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April 24th, 2014

Hillbilly Days’ Friday News and Views

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On Thursday, the small town of Pikeville, Kentucky pulled on its overalls and transformed into the three-day circus known as “Hillbilly Days,” a festival truly unlike any other. The event was founded in 1977 by “Dirty Ear” Howard Stratton and “Shady” Grady Kinney, two Shriners with the Hillbilly Clan Outhouse #2 in Pikeville. Since then, Pike County has held the annual event to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospital in Lexington, with the Shriners decking themselves and their tiny little cars in hillbilly garb to entertain the crowd. It’s grown into one of the largest festivals in the state, bringing over 100,000 people to town each year to appreciate what the festival calls “our unique Appalachian heritage and culture.”

Around these parts, Hillbilly Days may be best known as the place UK basketball players go to sign autographs and meet fans after declaring for the draft. In years past, Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, Lukasz Orbzutt, Terrence Jones, and Nerlens Noel have all attended the event, and this year, Nerlens is making a return appearance, along with Julius Randle.  Noel will be at the event on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and again from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Randle will also be there on Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Why Hillbilly Days? Maybe the famous Quilt Show? (Mother’s Day is coming up.) The Cornhole Tournament? (They got so much practice at Madness campout!) For Nerlens, it’s probably the chance to conquer the mechanical bull, which he missed out on last year because of his injury. Whatever it is, it’s become a tale as old as time: declare for the draft, go to Hillbilly Days. Hopefully, the players will do as the festival’s motto says and “unleash their inner hillbilly.” We know Randle already likes cowboy hats.

There was a lot of news in the UK sports world today, and frustratingly, none of it had to do with the Harrison Twins. Let’s get to it.

The Harrison Twins update: There is no Harrison Twins update

Thursday was day seventeen of “Twins watch,” and sadly, there is no real update to give. The Twins have until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to announce whether they’re staying or going, and right now, it’s anyone’s guess. We do know this: on Thursday afternoon, Aaron went to Cal’s office, but they didn’t discuss his decision. In fact, Cal says he “knows nothing yet,” and fans will learn the twins’ intent when he does. Later on in the afternoon, Aaron did sent out the tweet above, which could have a million different meanings. Feel free to exhaust yourself and give it your best guess in the comments section.

John Calipari did a Facebook chat

The man is everywhere. He has conquered every social network besides Tinder, and unless they’ve got a “basketball recruits” filter I don’t know about, I don’t see that happening. Calipari did a Facebook Q&A on Thursday, and shared a few interesting comments in between his standard book tour stump speech and breaks to LOL. Here’s my favorite, about next season:

There’s two pieces to this. One, we are going to have a team that knows what to expect. We’re going to have a team that has an expectation that is built on past performance. That’s different than hope. We will be playing more people because there will be more people to play. Marcus Lee needs to be on that court. But so does Willie, Dakari and Karl. So we will play two of them together and maybe three. Trey and Alex deserve to play. It’s a great issue that we’ll deal with.

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James Young stopped by the radio show

On Thursday morning, James Young stopped by KSR to charm listeners with his deep, beautiful voice. Young let loose a little bit in the interview, joking that at times, he didn’t always listen to Cal as closely as he should have, and very much enjoyed his time at Kentucky, right down to the ladies. How many ladies? “Like three.” Whether that’s the actual truth or not, it was fun to see James come out of his shell a bit. Listen to his full interview below:

The NCAA got one step closer to sanity

After being publicly humiliated for over a year, the NCAA is finally taking action to right some wrongs. First, they put an end to the whole food restriction thing, which Calipari is still so flabbergasted by at this point he might as well have a sponsorship from JIF peanut butter. On Thursday, the NCAA “generally agreed” on the autonomy of the five major conferences–the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. If the vote goes through in August, those conferences will be allowed to self-govern issues like financial aid, insurance, academic support, and travel for families, a huge talking point of Cal’s.

