Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.
November 30th, 2015

KSR Does America Roadtrip update: They’re in Kansas

Shoutout to @broncofan4life for making these awesome graphics

If you missed today’s show, the guys were live from the Pie Five Pizza in Wichita, Kansas as they continue their roadtrip across America. Right now, they’re somewhere west of that with plans to stop wherever they are at 4:30 p.m. ET for the KSR Pregame Show. Will it be Liberal, Kansas, the site of Dorthy’s house from “The Wizard of Oz”? Tune in to 630 WLAP at 4:30 p.m. to find out.

Until then, I thought I’d share some pictures of their trip so far. Here’s the gang and four UK fans that showed up to the Pie Five in Wichita for the show:

Each fan signed the giant Pie Five Pizza sign the boys are taking with them across the country:

Here they are at the Chiefs/Bills game:

Look how thrilled Shannon is!

Listening to music in the car while Matt checks his phone while driving:

If you missed today’s show, be sure to check out the podcast:

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Maxwell Smith injured again on Saturday

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

If things weren’t bad enough around UK football right now, there’s some more unfortunate news to pass along. Former Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith injured his left knee in the first half of San Diego State’s win over Nevada on Saturday. The injury is thought to be a torn MCL and will keep him from playing in San Diego State’s showdown with Air Force in the Mountain West Championship next week.

Smith transferred to San Diego State in January after struggling to regain momentum after shoulder and ankle injuries at Kentucky. As a graduate transfer, he was able to play immediately and quickly earned the starting job. This season, he’s thrown for 1,529 yards, 13 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions, leading the Aztecs to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the Mountain West Championship. Although this was his last year of eligibility, he has filed an injury appeal with the NCAA in hopes of getting one more year.

Given all the injuries he’s gone through, the fact that Maxwell’s still staying positive is amazing. He posted this on Twitter last night:

Get well soon.

Malik Monk scored 46 points on Saturday

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.27.03 AM

Let’s take a break from football talk, shall we? Over the weekend, future Cat Malik Monk scored 46 points, four off his career-high, in Betonville’s 84-79 win over defending Oklahoma state champion Mustang. The mixtape came out this morning and it’s ridiculous. Watch Monk do it all, from dunking to driving to dishing to swishing from the outside:

It’s going to be hard to top the backcourt Kentucky currently has, but De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk might do it. Insane athleticism.

Will Kentucky be one of the 5-7 teams to go to a bowl?

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

With everything going on around the program, it’s hard to believe there’s still a chance this team could go to a bowl game. This year, there are 40 bowl games, so 80 teams are needed to fill those spots. Currently, only 75 teams are bowl eligible (a record of 6-6 or better). There are three teams with 5-6 records with one game left to play: Kansas State, South Alabama, and Georgia State. That means that right now, TWO 5-7 teams are going to a bowl game, possibly FIVE. There could be up to 17 5-7 teams. Does Kentucky have a chance?

In 2012, the NCAA came up with a plan to choose which 5-7 teams go to a bowl by ranking them by their APR (Academic Progress Rate). Kentucky football’s most recent 4-year APR composite is 945, which would put them well below other teams in contention, such as:

  • Nebraska (985)
  • Missouri (976)
  • Kansas State (976)
  • Minnesota (975)
  • San Jose State (975)
  • Illinois (973)
  • Rice (973)

However, ESPN is reporting that the NCAA Football Oversight Committee may decide to use a different criteria to select teams or do away with the APR requirement all together. They’re expected to figure all of that out in the coming days. Mark Stoops has already said if his team is offered a bowl game, they’ll take it. For now, we wait.


Tickets to UK @ LSU are on sale now

One of the biggest games on Kentucky’s schedule this year is the showdown against LSU in Baton Rouge on January 5th. It’s the Cats’ first road game of the conference schedule and they’ll take on a rejuvenated LSU team that includes Ben Simmons, arguably the best player in the league, and fellow talented freshman/former UK recruit Antonio Blakeney. LSU always plays Kentucky close in Baton Rouge, and if you’re looking at games the Cats could potentially drop, this is near the top of the list.

Want to give the Cats a hand? Tickets for UK/LSU in Baton Rouge just went on sale this morning on LSU’s website. Tickets range from $18-$36. Make sure blue gets in by getting yours before they sell out.

The KSR Tour Across America rolls into Wichita (Monday Show Thread)

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio, which is coming to you live from the Pie Five Pizza (334 South Ridge Road) in Wichita, Kansas.

