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University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.
April 19th, 2014

Baseball wins series against Texas A&M

(Chet White | UK Athletics)

The University of Kentucky baseball team beat Texas A&M today, 11-4, claiming the series. They will go for the sweep tomorrow.

Kentucky’s final tally was 11 runs on 17 hits, with only one error. Dylan Dwyer was awarded his fifth win, working 6.2 innings and surrendering5 hits. He pitched a high number of balls with 110.

The win was a team effort. Reed was 4-for-6 from home plate and had a homerun with 4 RBI’s. Kuhn was on his heels with a HR and 2 RBIs. Thomas, Tom, Bernal, Wilson and Shelby all each had a RBI.

A.J Reed has been most impressive on the team lately. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound left-handed pitcher/1st base player, Reed is also currently 15th in NCAA in home runs per game. He is just one of seven players in NCAA Division I who have hit a home run and earned the in on the mound in the same game. He has earned a countless number of awards in the season.

The Wildcats climb back above .500 in the SEC and look to move to 2 games when they go to the sweep tomorrow.


Eternity of waiting for draft decisions is almost over for BBN

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Only a short two weeks have passed since the completion of the basketball season, yet it seems like it has been an eternity of waiting for the players to announce their decisions for the fans. Sadly, we still have a week to go before the deadline to declare for the draft.

What seems like an eternity for fans feels like a mere few hours for the players. The short time they have to make their decisions is not an easy one spent. It’s obvious they are not taking this decision lightly. While a lot of NBA prospects announced right away they would be declaring for the draft, many of UK’s NBA prospects have taken their time to make the decision, some even have gone home to visit their families to talk it over.

All this waiting has turned out to be a bigger tease than us having to wait for Matt Elam to make his college decision. Especially with tweets like this which make it seem like they might be leaning to coming back.

One thing we must remember is that we cannot look at the decisions these players make in a negative light, even though the decisions might affect Kentucky. Coach Cal runs a program that focuses on putting players first and we should do the same.

This is just all part of the process of ‘Succeed and Proceed’, as painful as it might be.

@Sealey_KSR


Update: UK fan follows through with tattoo promise to Willie

In case you missed it: When WCS was making his decision a fan tweeted him and said if you come back I will get your face tattooed on my body. I am not saying this is the reason he came back, but we all know how much Willie loves a well colored picture…even if it is on someones body.

The fan kept his promise and Willie Cauley-Stein has officially joined the Mt. Rushmore of Michael Gray’s body.  He joins the ranks of some of the greatest people in history including Abraham Lincoln and two of the characters from Lost.

 

UPDATE:

Here is the final product. You saw it here first folks.

Willie Tat

I am kinda upset there isn’t a coloring book in the tattoo….but it’s still pretty cool nonetheless. Michael (@Therealmjeezy on twitter)  got his work done by Nate Corder at Quality Custom Tattoos in Somerset, Ky. and I hear he is open to do it again anyone wants to send the twins promises to do the same.

Awesome or Weird?

@Sealey_KSR


Byron Wesley: A Name to Watch?

Chris Pham, Daily Trojan

Chris Pham, Daily Trojan

With the Harrison twins still deciding whether or not they will enter the NBA draft, UK’s back-court situation next season is still up in the air. If the twins do depart, the team will be a bit thin at guard and may look to add an experienced transfer (a la Julius Mays) to provide depth and leadership.

A strong candidate emerged earlier this week in Byron Wesley. The 6’5” guard announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring from USC and plans to complete his undergraduate degree this summer. Wesley averaged 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds this season, shooting 47.6% from the field and 33.8% from 3 the point line.

Having attended USC in 2012-13, I was able to watch him several times in person. Wesley is primarily a slasher who is active on the defensive end, but he honestly wasn’t exceptional under Kevin O’Neill’s putrid system. However, he looks to have turned things up this year, and his skill set would work well with Calipari’s offense. Wesley will be eligible to play next season (assuming he earns his degree) and is currently receiving interest from Indiana and Michigan.