The whole thing is such a good idea, it’s like Cal came up with it. Oh, wait…

The NBA may be one step closer to two and toodaloo

In news that should make you extremely happy, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday that he wants to raise the NBA age limit from 19 to 20, so that players will have to stay in college two years, and not one. Silver said two-and-through two and toodaloo “will be in the best interest of the league,” and could go in effect as early as next summer. Now, the NBA Players’ Association needs to come to the table and agree to it, which is easier said than done. All in favor of sending them bacon, say “aye!”.

The Spring Game is coming

It’s time to get ready for some football. The Spring Game is Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and throughout the next few days, we’ll have player profiles and updates from the team’s last practice on Friday. The game is close to a sell out, but there’s still time to get tickets. Click here to head on over to Ticketmaster to claim your spot, and if you’re not excited enough about the game, maybe this video of Running Backs Coach Chad Scott will put you over the top:

…that laugh.

Friday is a big day, as the Twins’ decision and the announcement of Barry “Slice” Rohrssen could break at any time. Stay tuned to KSR for all the latest, and in the meantime, enjoy this adorable picture of Julius and a young fan:

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Bud Dupree wants his defense to play like savages

Bud Dupree

Merriam Webster describes a “savage” as one “not domesticated or under human control.” Untamed, fierce, ferocious. Malicious, wild, uncultivated.

Kentucky senior defensive end Bud Dupree describes a savage as someone who will “do anything when he’s hungry.” Dupree adheres to that mentality so much that he writes the word on his wrist tape every single day before practice. “It’s just a mentality you’ve gotta have on the field, on defense, and all football players in general,” Dupree says. “A savage does anything when he’s hungry.”

Getting everyone to play like a savage has been Bud’s priority since last season. With Avery Williamson, previously the heart and soul of the Kentucky defense, off to the NFL, Dupree has taken over leadership of the unit, a role he wanted so much he passed on the chance to go to the league himself. Dupree had enough interest from NFL teams after last season to make the jump, but decided to come back to school to improve his stock and help the program get to the next level. ”I’ve gotta be a leader, just to make sure that my team is on the same page and everyone’s trying to win,” Dupree told me last week. “Everyone’s really now all in. That’s been my role, just to get everyone on the same page.”

So far, so good. Dupree says that his defensive line is getting better everyday, and is working towards the goal of being “one of the best D-lines in the league.” Dupree says that progress extends to the team as a whole, who he says is “way ahead” of where they were last spring, mainly because they know the staff and their roles better.

“The difference is people really didn’t know their roles on the team, and now, the coaches know who to put in positions to make plays. Now, people really know what their job is as a team, and to only do their job, which will benefit the team in the long run.”

Stoops, the staff, and his fellow players describe Dupree as a “freak,” a moniker he welcomes, and attributes to hard work in the weight room. Dupree said he and High Performance Coach Erik Korem focused on maximizing his explosion in the offseason, and the results are indisputable. “It has paid off for me this spring and it’ll pay off for me this season. I’ve just gotta keep grinding and getting better everyday.”

In fact, Dupree says that part of being a leader was instilling that drive in the rest of the team in the weight room, something that wasn’t there last season:

“We competed every day this offseason. One thing I’ve said we didn’t do last year was I made sure everyone competed in the weight room during drills, so we always competed. That plays a big role in getting everyone ready for the situation we’re in and rebuilding this program.”

Dupree’s savage mentality is also contagious. While Dupree says he’s been writing the word on his wrist tape for over a year, the defense is now adopting it as their motto, saying it before every practice. “I’ve been saying it for a while now, but I guess it just got put out there,” Dupree laughed. “We say it everyday in practice and make sure we go by it. Once you get a mentality of a savage, you’re hard to stop because you will do anything to get what you want.”


Caption This!

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2013-2014: The Season You Least Expected

© Robert Deutsch | Getty

© Robert Deutsch | Getty

Kentucky basketball may not have experienced a season with higher highs and lower lows than 2013-2014. Sky-high expectations crumbled into regular season struggles, and it was only after most had written them off that the team rose from the ashes all the way to the National Championship game. Now, with four players returning, and only two to go pro so far, Calipari won’t have to start from scratch next season. U mad, college basketball?