Matt, Ryan, Shannon, and Drew are a day and a half in to the KSR Tour Across America and after watching the Chiefs/Bills game at Arrowhead Stadium yesterday, are ready to talk C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS in Wichita.

If you’re in the area, go say hello, or join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.

Listen to Kentucky Sports Radio

KSR Affiliate List

WCBL (1290am): Benton
WBGN (1340am): Bowling Green
WTCO (1450am): Campbellsville
WAIN (1270am): Columbia
WCYN (102.3fm) Cynthiana
WHIR (1230am): Danville
WTHX (101.5fm) Elizabethtown
WCLU (1490am): Glasgow
WGOH (1370am): Grayson
WTUK (105.1fm): Harlan
WHOP (95.3fm): Hopkinsville
WJKY (1060am): Jamestown
WLAP (630am): Lexington
WFTG (1400am): London
WKJK (1080am): Louisville
WFMW (730am): Madisonville
WWXL (1450am): Manchester
WFTM (1240am): Maysville
WKYM (101.7fm): Monticello
WMSK (1550am): Morganfield
WLME (102.7fm):Owensboro
WPAD (1560am): Paducah
WKYH (600am): Paintsville
WLSI (900am) Pikeville
WPRT (960am): Prestonsburg
WSFC (1240am): Somerset
WTCW (920am): Whitesburg
WHAY (98.3fm): Whitley City
WBTH (1400am): Williamson
PRTC TV Channels 209 & 409: Jackson & Owlsey Counties (Replayed at 1 and 6)


WVHI (1330am): Evansville, IN, 5-7pm
WMTL (870am): Leitchfield, 11am-1pm
WLBQ (1570am): Morgantown, 3-5pm
WRIL (106.3fm): Middlesboro, Thur 8-10pm
WWTF (1580am): Lexington, 4-6pm

CYBER WEEK at Kentucky Branded starts NOW!


Most stores only offer Cyber Monday deals, but the folks at Kentucky Branded are taking it one step further with CYBER WEEK!

All week long, enjoy 50% OFF sweatshirts and 25% OFF everything else plus FREE SHIPPING on orders of $30 or more. No code required.

Take care of Christmas shopping with a few easy clicks. What are you waiting for?


Patrick Towles’ Monday Morning Wakeup

Photo: Mark Zerof

Yesterday’s news that Patrick Towles will transfer hit me like Kentucky’s loss to Louisville: sad, but expected. Patrick’s career at Kentucky had its highs — wins over South Carolina and Missouri — and its lows — 14 interceptions to only 9 touchdowns this season; however, if we learned one thing on Saturday, it’s that the junior from Fort Thomas was not to blame for the offense’s woes this year. Patrick’s inconsistency certainly didn’t help UK move the ball this season, but without Boom Williams, Drew Barker was faced with the same problems in the second half against Louisville. Few quarterbacks could overcome receiver drops, questionable play calling, and little protection from their line. Things got so bad late in the game that the staff went back to Patrick, but it was too little too late. His final play in Commonwealth Stadium — an interception on Louisville’s 4-yard line — felt like a cruel twist of the knife.

It’s not worth debating whether Patrick or Drew Barker deserved to be Kentucky’s starting quarterback next season. It’s the Drew Barker show from now on and Drew showed a lot of promise (albeit inexperience) in the past few games. The shift to Barker reflects the cold reality of sports; someone always gets left behind. And it really hurts that that someone is a kid who has done nothing but love Kentucky football his entire life.

Patrick committed to Kentucky back in April 2011 as a four-star recruit from Fort Thomas, a huge coup for Randy Sanders and Joker Phillips. At the time, the grandson of Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and US Senator Jim Bunning was billed as Kentucky’s “quarterback of the future.” He planned to redshirt his freshman year but was forced into action due to injuries only to injure his own ankle after leading the Cats to a touchdown on his first possession. He redshirted the next season, after which many speculated he would transfer. Instead, he went to California to work with renowned quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. and transformed his game. That fall, he won the starting quarterback spot and he won it again this season, only to lose it with two games left.

