The 2012-13 academic school year was one of the most disappointing years for Kentucky athletics. The baseball and basketball teams both started the season ranked in the Top 10 before failing to reach the post-season while the football team suffered one of the worst seasons in school history, leading to the departure of Joker Phillips. With the academic year over, we now turn to optimistic summer dreams of a future filled with wins. The biggest surprise? Kentucky football’s dramatic change in less than 6 months. While it is difficult to describe the success of a new coach without having played a game yet, Mark Stoops has given the #BBN more than enough reasons to once again ‘Believe in Blue’. After looking back to May 2012 compared to May of 2013, Extreme Makeover couldn’t prescribe a more drastic facelift. Don’t believe me? See for yourself…
1. Coaching staff. The most obvious change over the last year is the replacement of Joker Phillips with Mark Stoops. Joker spent most of his Spring and Summer Camp attempting to convince the waning fan base that he could still get the job done. While most called his bluff and did not renew their season tickets, some people (like Matt Jones) still clung to that last bit of hope. After losing to WKU and getting embarrassed by Vandy at home, there was simply nothing left for Joker. Mark Stoops wasn’t the first choice for most fans to replace Joker, but his plan for the program was more than enough to convince Mitch Barnhart that Stoops was the right guy for the job. Stoops’ next move is what separated him from Joker: he recruited a highly-motivated, young coaching staff with big-program ties to come to Kentucky. Joker’s staff consisted of men mostly in their 50′s, compared to the 30 and 40 year old pups that Stoops has brought in. While some may think that doesn’t matter, the energy that Stoops’ staff brings to a room is unprecedented when compared to the crotchety old men of before. These coaches could convince Alan Cutler to put on pads and play, unlike the former staff that couldn’t even recognize the 6th best QB in the nation at their own camp.
2. Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting. I could probably make a week’s worth of posts talking about the radical differences in recruiting since May of 2012. The most obvious difference is the addition of Ohio as a recruiting pipeline. A Top-5 state in national high school football talent, Joker only managed to recruit 5 prospects from Ohio to UK in his 3 years as head coach; Mark Stoops has received 8 commitments from Ohio in less than 6 months. Stoops is successfully reaching across the Ohio River for prospects, while simultaneously convincing the best from inside the state to same stay home. Joker may have picked up a few guys from around the state each year, he never consistently got the best of the best. Ryan Timmons and Jason Hatcher can potentially make a positive impact for the team in the fall. In the 2014 class, Stoops has the #1 player in KY with Drew Barker while staying hot on the #2 player’s trail (Matt Elam).
Another easy barometer for recruiting success is seen in the recruiting rankings. Mark Stoops’ three 4-star players in the Class of 2013 equal the number of how many Joker had during his 3-year tenure as head coach. Oh and 3/7 in Stoops’ 2014 Class are 4-star players. Long gone are the days when decisions for recruits are between Middle Tenn State, WKU, and UK: now it’s between Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Alabama. The improvement has translated into even further hype for Stoops’ program. The average fan never knew the big recruits, unless they were great in-state players like Patrick Towles. When my lawyer-boss asked me about Braxton Berrios today (from North Carolina), I realized that football recruiting has reached a level higher than ever before.
3. An increased chatter across #BBN. While writing for KSRCollege last Spring, it was tough finding anything to write positively about the football program. When I posted the Spring depth chart in March of last year, there were COMPLAINTS for having football news during March Madness. The proof lies in the numbers: In May of 2012 there were 22 football-related posts on KSR; this post is the 22nd football-related post since last Friday. Not only is there more chatter, but it’s almost entirely positive chatter. Instead of talking about how hot Joker’s seat is, we have actually been comparing Drew Barker and Andrew Wiggins. ANDREW WIGGINS, THE BEST HS PLAYER SINCE LEBRON! If this isn’t enough, go back and listen to old podcasts and see if you can find a football entry in the headline.
