

If the twins decide to bolt to the NBA I still think Kentucky will be a top-5 team next season. If the twins return next season I believe that not only would UK be next year’s clear-cut number 1 team, but their return would almost ensure great success for at least the season after and possibly longer.

Calipari said after the unsuccessful 2012-2013 season that one of the Kentucky’s biggest issues was that there wasn’t enough competition in practice. If the twins return, however, they would be taking on two talented players in practice in Ulis and Booker everyday and that’s something that they weren’t able to even do this year. Obviously, this would make all parties better so that when Ulis and Booker take the reigns in the 2015-2016 season they are able to work with Charles Matthews and whatever point guard decides to commit to Kentucky (or even Dominque Hawkins if he keeps improving) and. I know this is looking pretty far out into the uncertain world that is college basketball, but Kentucky’s biggest flaw the last few years has been that although they had a stable of big men, the depth at guard was a little weak. Even this year the Cats at times were forced to play Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood for extended minutes. If the twins were to return this would enable Kentucky to have the depth at guard that fans have been endlessly chomping at the bit for the past few seasons.

For the last few years many fans have been clamoring for stability within the program because as successful as Calipari has been, when you bring in an entirely different roster every season you are putting yourself at risk for seasons like the 12-13 season where a single injury can crush your entire campaign. Think about this: since getting to Kentucky, Calipari hasn’t had a single starting guard play for a second season (Lamb was 6th man his freshman year). Imagine what Cal could do if he gets both of his starting guards back. If the twins were to return it could potentially create a cycle where we have 10-uber talented guys instead of 6 (like his first few years) each year where at least 3-4 would return the next season to complement the incoming studs.

 

So c’mon Andrew and Aaron, make the call.

 

@BWardKSR

 


Coach Cal Visits Man Injured in Rupp Arena

DickGregory

Photo from Watterson Elementary (@Watterson_5)

We’ve heard the story of Dick Gregory, UK fan who hurt his back while keeping his wife safe at Rupp Arena, all through the year.  Well, even though it was a big headline for a while, getting picked up nationally by the likes of CBS’ Gregg Doyel, Coach Cal went out of his way to remember this super-fan even after the everyone had already heard the story.  Because for Cal it’s not about headlines (even though we’ll give them to him), it’s about remembering the “crazy” people that cheer for you regardless of circumstance.

Glad to see Mr. Gregory’s still wearing Blue.


Easter Weekend’s Saturday Links

Links

 

-Both UK’s baseball and softball teams won opening games last night against SEC opponents.

-The SEC has a real chance to improve its basketball credibility with the hires at Tennessee and Missouri.  

-Speaking of Missouri, Frank Haith apparently “broke up with Mizzou via text.”  Cold blooded.

-Jahlil Okafor never expected to play college ball with Jabari Parker or Rodney Hood.  Guess he expected the “One and Done” culture at Duke to play out this way.

-The NCAA is considering eliminating the immediate eligibility given with a hardship waiver, replacing it with an extra year of eligibility.  This rule won’t apply to coaches.

-Apparently nobody wants the Tennessee job because UT fans are still pining over Bruce Pearl.


Russ Smith’s Evening News and Views

RussSmith

Esquire.com

 

Oh man, I can already feel the comment section heating up.  But the 19th marks the 23rd birthday of Louisville All-American Russ Smith, who spent plenty of time celebrating over the last four years, bringing two Final Fours and a title back for the Cards in his sophomore and junior years.

There’s every reason to hate Louisville, and Louisville fans.  Their highest-profile coaches are proven and notorious liars who revel in infidelity (both personally and professionally); their fans are obnoxious for no reason; and that calligraphy “L” is just atrocious.  But some of their players, like it or not, deserve respect.  Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng earned it a couple years ago.  Montrezl Harrell is about to earn it next year (yep, get ready).  And Russ has definitely garnered the respect of the Big Blue Nation for his ability, and his class, over the last four years.  Anybody that says otherwise is either jealous, or hasn’t been paying attention.