Some in the fan base are accusing Patrick of quitting. Those people need to shut up. For four years, Patrick has given his all to the Kentucky football program. With the staff headed in a different direction, it was time for Patrick to decide whether or not he really wanted to pursue playing football at the next level. Earlier this season, he was touted as an NFL prospect. He has the size, but if he stayed at Kentucky, he probably wouldn’t have the stage. With his degree in hand, Patrick can transfer to another program — Duke is being mentioned, but don’t rule out Hogwarts — as a fifth-year senior and play immediately. What happens from there is up to him, but at least he’s going for it. Personally, I’ll be rooting like hell for him to succeed.

In a time of uncertainty around the program, one thing is certain: Patrick Towles deserves a better ending. I really hope he gets it.

With that rant over, it’s time to go over the plan for a very busy day…

There’s a basketball game tonight

Amid all the negativity around the football program, has there been a more welcome time for a basketball game? The Cats take on Illinois State tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Tyler Ulis will play. Ulis hyperextended his elbow against South Florida on Friday and is listed as day-to-day. While we’re hearing the injury is not serious, I wouldn’t be surprised if Calipari held Tyler out tonight to ensure he’s ready to roll against UCLA on Thursday.

Kentucky opened as a 19-point favorite

Illinois State is 3-4 with one of those losses coming to #2 Maryland. The Redbirds actually led the Terrapins by two with under six minutes left before Maryland went on a 21-8 run to win the game 77-66. I’ll have more on Illinois State later today, but a quick glance tells me they’ve got a talented point guard in Paris Lee and an impressive scorer in DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell. I’m not expecting an upset or anything, but Kentucky will need to play with more energy than it has the past three games, especially if they’re without Ulis.

What will happen next with the football program?

Aside from Ulis, this is probably the other biggest question weighing on my mind. At 5-7, will Kentucky still go to a bowl? If so, when will they find out? Will there be any big staffing changes? KSR is hearing two could be on the way. Who will be the sacrificial lamb? Will there be any more transfers? What about recruiting??

Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

I saw “Mockingjay, Part 2” and it sucked.

If watching UK football lose to Louisville wasn’t torture enough, my husband and I decided to go see “Mockingjay Part 2” yesterday when we got back to Nashville. I’ve read the entire Hunger Games series, enjoyed the movies thus far and was looking for a nice escape from reality. Unfortunately, the movie sucked. “Mockingjay” was by far my least favorite of the books, a brutal battle story with little levity, so I wasn’t surprised, but man. Not even Jennifer Lawrence could save it. Save yourself the pain and go see “Creed,” like I should have.

Kobe Bryant’s goodbye letter to basketball was amazing

I’ve never been a huge Kobe Bryant fan, but even I teared up a little bit when I read the poem he wrote announcing his retirement from basketball after this season. If you missed it, click on over to The Players Tribune to read it. Regardless of how you feel about Kobe, it’s a beautiful love letter to the game from one of its best:

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.


Are you in Wichita, Kansas? Go see the guys at Pie Five Pizza

The KSR Road Trip Across America Sponsored By Sternberg Automotive and Pie Five Pizza rolls on, and after watching Chiefs/Bills in the rain at Arrowhead Stadium, the guys are in Wichita to hang out, eat some more pizza, and talk Cats. If you’re in the area (334 South Ridge Road), come on out and say hello. And tell Ryan to call his wife.

BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Monday Morning Playcalling Breakdown (Louisville)

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Well, that was a depressing end to the season, wasn’t it?  It many ways that game was completely symbolic of the entire season.  You can still see the talent out there.  There are these flashes where you see the QB’s throw a pretty ball, the receivers make a great play or the running backs make an SEC-caliber move.  But the overall inconsistency from this team all year is beyond infuriating.  This season was basically a wasted season.  The league, and especially the eastern division, was WEAK.  And UK went 2-4 against that group of teams.  UL is as weak as they have been since Kragthorpe, and they beat us by 2 touchdowns in Lexington.

All season, you have seen the offensive numbers on the decline.  So for the final time this season, thankfully, are the offensive numbers broken down into situations, with the season total in italics.  What stands out for you?

Run: 20 rushes for 70 yards (3.5 ypc)
Pass: 1-5, 8 yards, 1 INT

Combined Season Statistics
Run: 189 rushes for 1,000 yards (5.3 ypc), 5 TD
Pass: 84-149, 960 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT, 8 sacks for -50 yards

RECAP: Pretty pathetic all around here.  Completed one pass the entire game on first down.  Ran the ball 4 out of every 5 1st down plays, but only for 3.5 yards per carry.  Just bad.  For the year, the running game was pretty decent overall.  The passing game was bad, no other way to say it.

