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April 27th, 2015

Coroner says former Cat Mike Phillips died after falling down the stairs

Mike Phillips (left) with James Lee, Matt, and Goose Givens

Yesterday, we shared the unfortunate news of former Kentucky center Mike Phillips’ passing. The details were vague, but according to Jerry Tipton on Twitter this afternoon, Hopkins County Coroner Dennis Mayfield says Phillips died after falling down a flight of stairs at his house and there was no foul play. No one else was home when it happened.

Phillips was one of the “Twin Towers” in UK’s 1978 National Championship season alongside Rick Robey, and finished his UK career 25th on the program’s all-time scoring list. A visitation will be held Thursday from 5-8 p.m. CT at Victory Church in Madisonville, and the funeral service is set for Friday at 11 a.m. CT, also at Victory Church.

Our thoughts go out to his family in this difficult time.


Mr. Redlegs almost took out a Chicago Cubs third baseman yesterday

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I know there’s a strong Reds following on this blog, Matt included, so for you guys, here’s a laugh. During yesterday’s game against the Cubs, Cincinnati mascot Mr. Redlegs almost took out a Chicago Cubs third baseman during the Mascot Race in the 5th inning at Great American Ballpark:

The Reds went on to lose the game, 5-2. As Patrick Towles said earlier, being a Cincinnati sports fan is the most unforgiving thing in the world.


Adam Zagoria’s hearing that Cheick Diallo will announce tomorrow or Wednesday

The latest guessing game on Twitter is predicting when Cheick Diallo will announce his decision. Adam Zagoria’s sources are telling him that Diallo will announce at the earliest tomorrow and latest on Wednesday, while Evan Daniels agrees it could happen as early as tomorrow and Kentucky, Kansas, and St. John’s are all “in good shape.”

Interestingly, Diallo posted this picture of Skal Labissiere on Instagram last night with a shoutout to the future Cat, then deleted it:

@tbird22btown

Hmmm…come on down and join your French-speaking brother, Cheick?

[ZagsBlog]


Brown Named SEC Pitcher of the Week

(Photo by Tim Casey, UAA Communications)

(Photo by Tim Casey, UAA Communications)

Kentucky starter Zack Brown was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week following his seven shutout innings against Florida on Friday. Brown improved to 4-4 on the season and extended his scoreless inning streak to 15.1 innings by defeating the #5 Gators in Gainesville. Following 7.1 shutout innings against Tennessee, Brown struck out six and allowed five hits against the Gators in a 3-0 Kentucky win. The sophomore righty has developed into one of the best weekend starters in the SEC over the course of conference play. With wins over Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida, Brown has solidified his place among the top starters in the SEC. Brown will look to continue this dominant streak when he goes up against the defending National Champions, Vanderbilt, this Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. 

@TreyHuntsmanKSR


Patrick Towles explains how much being UK’s starting QB means to him

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The SEC Network’s Greg McElroy visited Lexington last week to get a tour of the UK Football facilities and catch up with the Cats after spring practice. McElroy hung out with Patrick Towles and chatted about growing up as a Bengals/Reds fan, how much he loves basketball, and what it means to represent his home state as the starting quarterback. I think a lot of you all will identify with what Patrick had to say about being a Cincinnati sports fan.

As a Cincinnati sports fan, it’s the most unforgiving thing in the world,” Patrick said. “Great regular season, always blow it in the playoffs.”

Towles also gave McElroy a pretty awesome sales pitch on why recruits should come to Kentucky.

“This place is wonderful, you’ve got to love the city of Lexington, you’ve got to love all it has to offer,” Patrick said. “The coaching staff has done everything they possibly can to get this program on its feet. The new renovations on the stadium over there, we’re getting a whole new facility. It’s really a huge swing of momentum. Kentucky is here and we’re here to stay. We’re here to play with the big guys and beat the big guys.”

Most interesting to me were his remarks about how much it means to him to represent his state. Patrick said when he found out he was going to be the starter last year, he broke down in tears.

“I love it. I love it. It’s such a part of me. It’s something I dreamed of my entire life is to play here, for this school,” Patrick said, mentioning past home state heroes like Jared Lorenzen and Tim Couch. “When I got the call last year I was going to be starting quarterback, I cried for a while. It’s a wonderful thing. I love it and I never take a day for granted because it’s not going to last forever.”

