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March 25th, 2017

Calipari Makes Sure Bam Gets Credit

bam-ucla

De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are receiving all the glory for last night’s win over UCLA, but before John Calipari began taking questions at today’s press conference, he had to praise his center.

“Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I want to make sure that I don’t forget,” Calipari said. “I’m getting old; I do forget stuff now and then.

“The impact that Bam had on that game yesterday, some of you who write about basketball don’t really watch it, may not have understood. UCLA came in with one thought: We’re going to make this really hard on Bam. So he sacrificed. He had five assists. He created shots for both Dom and opened up the lane for De’Aaron Fox. He still tried to fight and rebound. Never says a word. So the impact on the game that he had, unless you really understood what was going on, they made that decision, and he rode with it.”

But Cal wasn’t going to let Bam get by without a little criticism too.

“Now, he did walk a couple times. He should have scored a couple more baskets. But the reality of it is he played well.”

Adebayo didn’t score until he dunked one in the final five minutes and he pulled in just four rebounds, but his five assists led the team.  Calipari also used the time to shine a light on Isaiah Briscoe’s contributions.  The sophomore guard had 5 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but that’s not what mattered to Calipari.

“When we talk on that court, when we’re talking, we are really good. When we don’t talk, we are really bad,” Cal said.  “He gets the other guys to talk.”  

More to come from Memphis.


De’Aaron Fox grew up a North Carolina fan

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All eyes were on De’Aaron Fox in today’s media session following his record-setting 39-point performance vs. UCLA last night. Fox has always been confident, but he seemed extra sure of himself this afternoon; in fact, John Calipari had to rein him in a few times at the podium. When asked about the SEC having three teams in the Elite Eight, Fox predicted that Kentucky will join the winner of Florida and South Carolina in next weekend’s Final Four.

“Both of those teams are great. I didn’t really play against South Carolina, but Florida was great. They beat us down there pretty good, and getting a chance at them again. Just all the SEC, everyone wants to talk down on it, things like that, but right now, it’s one guaranteed team is going to be in the Final Four just because those two are playing against each other, but I want to say it’s going to be two in there.

“I don’t know about that,” Cal said. “He didn’t say that.”

Later on, Calipari cut Fox off from answering more questions when he said if things go as planned, the Cats have three games left.

“For me, I’m not worried about that,” Fox said of people who criticize Kentucky’s one-and-done culture. “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”

“You’d better play well, that’s all I’m saying, with the stuff you’re saying,” Cal said.

Fox’s teammates teased him throughout the rest of the session, but when the starters broke out into individual interview sessions, he made some more breaking news: he grew up as a North Carolina fan. Whaaaaaa????

“I grew up kind of a North Carolina fan,” Fox said. “Just watching them. Michael Jordan went there. They’re just one of those teams you kind of watch. I just like watching them play. They’ve always been winning. I’ve never seen a season since I’ve been alive and could comprehend basketball, I’ve never seen a season when they haven’t had a winning record.”

That should make beating them tomorrow even sweeter, right?

(Of course Fox said that right as I turned off my video, but you can see five minutes of the Q&A below)

 


Denzil Ware and Josh Allen: “It’s Our Turn”

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats conducted its first spring scrimmage on Saturday. Both Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran praised QB Stephen Johnson’s efficiency, composure and decision making during the two-hour practice session.

With the vast majority of UK related media in Memphis, hacks that actually attended the post-practice press conference surrounded the Wildcat QB once the coaches completed their brief remarks. Not me. I turned my attention to junior OLB/DE Denzil Ware.

Ware is rated as one of the SEC’s top OLB/DE hybrid defenders for the 2017 season. He partners with fellow OLB Josh Allen to form a formidable edge combination. Ware finished 2016 with 70 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5.5 QB sacks. The following comments are from Saturday’s conversation:

Question: What do you feel more comfortable with; a hand in the dirt defensive end, a standup outside linebacker, or a combination of both?