2ND DOWN AND LONG (6 yards or more)
Run: 7 rushes for 15 yards (2.1 ypc)
Pass: 3-9, 19 yards

Combined Season Statistics
Run: 86 rushes for 563 yards (6.5 ypc), 3 TD
Pass: 51-98, 478 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 5 sacks for -30 yards

RECAP: The numbers for the UL game need no explanation.  For the season, the running game got a very good 6.5 yards per carry but the passing game was anemic, completing just over 50% of their passes for less than 10 yards per completion.  Just no threat most of the year.

2ND DOWN AND SHORT (5 yards or less)
Run: 5 rushes for 22 yards (4.4 ypc), 1 TD
Pass: NONE

Combined Season Statistics
Run: 44 rushes for 160 yards (3.6 ypc), 7 TD
Pass: 16-22, 123 yards, 1 INT

RECAP: Rightfully so, the Cats had no trust to try and throw the ball here, as they really didn’t most of the year.  Interestingly, UK ran 66 plays in 2nd and short this season, while running 189 plays in 2nd and long.  1st down was really not the Cats strength most of the season.

3RD DOWN AND LONG (6 yards or more)
Pass: 4-10, 119 yards, 3 sacks for -21 yards (converted 4 of 13)

Combined Season Statistics
Run: 16 rushes for 169 yards (10.6 ypc), 1 TD (converted 9 of 16)
Pass: 49-87, 733 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 11 sacks for -74 yards (converted 30 of 98)

RECAP: UK went 4 for 4 through the air in the 1st half on 3rd and long, an incredible number considering how bad they had been all year.  Then in the 2nd half, they went 0 for 7, not completing a single pass.  For the season, horrible on the passing side of things, not converting even 30% of their chances.  That goes back to QB play and wildly inconsistent receivers.

3RD DOWN AND SHORT (5 yards or less)
Run: 2 rushes for 7 yards (3.5 ypc), 1 TD (converted 2 of 2)
Pass: 1-2, 53 yards (converted 1 of 2)

Combined Season Statistics
Run: 30 rushes for 166 yards, 1 TD (5.7 ypc) (converted 19 of 30)
Pass: 10-26, 151 yards, 4 sacks for -33 yards (converted 9 of 30)

RECAP: Same story as much of the season.  Look at those passing numbers for the season.  Just beyond poor and teams knew that UK couldn’t convert through the air on 3rd down.  They keyed on our weak offensive line and inconsistent QB play and ate us alive.

November 29th, 2015

Governor’s Cup stayed true to trend: a second half disaster

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Kentucky jumped out to a 21-point lead.

I didn’t think UK would win the football game.

The first half ended with the Wildcats leading 24-7.

I didn’t think UK would win the football game.

It’s been one of those seasons. After 30 minutes of score board dominance, where did the doubt come from? Guilt crept in by having little hope for a Kentucky win when all signs pointed to the Governor’s Cup taking up residence in the Nutter Center.

Following a 12-game body of work for observation, the following are engrained preconceptions that led to final score reservations:

— There was a complete lack of on-field leadership and team chemistry. For certain underclassmen, there was a comprehensive failure in followship. This imbalanced combination equaled a 5-7 record. Once Melvin Lewis was lost to an unfortunate injury, not a resemblance of on-field management existed. However, the offense is where the intolerable — and at times, unwatchable — leadership meltdown occurred.

In the second half and even before Louisville began to score at will, several offensive players showed the body language of an ailing patient moments prior to a root canal. There is a difference between the false bravado coming out of the tunnel and the gut-check realization when plays must be made. Unfortunately, this team was better exiting the locker room in a cloud of smoke than making a catch on 3rd and 7. It danced better before the game and between plays than it tackled opposing running quarterbacks.

— Immaturity. During critical game junctures, the Cats played and acted like adolescents in a man’s league. Hanging heads, not finishing plays, complaining about quarterbacks or playing time, catches/carries, and so forth. By the end of Saturday’s game, a disturbing internal question resonated: “Is this team likable?” I can’t honestly answer that inquiry. Not generalizing the entire 100-man roster, but a handful of counted-upon characters displayed appalling selfish actions.

— After starting 4-1 and somewhere on the schedule between EKU and Auburn, this team misplaced its fortitude. Courage to fight back and resiliency to counter adversity disappeared; in their absence surfaced erroneous and misguided self-importance. Again, mostly on offense.