Watch him do work in a 31 point performance earlier this year:

 


UK answers your questions about the spring game

(Regina Rickert)

(Regina Rickert)

It’s time again for the best Football event in the spring. UK football has generated a lot of excitement lately and it’s time for us to finally see what they have been up to. Things might be a little different than last year though since there is a ton of constructions happening at Commonwealth Stadium. .

Have no fear! UK Athletics is promising to make your experience a lot less painful.UK Athletics has created a website to answer all questions regarding tickets, traffic, seating and a lot more.

They also remind fans that there are lots of other events going on during what they have dubbed “Big Blue Weekend 2014” with this:

Big blue weekened

 

Check out the information here.

 


Patrick Patterson records 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block in NBA Playoff debut

Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images | Image via ESPN.com

Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images | Image via ESPN.com

 

In the first game of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the teams of three former Kentucky Wildcats were in action, though only one NBA ‘Cat received significant playing time in an 87-94 Game 1 defeat.

 

’08-’10 Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson made his NBA Playoff debut in an Eastern Conference first-round matchup in Toronto, Canada earlier this afternoon. Even though his 3rd seeded Raptors fell to the 6th seeded Brooklyn Nets, Patterson’s individual performance in his first ever playoff game should be considered a success. The 6’9″ Huntington, WV native scored 9 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, distributed 2 assists, and blocked 1 shot in 26 minutes of playing time. Pat sunk a momentum-shifting three-pointer followed immediately by a game-tying dunk in the game’s 4th quarter, but the veteran-led Nets eventually proved too much and pulled away in the contest’s final minutes.

 

Patterson’s Toronto teammate Chuck Hayes received only 6 minutes of playing time and managed to miss his only field goal attempt in the process. Brooklyn guard Marquis Teague did not make his way off of head coach Jason Kidd’s bench.

 

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Tayshaun Prince of the Memphis Grizzlies will be the only other former Wildcat to participate in Saturday’s playoff action. The 7th seeded Grizzlies will face the 2nd seeded Oklahoma City Thunder at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, John Wall, Nazr Mohammed, and Terrence Jones will all make their 2014 NBA Playoffs debuts tomorrow.

 

@Condre3000_KSR


Louisville following upset with new Adidas deal

USA Today

USA Today

Louisville just signed a new 5-year $39 million branding contract extension with Adidas this week, making their contract the third largest agreement between sports apparel companies and Division one programs behind only Notre Dame’s  new Under Armour deal and Michigan’s sustaining bond with Adidas.

Here’s a rundown per year:

Notre Dame – $9 million (Under Armour)

Michigan – $8.2 million (Adidas)

Louisville – $7.8 million (adidas)

UCLA – $7.7 million (adidas)

Kansas – $6.1 million (adidas)

Adidas will pay Louisville $7.8 million dollars per year and will cover uniforms, footwear and accessories for all of U of L’s sports teams in addition to advertising, equipment room expansion and video technology. Adidas has even graciously agreed to partner to create scholarships and an internship program for 20 U of L students working in the athletic department.

But yet. It isn’t enough apparently.

There have been complaints coming from the Louisville camp since behind Michigan in the rankings. Michigan currently has a contract clause that says they must remain the highest paid by Adidas. There are several arguments used of why UL is better than Michigan. The first being that they are 25th in total merchandise sales. However, Michigan was number 4 last year.

The second argument is Bobby Petrino. When Petrino was at Arkansas they received a brand new (and awesome) Nike deal in which Petrino was heavily involved in. Louisville fans are arguing Petrino’s presence at UL is enough to make them more worthy now.

Sigh. I can’t.

@Sealey_KSR


If only Randle joins Young in NBA Draft, ‘Cats will retain average roster height of over 6’5″

Image via vaughtsviews.com

Image via vaughtsviews.com

 

Since John Calipari took over at Kentucky in 2009-10, his Wildcat teams have boasted some of the tallest lineups in all of college basketball. Last year’s national runner-up team was no different. The average height of Kentucky’s 16-man roster in 2013-14 was just over 6’5″, though if you chose not to count seldom used walk-ons Sam Malone (5’11″) and Brian Long (5’9″), the average jumped over a full inch to 6’6.5″.