Denzil Ware: “Just a combination of both. When it’s 3rd and long and I got a chance to go, I like to put my hand in the dirt and get as comfortable as I can be so I can get out of my stance as fast as I can. Overall I like to stand up because it gives me a better chance to see everything, see the whole formation, and see receivers in coverage. But I really love my hand in the dirt.”

Question: With you and Josh Allen now being juniors, do defensive players look at you two as leaders-examples, and do they look at you differently than they did a year ago?

Ware: “Yes sir, I tend to notice that some of the younger guys look up to us. My job here is to play ball and be the best teammate I can be. I see myself as a leader. Lot of guys ask me questions at times. I take them guys under my wing and treat them guys as if they were my blood, my family.”

Question: How often do you and Josh Allen compete?

Ware: “We compete every day. We competed today to see who got the most sacks, most tackles. Everything is a competition inside our meeting room. We got a lot of things to compete for, at the end of the day we’re trying to do better than we did last year.”

Question: How are the big guys (Defensive Line) doing upfront?

Ware: “They doing good. I got a lot of faith in my interior guys and they got a lot of faith in me and Josh. We got two great coaches that came in here and they know what they’re doing (DL Coach Derrick LeBlanc and OLB Coach Dean Hood). We got a wonderful staff, I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”

Ware on young defensive players:

“TJ Carter and Kordell Looney are standing out. The guy that’s surprising me the most is Kengera Daniel. He goes hard every day, don’t complain. Just makes plays and stands out to me the most. The new freshman Jamin Davis surprised me, he has a pick in every practice. Bannerman and Watson improve every day.”

Question: Fans that visited Commonwealth Stadium saw the giant poster featuring former Wildcat greats Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. You and Josh Allen combined for more QB sacks and tackles for loss than Dupree and Smith during their final season in Lexington. Is it your turn now?

Ware: “Yes sir, it’s our turn. Me and Josh had a talk this summer and again on spring break. When we leave here we don’t want to be compared to Bud and Z, we want to be Denzil and Josh. It’s always a compliment when Josh and I are compared to Za’Darius and Bud. But at the end of the day, I’m Denzil Ware and he’s Josh Allen.

We love competing and we just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. But passing them and letting the SEC know that UK got two guys on the edge that are willing to do the same thing as Bud and Z, that’s pretty good cause now they respect us more on Saturdays and when we’re in a bowl game next year. It’s our turn to shine.”

*2014-Dupree and Smith combined for 19.5 TFL and 12 QB sacks.

**2016-Ware and Allen combined for 20.5 TFL and 12.5 QB sacks.

Kentucky returns to the practice field on Monday.


Yes, Roy does recruit one-and-dones. No, he does not get them.

@rwhiteleather

@rwhiteleather

Every time John Calipari’s team is near a Final Four, the “one-and-done” conversation gets brought up.  Naturally, it was a topic yet again today.

Playing with a roster full of seniors, Roy Williams was asked if there’s a difference in the way he recruits that gives him team filled with veterans.

“Yeah, there’s a difference, he got them and I didn’t.  I recruit the same guys,” Williams said he recruited all three of UK’s freshmen.  “That’s the only difference is they got them and we didn’t. We’ve got to try to figure out a way to compete with them and go from there.”

Apparently the national media believes not having one-and-done players is a choice.  It is a choice, for the player.  They have to decide to go to your school.  To be fair, Williams has landed his fair share of McDonald’s All-Americans — there are six on this year’s team — but his guys usually aren’t good enough to leave after their first year.  Brandan Wright was the last Tar Heel freshman to declare for the draft, back in 2007. Williams doesn’t know how Calipari does it every year.

“What John does is just phenomenal to me,” Williams said.  “To have to change four, five, six, seven guys every year is just phenomenal.  What he does is really special there, and I’m not trying to suck up or anything, I really believe that.”