— Other than the opening drive, Kentucky’s inept offense was manhandled by an above average defense that wasn’t as good as its performance indicated. Virginia scored 31 on it. Pitt ran up 42 in the first half for goodness sake. Following the disheartening loss of Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp, UK’s offensive compass lost its true North, South, East, and West. The identity-less unit wandered like a rudderless ship sailing along with dropped passes, errant throws, questionable play calls, missed blocks and penalties of the undisciplined nature.

Patrick Towles was not Kentucky’s offensive problem. Pat was merely the fall guy. Offensive woes ran much deeper than quarterback play. Up front, the offensive line was overwhelmed. An overabundance of holding calls prevented the second half from becoming a quarterback sack parade. The OL has been a point of concern from Louisiana to Louisville with brief flashes of positivity against South Carolina and Missouri. Its flaws were embarrassingly exposed in the 3rd and 4th quarter. In addition to the front five, UK’s receivers lacked. Its talent was evident in September, but it conspicuously lost its way somewhere on the road between EKU and Auburn.

Locker room divide: Older players vs. younger ones. Patrick Towles supporters against those that wanted Drew Barker. These unconfirmed rumors and leaked murmurings became nauseating and devastatingly tiresome. I’d argue that this team was divided into two categories: 1. Likable. 2. Unlikable. Typing those words hurts me to the core. While understanding ramifications, it had to be said. There were not enough battlers like Josh Forrest, Farrington Huguennin, Chris Westry, Jon Toth, Khalid Henderson and unnamed others that played their absolute guts out on every snap throughout the disappointing season regardless of score or situation.

The BBN doesn’t expect to win every game; however, it does demand indisputable high effort, passion, and a give-a-darn mentality from its participants. Instead of embracing the underdog role in the second half of the season, this team shrunk in moments against superiority.

— Halftime adjustments were made by Louisville. Kentucky grossly failed in this venture. Louisville’s true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson can be used as an example. On a wet and soggy day, one would imagine that the opponent’s top rusher (Jackson) would be the offensive feature in the second half. The read option would be the prominent play call. Following intermission, he ran it and ran it well. The Cardinal quarterback finished the game with 17 rushing attempts for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The closest Cardinal in rushing statistics was RB Brandon Radcliff with 66 yards on 14 carries. I’m not a coach nor do I pretend to understand the game on a professional level, but I would assume that Petrino made the decision to win or lose the game with Lamar Jackson running the football.

— After halftime, Kentucky’s offense exited the locker room lacking urgency and a plan. Inexplicably, defeated body language became commonplace after the first series of the third quarter. It didn’t improve, nor did production. The Cats lacked tempo, execution, or a strategy to answer the Cardinals’ 31-point onslaught. One scoring drive may have been enough of a deterrent to force Louisville into certain passing scenarios. On UK’s last offensive series, Patrick Towles finally led the Cats to the red zone with a little over two minutes left in the game. An interception followed. Game over. Cup travelled back west on I-64.

SEC football teams should be prepared for attrition, especially at an injury-prone position like running back. Understandably, losing both Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp lessened UK’s explosiveness; however, UK commenced a three-and-out procession that repeatedly and quickly gave the football back to Louisville and Lamar Jackson. It was a recipe for disaster. Catastrophe came in the form of 31 unanswered second half points.

What’s Next?

Mark Stoops must evaluate his football program in its entirety. From coordinators to assistant coaches, practice schedules to calisthenics, the Kentucky Football program is in need of an overhaul; what that looks like lies within the mind of Mark Stoops.

At no point in 40 years of fandom have I witnessed a team worsen more so than the 2015 Wildcats. From a 4-1 start to a 5-7 finish, week by week, Kentucky lessened its on-field prowess while facing the friendliest schedule in decades. College football is unforgiving. While the Cats are home for the holidays, its opponents will enjoy 15 additional days of bowl practice as well as an extra game. While UK is Christmas vacationing, future foes are strengthening. For returning players, that should sting. I’m not convinced that it does. I hope I’m wrong.

From now until National Signing Day, Stoops and staff will be in living rooms convincing teenager prospects that progress is being made. 2015 was stagnant at best.

In closing, thank you for reading. I honestly am honored and surprised you do so. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible, but disappointment and frustration led to hard truths and realities being discussed. This post was incredibly hard to write. Uncomfortable and disappointing would be more descriptive. Objectivity and fandom mix like oil and water. As a lifelong UK fan, nothing would please more than for Mark Stoops and this football program to succeed.