So happy birthday Mr. Smith, we’re happy you’re celebrating turning 23, but we’re glad you’re gone.  We’re sorry you had to go 1-5 against the Cats.  And we’re really sorry that the birthday people think you’re Peyton Siva:

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Some news and stuff:

-UK recruits had some fun tonight in the Jordan Brand Classic, as all four made the prestigious roster for the New York-based All-Star game.  Karl Towns had the most highlight-reel plays, including a spectacular half-court, behind-the-back, no-look dime from half court that made the commentators take the next couple plays off in admiration.  But they all had fun, and more importantly, got some experience playing together.  We’re ready for them next year.

-Slow news doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, as DeMarcus Cousins provided some levity today with his response to Cal’s new book, Players First.  Apparently, Cousins was having some trouble completing the conditioning drills in his first few practices, and Cal gently reminded him that if he wasn’t in shape, he would come off the bench and “play eight minutes.”  Cousins apparently found out the story made the final edit, and made sure everyone knew he was “upset” with Coach Cal:

 

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

-We heard it earlier, but Marcus Lee made his return to Lexington official today via a UK Athletics press release.

I’ve really enjoyed my college experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player,” Lee said. “Playing in the Final Four was such an amazing feeling, but I want to come back and help win that final game this year.

-Stan Van Gundy said that if Cal headed to the Lakers, he’d have less talent.  That’s clearly an exaggeration, but man, not by too much.  Don’t know whether that says more about the Cats or the Lakers, but either way, thanks Coach.  Sorry Dwight Howard ruined your career.

-UK Football has already distributed 25,000 tickets to the Spring Game.  The cap is 42,500 because of the construction, so if you want a seat, better act early.

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-A bank robber with a giant UK back tattoo is making us all look bad.  And not because of the tattoo.  Mostly because of the bank robbery.  Leave the looting to the Louisville fans.

-New NBA Commissioner “Not David Stern” has grand ambitions to make a 20-year old age-limit a priority this summer.  This is great news for us, as not only would our talent stay longer, but our coach probably would, too.  Cal spoke out over the last week and said that a “two and through” rule would take a lot of stress off of him, and let him stay as the Grand High Poobah for longer than he’d be able to right now.  Let’s hope “Not David Stern” gets it done.

Finally, some quick-hit tidbits:

-CBS acknowledged that Kentucky is dominating college basketball.  Naw durr.

-Mark Emmert opened himself to questions on Twitter with the #AskEmmert hashtag, and proceeded to take more public shots than a Tri-Delta at Two Keys.

-Former Florida guard Nick Calathes has been suspended by the NBA for 20 games after violating the league’s anti-drug policy.  Quick question: when did the NBA ban Rogaine?

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That’s all for tonight, we hope your Good Friday has been rewarding, and we’ll be back tomorrow to let you know if anybody spontaneously declares for the Draft (they won’t), or if Cal says something quotable (he will).  Typical off-season stuff for Kentucky.  Enjoy it.


Kentucky Recruits Shine in Jordan Brand Classic

UKJordanBrand

Unlike the Nike Hoop Summit, which unwisely left a couple UK recruits off their list, all four Kentucky recruits got a chance to show their stuff in the high-octane, poor-defense shootout known as the Jordan Brand Classic.  The third major high school All-Star game, and the second of which to feature all four of our guys, was a fun exhibition of a diverse array of skills we can look forward to next year, regardless of who comes back.

First, Karl Anthony Towns.  The big man showed that he’s not limited to staying right around the rim, knocking down outside shots and throwing a few assists, including a sweet no-look, behind-the-back dime from half court that had the commentators ooh-ing and aah-ing for the next few possessions.  Not to mention, Towns apparently conveyed the opinion of his doctors that he might still grow another 2-4 inches.  Karl’s already pushing 7′, so any height on top of that would make an already daunting presence flat out ridiculous.

Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker got their fair share of attention as UK’s future backcourt, with some praise thrown Ulis’ way for being a guy to “facilitate,” and play “94 feet” on defense.  What he lacks in size, he makes up for in tenacity and vision, and the Jordan game was a great chance for him to show his stuff among much taller players.  We can no longer be surprised when Ulis shows up and either takes control of the team from the start, or challenges Andrew Harrison for playing time, whichever the case may be.  He also tossed in a three in the face of Louisville recruit Shaqquan Aaron, so we appreciate him getting a head start on that.  Booker displayed his nice outside touch on several occasions.

Ulis also got this shoutout from friend of LeBron, Cuffs the Legend (does anybody know his real name?):

 

Trey Lyles was fairly quiet on the offensive end, minus a nice and-1 in the second half to give the East an 11-point lead.  He did however pull down 8 boards, which is considerable when you’re surrounded by guys 6’10″ and up.  He and Towns anchored the inside for the winning East.

There was an interesting note in the second half as ESPN high school recruiting expert Paul Biancardi mentioned that Tyler Ulis would have plenty of frontcourt help, with “Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson” coming back to UK.  Does Biancardi know something we don’t, or is he just making stuff up?  Of course, smart money is on the latter, but still.  Any news helps.

Also check out a fun highlight in the 3-D projection shown on the court pre-game.  As far as low-lights go, there was Joel Embiid’s fedora.


Why Size Really Does Matter

Willie+Cauley+Stein+Julius+Randle+Cleveland+aFVt5jflcVrl

By now you know Kentucky is looking at having one of the tallest line ups in the history of college basketball next year, with our without the twins.  Even if Dakari and Alex decide to leave, we’re still going to be huge, but let’s assume they return.  With that, you’re going to have three seven footers – all of which can flat out play.  A 6’10 Trey Lyles, two 6’9 forwards in Lee and Willis, and a 6’8 forward in Poythress.  For those of you counting at home, that’s 48 feet of domination waiting to happen.

But not everyone seems to think so.

When Willie declared he was coming back, it was met with tepid reactions from national media.  Most of the pundits takes aren’t worth repeating here, because they generally don’t know what they’re talking about.  But there was one point that was raised that intrigued me – is now a bad time to be going big, when basketball in general is trending towards small ball?

It’s a valid concern.  If you want the best examples, look to the NBA.  The Miami Heat can ‘go small’ playing Bosh as a center when need be, the Thunder do it when they don’t play Perkins, Golden State plays better when they go small, and as a general trend, centers are disappearing and being replaced by forwards.  The emergence of a ‘stretch 4′ – a power forward that can take the ball behind the arc and shoot it, ala Frank Kaminsky – are almost a necessity if you want to contend for a title.

So should that be a concern in college as well?  Is there such a thing as being ‘too big’?

Frankly put, no.  I don’t think there is.

Let’s look at two examples.  For the first, we’ll point back to the NBA and look at the Indiana Pacers.  While everyone else was busy going small, they went all in on a big line up, focused on being the best defensive team they could, and anchored themselves to a dominant big man in Roy Hibbert.  The common thought here was – when Miami or another team goes small, they will be too quick for Indiana to handle.  Only it has worked the other way – in the same way that Alabama football became a power team in the midst of spread offenses, dominant post presence allowed for Indiana to score when needed, grab rebounds, but more importantly keep Miami out of the paint.

My other example?  Last years Kentucky team.  Much in the same way Indiana smothers you inside, Kentucky did the same game after game in the tournament, dominating the glass and making it tough to score off anything inside 12 feet. You can get away with going small in the pros, because if you’re a pro you likely have a decent jump shot and can score off screens or force the bigger post players to guard you outside the paint.  If there is one thing that college players aren’t great at, it’s knocking down shots.  While Kentucky will be getting easy points inside the paint, anyone who wants to beat us next year will have to light it up from the outside – a feat that few college players are capable of.

The key to next years team is still going to be in guard play – simply because that’s where we lack the most bodies.  But our identity will be down low, and even if teams are trending small… sometimes it pays to buck the trends.  