Everything that was said at Today’s Press Conference

JOHN CALIPARI: Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I want to make sure that I don’t forget. I’m getting old; I do forget stuff now and then.

The impact that Bam had on that game yesterday, some of you who write about basketball don’t really watch it, may not have understood. UCLA came in with one thought: We’re going to make this really hard on Bam. So he sacrificed. He had five assists. He created shots for both Dom and opened up the lane for De’Aaron Fox. He still tried to fight and rebound. Never says a word. So the impact on the game that he had, unless you really understood what was going on, they made that decision, and he rode with it.

Now, he did walk a couple times. He should have scored a couple more baskets. But the reality of it is he played well.

The other is Isaiah. When we talk on that court, when we’re talking, we are really good. When we don’t talk, we are really bad. And he leads us. He gets the other guys to talk. He’s playing five positions on both offense and defense. He’ll do whatever you need him to do. And at the end of the game when they started pressing, if you watched, he was running the press attack and put us where we needed to go.

But that stuff doesn’t show up in stats. But when you’re coaching, you understand the importance of it. So I felt I needed to say that.

Q. I know how difficult it is to get to this point; what sense can you share with us of how special it may be here that you get to share it, not only about Big Blue Nation but also your Memphis friends, in person here, almost two-for-one?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, Ellen and I, we had some people that couldn’t be at the reception came to a practice. Last night we had wings, and my man from Ching’s Wings, Lafayette, came over to see us. That stuff is great.

But the reality of it is after we did that reception and we had a couple hundred friends come and see us, it’s been all about this basketball team. You know, it wouldn’t matter where we were playing. I’m having fun because of these guys. I just appreciate the fact that they’re fighting and doing it and doing it together and sharing. De’Aaron had it going, and they all accepted it.

We played games where Malik has had it going. We’ve had games where the guy controlling the game has been Isaiah. No one says a word. We’ve had games — every once in a while, about every 10 games, they throw it to you, Bam? Would you say? If he doesn’t travel. But this has been a fun ride.

Now, I’ll say it again. We don’t know what to expect. I just want these kids to go out there and have a ball, but we’re the youngest team. Out of 68 teams in this thing, we were the youngest team. One of the veteran teams is North Carolina, and they are outstanding. I mean, I watched it. I watched tape from last night and through this morning, and ooh, they’re good. Guard play, big. Jackson had 40 on us last time we played. I mean, they’re good.

Q. John and the players, I wonder if you could speak to having three SEC teams in the Elite 8 and what it is you like specifically about South Carolina and Florida.
DE’AARON FOX: Both of those teams are great. I didn’t really play against South Carolina, but Florida was great. They beat us down there pretty good, and getting a chance at them again. Just all the SEC, everyone wants to talk down on it, things like that, but right now, it’s one guaranteed team is going to be in the Final Four just because those two are playing against each other, but I want to say it’s going to be two in there.

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know about that. He didn’t say that.

(more…)


De’Aaron Fox was told to hush at today’s press conference

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De’Aaron Fox is one of the most mature and polished talkers we’ve seen come through the basketball program, but today he was told to hush it at Kentucky’s press conference.

The ban came after he said, “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”

Coach Cal told him he was done for the day after the “three games left” comment, to which Cal added, “You’d better play well, that’s all I’m saying, with the stuff you’re saying.”

It became a running joke throughout the remainder of the press conference as Fox sat at the table with Derek Willis, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe and Calipari. At one point he said, “I was told not to answer anymore,” when asked the previous meeting with North Carolina.

Another time, Calipari said, “We’re passing Fox,” when a question was directed to everyone. The players also skipped over Fox in other responses throughout the afternoon.

I report this small story back to you to say this kind of cutting up and having fun on the big stage tells me the guys are relaxed and ready to go tomorrow against North Carolina.

And that there are three games left, per Fox.


Hamidou Diallo Knows How to Dunk a Basketball

Chet White | UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Since he arrived in January, we’ve seen very little of Hamidou Diallo.