4. Season ticket sales. It’s sad to say that the biggest story of last year’s Spring football season was the dramatic decrease in season ticket holders. 2012 season ticket figures were down 20.8% since 2011 and 32.5% from 2009. On April 22 of this year, season ticket sales were 2x larger than on the same date in 2012, with 35,342 compared to 17, 647. The excitement generated by Mark Stoops arrival cannot be given all of the credit: UK’s marketing department has gone above and beyond promoting ticket sales. Not only has the quantity and quality of advertisements increased, but they have opened Commonwealth Stadium to the public during the work day, allowing you to sit in your potential seat before you buy it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think KSR had a radio show at CWS last Spring.
5. Bon Jovi to Chief Keef. Watching Matt Jones’ face light-up in sarcasm when “It’s My Life” blared through CWS before 3rd downs last year was something to see. Playing an outdated Bon Jovi song was a great reflection of the state of the program last year. The only thing uglier than CWS was the play on the field, which translated into an even emptier CWS. Fast forward one year and the CWS renovation bill passed in Frankfort with only one detractor. UK greats like Tim Couch spoke during timeouts of the Spring Game to pump up the crowd. The UKAthletics staff also began putting together video pieces inside Spring Practice. Watching Stoops get taken out during ‘board drill’ is a 180-degree turnaround compared to the sight of Joker’s somber face. For the first time since Hal Mumme’s original Air Raid, Kentucky football is cool.
6. Two pictures say it all…
Matt and I spent the morning with Charles Ramsey at Eric C. Conn’s law office in Stanville this morning and America’s favorite new hero was everything we expected and more. After a little worry he wouldn’t arrive in time, Charles finally walked in and kissed all the ladies on the hand before sitting down for a radio interview with Matt to conclude our show. Afterwards, the three of us discussed Nerlens going to the Cavs and how we can get him to Lexington for a game next season. He wants to be the ‘Y’.
Here are my 10 favorite quotes from the show:
1.) “I’m willing to pay his $8 million bond and ship him to Puerto Rico, because I know on the way there he will meet his demise. If not, when you get off the plane, you’re gonna meet your demise. If not, I wanna pay somebody for you to meet your demise… Can’t say that?“
Charles is still very disgusted and outraged by what his neighbor, who he thought was just a regular guy, did to the girls he discovered in Cleveland.
He might’ve gone a little too far in airing it out, though. Just a bit.
2.) “No good deed goes unpunished. Me finding those girls… ‘Good job, now we’re going to rip you apart.’”
Since discovering the missing girls a few weeks ago, the media has dug up all it can find on Ramsey’s past, which includes a few arrests. But he doesn’t care what people say about him because he knows what truly matters:
“Three girls were home for Mother’s Day,” he reminded us. “You can talk about me all you like.”
3.) “I have about… approximately… 20 million letters from people.”
Maybe a little high on the estimate there, Charles.
4.) “Let me ask you something, because I heard if Rick Pitino comes to Lexington he gets spit on.”
Then he redeemed himself…
5.) “I’m a Rex Chapman fan.”
6.) “I’ve been taking [McDonald's] up on [that offer] everyday, just to make sure they keep up their word. We go to 4 to 5 McDonald’s, one day. Just to look at ‘em. When I pull up, they go, ‘That’s you!’ and I go, ‘Yeah, give me a Big Mac.’”
McDonald’s gave him a “Chuck Card’ that he can flash for free food for the next year. There is also a ‘Ramsey Burger’ at Hodges restaurant where Ramsey still works as a dishwasher.
7.) “What I’d rather them do, for the city of Cleveland, is go give the homeless people those burgers and stop focusing on me.”
And this is why people love him.
8.) “I was able to call Anderson Cooper on the phone and he did exactly what I told him to do — I knew this was big. He didn’t tell me no or nothing. He asked me where I wanted to meet him and I said ‘Cleveland’ and he said ‘I’ll be there in an hour.’”
Charles didn’t really grasp how big he had gotten until he had Anderson Cooper wrapped around his fingertips.