TV and Radio information for the Spring Game

@UKAthletics

@UKAthletics

The Spring Game is next Saturday, and for those of you not able to make it in person, you can watch it on TV or listen on the radio. Here’s all the information from UK:

Former Wildcat lettermen Jeff Piecoro and Dusty Bonner will be on the TV call, which will air live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on CWKYT in Lexington, Ky., WMYO-TV in Louisville, Ky., and WSAZ-DT (My Z) in Huntington, W.Va.

Fox Sports South will have two delayed telecasts of the game. A same-day delay in the state of Kentucky only will air on FSN South at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, while the entire FSN South footprint will see the game at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 27.

The UK/IMG Sports Radio Network will air the game on radio with the Voice of the Wildcats, Tom Leach, joined by former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, and sideline reporter Dick Gabriel. The game will be live on 630-AM WLAP in Lexington and 840-AM WHAS in Louisville. Station information across the Bluegrass has not yet been determined. The radio broadcast will start at 3 p.m. ET.

Of course, you can’t beat being there in person. Tickets are free, and you can get them at Ticketmaster.comUK students can pick up their free tickets at the Joe Craft Center ticket office. Tickets still available on game day may be picked up free of charge at the stadium, based on availability.


Watch the NBA Cats in the Playoffs this weekend

catsplayoffs

The NBA Playoffs begin this weekend, and eight former Cats will participate. Here’s this weekend’s schedule (all times Eastern):

SATURDAY, APRIL 19

12:30 p.m., ESPN: (6) Brooklyn Nets (Marquis Teague) vs. (3) Toronto Raptors (Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes)

3:30 p.m., ABC: (6) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers

7 p.m., ESPN: (8) Atlanta Hawks vs. (1) Indiana Pacers

9:30 p.m., ESPN: (7) Memphis Grizzlies (Tayshaun Prince) vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder

SUNDAY, APRIL 20

1:00 p.m., TNT: (8) Dallas Mavericks vs. (1) San Antonio Spurs

3:30 p.m., ABC: (2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist)

7 p.m., TNT, CSNC: (5) Washington Wizards (John Wall) vs. (4) Chicago Bulls (Nazr Mohammed)

9:30 p.m., TNT: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (4) Houston Rockets (Terrence Jones)

Will you be watching?


Drew Barker tries to beat the odds

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There are currently over 600 quarterbacks in FBS football. The young men joined the ranks of NCAA Division 1 football hoping to become the heroes of the school and dreaming of one day starting in the NFL. However, that dream just might be a little harder than the movies show.

With Whitlows departure, the spot for starting quarterback is left wide open. Thousands of quarterbacks have participated in NCAA football over the last ten years. Yet less than a handful have been successful in what Drew Barker is trying to accomplish.

Out of hundreds of BCS quarterbacks, there have only been 15 to start as true freshmen for a BCS Conference school since 2003 and the results have been nothing short of mixed. Of those 15 true freshmen, the completion percentages vary from as low as 39.5% to as high as 60.2%, both of which have room for improvement.

True freshmen usually have attributes that are in question from arm strength, to awareness, to vision and whatever else you can question. However, shouldn’t we just worry about how efficient they are? Of those 15 true freshmen that started for a BCS conference school, only two of them had a passer efficiency below 100. Is 100.0 passing efficiency good? Not necessarily. But for comparison sake it shows a good baseline of what has happened in the past.

The BCS might be dead, but the stigma of those power conferences will live on along with the rare feat of a true freshmen starting for a major FBS program. Does it always work out? In some ways yes and in some ways no, but it is rare that a player who doesn’t possess the skills necessary to start as a true freshmen will ever be thrown into that situation. However, as BBN has found out, it is not quite unheard of. Regardless of the rarities, more often than not when a young man is entrusted with the keys to an offense as a true freshman, he usually writes his name into his school’s football history.

Over the years, we have seen such history writing and perhaps it is UK’s turn to grab the pen and write it’s own chapter.