You’ll find the nation’s top-ranked class of 2017 shooting at the end of the bench, but that’s no fun.  Watching him do crazy stuff in warm-ups, that’s a lot of fun.  This might be the craziest thing we’ve seen yet.

Why can’t he play again?


BatCats Win Series Over #14 Ole Miss

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Justin Lewis went seven inning of one-run ball to lead Kentucky to a series win over Ole Miss. After a 4-2 victory last night, the BatCats won 4-1 in today’s rubber match. UK now sits at 18-7 on the season after winning five of their first six SEC games.

Recap

It can’t be underestimated how important it is to have a great Sunday starter in the SEC. With so many series coming down to the final game, the Sunday start can be the deciding factor in whether or not a team wins a series. Lewis has been excellent on the final game of each series the last few weeks. UK’s offense got Lewis run support early when Tristan Pompey doubled and Zach Reks brought him home with an RBI single in the first. Lewis was in cruise control early as Ole Miss did not put a man in scoring position until the fourth inning.

Tyler Marshall flew out to center to score Riley Mahan to give UK a 2-0 lead through four innings. The Cats got to Ole Miss’ bullpen in the fourth as Will Ethridge exited after only three innings. Lewis set the tone through five as the Cats quieted the SEC’s lowest ranked offense. The Rebels lone run came in the sixth inning when Colby Bortles (brother of Jaguars QB Blake Bortles) singled home Ryan Olenek.

Lewis exited after the seventh inning with a line of seven innings, seven hits, one run, no walks, and eight strikeouts. UK got Lewis two more runs of support in the bottom of the seventh. Marshall doubled to lead off the inning and the Rebels booted the ball around enough to get Marshall home on a wild throw. Connor Heady reached second on the error and later scored on a wild pitch to give UK a 4-1 lead through seven.

Zach Pop entered in the eighth and shut down the Rebels in order. Logan Salow would follow suit in the ninth with two strikeouts to end a 4-1 win for the Cats.

Notes

Logan Salow filling into the closer role- Salow has retired 24 consecutive hitters in relief. UK has searched for a reliable closer since Trevor Gott graduated in 2014, and it appears Salow may be the guy. Salow has not allowed an earned run in 19 innings this season.

Justin Lewis solid again- After picking up the win last Sunday at Texas A&M and a dominating Ole Miss, Lewis is now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. Lewis has allowed only six runs in his last four starts this season.

UK is now 5-1 in the SEC- The Cats have won their first five SEC games against ranked teams from the West. For the time being, UK is #1 in the SEC and will at least be tied for the top spot headed into next weekend’s series against Vanderbilt.

 


Fox on UK/UNC in December: “There was no defense in that game”

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The Kentucky/North Carolina game in December will go down as one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen, mostly because the teams combined for over 200 points. In the three months since, how have both teams changed? De’Aaron Fox said for Kentucky, it’s all about defense.

“That December game, there was no defense in that game,” Fox said. “When you’re playing a 40-minute game and it’s 100-103. Both teams have gotten better, but like I said, even with the UCLA game, that could have been in the 100’s. Yesterday, we showed we can defend. That team has so many shooters, so many ways to beat you. We didn’t shut it down because that’s impossible to shut a team like that down, but just try to contain them. We know we’re going to have to do the same thing against North Carolina.”

Fox and Monk combined for 60 points last night and when asked if they need a third player to score 20+ to beat the Tar Heels, Fox said what’s much more important is the team’s defensive effort.

“Last time, Malik had 50, so, that was different, but we can’t depend on him to do that again, that’s tough for anyone to do. We’re just going in, honestly, it’s not about our offense. Like I said, if we can buckle down defensively, our offense is going to come. If we’re playing defense, we’re confident in how we play.

I like where their minds are at.