9.) “This has gone totally Hollywood, but I’m still focused on what those girls have been through for the past 10 years. I’m not the hero; Amanda Berry is. I didn’t go through nothing. She went through it for 10 years. She had a kid with this bastard.”
He was “just a dude playing his position,” he says. Amanda Berry and the other two survivors deserve all the love.
10.) “You wouldn’t be interviewing me now [if he had known right away what was going on.] I’d be in the penitentiary right now, or on my way there. Because I was able to take that dude’s head, take it off his body, and kick it down the street like a soccer ball… Said too much?“
Listen to the entire interview here:
If you enjoy reading articles about the UK men’s basketball team, please visit my webpage at http://kybasketball.blogspot.com. You can also follow my webpage on Twitter. My webpage has been around for several years and I update it several times per day so UK basketball fans have access to the best and most recent articles about the team.
Now, The Article Links-
Gary Parrish from CBSSports.com says Calipari is one of five college coaches that could lead USA basketball after Coach K.
Marquis Teague will be a capable role player in the NBA as his career progresses, but for a rookie who was thrown into a unique situation, you can’t really complain about the job he did with the minutes he was given
Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State are the presumed favorites for Jahil Okafor and Tyus Jones
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla says Nerlens Noel is the most overrated NBA Draft prospect
Calipari believes the sky’s the limit for Willie Cauley-Stein
From KSR College’s David Mulloy…
On April 2nd, after a thrilling extra inning win against the UL in Louisville, the Bat Cats’ record stood at 22-6, 6-3 in the SEC, and were ranked a season high fifth in the nation. Seven weeks to the day later, they were eliminated in the first game of the SEC Tournament by Ole Miss after dropping 19 of their last 27 games to finish unranked and out of the NCAA Tournament. So the question is, how can a team that was so highly ranked, so talented, and who played so well out of the gate suffer such a traumatic collapse in the second half of the season?
Where did it all go wrong?
The obvious answer is the LSU series. Following the win over UL, the Cats went down to Baton Rouge and were promptly swept by a combined score of 31-6. Although disappointing, at the time, the sweep was not overly concerning. LSU was, and still is, a very good team and a national title contender.
Where I think the season really went off the rails was the next weekend against Tennessee at Cliff Hagan Stadium. After a come from behind series opening win, the Cats dropped the next two games, giving the Vols, who finished 22-30 (8-20 in the SEC), their second of two SEC series victories. The 5-0 loss in the series finale was the first “uh-oh” moment of the season. I won’t mince words; Tennessee was not a good team and the series loss to them was inexcusable and a sign of things to come.
What made the series loss even worse was that the next four weekends were against South Carolina, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt, all of whom were, and still are, ranked with three of the four legitimate national title contenders. The Cats were swept at USC, won the series in Oxford, won once against the Razorbacks and were swept at home by Vandy to put them on the brink of the NCAA Bubble. Throw in a beat down in Lexington by UL and an 18 inning loss against WKU in the middle and you have a really bad month of baseball. The final nail on the coffin was last weekend at Mizzouri where the 16-30 Tigers took two out of three to eliminate any hope of an at large NCAA bid.
What went wrong?
Last summer when Jerad Grundy announced that he would turn down draft 28th round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins to return for his senior season I thought, “That’s it. That is what is going to make them contenders for Omaha.” Grundy started slow but finished the 2012 season very strong and had two postseason wins. His return, combined with Corey Littrell’s second season and A.J. Reed’s promotion to the weekend gave the Cats a formidable and experienced left-handed weekend rotation. On March 23rd, Grundy pitched eight innings strong innings and struck out ten in a 3-2 victory over Mississippi State. His ERA was 1.99 after six starts. The win, his fifth on the season, would be his last in the SEC. In the following weeks, Grundy would drop four of his next five starts with an ERA of over 10 in those game before being demoted to the midweek starter. I don’t mean to pick on Jerad, who was really having a terrific season until April, but he was a microcosm of the entire team as he simply “lost it” and could never get back on the right track. As Grundy went, so did the Cats.