It’s been a blast, and we’ll continue through National Signing Day and beyond. I’d like to thank Matt Jones and the entire KSR organization for the privilege to write and talk about football.

Landon Foster pens moving goodbye letter to UK Football

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Saturday was Senior Day for several Cats, including punter Landon Foster, who posted this touching goodbye letter to the program on Instagram tonight. After a rough weekend, do yourself a favor and read it before you head to bed:

There are a few decisions in life that impact the direction your life will take, and committing to a college is one of those monumental decisions. Growing up bleeding orange and white, the first college football game I remember going to was a Tennessee vs. Kentucky game in Neyland Stadium. Never in a million years did I expect myself to take the field as a Kentucky Wildcat, until the hand was dealt. I am extremely blessed, thankful, and indebted to the University of Kentucky, Dr. Eli Capilouto, Mr. Barnhart, Coach Joker Phillips, and all of my special teams coaches for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill a dream of mine playing football in the best conference in America. Also, I want to thank each and every one of the supporting staff whose work and dedication to us as student-athletes unfortunately go unnoticed.

As my collegiate football career came to a sudden end last night, I took a few minutes to think about the four years I’ve spent here. It was extremely emotional coming to the realization that the numerous amount of hours spent in the weight room, training room, locker room, on the practice field, watching film, and bonding with my brothers are all over…so suddenly. But I know one thing is true in life, that I was able to look at myself in the mirror after the game, even with tears running down my cheeks, that I gave my absolute all on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom, and in the community and have absolutely no regrets. As hard as it is to accept the way my collegiate football career ended, I can guarantee that no one worked harder than myself, was more thrilled to wear “KENTUCKY” across my chest, or wanted / still wants this University to succeed on and off of the field. I know I gave it all that I had, and that is the only way to have peace of mind when a chapter in your life closes.

As Coach Wooden’s definition of success states, “Success is peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best that you are capable of.”

Landon was recently named one of three finalists for the 2015 Wuerffel Trophy, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.” The winner will be announced on December 8.

Rondo playing like ‘a max player’ according to Rick Carlisle

Getty Images

Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks head coach, Rick Carlisle, discussed the situation with Rajon Rondo last season before the Dallas/Sacramento matchup on Monday. Carlisle praised his former point guard, but also said that he wished Rondo had never come to Dallas.

If you remember correctly it was rumored that Rondo and Carlisle did not get along very well. However, Carlisle stated that the situation was just a poor fit for Rondo and the team.

“Listen, we all did everything we could to make it work. It was challenging. I think we all realize that now, but when you do a deal like that, you’ve got to do everything possible to make it work. I learned a lot going through the year with him and trying to be creative and use some of his unique abilities,” Carlisle told

Since leaving the Mavericks last season, Rondo has been having a great season for the Sacramento Kings. Rondo is averaging 12.4 points, 11 assists and 7.3 rebounds for the Kings. Rondo has also been a triple-double machine this season, recording one in five of his first 18 games. Despite Rondo’s success in Sacramento, the Kings have fallen 6-12 on this season and currently sit third last in the Western Conference.

“Anyone who knows Rondo knew he was gonna bounce back with a monster year this year. George Karl has done a brilliant job and put him in position to be a max player next year,” Carlisle said.

The Kings only signed Rondo to a one-year deal, but with how he is playing Carlisle might be right about Rondo’s next contract.


High Proof Bourbon — for the Holidays



Looking to drown out your pigskin sorrows? Or better yet, celebrate our roundball triumphs?  There’s no adult beverage more fitting for Big Blue Nation holiday parties than our signature spirit, Kentucky bourbon.

If you’re counting down to Christmas, bourbon is the ideal partner for tree trimming, mistletoe kissing and fireplace sipping.  If you’re like me (and Adam Sandler, Drake, most NBA and NFL owners, but, alas, not Willie Cauley-Stein), bourbon is the perfect way to numb the blaring accusations of a “War on Christmas.” (We’re only asking for a little recognition of Chanukah, the celebration of a military victory that made it possible for a Jewish baby to be born safely in Bethlehem a century later, OK?  Rant over.)