 

So far, 6’6″ G/F James Young has been the only underclassman to declare for the NBA Draft, and 7’0″ F/C Willie Cauley-Stein (along with 6’9″ F Marcus Lee) has been the only contributing underclassman to announce his return to Lexington. At this point, everything else is just speculation. However, it is safe to say that 6’9″ F Julius Randle will be joining Young next June after only one season in college. As for everyone else (6’6″ G Andrew Harrison, 6’6″ G Aaron Harrison, 7’0″ F/C Dakari Johnson, and 6’8″ F Alex Poythress), it is completely within the realm of possibility for the Wildcats to return five of Kentucky’s top seven contributors from last season.

 

If the ‘Cats did bring back the twins, Johnson, and Poythress (while losing Randle), Kentucky would retain its average roster height of just over 6’5″ per player. This, of course, would be pretty huge for the Wildcats, to say the least. 6’6″ Young would be replaced by 6’6″ incoming freshman Devin Booker, and the 6’9″ Randle would be traded for 6’9″ 2014 Indiana Mr. Basketball Trey Lyles. With the graduation of seniors Jarrod Polson (6’2″) and Jon Hood (6’7″), Kentucky evens out their absence with the additions of 7’0″ Karl-Anthony Towns, Jr. and 5’9″ Tyler Ulis.

 

It’s no secret that roster length was a major factor in Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament run that saw the Wildcats reach the championship game for the 12th time in school history. Offensive rebounding and defensive shot-blocking were keys to UK’s success, fueled by the towering length Kentucky boasted over each of its opponents. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the brothers Harrison will decide to forgo their final three seasons of NCAA eligibility and cause a major drop-off in size in Kentucky’s backcourt. If they do leave, the Wildcats’ average roster height will remain at 6’5″, but the team’s backcourt depth will obviously no longer include the two 6’6″ guards. Instead, it will be composed only of 6’6″ Booker, 5’9″ Ulis, and 6’0″ sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins. If the 7’0″ Johnson decides to join James, Julius, Andrew, and Aaron on their way out the door, Kentucky will lose one of its three potential 7-footers for next season, and the average roster height will drop almost a full inch to over 6’4″ per player. In most contexts, one inch may not make much of a difference, but on a basketball court, it could be the distinction between a game-winning basket and a game-saving block (see Anthony Davis vs. North Carolina, 2011-12).

 

Size does matter.

 

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@Condre3000_KSR


UK Reminds Fans that the Spring Game is Important to Recruits

Photo by Regina Rickert

Photo by Regina Rickert

Think you’re the only one excited for the Spring Game this year?  Actually you probably don’t think that.  I mean, the chances of only one person being excited about something, no matter what it is, seem pretty small.  So we accept that you’re not the only one excited for the Blue & White game, but the point is that it’s important to know who else is excited for it: football players.  And not just our football players, but high school football players.  The ones who are thinking about coming to Lexington and helping us climb the SEC ladder.  Those guys.

And if you enjoy having Top 25 classes under Mark Stoops, like we all do, it’s important that you know the impact a rabid fanbase can have.  Especially in April.  According to some of Stoops’ biggest recruits, the Blue-White game was their first chance at seeing how crazy UK fans can be, contrary to popular belief.  For some, like Army All-American Drew Barker, it even swayed their recruitment in our favor.

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@UKAthletics

 

For others, like Mikel Horton, it was a glimpse into a raucous Commonwealth Stadium that was enough to inspire both humility and passion.

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@UKAthletics

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@UKAthletics

 

So don’t take these sorts of exhibitions for granted.  We know how important Big Blue Madness is for basketball recruits, so we can go out of our way to make sure these football players have the same sort of experience.    It clearly matters.  Plus the weather next week looks absolutely, ridiculously terrific.  Like, 71 and sunny.  As in, “No need to pack pants, people.” It should be a great time.


A Look at the Other Possible Contenders in 2014-2015

 

Image via Hoop76.com

Image via Hoop76.com

 

Six months. We’re about six months away from Big Blue Madness and from the start of the 2014-2015 college basketball season. Regardless of who specifically returns for the Cats, I think pretty much everyone feels comfortable that UK will have enough returning pieces to legitimately contend again next season.