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While it hasn’t been officially announced, the odds are very good that Patrick will once again be UK’s starting QB this season, a job he has truly earned. Check out that graphic above, and the entire interview below.


The latest Draft Express mock has all seven Cats getting drafted

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I’m a huge fan of Draft Express’ latest mock draft. Why? It has all seven Cats getting picked. Here’s the order:

1. Karl Towns (Minnesota)
6. Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento)
15. Devin Booker (Brooklyn)
17. Trey Lyles (Milwaukee)
34. Dakari Johnson (LA Lakers)
47. Andrew Harrison (New Orleans to Philadelphia)
60. Aaron Harrison (Golden State to Philadelphia)

The projected teams are kind of useless until the Draft Lottery on May 20, but this is one of two major mocks that has all seven Cats getting drafted. Here’s a roundup of the rest:

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Patrick Patterson wears a “Kentucky against the World” shirt that we all need in our lives

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The Raptors just wrapped up their season-ending press conference and Patrick Patterson walked in wearing a “Kentucky against the World” sweatshirt. Needless to say, we’re all big fans. Here’s another shot of it:

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Pat Forde says timing of USBWA COY award was “less than ideal,” takes a shot at the BBN

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Yesterday, someone sent me a Snapchat of what appears to be Pat Forde’s inaugural column as the President of the US Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) in “Basketball Times.”

As you may remember, the USBWA named Tony Bennett their Coach of the Year, the only major coaching award John Calipari didn’t receive. In this column, Forde mentions the “less than ideal” timing of the coaching awards, which led to “considerable backlash from one particular fan base that believed its coach was more deserving,” a clear shot at the Big Blue Nation. Here’s the paragraph in full:

Timing of our coach and player awards. As you may know, the release of our 2015 Hank Iba Coach of the Year award was less than ideal–Virginia’s Tony Bennett was honored two days after the Cavaliers were upset in the NCAA Tournament round of 32. This led to considerable backlash from one particular fan base that believed its coach was more deserving, and a fair amount of external media criticism of our organization. We have begun discussions about changing the release date of our award winners so that the announcements more closely coincide with the end of the voting period. Delaying the release two weeks does not seem to help anyone.

Even if the vote was held two weeks before its release–so, March 9 instead of March 23–I still don’t understand how you could have picked Bennett over Calipari. Kentucky had just capped off an undefeated regular season while Virginia was coming off a loss to Louisville. There was a reason the decision was panned by every media member brave enough to speak up. Regardless, leave it to Forde to sneak in a shot at the BBN from the bully pulpit.


Duke still the heavy favorite for Brandon Ingram

Brandon Ingram will announce his decision tonight at 6:10 p.m. ET, and right now, Kentucky’s chances don’t exactly look great. Duke is still the heavy favorite for the 6’8″ small forward from Kinston, North Carolina, with 79% of the 247 Sports Crystal Ball predictions. North Carolina is next with 12%, followed by 6% other and 3% Kentucky. Eeek.

This isn’t surprising–Ingram grew up a Duke fan and Coach K and his staff have pulled out all the stops since winning the National Championship two weeks ago (ugh), visiting Ingram twice in five days. And while we’ve learned never to count Calipari out, brace yourselves for what may be another dose of bad recruiting news in a little less than eight hours.

Regardless, we’ll have full coverage on the site tonight because that’s what we do.


This dunk from Jayson Tatum may have been the play of the weekend

A lot of basketball went down this weekend in Lexington, but one of the most buzz-worthy moments may have been this dunk from Jayson Tatum, a 6’8″ wing from St. Louis. Tatum is considered the best small forward in the 2016 class and dunks like this are why. Watch him posterize his defender, who was lucky he didn’t get injured:

The best part? This happened right in front of John Calipari. Tatum’s final four are Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and St. Louis. Duke’s considered his favorite, with 62% of the 247 Sports Crystal Ball predictions, but there’s plenty of time for Calipari to turn the tide.


Gearing up for a big recruiting week (Monday Show Thread)

@UKBIGBLUENATION

@UKBIGBLUENATION

Good morning and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio, which is coming to you live from the Lexington and Louisville studios. Today, Matt and Ryan will catch you up on all the latest recruiting news this weekend and preview a few big, big days for the 2015 class.