That’s not to say that the other two weekend starters, Littrell and Reed, didn’t have struggles of their own. Reed was just 2-8 on the season with both wins coming early in the non-conference portion of the schedule but his record doesn’t tell the entire story. Reed’s problem was that the offense (despite his own efforts) simply didn’t give him enough run support. Seven of his eight losses came in games where he gave up four earned runs or less and all four of his no decisions came in games in which he gave up two or earned runs or less.
Speaking of the offense (or lack thereof), it was the Cats’ Achilles heel all season. It was especially absent down the stretch as seven of UK’s final eleven losses came by two runs or less. Of those seven losses, the maximum number of runs an opponent scored in a game? Five. To say that the offense struggled is a massive understatement. Only one starter batted over .300 on the season and that was freshman Kyle Barrett, who was inserted as the everyday right fielder midway through the season, with a .349 average. Even A.J. Reed, who led the team with 13 home runs and 52 RBI, batted just .280. Fellow sophomore Austin Cousino batted .249 and led the team with 46 strikeouts. J.T. Riddle, who collected 11 hits in 14 at bats on the first weekend of the season, was the team’s second leading hitter with a .283 average. As a team, the Cats’ batted .255.
Where does UK go from here?
First, the Cats have to take stock of who is coming and going. On top of graduating three seniors: Jerad Grundy, Walter Wijas, and Zac Zellers, the Cats have six draft eligible juniors: Lucas Witt, Paul McConkey, Matt Reida, J.T. Riddle, Trevor Gott, and Corey Littrell who will likely be drafted this summer. Their decision return or go pro will have a large impact on next year’s team. UK has eight LOIs 2013 recruiting class which includes two of the state’s top pitchers, Hunter Green and Woodford County’s Clinton Hollon. Both Green and Hollon are expected to be selected in the MLB draft this summer so their decision will have a large impact on next season as well.
Second, the coaching staff is going to have to address the offensive woes. For the second consecutive season, the lack of offensive production down the stretch as cost the Cats dearly. I don’t know what specifically can be done to get the bats going but I do know that no matter how good the pitching staff is, it is impossible to win without scoring any runs.
Earlier this week, I shared my love for “Arrested Development,” one of TV’s most underrated comedies that will return with new episodes Sunday on Netflix. All week, pop culture blogs have been full of posts heralding the show’s return, and now, a South Carolina sports site has even gotten in on the fun, assigning an “Arrested Development” character to each SEC football team. Who would UK be?
Kentucky: Maeby Funkë
Occasionally able to deceive onlookers into thinking they’re more valuable than they are. Identifies with Vanderbilt, as both go largely ignored. Practices form of rebellion by being basketball school.
Obviously the Gamecocks are still a little bitter about losing Drew Barker to us, but I’ll give the site credit: some of their picks are spot on. I especially like Arkansas as Lucille Austero.
Top 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is the latest elite recruit to do a blog for USA Today’s High School site, and in his latest installment, opens up about some of the coaches recruiting him. What does he have to say about Cal? Take it way, Mr. Mudiay…
Then I’ll talk to Coach (John) Calipari and you’d think that we talk about how I can help Kentucky and basketball things like that, but we don’t.
He moreso talks about what I should want to be in life period. He tells me that I’ve got to know what my goals are for life; whether it’s helping others or things like that. The thing I really love about Coach Cal is that he’s got a big heart. I’m the same way.
For the past year or so, Cal has really focused on the “changing lives” aspect of recruitment, and it’s nice to see that players like Mudiay not only respect, but respond to that. So often top coaches go in and practically beg players to come to their schools (cough, Crean), but Cal is selling something much different: come play for me and we’ll change you and your family’s lives.
Also, in case you were wondering how Mudiay got all that great footwork, he says that he played soccer growing up in the Congo. Mudiay is also very spiritual, and says that coaches will text him scripture every so often.