In fact, looking back, everything that happened this season was kind of the opposite of what we expected, and by the end, Kentucky’s story became its critics’ worst nightmare. Follow my line of thinking…

Preseason: “The best assembly of talent to ever take the court. There’s no way they’ll lose a game!”

Reality: Kentucky was 22-9 in the regular season, a far cry from the 40-0 daydreams. After the loss at South Carolina, the vultures circled Calipari, gleefully unleashing all their pent-up hate and writing his coaching obituary. I’m pretty sure that’s the polar opposite of what we thought would happen. (Don’t worry, it gets better.)

Postseason: “They’re just an eight-seed. There’s no way they’ll make it past Wichita State.”

Reality: Whether or not you believe in the tweak, Kentucky was a totally different team in the postseason. Once Andrew started passing, the Cats started rolling, losing by only one point to #1 Florida in the SEC Tournament Championship, at that point an improbable run all its own. Still, it wasn’t enough to impress the Selection Committee, who shafted the Cats with an 8-seed. Almost everyone picked Wichita State to oust Kentucky in the second round (high five, LL Cool J!). For the first time I can ever remember, the Cats were underdogs, and by the Final Four, their story was so sweet that even the coldest of UK-hating hearts couldn’t help but give Aaron Harrison props when he hit his third game-winning three in four games. It was a run so improbable that the vultures had to eat crow.

Offseason: “Whatever, they’re all going pro. More proof that UK’s just a one-and-done NBA factory.” 

Reality: I’m still not over the loss. I have all of the tournament games TiVo’d, but haven’t been able to bring myself to watch them yet. Still too raw, still too painful. But, as the draft decisions come in, I can’t help but see the silver lining. Had Kentucky beaten UConn, you have to think that some of the players who decided to come back would have gone pro instead. Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson both cited winning a title as a primary reason they’re coming back, and had UK won in Dallas, their stock would have been sky high, the void full, and the allure of returning to school probably not as bright. Although their decisions are still pending, I think the same could be said for the Harrison Twins. If they are looking for a reason to make the jump, that probably would have been it.

Yet, what happened happened, and as a result, two freshmen are coming back (hopefully four), along with two sophomores, which means we may finally be able to take the quotation marks off “veterans” when we talk about next year’s team. If the Harrison Twins decide to come back (if, if, if), it’ll be the first time ever at Kentucky that Cal will have a returning point guard. Regardless, this team will not only have experience, it will be fed by the burning, churning drive to get number nine.


Pack Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s spring game and the football program needs every seat to be filled. Last year’s record crowd made a statement to recruits all over the country that Big Blue Nation is committed to football, and this year is no different. The staff has several elite recruits scheduled to visit, including one Damien Harris, and with a capacity of 42,000 due to construction, there’s no reason why Commonwealth shouldn’t be completely full to show them we’re serious about this.

So get on over to Ticketmaster.com to reserve your seat(s) and get out there early for tailgating on Saturday because it’s going to be a gorgeous day. You’d be crazy not to, honestly.

Let’s Go Cats.


Coach Cal is showing Slice around town, still no word from UK

Barry Rohrssen has been in Lexington for a couple of days now but we’ve yet to hear anything official from the university regarding his hire. Today, Coach Cal took him to lunch to hang out with Joe B. Hall, Oscar Combs and the gang at Immanuel Baptist Church’s “The ROC,” per a tweet from Oscar. (Great food there, by the way.)

Surely we’ll hear something before the weekend because it’s clear Rohrssen is the guy to replace Antigua on the bench. Let’s get this finalized.


All four signees move up in final Top247 rankings

247Sports released its final Top247 today and all four of Kentucky’s class of 2014 signees moved up in the rankings.

Karl Towns made the biggest jump, up to No. 2 overall from No. 7, making him the top-ranked center ahead of Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner. Trey Lyles moved up one spot to No. 18 overall.

Meanwhile, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker both added a star to make five apiece, finishing at No. 20 and No. 22 respectively.

See the full rankings hurr.