 


Photos from Saturday’s NCAA tournament press conference

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Dr. Mike took the KSR camera to today’s press conferences to get shots of the Wildcats on their off-day.

Check out all of his photos in the gallery below:


What would’ve happened if Monk missed the shot to beat UNC?

Malik Monk’s go-ahead three-pointer against North Carolina came against John Calipari’s orders.

If you remember, Calipari was screaming for Monk to drive the ball to the rim, but Monk decided to pull up from way outside and go for the lead in a two-point game, rather than attacking and playing for the tie.

Of course, the shot went in and Kentucky won the game, which was nice. But Isaiah Briscoe wonders what could’ve been.

“I always tell Malik, ‘What if you missed that,'” Briscoe said today, when asked to reflect upon that December game in Vegas. “Just what if?”

“I just remember that shot Malik hit, and I remember Coach yelling at him telling him to drive, and he shot it anyway.”

Briscoe said his heart beats fast when he thinks back to what could’ve gone wrong, had Monk not drained the game-winner.

On that note, let’s watch Monk’s 47 points from that game…


LIVE: John Calipari’s Cats Preview the Elite Eight


Mark Stoops’ Six Takeaways from UK’s First Spring Scrimmage

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1. Nobody won.  Normally you don’t want one side of the ball to completely overwhelm the other, but that’s often the case.  Eddie Gran wasn’t happy with his offense, but Stoops described the day at Commonwealth Stadium as “balanced.”

“I thought we got better, I really do.  It was a good scrimmage.  I wouldn’t say either side won it or lost it.  You saw some very good things on both sides of the ball,” Stoops said.

2.  Exceptional Ball Security.  A point of emphasis this spring, the offense took care of the ball until the very end of the scrimmage.  A.J. Rose let one ball hit the dirt, but it was recovered by Tavin Richardson.

3. Focus on First and Second Downs.  The Cats weren’t very good on third down last year.  A big reason why is because they were giving up too many yards on first and second down.  With just base packages in place, neither side got too crazy on third down, forcing the other side to focus on playing sound football from the start.

“That’s what we’re really focusing on.  We (the defense) gotta get em into longer yardage on third down.  There was way too many third and shorts, third and mediums last year.”  Stoops added he liked what they did today, but of course, there’s still room to improve.

4. Position Change for Davonte Robinson.  The electric Lexington native spent his first season as a redshirt cornerback.  This year he’s been moved back to safety where there’s more opportunity to see the field.

5.  There’s a Secret to Keeping the Secondary Motivated. “My foot,” Stoops said with a laugh.  “That’s never an issue keeping those guys on their toes.  It’s a hard position.  You can’t ever get comfortable in the secondary.”

6. #Blessed.  Speaking to the media for the first time since his contract extension was announced, Stoops was gracious, then described it as another building block for the football program.

“It’s a very good situation.  I’m very committed to this university and they’ve been very committed to me.  None of us are content.  We want to keep pushing the program forward.”

Freddie was there and will provide his insight later.  


What They’re Saying About De’Aaron Fox’s Destruction of Lonzo Ball

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After De’Aaron Fox killed Lonzo Ball’s college career, the national media is in a frenzy after the pregame expectations were flipped upside-down.  While the body is still warm, read all of Fox’s rave reviews.

SI’s Michael Rosenberg

De’Aaron Fox stood in a hallway, smiled, and said he wished he could play for Kentucky again in an hour. Lonzo Ball sat on a chair and said, in a monotone, that he will never play for UCLA again. The difference between them was just as stark as it had been during the game, when Fox and Kentucky dismantled UCLA’s Showtime Jr. attack.

CBS’ Matt Norlander

De’Aaron Fox — the most entertaining, blazing, promising Kentucky point guard since John Wall — had a legendary performance in Memphis in the South Regional semifinal. Fox proved, once again, that he — not Malik Monk — is Kentucky’s best, most valuable player. Lift the lid, inspect and you’ll discover this has been the case all season. Now, with America having watched one of the more dominant individual tournament performances in recent memory, most will come to realize it.