The venerable Larry Vaught recently caught up with Marcus Lee, one of Kentucky’s six incoming McDonald’s All-Americans. We’ve heard the incoming freshmen talk about how excited they are for the upcoming season and their shared goal of winning a National Championship, something Lee says is “stuck” in their minds:
“Winning the national championship has gone through our minds. Now it’s stuck in our minds. That is all we plan on doing, especially since we are all big competitors. We will refuse to lose next year.“
(Nice use of one of Cal’s slogans, Lee. You’re a natural already)
If their talent wasn’t mind-boggling enough, the freshmen have also been fortunate enough to play together and form chemistry during the numerous All-American games over the past few months. Lee says that experience has been invaluable, and helped the six bond:
“I think it is great to be together like that. It helps us mesh quicker and gives us more time to be together. We all get to be around each other, laugh and joke around together. That has to help for next year. …We are similar but we are still different. We get along real well. We are joking around probably 90 percent of the time. The other players are probably tired of us always talking about Kentucky, but we are loving it. There are six of us. If five of us are not talking about Kentucky, the sixth one will be. We are really excited to get there and do greatness.”
We’re excited too, Marcus.
It looks like our sources are correct again. As KSR reported yesterday morning, Jeff Goodman has been hired by ESPN to be an on-air reporter, as well as write for ESPN.com.
Goodman was hired by CBS Sports two years ago, along with Gary Parrish, and helped make the site one of the best sources for college basketball information on the net. Good luck to him in his new endeavors at the Worldwide Leader.
Four-star wide receiver Derek Kief made his top-five official Thursday with this professional-looking graphic, bearing his own rap lyrics. The Cincinnati La Salle target is high on the list of Mark Stoops and Neal Brown for the class of 2014, but Vince Marrow is taking the lead on this recruitment for Kentucky, continuing to tap his Ohio pipeline.
His top-five has been figured to be the schools listed here: Kentucky, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Alabama, in no particular order.
“Speed does kill, yeah speed does kill. You’ll get punished with my strength, that’s for real.”
You can hear the rap over his highlight video that has appeared on the site before.
Enjoy watching ESPN’s Edward Aschoff interview Mark Stoops about how the Cats did in spring practice. Great tie, coach.
Matt and Drew got up at the crack of dawn this morning to go to Floyd County to meet Charles Ramsey, but it was worth it in the end. Charles finally made his appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio to talk about discovering the three girls trapped next door to him, what his life’s been like since then, and his favorite UK player.
It’s pure gold, and I don’t to spoil it, but here are a few teasers:
– Since he gets free McDonald’s now, he says he sometimes travels to four or five locations a day to get his free burgers, and they recognize him now. “Hey, that’s you!” “Yeah, now give me a Big Mac.”
– What he’d like to do with the kidnapper, Ariel Castro: “I’d like to pay his $8 million dollar bond and ship him to Puerto Rico.”
– Get on his bad side and he’ll cut off your head and kick it like a soccer ball down the street.
– He wants to know why people in Lexington spit on Rick Pitino.
– He is a Rex Chapman man.
– So. much. more. Listen now.
Ramsey comes on in the last twenty minutes of the show, but tune in early to hear Matt’s mini-meltdown about whether or not he’ll make it.
Matt Jones, Charles Ramsey, and Drew Franklin.
Shannon is currently uploading the podcast, we will have it for you as soon as possible…
We was three-goggling with this dude…
The 2012-13 season is mercifully over, and despite having the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country, Kentucky failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and were unceremoniously dispatched in the First Round of the NIT by Robert Morris. Hard to see things being any different in 2013-14. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Power Circle (Feat. Kendrick Lamar): While there is considerable optimism among Kentucky fans regarding next year’s team, Las Vegas is not impressed with the Cats. The experts have spoken, and they have guaranteed that Kentucky will not win a national championship next year. This has to be a devastating blow for UK fans, who were already clearing space on the mantel for a 9th championship trophy. By giving Kentucky 5-1 odds to win it all next year, Vegas is saying that there is only a 1 in 6 chance that Calipari gets the job done. In other words, they are saying there is literally no chance* that the Cats win it all next year. By comparison, the gamblers are guaranteeing that the crown will be won by either Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, Duke, UNC or Florida.** Oh well. There’s always 2015.***
*They are saying there is a 17% chance.