Cats.


BIG DEVELOPMENT: NCAA “generally agrees” to provide more autonomy to five major conferences

The five major conferences received some very good news from Indianapolis today, where the NCAA took a break from tap-dancing on the skulls of student-athletes to hold an actual meeting with real life progress. Sitting at a conference table made of gold, in a room filled with mountains of cold hard cash, the NCAA “generally agreed” on the autonomy of the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conferences.

Among the areas in which the NCAA generally agrees to allow the conferences to be self-governed: financial aid, including full cost of attendance and scholarship guarantees; insurance, including policies that protect future earnings; academic support, particularly for at-risk athletes; other support such as travel for families, free tickets to games and expenses associated with events, such as parking.

The board is seeking feedback and will vote on the final recommendations in August.

John Calipari, your thoughts?

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Notes from John Calipari’s Facebook chat

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LOL

If you have some time to kill, you need to read all of the questions that were submitted to John Calipari during his Facebook Q&A. Only a small percentage of the submissions were answered, but some of the questions that were ignored were better than the ones he acknowledged. One woman commented with her address, asking Cal to mail her an autograph; another asked him to mail her a picture of the team. Then there’s the student asking for floor tickets to a game next season and one of the more random questions: What kind of cologne do you wear?

But for the sake of sharing quality information from the chat, here are some of the noteworthy things Coach Cal had to say to the fans:

Julius’ postseason assignment was to rebound and block, and pass if he started the offense.

When we came back after the Florida shellacking and tweaked the stuff on how we were going to play, which made us a totally different team and made it easier for the players. I was trying to get Andrew to think and play a little bit differently for his teammates, and he did. We got Julius to do less, which ended up being more. He was to score off Andrew’s assists, and if he were to start our offense, he would be a passer. Julius’ main focus was to rebound and block shots. From that point forward, he had nothing but double-doubles. From that point forward, it made everything for our team easier and our team took off.

Tyler Ulis is an alpha dog.

He’s also an alpha dog. His ability to create shots for his teammates yet still score is what we saw him. He’s got a competitive streak that I absolutely love. Anyone his size has to have one attribute: “I’m not going away.” And he doesn’t ever go away.

Alex Poythress needs to play the three next season.

The way he finished the season, rebounding, blocking shots, running the floor, defending, let’s build on that because he is a totally changed player. Now fall in love with the gym and get those skills where he can truly be an inside-outside player. We need him to be a 3/4, but really a 3. He sees the picture now and he will be chasing greatness.

He uses “LOL” and “humblebrag,” says Stephen Colbert is quick but he can keep up.

He was energized behind the scenes before we went on. He is in character when he does his show. That’s his character more than that’s him. He is so quick on his feet that only a quick-footed interviewee could stay up with him. LOL. Is that a humblebrag?

His favorite memory is MKG asking Darius Miller to start in 2012 SEC tourney.

In the book, my best memory is MKG approaching me 30 minutes before our SEC Tournament game asking Darius Miller to start in his place. It was the ultimate act of a servant leader. That act won us a national title even though we lost the game to Vanderbilt.

Two and Toodaloo is getting trademarked.

(To our friend Rene, creator of Succeed and Proceed): Let me say this, your suggestion about Succeed and Proceed was on point. What did you think about Colbert’s two-and-toodaloo? P.S. I’m trademarking both. LOL.


Calipari will find out about the twins when we do, so he says

SI.com

Believe this if you’d like, or don’t, but John Calipari insists he doesn’t know which way the twins are leaning right now. When asked about the twins’ future on his Facebook chat, Cal wrote, “It’s funny you ask. Aaron just walked in my office and I never asked him one question about it. I asked him how he was doing and he said alright. I know nothing yet. You’ll know when I know.”

So there ya go, folks. The only people who know the current status of the decision making process are the Harrisons, Kyle Tucker’s source, and that guy on the message boards. Calipari is out of the loop, just like us.

In related news, a UK spokesman said there are no plans to release anything on the Harrison twins today, per Ben Roberts.