The Ringer’s Mark Titus

Ball deserves a ton of credit for UCLA’s resurgence in 2016–17, and the Bruins offense this season was nothing short of extraordinary. But holy hell, did he ever disappoint against Kentucky on Friday. It wasn’t even that Ball played poorly in UCLA’s 86–75 loss, because he didn’t. He put up 10 points, eight assists, and three boards, which is in the range of what he averaged all year. Yet that’s precisely the problem. This game was always going to come down to Fox versus Ball, since they’re the two lottery pick point guards who can rip off a highlight at any given moment. Fox knew this, viewed this matchup as a personal challenge, and was out there to ATTACK from the second the ball was tipped. He could get anywhere he wanted on the court, while Ball, who clearly struggles to stop explosive guards, went with the it-can’t-be-considered-failure-if-I-don’t-actually-try approach.

The Sporting News’ DeCourcy

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to declare that De’Aaron Fox blew Lonzo Ball off the floor with 39 points and four assists. Those were the most points ever scored by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game. Think about that. Michael Jordan played in the tournament as a freshman. So did Magic Johnson and Steph Curry. But let’s not allow all that to get out of hand.

Yahoo’s Pat Forde

Ball’s very bad final night as a collegian did include occasionally grabbing at his hamstring during the first half and something close to a full-blown limp late in the second. He said he tweaked his hamstring early, but declined to play the excuse card.

“I got outplayed tonight,” he said.

There’s no doubt about that. Fox was phenomenal, scoring Kentucky’s first eight points and racking up 15 by halftime. Late in the second half he went into closer mode, taking the ball to the basket repeatedly, drawing fouls and making his free throws (13 of 15 on the night).

UCLA has been a soft defensive team all season, and Fox exploited that. The fact that the freshman from Houston is left-handed may have been left off the Bruins’ scouting report, because they gave him the drive to the left repeatedly. Fox tortured UCLA in pick-and-roll situations from the top of the key – blowing past Ball and other guards, then pulling up in the lane when the Bruins’ big men gave him room to shoot.

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf

(Magic) Johnson attended — and skipped the unveiling ceremony for Shaquille O’Neal’s statue in Los Angeles — to dissect the game of Ball, the West Coast product and projected top-three pick who could save the franchise from its ongoing misery in this summer’s NBA draft.

But Fox starred instead and complicated conversations about the best point guard in college basketball.

If a point guard must be the most important leader on the floor, then those attributes were more pronounced in Fox’s efforts than Ball’s.

The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore

The contrasting performances of Ball and Fox gave NBA evaluators something to mull over. Pelinka, newly installed as the Lakers GM, may be choosing one of the first players in the loaded, upcoming draft. He cannot comment on underclassmen, and he wouldn’t tip his hand, anyway. But the reason he traveled to Memphis was to see how top players perform against one another, and Fox thoroughly dominated Ball.


Parent Celebrations > Student Celebrations

IG | Pittsburqh

IG | Pittsburqh

Sorry students, you’ve had your time.  Over the last two weeks we’ve seen the two best celebrations ever brought to Kentucky fans, thanks to a few proud, joyful parents.  Last week, Bam’s mother stole the show in Indy.

Last night, it was De’Aaron Fox’s mother Lorraine’s turns.  All week we heard about the great Lonzo Ball, but last night Fox put the glove on Ball.

“Fox put the glove on Ball” needs to be the title of Kentucky Joe’s next hit.

The students, they had their fun, but it was very average.  In fact, it was much worse than normal.  Somehow there’s a negative correlation between fires and arrests; fewer fires mean more arrests.  There were only three fiery couches, but there were four arrests.

This was the only thing chanted outside of “C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS!”

I hate to see the students disappoint, but you can’t keep ’em down for long.  No matter what happens, we’ll still get to see them drunk on the local news.