Brandon Ingram and Cheick Diallo are announcing their decisions in the coming days and Mychal Mulder is still on campus. And don’t forget about Jamal Murray. Where does Kentucky stand with each? Tune in to find out.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.

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Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets of the Weekend

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We’re kicking up the heat with 5 layers of spice on our new Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken sandwich. It’s our classic spicy chicken breast topped with fresh, diced jalapeños, ghost pepper sauce, Colby pepper jack cheese all on a red jalapeno bun. It’s too hot to last, so try one today!
___________________________________________________________________ You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtopten. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:

#10 Hal Heiner

Great! Now they’re all in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#9 Conor Dirks

Genius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8 X-Wing @Aliciousness

This is really what they’re signing up for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 Regina Lexi Rickert

I’m so sorry you had to see that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#6 LJ

ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5 John Michael Lawler

Sick burn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Josh JB Bowen

There are plenty of people to ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3 Brian Alexander

We really need to solve this problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Bud Dupree 2™

this is both sad and funny at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 Tony Carroll

This is everything. I am so jealous.

@sealey_KSR


UK Fan Gets Willie Cauley-Stein’s Signature Tattooed on Her arm

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There isn’t a ton of commentary needed here. This weekend the young woman above (named “LaBecca”…which is Spanish for “The Becca”) got to meet Willie Cauley-Stein at an autograph signing and she used the time to have him sign her arm. But rather than not wash her arm for eternity, she did the next best thing…turned that signature into a tattoo. The pics are above.

Biggest Willie Cauley-Stein fan in Kentucky? I think we have a new leader.


April 26th, 2015

UK Fan of the Day Wants to Know What Happened in UK BB Recruiting

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The young girl above met Willie Cauley-Stein at an autograph signing this weekend and the two pictures are just about the most precious things that I have ever seen (and that may be the first time I have used the word precious since the movie). She may not yet have an opinion about basketball recruiting but if so, then she would be one of the very few UK fans that does not. The talk on the lips of virtually all UK fans recently has been the same. Why hasn’t John Calipari closed the deal with recruits in the last two weeks of the Spring signing period? After the devastating loss to Wisconsin, many fans went through a period of mourning…I have had a number of folks tell me that they have avoided all Cats news, simply because accepting the loss is too difficult. But for the rest of us, our thoughts have moved to more glorious things, like the chance to see Kentucky on the court again and that means the team next season. Nearly every Spring sees a plethora of the nation’s top players picking Kentucky at the last minute in order to fulfill their basketball dreams, and we assumed this year would be no exception. But as of today, it hasn’t yet happened. So what gives? I thought a quick rundown of how we got here and what we may be able to expect was in order.

BACKGROUND

The seeds of the 2015 recruiting class began the day last season when Willie Cauley-Stein and the Harrison Twins returned. All three players were expected to leave and mid-season and when various factors brought them back, the entire outlook of last season and this recruiting class changed. The decision begat one of the greatest years we have ever had in this program but it also made 2015 more difficult, as the entire roster was not only full, but in flux. Two elite recruits took the “I don’t care who is there, I am coming” mantra…Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe. I love the moxie of that thought process and their confidence/dedication to UK will be showcased next season. But for the rest, Kentucky as a final option could not be determined until the day seven players stood up and said they were leaving. Thus a couple of players that UK likely led on in the fall (Stephen Zimmerman and Malik Newman) had their decision stretched out, and in so doing allowed other schools to make up ground. They did and the hometown B-level programs (and let’s be clear, neither UNLV or Mississippi State will even sniff the top 10 next season) became the choice.

DEVIN BOOKER AND DAKARI JOHNSON

Calipari was of course thrilled when Willie and the Twins returned and the effect on future recruiting was secondary. But as the year progressed, the mindset around the UK program seemed to be that those three plus Karl-Anthony Towns were certainly gone. Trey Lyles had always wanted to play for only one year, so if he stayed on the Draft boards, the assumption was that he would leave as well (and he did). However Dakari Johnson and Devin Booker were wildcards. When the season began, the notion that Booker would leave seemed silly, as he was almost certainly projected as a two-year player. But then he got hot, the Splash Brothers took off in Golden State (providing a model for a Booker-type guard in Klay Thompson) and his stock immediately rose. Still no one was sure what Dakari and Devin would do all year. I talked to a good source in late February who told me the working assumption was that Dakari would leave and Devin stay…but both could be flipped. And in the end that is almost what happened. Booker was much more certain in his decision and Dakari wavered before declaring for the Draft. But the UK folks who hoped they would get at least one and maybe both, were left with then having to make up for the loss of seven players all en masse, a scenario that seemed unlikely until the end of the NCAA Tournament run.