And if you need a little extra oomph to transcend the season’s stress, I suggest a few extra-potent potables.  The higher the proof not only inflates the intoxication; cask-strength bourbons are some of the finest tasting libations around.  As noted whiskey aficionado Russell Coleman explains, the process of transferring from the barrel into the bottle that results in the typical 80-100 proof fare is really about watering down the innate product — higher alcohol varieties offer straight-from-the barrel, fuller flavors, exploding your taste buds with unprecedented savory and sensory smart bombs — the very way God created bourbon.

(OK, I may be exaggerating when I called Coleman a “noted whiskey aficionado.”  But the former FBI agent and Mitch McConnell consigliere proves the true bi-partisan nature of whiskey drinking.  And the man knows his bourbon.)

A few cautionary notes:  First, if you are not of legal age, please stop reading: Print out this column and place it in a lock box to be opened on your 21st birthday.  Even if you are fully grown, tread carefully on quantity: a one-drink maximum is advised for the novice.  Meanwhile, a cube or two of ice are fine, and/or perhaps a splash of water, but understand that the more H2O you add, the more you are diluting the whole point of the venture.  And don’t you dare add Coke or sour mix.  (Don’t you dare…)  Finally, most of these varieties are hard to find at your typical liquor store — I usually have to shop out of state where bourbon experts are too scarce to hoard the inventory.  Accordingly, for my fellow Central Kentuckians, I offer some prime restaurant locations to sample, sip and savor:

1. William Larue Weller, $80/bottle, 133 proof (66.5% alcohol), available at Tony’s of Lexington

It’s fitting that Lexington’s first world-class steakhouse overlooks the cathedral of our Commonwealth, Rupp Arena.  (Ask for a table by the window in super-server Shoshannah’s section.)  It also features bartender-extraordinaire Lincoln Nevels, bon vivant and bourbon savant.  While the meals are unmatched in the region (try the bourbon-infused sweet potatoes with your filet or bone-in New York strip), it took a few months for Tony to catch up with the whiskey selection.  But since Breeders’ Cup, they are much improved, and Lincoln introduced me to the delicious and powerful William Larue Weller, part of the Sazerac/Buffalo Trace Distillery family.

The oak-infused nose — OK, smelling it — can quickly cure most sinus infections.  But the taste is what’s special.  On the tongue it feels like a cinnamon grenade, but unlike those crappy Fireballs which flame out quickly, a chocolate-y, caramel balance soon envelopes your palate.  Best yet, the aftertaste finish is long and warm, sweet and bold, as comforting as a spicy hot cider.  If the football Cats could finish like this…oh well.

2. Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof, $90, 135 proof (67.5% alcohol), available at Distilled at Gratz Park

A few days after I discovered Colonel Taylor at Proof on Main in Louisville, I left for my annual World Series of Poker trip; and while I was waiting for my luggage at the Vegas airport, I noticed a baggage claim liquor store featuring dozens of bottles of this very barrel proof product.  In retrospect, I should have taken my $1000 buy-in, purchased 15 liters, and returned home:  I have not seen it since offered at retail.  (If you can find a few for me, there are a couple of really great lower Rupp Arena UK basketball seats with your name on it.)

Another champion in the Sazerac/Buffalo Trace collection, The Colonel smells fruity, a bit like raisins, with a little vanilla as a chaser.  Tasting it is like sipping an über-strong cup of coffee, sweetened with caramel and brown sugar.  In the end, like many of Taylor’s lower-proofed concoctions, there’s a warm peppery aftertaste that coats and soothes the back of your throat.

3. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, $45, 133 Proof (66.5% alcohol), available at OBC Kitchen

It shouldn’t be surprising that Central Kentucky’s best bourbon collection can be found at Old Bourbon County (OBC) Kitchen, the latest venture of Bruce Drake and the gang at Bluegrass Hospitality Group.  Walking in the first time and witnessing the orgy of amber-colored bottles, bathed by spotlighted glass, recalled my inaugural visit to F.A.O. Schwartz’ Central Park toy store — with shot glasses replacing the human piano.  There’s no better guide to the comprehensive selection than bourbon sommelier Jake Sulek. Jake introduces me to a new, usually limited-edition, whiskey each time I visit, but my standby is the Heaven Hill Distillery masterpiece, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.

Elijah is markedly sweeter than the rest of its competitors on this list, so the nose is masked a bit by a fruity, woody smell.  After you feel the initial heat on the tongue, there is another fruit detonation, a rush of apple and orange with cinnamon mixed in.  After swallowing, the spiciness begins to really hit you, with an oak-y, minty feel on the back of your throat.