Coach Cal is doing a Facebook chat because the man literally can’t stop for one second

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John Calipari is currently chatting with fans on his Facebook page. Head over there now to get your question in and maybe, just maybe, he’ll answer it.

Click here for Cal’s Facebook Q&A.

Click here to like Kentucky Sports Radio on Facebook. (It would mean a lot to us.)


Adam Silver still working toward two-year rule

(@KYJOEKSR)

(@KYJOEKSR)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said once again today that he hopes to raise the NBA age limit to 20.

“I’ve been a proponent of raising the age from 19 to 20 because I think it would make for a better league,” he said Thursday. “I believe and continue to believe it will be in the best interest of the league. I think that the extra year in college will be a benefit for these young men to grow and develop as people and basketball players.”

The move could go into effect as early as next summer. It was discussed prior to the last collective bargaining agreement but couldn’t get done due to a personnel change in the players union.

Silver and the NBA suits are also tossing around the idea of leaving the D-League age at 18 for those prospects who still want to skip out on college, although I can’t imagine too many guys choosing to live in Des Moines over being a rock star on campus. One would really have to despise class to take paying for an apartment in Bismarck, North Dakota over a full-ride to major university.

Progress with the two-and-done rule on the same day UK changes its on-campus alcohol policy: Coincidence? Nah.


Nerlens Noel wants to ride the mechanical bull at Hillbilly Days

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Nerlens Noel will be at Hillbilly Days in Pikeville this weekend and he has his eyes set on the mechanical bull. Nerlens was at Hillbilly Days last year — it’s not his first rodeo — but couldn’t ride because of his injury. This year is different. This year he is ready to go eight seconds.

Find him out there on Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 and again from 6:00 to 8:00. Then he’ll be back Saturday from 10:00 am to noon.

Someone please get video.

Listen to Nerlens’ call to Kentucky Sports Radio at the end of the second hour of today’s podcast.


UK will revise its on-campus alcohol policy, hashtag party

Forest Park

Forest Park

According to the Herald-Leader, Julius Randall’s favorite newspaper, the University of Kentucky plans to make changes to the no-alcohol policy on campus. Things went dry 16 years ago but now it’s time to liven this party up a bit.

President Capilouto said the details still need to be worked out but the hope is to keep the drinking on campus so it can be monitored, limiting off-campus, booze-related incidents. Those off-campus shindigs will now be under the university’s rule, too, as UK is extending the boundaries of its Student Code of Conduct. (That means you can still get in trouble off campus.)

“Our first priority is the safety of our students and the community we serve,” Capilouto said. “At the same time, we want to build on the strong relationships we have with our neighbors and the broader community. This report, the work of so many people on our campus and in Lexington, is another important step in building an enduring, mutually beneficial relationship of trust and candor.”

Cheers, students.


Nerlens Noel and Kelly Melton, Derby buddies once again

Mike Coppola | Getty Images

Nerlens Noel will be accompanied by his good friend Kelly Melton at the Kentucky Derby next weekend, the second year in a row the two pals attend Churchill Downs for the races together. Last year Kelly woke Nerlens up before their big day, which made for one of the best photos of the year.

This year they’ll be walking the red carpet together once again, further proving that Nerlens Noel is one of the best human beings on the face of the Earth.

I hope Kelly gets another interview.


Listen to James Young’s KSR interview

Stand up, Ryan.

James Young stopped by the Kentucky Sports Radio Lexington studio today to tell KSR all about his time at Kentucky. The highlight of the interview was Young admitting to being successful with the ladies on campus.

“I had some girls.”

“Some? Under 10?”

“Nah, like three.”

Private life aside, Young said his favorite moment at UK was his dunk against UConn in the national championship game. He also walked us through his shot against Wichita State, admitting the play wasn’t for him but he took it anyway. “Coach Cal knows I don’t listen sometimes.”

Have a listen to Young’s interview below:


I’d buy it.

(@KYJOEKSR)

(@KYJOEKSR)

These will be on sale in no time because, ya know, that’s what Kentucky fans do. I’ll take an XL.