However, the Cats won’t be alone on the contending front. In case you haven’t noticed the school that’s coached by America’s most famous rat will have a pretty good squad. As will that team that Kentucky hit that big shot to beat in the Final Four. Remember them? Needless to say, Kentucky won’t be alone atop the rankings next season and hanging another banner in Rupp will be no easy task (it never is). Let’s take a look around the country to find the best four non-Kentucky teams in the country for next season.

 

Duke: Coach K is ruining college basketball. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood decided to leave the classroom for the cash and that’s bad enough in itself, but to add to it Duke has four of the top-22 recruits in the nation coming in, including expected “One-And-Done’s” Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor.

See how stupid that sounds? But let’s get down to the basketball. Duke’s biggest issue this season was its inability to defend (they ranked 116th in Adj. Defensive Efficiency), and that should improve but how much the will improve is the question. Jabari Parker certainly wasn’t renowned for his defense, but the Blue Devils were a better defensive unit with him on the floor (presumably due to his ability to his the glass). The thing that should improve Duke’s defense most is that with Okafor coming in they now have a legitimate post presence on both sides of the ball, something that they didn’t have last season. Another reason for what should be a stronger Blue Devil defense is that incoming freshman athlete Justise Winslow is known for his strong on-ball defense. In fact, Winslow’s strengths on ESPN’s scouting report almost entirely revolve around his defense. But here’s the sentence that gets me: “He will not hesitate to take a charge from any position.”

God I hate Duke.

 

Wisconsin: The Badgers had themselves an interesting season. They began red-hot, winning their first 16 games including wins over future number-1 seeds Florida and Virginia. They then cooled off and proceeded to lose 5 of their next 6 games before returning to early season form and making a run to the Final Four.

Next season they look to only get better as they return everyone except for guard Ben Brust. Most importantly, that means the return of the two-headed monster that is Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. The matchup issues that those two present alone are enough to warrant a high Wisconsin ranking, but with Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser and Nigel Hayes also returning with Final Four experience you’d be hard-pressed to find a more “sure pick” next season than the Badgers. 

 

Arizona: Good-bye Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, hello Stanley Johnson. Arizona’s chances were crippled last season when Brandon Ashley went down with a broken leg but amazingly they still were one of the best teams in the country without him. But now he’s back as well as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (look for RHJ to make a big leap next year), Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York and TJ McConnell. The improvements of the returners, as well as the impact of the newcomers, should make this team very similar to the one that preceded it. If Arizona is able to improve its ability to score the ball (which is something that Stanley Johnson should help with immensely), then there is no reason the Wildcats can’t get Sean Miller to his first Final Four next season.

 

Kansas: As Jon Rothstein would say, “Death. Taxes. Bill Self.” (or Bo Ryan, but that conversation is neither here nor there). Kansas looks to have another Big 12 title contender next season as they have a solid core of returners to mix with another top-notch recruiting class. Naadir Tharpe is back to run the point, Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre will have the wing’s locked down, and Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis look to man the post.

Kansas’ biggest flaw next season looks to be depth, as their best two bench players will most likely be Jamari Traylor and Frank Mason. This issue can be fixed majorly, as Kansas remains in the mix for incoming stud Myles Turner. If Turner decides to hop on board with the Jayhawks then they would potentially have a case for preseason number 1.

Who else do you think will be a contender next year?

 

@BWardKSR


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

AdamSilver

The face of hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Twins Return is Key For Long-Term Success

 

image via UKAthletics.com

image via UKAthletics.com

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

@BWardKSR

 


Coach Cal Visits Man Injured in Rupp Arena

DickGregory

Photo from Watterson Elementary (@Watterson_5)

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

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


Easter Weekend’s Saturday Links

Links

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Russ Smith’s Evening News and Views

RussSmith

Esquire.com

 

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

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

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

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Some news and stuff:

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

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

 

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, some quick-hit tidbits:

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

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

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

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


Kentucky Recruits Shine in Jordan Brand Classic

UKJordanBrand

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Why Size Really Does Matter

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

But not everyone seems to think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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