THE 2015 CLASS

If you have listened to me on the radio, you know that I have said this class is weird…and it is. A lot of guys have chosen schools that would have seemed like bizarre picks in years past, simply because of unique situations (Stepfather on the staff, father played at the school, wanting to stay in the same city with parents). However there has also been a change that is worth noting…more schools are making the recruitment of elite One and Dones in a group a priority. For the past 5 years, only two schools have tried to bundle One and Done players…Kentucky and Kansas. But spurred on by the success of those two programs, now Duke, Arizona, and UNC are doing it as well. Before, they might pick at a couple of guys here and there, but going for multiple players was not in the cards and UK/Kansas reaped the rewards. Now that luxury is gone…and every top kid is being recruited by all the blue chip programs. So far UNC hasn’t had a ton of success with this strategy, but Duke is becoming a player. So these top battles will become more difficult and while Calipari will surely win more than his fair share of them, the number of his opponents are likely to increase (this is especially true in 2016).

Coming into the Spring, it looked like UK would almost certainly get Zimmerman and likely would find a way to get Newman. Then Zimmerman got turned off by how good Skal Labissiere is (and he is REALLY good) and Ben Howland became the final piece at making Malik to Starkville happen. So UK was in some ways, back at square one. So what happens? Here is how the scene looks as of today:

BRANDON INGRAM

Possibly the player that could fit a need the most for UK, Brandon Ingram was always going to be an uphill battle. He is from North Carolina, grew up a Tarheel fan and is in the state where the current National Champion is located. Getting him to Lexington is a chore…but UK has made up ground in the last few weeks. I am told that he is seriously considering Kentucky and when he makes his announcement at 6:10 tomorrow, I think the Cats have a fighting shot. I still expect his decision to be Duke…those that have followed him longer than I believe that it is what he will do. However Calipari has made it a race, after zeroing in on him when it was clear the Cats weren’t getting Newman (which was clear a few weeks ago). If he can pull it off, it will be a great come from behind upset grab.

CHEICK DIALLO

UK has been all over the board with Diallo. He was Slice’s recruit when he came to Kentucky and at times, UK has led thanks to his time here. But then Mullin gets the job at St Johns and makes that a more plausible landing spot, Cliff Alexander gets ruled ineligible at Kansas and leaves an opening for him and Slice heads back home to New York, taking away UK’s best connection. Diallo is still expected to make his decision this week and he asked for the UK staff to make another visit a week ago, a good sign no matter how you look at it. I am not sure what he will do, but the Cats do have a shot. It isn’t a position of need necessarily, but if he comes here, then the Cats will have a great front line.

JAMAL MURRAY

UK hadn’t even begun to recruit Murray until three weeks ago…now he might be the biggest prize out there to grab. Murray blew up at the Nike Hoop Summit and the working plan (that he would go to prep school next year) may have quickly changed. He is looking more likely to reclassify to this year and the Cats are doing everything to make up for lost time. He was the best perimeter player in basketball this All Star season and the Canadian now has to decide whether he goes with the school that has been on him the longest (Oregon, which has invested of time in him) or the shiny new power program that has arrived on his doorstep. UK is trying to get him to visit next weekend (he chose not to come to Lexington for the tournament with his AAU team this weekend because he would not have been allowed to meet with coaches or have a tour of the campus with anyone from UK during the trip)…if they are successful (which we should know by Tuesday), I like UK’s chances. If not, Oregon is likely the favorite. He is a potential superstar.

JAYLEN BROWN

The wildcard of all wildcards. Brown might be the most explosive talent in the class. I have seen him do things on the basketball floor that no one else in this class can do athletically. He will be a superstar. But no one has any idea what he is thinking. It is assumed that Adidas schools are in the lead, with thoughts varying from Kansas to UCLA to Michigan. But Calipari has been going with him a long time and Brown has said that there is no place like Kentucky. Last summer Brown told me (and others) that there were people around him who didn’t want him to go to UK. But Calipari has been to see him many times and the UK folks haven’t given up. Will he go against his family and Adidas and come to Lexington and be a star (and likely give Kentucky 2 of the top 3 picks in next year’s Draft)? Most all the experts seem to think that is unlikely…but they dont’ know any more than the rest of us. He is the rarity in modern recruiting…an elite talent whose destination is anybody’s guess.