Take former Georgia Bulldog Matt Stafford for example. Stafford trotted out onto field against UAB for his first start as a true freshman and proceeded to lead the Bulldogs to a 34-0 victory followed by helping Georgia to an impressive win against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We all know the story from that point on, it worked out pretty well for both him and Georgia

Like Barker, Stafford graduated early from high school and enrolled at his college destination in January. It should be noted that Stafford played only sparingly until his first start which occurred in the fourth week of his freshman year. This formula could end up being Barker’s, the only question is when might his first start take place?

Barker has all eyes on him at the moment, but has not shown the pressure on the field so far. Barker looks at the stats not as a distraction, but rather more like a challenge to join the ranks of successful true freshmen quarterbacks of the past.


Cal talks Boogie in his latest book excerpt

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It’s no secret that we love DeMarcus Cousins around here. While he’s a monster on the court, Boogie is a total goofball off of it, and in the latest excerpt from “Players First” on CoachCal.com, John Calipari describes Boogie’s first practice at UK and how he was able to get through to him when Boogie wanted to slack off during a conditioning drill:

I turned around and DeMarcus was sitting against a wall. He had his shoes off. I walked over there and he said it again: “My feet are on fire!”

I said to him very calmly, “DeMarcus, you didn’t make that run, so you know you’re going to have to make it up. And to be honest with you, I’m okay with that. I know you’ve got a long way to go. But you do know that you will never start for this basketball team if you can’t do the conditioning and you’re not in shape. You know that, right? You’ll come off the bench, and if you’re playing well and in shape, might play thirty minutes. But if you’re not, you’ll come off the bench and you’ll play eight minutes. Either way, you can never start here. You do know that, right?”

Cal said that DeMarcus completed every conditioning drill after that. Look at him now.

To read more, head on over to CoachCal.com for the full excerpt, or click here to purchase the entire book.


Watch the future Cats play in tonight’s Jordan Brand Classic

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Got plans tonight? Either cancel them or set your DVR. All four of Kentucky’s 2014 signees–Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis, and Devin Booker–are playing in the Jordan Brand Classic at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The guys have been in New York all week preparing for the event, and each has turned heads in their own way. Bleacher Report’s CJ Moore says Trey Lyles has the best stroke of any of the big men in the Classic, and would be surprised if he’s NOT the starting four for UK next season:

Lyles is really skilled, can score facing up and has great hands. Everything he does is fluid and fundamentally sound. Even with a really crowded frontcourt, I would be surprised if Lyles is not the starting 4 for the Wildcats.

Depending on who comes back, I doubt that’ll be the case early on, but Lyles is definitely turning heads this week.

A few matchups you should definitely keep an eye on tonight are Tyus Jones vs. Tyler Ulis and James Blackmon, Jr. vs. Devin Booker. Jones is headed to Duke, and considered one of the premiere point guards in the class along with Emmanuel Mudiay, but Ulis’ stock has been rising after an impressive performance in the McDonald’s All-American Game. A few analysts have said he’s better than Jones, so it will be fun to see them go head-to-head.

With Blackmon vs. Booker, you’re not only getting a showdown of two of the best shooters in the class, you’re getting an early taste of the Indiana/Kentucky rivalry. Blackmon was ready to commit to the Cats, but changed his mind at the last minute to go to Indiana, a decision I can’t help but wonder if he’s regretting now.

Go future Cats.


Marcus Lee makes it official, says he will return next season

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It’s official: Marcus Lee will return for his sophomore season. Lee confirmed the news via press release minutes ago. Here are his quotes about coming back:

“I’ve really enjoyed my college experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player,” Lee said. “Playing in the Final Four was such an amazing feeling, but I want to come back and help win that final game this year.

Coach Cal says Lee’s only scratched the surface of what he can do:

I’m excited for Marcus and think he’s barely scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” head coach John Calipari said.  “In addition to his athleticism and the energy level he brings, the experience he gained in the NCAA Tournament this year will be immeasurable for us next season.”

Lee’s brother told Adam Zagoria Marcus would be back earlier this week, but it’s still good to get the official word. Even better, it sounds like he and Willie share the desire to settle unfinished business and bring home #9.