**Collectively, they have a 64% chance of winning.
***Unless the world ends before then.
*The Boss (Feat. T-Pain): As it stands currently, Kentucky is the winningest basketball program of all time. However, it does not appear that this distinction will last very long. Presently, Kentucky holds a mere 10 game lead on the 2nd place team, Kansas. However, the Jayhawks gained 10 games on the Cats last season. If that happens again – and there’s no reason to think it won’t – then poof. UK’s lead is gone. And those who say there’s no guarantee that last year will repeat itself are right. If history is any indication – and it usually is – next year will be worse. During his 10 seasons at KU, coach Bill Self is winning an average of 30 games per year. Meanwhile, in 110 seasons of playing basketball, Kentucky is only averaging 19 wins per season. In other words, if these trends continue — and there’s no reason to think they won’t — then this time next year, the winningest basketball program in the history of the sport will be the Kansas Jayhawks. When that happens, it will be interesting to see if UK will be forced to stop billing itself as “The Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball.” At least one writer I spoke with in the mirror hopes so.
*Super High: After Louisville won a national championship in April, coach Rick Pitino treated himself to an absurdly large, unsightly back tattoo. This does not bode well for Kentucky. By getting himself a “Champ Stamp,” Pitino has in no uncertain terms told Louisville fans that he is there for the long haul. And the beauty of it is that he told Card fans this in language they can understand: Body art. Meanwhile, despite winning a title in just his 3rd year at UK (it took Pitino 12 at UofL), despite a 4-1 record against Pitino in the UK/UofL rivalry, and despite winning 83% of his games at UK (Pitino has just won 74% of his at UofL), Calipari has so far refused to permanently defile his body with a ridiculous tattoo. Could this be because Calipari has his eyes on a return to the NBA? He has yet to emphatically deny it, so yes.
* On this date: On this date in 1951, Kentucky was celebrating its 3rd national championship. (Congrats on your achievement, Cards!)
Yesterday, we found out that Anthony Davis got an invite to the Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas, and it looks like at least one fellow former Cat will be there too. According to Yahoo Sports, John Wall has accepted an invitation to the camp, along with six other point guards (Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley and George Hill). Steph Curry may receive an invitation as well.
Coach K and the rest of the Team USA staff will likely make selections for the 2014 World Championships in Madrid at the minicamp, and eventually, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The camp takes place from July 22-25.
Want to know just how different things are in Kentucky football recruiting these days? A top prospect is deciding between Alabama, Louisville…and Kentucky. Elizabethtown giant Matt Elam is the 24th best defensive tackle in the nation, and says that right now, all three schools are neck-to-neck:
“I will say of the offers I have right now, it’s a three-horse race between Alabama, Kentucky and Louisville,” Elam told LEX18. “Kentucky and Louisville are so close to home, [they're] great atmospheres, I love the coaching staffs at both schools. And then Alabama — national championships, that’s just a great opportunity to have.”
In the past, recruits that have offers from Alabama wouldn’t look twice at Kentucky. However, Mark Stoops, Neal Brown and the rest of the UK staff have made keeping in-state talent in-state a priority, and after top 2014 QB Drew Barker committed to the Cats a few week ago, the “come be a hero” campaign has a lot of momentum. However, it was two-time defending National Champion Alabama that gave Elam his first offer, when the talented defensive tackle went to a camp in Tuscaloosa:
“We went in his office — it was me and my coach — and we sat down on his [Nick Saban's] couch and he was just right in front of me. You hear about him all the time, but [I'm thinking] I’m never going to meet this guy or let alone talk to him and get an offer. It was just very surreal meeting him.”
Alabama’s only negative? It’s not close to Elizabethtown. Fortunately, UK is only an hour and a half away.
There’s the head right there. Charles will join Matt and Drew on the radio sometime in the second hour, so grab some McDonald’s and tune in.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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