MYCHAL MULDER

Mulder is on his visit to UK right now and leaves tomorrow. If he doesn’t commit to Kentucky within 24-48 hours, I will be surprised. He is a great shooter who will be a good role player for the Cats no matter who else they get. I asked someone to compare his role at Kentucky and they told me “think Darnell Dodson without all the baggage.” UK could use such a player next season.

So that is where we are…Calipari needed one of a few things to happen for next year’s team to once again be elite. Either Booker returned, Newman came, Brown surprised everyone, Ingram spurned his hometown schools or Murray became a rabbit out of the hat. The first two options have passed. Now we wait for the last three. As of now the roster looks like this:

PG: Tyler Ulis
SG: Isaiah Briscoe
SF: ?
PF Alex Poythress
C Skal Labissiere

6th: Marcus Lee

Charles Matthews
Derek Willis
Dominique Hawkins
EJ Floreal

I put Poythress at the 4 because I am told that is where Calipari wants to use him most often next year, as that is his true college position. I expect the Cats to add Mulder and at least one other piece. Who that other piece is determines whether UK is just very good (which they still can be with the roster above) or elite. Cross your fingers.


Gators Top Cats 10-1 In Series Finale

Photo by Tim Casey, Florida

(Photo by Tim Casey, Florida)

Kentucky’s six game winning streak finally came to an end Sunday, as No. 5 Florida salvaged a 10-1 win to avoid the weekend sweep. After claiming the series on Saturday, UK was searching for its first three-game series sweep of the Gators since 1993. Unfortunately, the Wildcats just did not have enough left in the tank.

The Cats (25-17, 10-10) got out to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning with Zach Arnold driving in Storm Wilson on an RBI single through the left side. That was the extent of the offensive excitement for the day, however, as the Gators scored 10 unanswered runs in the remaining seven innings of play. The Cats couldn’t capitalize at the plate, leaving eight base runners stranded on seven total hits.

UK starter Andrew Nelson, coming off a solid start last weekend against Tennessee, picked up his third loss of the season. In 3.2 innings of work, Nelson allowed five earned runs on eight hits, striking out two batters and walking one. Coach Henderson turned to relievers Zach Logue, Dylan Dwyer, Robert Zeigler, and Bo Wilson to stop the bleeding, but the Gators’ bats were too hot.

 

Weekend Takeaways:

1. Zack Brown and Dustin Beggs are blossoming into great SEC starting pitchers. In the series-opener on Friday, Brown threw 115 pitches in seven innings with six K’s and two walks. He also surrendered just five hits and zero runs in his fourth win of the season. Beggs tossed 8.1 strong innings of his own in the 7-6 win Saturday, giving up three earned runs on six hits, striking out six and walking two. Brown and Beggs are a combined 10-6 this season, but it’s how impressive they’ve been lately that stands out.

2. The Cats really need a reliable Sunday starter on the mound. It’s been documented how Kyle Cody entered the season as the 19th best MLB prospect but has struggled tremendously thus far. In fact, Cody has been so inconsistent that he was benched last weekend in the series win versus Tennessee. Instead, Coach Henderson has now turned to Andrew Nelson and a flurry of relievers in SEC series-finales. But that tactic was unsuccessful today. This means UK has placed a lot of pressure on the aforementioned Friday and Saturday starters, Brown and Beggs, to ensure victories. We’ll see how long this can last.

3. The bottom of UK’s batting order was sensational. While the top of the order was not its usual freakish self, with an underwhelming .184 average ( 7-for-38) at the plate, the Cats’ 7-8-9 hitters went 11-for-31 with a .355 combined batting average. To be fair, Evan White tallied four hits on the weekend in the number two spot. However, when sluggers Ka’ai Tom and Kyle Barrett failed to produce, guys like Thomas Bernal, Greg Fettes, Connor Heady, and Zach Arnold rose to the occasion. The 4-5-6 hitters held their own, batting .257, but the unlikely heroes were the story of the series.

 

Up next for the Cats is an in-state showdown with the No. 3 Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. in Louisville, followed by a three-game series versus No. 13 Vanderbilt next weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

@STHowle