Welcome back, Marcus!


Fake Barney and Coach K want you to listen to today’s podcast

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Photo @broncofan4life

What are Coach K and Fake Barney doing in the bathroom? You’ll have to listen to today’s Kentucky Sports Radio to find out. Matt and Ryan talked about the latest draft decision rumors, James Young leaving, and Nate Willis’ sports hernia injury. If you’re wondering what a sports hernia is, please Google it and don’t rely on Ryan Lemond’s explanation.

There’s only a few hours left ’til the weekend officially begins. Spend them wisely.

LISTEN TO KENTUCKY SPORTS RADIO


Stan Van Gundy quips that Cal to the Lakers would be a “step down talent-wise”

Former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy was on Mike Bianchi’s “Open Mike” show this morning, and the two discussed the now-dead rumors that John Calipari’s going to the Lakers. Cal’s said that isn’t true and I’m sick to death of talking about it, but Van Gundy’s response to the rumor was too good not to post:

“I have no idea why he would want to go the Lakers,” Van Gundy cracked during his weekly appearance on our Open Mike radio show. ”He has more NBA players (at Kentucky) this year than the Lakers do. It would be a step down talent-wise for him.

I know Kobe’s out, and he’s probably joking, but man. Cats.


25,000 tickets distributed to the Spring Game

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According to Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader, 25,000 tickets have been distributed to next Saturday’s Spring Game, which will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium. Because the renovations to the stadium are underway (as you can see above), capacity has been limited to 42,500, but it looks like that won’t be a problem based on current estimates.

I talked to Bud Dupree, TV Williams, and Josh Clemons on the phone this morning for some features next week, and both Bud and Josh told me there is a totally different vibe around this team right now, and it’s all about winning. That and checking out the quarterback battle are two huge reasons you need to go out and support Stoops and company next Saturday. Also, tailgating.

Get your Spring Game tickets here.


Stoops’ D Steps Up With Only a Week Left of Spring Practice

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Coach Stoops wasn’t too pleased with his offense today, but was it because the offense played bad, or the defense played well?  I’ll take the latter.

The defense came ready to play in early down situations.  By getting hands on passes early, they put the offense in a lot of tough situations, “We get behind the chains early and we’re not very efficient.”

Last year the Cats were last in the SEC in interceptions, a rare occurrence for a Stoops and Eliot coached team.  They’ve placed an extra emphasis on getting hands on the ball this Spring and it has paid off.  Today the unit came down with multiple picks, including one by linebacker Josh Forrest.  Forrest has received praise from the coaching staff for his athletic ability, even though it hasn’t been easy learning the 4-3 and 3-4.  Forrest caught one of the three interceptions last year, and takes pride in his hands.

With CB Nate Willis out 3-4 months for hernia surgery, the Cats need guys like Forrest to step up.  Stoops believes the return of JD Harmon at cornerback has given them much needed versatility and depth.  AJ Stamps might be the most versatile playmaker in the group.  He’s received praise all Spring from the staff, but his skills with the ball are another new revelation.  A guy that played both sides of the ball in JUCO, Stamps doesn’t hesitate to make the big play, and he can do something with it once he comes down with an interception.

Willis’ injury is the only major setback, but the amount of guys ‘banged up’ has forced them to adjust their practice plans, and possibly their plans for the Blue/White game.  Today Stoops wanted another full scrimmage, but it was too risky with dwindling numbers on the depth chart.  He’d like to have some fun next week and decide teams with a draft, but they might have too many guys on the sideline.

Even though the Cats are struggling with depth (what’s new), Stoops expects to get a lot out of his team in the final week of Spring practice.  Stoops  wants to see some continuity from his offense, and that could mean deciding a starting quarterback, “if we can figure it out in the last week we will.  If not we’ll continue to work through it.  We have time until our first game.”  Other than quarterback, he wants to determine a solid pecking order at running back, wide receiver and defensive line.

Eight days til the Spring game.  Don’t Geek BBN.