4. Noah’s Mill Small Batch, $50, 115 Proof (57.5% alcohol), available at Dudley’s on Short

The best location for lunch and brunch in Lexington is not a close call: Debbie Long’s mainstay is the go-to spot for downtown movers and shakers; and now with new chef Mark Richardson returning to the Bluegrass State from a stint at New York’s The Carlyle, the food is phenomenal.  I’ve sampled Dudley’s brussels sprout salad so often that Debbie engraved my name on a small plate at the bar.  Featuring a smaller whiskey selection, Dudley’s makes up for bourbon quantity with quality, boasting many years of Pappy’s and the like.  Early on, I discovered Noah’s Mill here — and while the family-owned Kentucky Bourbon Distillers’ product features the least alcoholic content on this list; it’s plenty strong, as well as the only variety that you can find in most local liquor stores.

Don’t let the simple, old-style bottle design fool you, this is a sophisticated concoction, aged for 15 years.  The smell is a blend of vanilla and oak, while the taste is leathery, with strong elements of brown sugar.  The finish packs a wallop, even a bit fiery:  You get the full cask-strength power without the cask-strength hangover.

5.  George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon, $90 retail (likely cost you $300+ if you can find it), 142 proof (71% alcohol!), available at Coles 735 Main

As I was first stumbling through higher proof bourbons, I was disappointed to learn that one of my favorite restaurants, Coles 735 Main, was temporarily out of the Colonel. (Don’t worry: He’s back!)  My server, Brian Carcaise, shared a not-so-secret piece of advice: If you like Taylor Barrel Proof, you’ll love George T. Stagg (yep, another Sazerac).  He warned me, though, that the granddaddy of all cask-strength bourbons might be a bit too much for my palate; that the perfect solution was dropping one piece of ice into the brew.  I thought, of course, that Brian was threatening my manhood. But as a show of good faith, he gave me an ounce of each, with and without ice.

Brian is a very wise man.  The nose is phenomenal:  This chocolate lover savored the notes of fudge, nougat and toffee.  Straight up, George is a powerful blend of fruit and wood flavors, but adding that one ice cube opened up the whiskey to a sensation of dates and wintergreen, with a hint of mocha.  George is expensive, so you might try Stagg, Jr., which is a little less powerful, and a little less flavor-able.  But treat yourself once in a while to a George, Sr.  And drop in that piece of ice.

Happy Birthday to two former Cats!


Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Both Julius Randle and Jamal Mashburn celebrate their birthdays today. Mashburn turns 43 and the current Los Angeles Laker turns the big 21 today.

The Lakers take on the Indiana Pacers at 6:30 PT at the Staples Center. Hopefully Randle can go out and celebrate his birthday and a win after the game. I’m sure Kobe would love to buy a drink for you, Julius.

#BBN, make sure to wish Julius and Jamal a very happy birthday!!


“What ifs” for other guards if Tyler doesn’t play tomorrow

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

After injuring his right elbow against South Florida on Friday, there is the possibility that Tyler Ulis could potentially be sidelined tomorrow against Illinois State. Lucky for us, even if our floor general is out, we have a bench full of guards to take his place.

Today, discussed the opportunities for other guards that exist if Ulis is unable to play tomorrow.

On Briscoe and Jamal:

“Against USF, Briscoe had a strong stat line of six points, a season-high seven assists and six rebounds, but Coach Cal didn’t like his shot selection (3 for 9) and how he seemed to avoid contact (took just one free throw). Murray led the Cats in scoring with a season-high 21 points, but Calipari wants him to get to the foul line more, where he’s an 88.2 percent shooter.”

“So it’s not that I’m worried about Isaiah and Jamal and how they’ll play — Dom(inique Hawkins) — it’s not that. It’s that we’re playing a team that plays a little different, that Tyler would have no problem with, but these guys may.”

On Dominique Hawkins:

“Hawkins is another player who could see an uptick in minutes Monday if Ulis were to sit out. Against South Florida, the junior guard logged nine minutes, hit one of his two 3-point attempts, dished out an assist, had a steal and took a charge. Afterward, Calipari said he liked what he saw from the Richmond, Ky., native, adding that Hawkins may be that elusive “rotational guy” he’s been looking for all season.”

Hey Tyler, the offer for my elbow is still there if you want it. You need it more than I do.